‘Sherlock’: Everything You Missed On ‘The Empty Hearse’

God bless you please, Philip Anderson.

Big reveals, heartbreaking reunions and the kiss that launched a thousand fanfics: the BBC’s “ Sherlock” made its return tonight, and everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.

Having faked his death at the end of Series 2, “The Empty Hearse” showed the consulting detective returning to London after two years spent dismantling the global criminal network of his dead archnemesis. But for Sherlock, hunting down bad guys around the world was a piece of cake compared to the challenge of making a decent apology to a furious John Watson, and of explaining last season’s biggest mystery to an absolutely rabid fan base.

The Theory We Totally Fell For
How did Sherlock fake his death? At first, it looks like we’re getting the answer even before the opening credits! It’s a complicated scenario involving a bungee cord, a cameo appearance by English hypnotist Derren Brown and a shattered window through which Sherlock rebounds just in time to adjust his collar, ruffle his hair and plant a passionate smooch on Molly Hooper. Only c’mon, such action-star heroics are hardly Sherlock’s style. And sure enough, the opening scene turns out to be a setup for one of the episode’s funnier running jokes: the transformation of Philip Anderson, formerly a devout Holmes Hater, into an obsessed fanboy whose sole purpose in life is coming up with theories (like this one) to prove that Sherlock still lives.

An Element Of SURPRISE! …Um, Surprise?
A warm, fuzzy reunion between Holmes and Watson was the number one thing on every fan’s wishlist — and, we now realize, the one thing we never had a snowball’s chance in hell of getting. Instead, Sherlock’s lighthearted attempt to surprise his friend at a restaurant ends with yelling, punching, head-butting, more punching, a fat lip for Sherlock, an angry exit for John, the world’s worst proposal of marriage, and an ignominious death for John’s mustache (which, as it turns out, nobody liked.)

This One’s For The Fans
It’s no secret that the Sherlock fandom is prone to, um, excess — often in the form of steamy slashfic featuring Holmes in flagrante delicto with everyone from John Watson to Mrs. Hudson to the villainous Moriarty. But even the Morlock shippers probably didn’t expect this: a flashback to Benedict Cumberbatch and Andrew Scott sitting on the hospital roof, giggling like schoolboys over Sherlock’s death prank, and then leaning toward each other with hungry lips for a –

OH NO THEY DIDN’T.

Like the bungee cord scenario, Sherlock’s and Moriarty’s rooftop romance turns out to be just another (incorrect) theory by a member of the Empty Hearse club, but the fact that they actually filmed it… well, let’s just say that “Sherlock,” much like Irene Adler, knows what we like.

Mystery What? Villain Who?
Although the break-up/make-up drama between Holmes and Watson was the central theme of this episode, there was still just a little detecting to do. While Sherlock and temporary co-investigator Molly Hooper look into the disappearance of a member of British Parliament, Watson is kidnapped by persons unknown and hidden beneath a Guy Fawkes Day bonfire. Fortunately, a motorbike-riding Sherlock and Mary arrive in time to rescue him, getting the Baker Street boys back together in time to solve the case. And, more importantly, to…

…Kiss And Make Up!
Trapped in a defunct Tube tunnel, standing aboard a time-bomb train wired to go off in minutes, it looks like certain death for Holmes and Watson. Like, really for real death, not fun-fakey-bungee-cord death. Sherlock, unable to defuse the bomb, begs John — in their last moments left on earth — to please, please forgive him. John replies that he has trouble talking about his feelings, but then delivers this gut-punch of a line taken straight from Arthur Conan Doyle’s original Sherlock Holmes stories: “You were the best and wisest man that I have ever known. Of course I forgive you.”

Of course he does. And of course, he says a very bad and unprintable word when it turns out that Sherlock was only kidding: the bomb had an off switch on the side, and flick! No more explosion! But there’s nothing to repair a broken friendship like the threat of imminent death.

Inflating The Truth
With only minutes left in the episode, we see Sherlock revealing to Anderson how he truly survived the fall. It’s a solution that involves a giant inflatable airbag, a Sherlock look-alike corpse, a cadre of homeless network actors, and a street closed off like a movie set. It’s a solid explanation: neat, smart, and logical… and totally disappointing to Anderson, who actually cannot cope with finally knowing the answer to the mystery that’s plagued him for years.

What did you think of “The Empty Hearse”? Are you satisfied with the return of “Sherlock”? What do you want to see next week? Let us know in the comments!