Sherlock Holmes delights legions of fans in "The Empty Hearse!"

After over two years of waiting, Sherlockians all over the globe tuned in to BBC One (or countless livestream links) to watch this incarnation of Sherlock Holmes return from "the dead" and reunite with his loved ones. This episode had countless easter eggs, winks, and nods to the fandom and the Internet has exploded with adoration for each and every one of them. Now let us re-visit what has happened when Sherlock made his highly anticipated return.

The episode begins with a re-hashing of the end of "The Reichenbach Fall" when Sherlock jumped from the roof of St Barts hospital. We see a team of people drag Moriarty's body off and place a mask of Sherlock's face upon it, along with some blue contacts. John is knocked over the bicyclist as Sherlock jumps. He is connected to a bungee chord and right before he hits the ground, he bounces back up and crashes through a window of St Barts, into a room in which Molly is waiting. The music has a pulsing beat and the show's theme is remixed with electric guitar. Sherlock puffs his coat, ruffles his luscious locks, and plants a passionate, yet tender kiss on an understandably dazed Molly before strutting out. A man performs some sort of hypnotic sleep technique on John and sets his watch back a few minutes. Moriarty's (disguised as Sherlock's) body is dropped from the window and a team of people spray fake blood to make everything look convincingly gruesome.

"Bollocks!" spouts Lestrade, as he listens to Anderson deliver his latest theory on how Sherlock faked his death. It would seem that Anderson has been forming numerous other theories and Lestrade tells him he is merely feeling guilty for Sherlock's suicide and tells him that it is his and Donovan's fault. Anderson states, "I believe in Sherlock Holmes." (Easter egg!) In the two years that have passed, Richard Brooks has been proven to be a creation of Moriarty and Sherlock's name has been cleared. However, the world still believes him to be dead.

John (with that horrific pornstache) visits Sherlock's grave with Mary (portrayed by Martin Freeman's real-life partner, the outstanding Amanda Abbington).

In a Serbian forest, a long-locked Sherlock runs about while being pursued by military forces. After a short chase, he is captured and beaten for information. He's shirtless, glistening, and manages to get the man beating him with a pipe convinced that his wife is having an affair and he hurries home fuming to catch them in the act. Another man remains in the room and well what do you know? It's Mycroft, come to bring him back to London and Baker Street to tackle an underground terrorist organisation. A threat is looming and only the best will do to prevent the attack (though Mycroft would never call Sherlock the best).

Back in London, John takes the tube back to Baker Street and as he walks up to the door, some children ask him for some money for charity (Side bar - I saw that shot being filmed last May in London. The shot is brief, but didn't take too many takes. So just remember that from the point of view of the camera, there were hundreds of fans watching).

Mycroft and Sherlock discuss Sherlock's return. Sherlock berates Mycroft for enjoying his torture and Mycroft is none too pleased about having to infiltrate the organisation and learn Serbian. Sherlock has had his mane chopped off and is getting himself a shave (and begins to bear great resemblance to John Harrison while doing so with a slightly more gruff voice).

Mrs. Hudson serves John some tea and scolds him for his moustache, saying that it ages him. She is upset that he hasn't called in a while after all they went through together after Sherlock's suicide. He apologises. John informs Mrs. Hudson that he's moving on with his life and that he is about to ask a woman to marry him. She expresses surprise that it is a woman and in an exasperated tone, reminds her that Sherlock was never his boyfriend and that he is not gay.

Sherlock re-dresses in a white button-up that is clinging to his torso for dear life and a black blazer. He says he needs to get to know London again. He enquires after John and expresses disdain for the moustache upon seeing a photograph. He states that it will have to be gotten rid of him as Sherlock cannot be seen with an old man. Sherlock says that he will surprise John at 221B and even quips that he could jump out of a cake. Mycroft informs him that John no longer resides at 221B as it's been two years and he's gotten on with his life. Sherlock asks where he'll be and though Mycroft briefly plays coy, he informs him of a dinner reservation he has. Sherlock declares he'll drop by, Mycroft warns him that it is possible he won't be welcome and true to form, Sherlock does not heed the warning. Sherlock demands to know where "it" is, and he has the coat returned to him. Sherlock thanks Mycroft and even calls him "Blood."

Sherlock heads into the restaurant and deduces that the man at the door's wife has just gone into labour. He then spills water on a customer to steal his bow-tie, takes away one man's menu to steal hi glasses from another, swaps out that menu out as a distraction to steal a woman's make-up pencil to draw on a silly moustache, and voila! His "disguise" as a waiter is complete. He then approaches John and gives him a recommendation on the wine with a hilariously ridiculous French accent (resembling Martin du Crieff from Cabin Pressure), but is unable to properly "surprise" him as John does not bother to look up and notice that the "waiter" is his not-dead friend. Sherlock appears agitated by the failure of his theatrics.

John looks at his engagement ring and Mary arrives looking absolutely radiant. He offers her some wine and she says she is good with water. He tells her meeting her was the best thing that could have happened to her and she agrees. He chuckles and she giggles when he struggles to get out his proposal. Sherlock returns with a bottle of wine and eventually John looks up again. Sherlock genuinely utters the phrase "Not dead" (seriously - he did say it). Mary is horrified when she realises who it is, given how broken up John was over it. Sherlock wipes off his make-up moustache and asks if John's rubs off too. John is fuming over Sherlock's deception and even slams his fist onto the table. Sherlock, in an apparent attempt to diffuse the situation asks to ask him a question. After a pause, he asks if John is really going to keep the moustache and laughs over the absurdity of it. John attacks Sherlock and they are kicked out of the fancy restaurant. The three of them go to a small diner and begins to tell them about how he survived the jump off the roof and that there were 13 different possible scenarios. He begins to elaborate and John cuts him off saying he doesn't care how he did it but merely wants to know why. Sherlock callously admits that others knew that he was alive, including Mycroft and Molly. When he admits that there were 25, John attacks him yet again. In another new food establishment, Sherlock nurses his cut lip and enquires yet again about the moustache. John says Mary likes it and Sherlock retorts that she doesn't. When John realises he's right, he is upset and embarrassed. Sherlock tells him about the threat and that he needs John's help. He tells him that John has missed the thrill of the chase and the dynamic of the two of them being against the world. John replies with a headbutt.

Outside, Sherlock nurses his bloody nose and chats with Mary. She's amazed at how little he knows about human nature and informs him she'll talk John into coming around. He seems touched and deduces various things about her (not out loud). John and Mary leave, and John is amazed when Mary states that she likes Sherlock. Sherlock reveals his return to Molly Hooper, who is surprised by the fact he snuck up behind her. Next, he visits Lestrade as he's about to smoke (and mistakenly calls him Graham even though his name is Greg), and after a few seconds of scowling, Lestrade hugs him. When he comes to visit Mrs. Hudson, she thinks the noise is an intruder and arms herself with a frying pan. When he actually walks in, she screams her head off.

Yet again, we see a version of the rooftop scene. This time, Sherlock is holding a rope attached to a dummy with a wig and a paper mask of his face on it. He releases it and sits with Moriarty as the two giggle like teenagers at a slumber party. They gaze into each other's eyes and are about to kiss just as Anderson interrupts. Turns out that this theory is coming form a young girl who is a part of "The Empty Hearse," an organisation started by Anderson for people to meet and discuss theories on how Sherlock faked his death. His rant is interrupted by texts that Sherlock is indeed alive.

Mary reads John's old blog while John prepares to shave the moustache off. When she notices what he's doing, she teases him over the fact that he's only now shaving after Sherlock's return. He insists that he doesn't shave for Sherlock Holmes. She quips that he should put that on a t-shirt. He playfully tells her to shut up, she replies, "Or what?" and he says, "Or I'll marry you." It's a painfully cute moment, and we may now consider them engaged.

Sherlock is keeping tabs on multiple people as part of the investigation into the underground terrorist organisation and eliminating suspects in the process. He meets with Mycroft and the two discuss the case over a game of chess that eventually leads to a game of Operation. The topic eventually turns to banter over their childhood. Sherlock even throws in a spot-on impersonation of Mycroft (remind me again why Benedict Cumberbatch has yet to host SNL?) The boys weren't keen on making friends in their youth, and Sherlock notes that Mycroft still doesn't have any and Mycroft insists they change the subject when Sherlock mentions something about a "goldfish." Mrs. Hudson brings them tea and notes that he's "secretly pleased to see you underneath all that" and when Mycroft asks whom she is referring to and she says, "Both of you." Sherlock suggests they play Deductions and tosses him a hat left behind by a client. They make deductions on it and it's great fun to see them both flex their intellectual muscles. It culminates with Sherlock deducing that Mycroft is lonely, which Mycroft denies and Sherlock asks, "How would you know?" It's a powerful moment, folks.

The scene goes back and forth between John and Sherlock's respective lives. John sees patients at his office. Sherlock invites Molly over and invites her to solve crimes with him. There are several touching moments in which we witness character growth from Sherlock. He tells Molly to be herself (and not John) and consoles a weeping client. John mistakenly thinks a slightly eccentric patient is Sherlock in disguise and frightens and manhandles the poor man before realising his mistake. Eventually, Sherlock and Molly meet Lestrade to consult on a case that has them all baffled. Sherlock hallucinates John's voice while analysing the scene. Lestrade appears delighted to have Sherlock back and is even prepared to be insulted by him if he pleases. Sherlock eventually informs him that the scene is staged to make people think it's Jack the Ripper.

Next up, Sherlock and Molly visit a man who with a love for trains who works for the tube on the district line. This man tells Sherlock his girlfriend loves him, and when Sherlock scoffs, "Girlfriend?" Molly gives him a look and Sherlock immediately apologises. (Happily drowning in character development at this point). The man shows him security footage of a man boarding the last car at Westminster station and when the tube arrives at St. James's Park, the man is gone. There's no way he could have jumped off the train, nowhere for him to go, there's no tunnels on any map, and the driver of that train has seemingly disappeared after possibly being bought off. Sherlock realises it is somehow related to the underground threat that. In front of 221B, John is injected by some strangers and is knocked out by it.

Sherlock notes that the journey between the two stations usually takes five minutes but on the footage it took ten. He tells Molly he's going to need lots of maps. She asks him what "today" had been all about and he tells her it was to thank her for everything she did for him. She brushes off the thanks, saying it was her pleasure. He tells her that Moriarty made a mistake and that the one person that he thought didn't matter was the one that mattered the most. He then deduces that she won't be able to join him again and notes her ring (it's not explicitly stated whether it's an engagement or a promise ring). She babbles a bit about this new man in her life and Sherlock tells her he hopes she will be happy, before smiling and kissing her on the cheek. He also jokes that not all men she falls for can be sociopaths before walking out. She says that maybe it's just her type and looks longingly after him. It's a safe bet that Molly's flame still burns for Sherlock and perhaps always will.

John awakens but is still drugged. Mary receives a mysterious text and heads off to 221B. She meets Mrs. Hudson before informing Sherlock that the message is a skip code. They need to save John and Sherlock drops his fish and chips and hurries out with Mary right behind him. He dramatically stops a a motorbike rider and gets on with Mary. They head to the church where a bonfire is about to be lit (come on folks, you forgot to check your bonfire for hedgehogs!) Sherlock has received taunting texts during the ride over and arrives right as the fire is lit. He and Mary jump off the motorbike and runs over to the bonfire. He digs through the burning things and manages to pull out a slightly bloody, very dazed John.

Sherlock meets with a pair of clients searching for a missing lottery ticket and sends them away when John arrives. Sherlock reveals that they were in fact his parents and John is amazed at how ordinary they seem (easter egg - Sherlock's parents are portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch's actual parents, Timoth Carlton and Wanda Ventham). Sherlock is pleased that John has shaved off the moustache. John wants to know why he was attacked and kidnapped and Sherlock has yet to figure it out but is continuing to work the case involving the disappearing man on the tube and the underground network. He fills John in with the information and has an epiphany that the last carriage was detached since only six arrived at St. James's Park but seven departed from Westminster. They realise that it is November 5, and realise that the connections to Guy Fawkes indicate a plot against the palace of Westminster. They also realise there is an unused station under it where there is, in all likelihood, a bomb.

They make their way to Westminster Station and John attempt to call the police, though Sherlock stops him. They eventually discover the empty carriage and find that the entire thing is rigged to be a bomb with explosives set up in every seat. Lord Moran, a man Sherlock has been investigating, arms the bomb and the timer begins counting down. John is angry and frightened and tries to get Sherlock to use his mind palace to figure out how to defuse the bomb. Sherlock says he cannot and apologises to John before pleading for forgiveness. Sherlock gets emotional and John says he finds this sort of emotional stuff difficult before saying that Sherlock is the best and wisest man he's ever known and forgives him.

We see footage of Sherlock of explaining how he survived. He states that he and Mycroft came up with a plan to have Mycroft feed Moriarty information about Sherlock in exchange for snippets related to his network. Sherlock sat back and watched as Moriarty destroyed his reputation. Sherlock knew that Moriarty would want him to die as well. 13 possible scenarios for the rooftop were rigorously worked out, planned and given code names). He didn't anticipate how far Moriarty would be willing to go (in regard to his suicide by gunshoton the rooftop). On the rooftop, Sherlock texted Mycroft the signal, "LAZARUS" (easter egg - "Empty Hearse" writer/actor Mark Gatiss portrayed Professor Lazarus in the Doctor Who episode, "The Lazarus Experiment"). After Sherlock received the confirmation signal from Mycroft, "LAZARUS IS GO," Sherlock made his jump. A giant airbag was set up and a team of people quickly moved it out of the way. Molly did throw a corpse disguised as Sherlock out of the St Barts window. One person applied some fake blood to Sherlock's head, Sherlock swapped spots with the body, and more fake blood was applied. The cyclist was indeed a part of the plan to keep John from seeing the airbag and the rest of the set-up. Sherlock also put the squash ball under his arm, applied significant pressure, and the pulse was momentarily cut off. As it turns out, Sherlock has been recounting this plot to Anderson. He further reveals that he deduced that Moriarty must have had a Sherlock look-alike used during the kidnapping seen in "The Reichenbach Fall," that led to the little girl being frightened by seeing Sherlock. Sherlock knew that this person would have been a liability in Moriarty's eyes and therefore disposed of so with Molly's help, the body was recovered, the records were faked and Sherlock provided the coat (of which he as many and explicitly stated so). Mycroft bought off the snipers and Anderson seems almost disappointed by this plot. Sherlock further states that he knows that Anderson set up the fake 'Jack the Ripper' case and when Sherlock applies a slight guilt trip, Anderson breaks down sobbing. Sherlock awkwardly pats Anderson to comfort him. Anderson then becomes skeptical of the theory and Sherlock leaves, causing viewers to become skeptical of whether or not this was actually the way that he did it or if he was simply messing with Anderson's head. Anderson becomes delirious, throws a fit, and fusses with his many clippings on his walls.

We return to Sherlock and John in the rigged carriage and Sherlock begins giggling. John looks at the timer and sees that it is no longer counting down. He gets angry, calls Sherlock a cock, and Sherlock reveals that the bomb had an off-switch. The police arrive, for Sherlock had called them. Lord Moran attempts to escape but is apprehended. Back at 221B, Mary tells Mrs. Hudson they're thinking of a May wedding and John informs Sherlock that the press are downstairs waiting for the story. Lestrade is also present and they all prepare to toast with champagne. Molly arrives with her significant other, Tom, and John gapes at him. Sherlock appears slightly mortified as he takes in Tom's appearance. Tom does have a similar taste in fashion to Sherlock but could it be that there is another reason for his skeptical one-over? Lestrade discretely asks Molly if it's serious between the two of them and she cheerfully replies that she has moved on. Outside the flat, John begins to question him about Molly's new man and Sherlock replies that he's saying nothing. John then questions him why this group went after John and put him in the bonfire if it really was about Sherlock's being on to them. Sherlock does not know and is unhappy about having yet to solve it. John brings up the speech he gave at Sherlock's grave and Sherlock lets him know that he was there and heard him. Sherlock says that it is time to be Sherlock Holmes again and before stepping out to meet the press, puts on the deerstalker.

In an unknown location, the new villain, Charles Augustus Magnussen watches footage of Sherlock and Mary rescuing John from the bonfire and his presence is indeed ominous.

This has arguably become fans' new favourite episode due to its countless nods to fan theories, fan jokes, and the moments in which several favourite pairings (be they romantic or not) were able to share together. If you want more fun related to Sherlock, I'd strongly recommend creating a Tumblr account and getting better acquainted with the many Sherlockians on the site, whose passion and creativity have created a truly fantastic community.

Catch the next episode of Sherlock, "The Sign of Three," on Sunday, December 5 at 8:30 on BBC One.


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