Tuesday, January 14, 2014

'Sherlock' season 3 premiere worth the long wait

Note: This review is spoiler-free, so don't be afraid to read it!

I feel like I've been waiting years for the third season of BBC's "Sherlock" to premiere in the U.S.

Hello, boys! I've missed you!

It's actually only been a little less than a year and a half, but season 2 ended with such a dynamic, surprising, exciting and soul-wrenching finale that it was torture to wait for the story to continue.

So when the episode started (I was lucky enough to see the episode a week early thanks to a screening by my local PBS station), I was incredibly excited.

I was also nervous though - nervous that the premiere episode, "The Empty Hearse," would fall far short of "The Reichenbach Fall."

It doesn't beat season 2's finale, but it was still a great, enjoyable, exciting episode that was worth the wait.

"The Empty Hearse" opens about two years after the events of "The Reichenbach Fall." John Watson, hit hardest by Sherlock's apparent suicide and the subsquent smearing of his good name and reputation, has finally been able to move forward with his life. But, of course, it's not meant to be. Sherlock comes back to London to work on a case, and he wants things to be exactly as they were. Specifically, he wants John back by his side. 

"The Empty Hearse" has a lot that it needs to accomplish in its hour-and-a-half run-time. Not only does it have to effectively wrap-up the events of the season 2 cliffhanger, but it also gets in a mystery to solve and an overarching plot development. Oh, and it must fill us in on our favorite characters - not only Sherlock and John, but also Mycroft, Mrs. Hudson, Molly and Lestrade - and introduce a new major player. 

Even though the episode has a longer runtime than most shows, that's still a lot to do. I never felt, though, like "The Empty Hearse" was frantically cramming plot points into the episode. It's a pretty jam-packed episode, but it slows down enough to have several truly wonderful moments - the hilarious yet heartbreaking reunion between John and Sherlock, Sherlock's interactions with Molly, a couple of particularly great scenes with Sherlock and Mycroft, and on and on.

What really makes "Sherlock" wonderful for me, though, is Sherlock, John and their relationship with each other. Benedict Cumberbatch gets a lot of props for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, and he deserves every one - he truly owns the character and, I believe, his work will go down in history along with Basil Rathbone as one of the definitive Sherlock Holmes portrayals. However, the real star of the show for me is Martin Freeman as John Watson. He shoulders the burden of being the emotional center of the show almost singlehandedly (although Cumberbatch has his own affecting moments), and he has the ability to break my heart in a way that few actors can. Once again, Freeman hits it out of the park in "The Empty Hearse." 

And, of course, the scenes they have together - fewer than in most episodes, necessary thanks to the nature of their relationship at the beginning of the show - are magical. The two of them are wonderful together, and their antagonistic yet close relationship is both fun to watch and very sweet. 

I was very happy with "The Empty Hearse." It balances very well a lot of fun (the audience I was watching it with roared with laughter at many points), a lot of drama and a lot of intrigue to make for an hour-and-a-half of pure enjoyable television. I can hardly wait for the next episode!

"Sherlock: The Empty Hearse" airs in the United States on PBS on Sunday, January 19, as part of "Masterpiece Mystery!"

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