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Sherlock Back from the Dead in Series 3

By Brendan Tenan, Staff Writer


Its hard to believe its already been two long years since Series 2 of the BBCs Sherlock
aired its shocking finale, with titular hero Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) jumping off
the top of a building and committing suicide, only to reappear very much alive at his own funeral
in the final moments. As the air date for the premiere of Series 3 drew closer and closer, fans
around the world churned out more and more theories about how the great detective could have
survived the fall.
Rather than try to create a piece of exposition that would explain how Sherlock is still
alive, which some fans would possibly accept but many would likely not be satisfied with, the
shows co-creators and primary writers Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss decided to have a bit of
fun with the premiere episode, The Empty Hearse. Moffat and Gatiss came up with three
distinct theories and had different characters explain these possibilities throughout the episode.
Each theory was plausible to some degree, but they all contained various flaws that made
the stories unlikely, if not completely ludicrous. The one version that seemed to carry the most
weight was the one Holmes himself told former Scotland Yard Inspector Anderson (Jonathan
Aris), yet even that one has enough improbable events and scenarios take place to make the
audience doubt its truth.
In the end it was wise of Moffat and Gatiss to not give a definitive answer, and instead
leave it up to the viewers imaginations. Sherlock is a show that has a very loyal, passionate fan
base around the world. Any definitive solution explaining how Holmes survived jumping off of a
building would likely have been unsatisfactory for an audience that has patiently waited two
years for their favorite consulting detective to make his grand return.
Nevertheless, the great detective did indeed make his return in the popular BBC
miniseries, which airs in America as part of PBSs Masterpiece Mystery series. The show picks
up two years after that fateful jump, and begins by taking a look at the lives of Holmess closest
friends as they continue to adjust to him being gone. Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman),
Sherlocks closest friend and chronicler of their adventures, is seemingly the most affected by
this for many reasons. Meanwhile, Mrs. Hudson (Una Stubbs), Molly Hooper (Louise Brealey),
DI Lestrade (Rupert Graves) and Anderson are all still coping and experiencing one or more of
the stages associated with grief.
One of the aspects of the show that has made Sherlock so popular with fans is the
decision made by Gatiss and Moffat to adapt the original stories of Sherlock Holmes that were
written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle over one hundred years ago. Besides placing the stories in a
contemporary setting, they will also often alter the actions of the characters to make them more
in line with a modern day Brit rather than the more reserved, stoic characters from the Victorian
era readers often associate with the stories of Sherlock Holmes. A great example of this comes in
The Empty Hearse, when Sherlock dramatically reveals to John that hes very much alive.
In the original story, Conan Doyle depicted Watson fainting from the shock of seeing his
old friend after believing he had been dead for many years. When Watson recovered, he was

quite happy to have Sherlock Holmes back at Baker Street. In the show, Gatiss and Moffat have
Watson fly into a rage over Sherlocks deception and betrayal of their trust in one another. As a
result, John assaults Holmes on three different occasions, seemingly intent on killing a man
whos just come back from the dead. Holmes and Watson eventually work things out (although
they never completely resolve Johns feelings of betrayal) and the two reunite to once again take
on Londons most singular cases.
Several new dynamics are also introduced in this series. The most notable is the presence
of Johns wife, Mary. Mary is a character that Conan Doyle frequently alluded to, but rarely
made present in his stories. As a result, many readers have long questioned whether the character
was supportive of Watsons adventures with Sherlock, or whether she resented Holmes for
constantly taking him on cases and away from his family. It was refreshing to see this character
take such a prominent part in the third series and add another level of depth and complexity to
the already rich, complex characters Freeman and Cumberbatch have brought to life. It was
equally refreshing to see the natural chemistry between John and Mary (played by Freemans
real-life partner, Amanda Abbington), as well as the interesting dynamic between Mary and
Sherlock.
Another notable new dynamic was the introduction of a new villain for Sherlock. With
his arch-nemesis, Jim Moriarty (Andrew Scott) now dead, Sherlock must now contend with a
new villain who is quite different from Moriarty but no less dangerous or formidable. The man is
Charles Augustus Magnussen (played with a great deal of danger and slime by Lars Mikkelsen),
a man Sherlock describes as the Napoleon of blackmail. Magnussen, based on the character
Charles Augustus Milverton from Conan Doyles stories, specializes in learning peoples
weaknesses or pressure points. He keeps files on every person of interest to him, and uses their
pressure points to blackmail them, either through monetary payments or to persuade an
individual to grant a specific favor for him. Sherlock is asked to confront and defeat Magnussen
after he attempts to blackmail a Member of Parliament.
There are several entertaining, and funny moments throughout the series, particularly in
the second episode which features John and Marys wedding, as well as the events leading up to
it. Cumberbatch has received great acclaim for his portrayal of Holmes as a brilliant but cold,
calculated, and arrogant high functioning sociopath. These less than charming character traits
of Sherlocks are hilariously on display when he must give a speech as the best man at John and
Marys wedding. The flashbacks to Johns stag party feature several clever and humorous
techniques to depict how intoxicated John and Sherlock were. Meanwhile, Gatiss and Moffats
production team once again do a fantastic job showing the audience the thought processes that
rapidly run through Sherlocks mind, allowing him to make his brilliant and celebrated
deductions.
Finally, Moffat and Gatiss have established a certain expectation level within their fans
for a surprise twist at the end of each series. Series 1 ended with the revelation of Moriartys true
identity and a standoff between Sherlock, Watson, and Moriarty. Series 2 ended with Sherlocks
apparent suicide, only for the great detective to appear in the distance at his funeral. Series 3 is
no exception and though I wont reveal it here, the cliffhanger leading into series 4 is definitely
Moffat and Gatiss best yet. Hopefully, viewers wont have to wait too long for answers to all the
questions it raises.
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All three episodes of the third series of Sherlock can be streamed for free at PBSs
Masterpiece webpage until March 4.