The Empty Episode: A Review of Sherlock: The Empty Hearse

Sherlock Holmes is back. Somehow, he survived his fall from the top of the bank and returns, reintroducing himself to John Watson and reintegrating himself to society. But he hasn’t come back on a whim–Mycroft, his brother, has informed him of a bomb plot to be launched by a terrorist organization and Holmes has to solve it.

Even though bomb plots by terrorist organizations seems to be something that the British Intelligence Agency would concern themselves with enough to not need the services of a private detective. But, yeah…just go along with it.

Perhaps my synopsis is a bit telling–I didn’t care for The Empty Hearse, the return of Sherlock. I like the show, but this episode was really a let-down. It was uneven, bouncing from high intensity action to long drawn out scenes of emotion and/or humor. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with splicing the action up with character-building. Most stories do that, and there’s no problem. But the pacing of those character-building moments is important, and The Empty Hearse doesn’t get it right.

In addition to that there are more than a few tonal shifts that disrupt the episode. In a rather dark scene Sherlock rescues John from being burnt alive. Then, suddenly, we jump to bright daylight and all hints of the darkness of that scene are lost for the rest of the episode. This happens multiple times. There are scenes of poignancy as Sherlock reintroduces himself to his old friends, but those scenes feel, for the most part, half-baked, contrived, and forced.

The plot also felt purposeless. Stuff just happened, and there was nothing but the loosest plot tying it all together. This lent the episode a feel of, as I said, purposelessness. We wonder why we’re seeing certain scenes, why characters are asking the questions they are, and why they are behaving the way they are. Those questions are never answered

Now, I’ll give the writers this: their dialog is just as sharp as ever. But ultimately that doesn’t matter if there’s no plot that dialog is servicing. Sure, it’s funny and smart, but why are we listening to it?

You know what would have been good? If the writers had decided to end the show after the second season. Yes, Sherlock somehow survives the fall, but we never find out how. He just does. Wouldn’t that work with his character? And, we wouldn’t have this obligatory but ultimately meaningless episode to contend with.

The Empty Hearse certainly is empty. Empty of purpose, of good plot, of even pacing, and of consistent character. I can only hope that the next episodes get better.


9 thoughts on “The Empty Episode: A Review of Sherlock: The Empty Hearse

  1. It suffered from trying to touch on too many plot points, both old and new. It was uneven in a way the previous episodes were not, but I still enjoyed it (but maybe not like the others).


  2. I agree. I do love Sherlock (and the writing is brilliantly intelligent and sharp) but the whole third series left me feeling a bit disappointed in terms of storyline. Great entertainment nonetheless and I hope they get it together a bit for series four.


    1. I haven’t seen the rest of the third season (being stuck here in America where it’s just now airing) but I hope it does improve.

      And I do agree. They are great entertainment.


      1. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the series, just expect to suspend the disbelief quite considerably and accept the ‘storyline’ for what it is. It’s still the best thing on UK TV.


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