The last time we saw Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch), he was standing quietly in a graveyard and covertly watching as his best friend, Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman), stood grieving at Sherlock’s graveside. John is numb with shock, having watched in disbelief as his dear friend, by all appearances, committed suicide by jumping from the top of a tall building.
As Sherlock finally returns tonight for its third season on PBS’ Masterpiece Mystery!, two years have passed since that day and, for John, they’ve been two very dark years. Grief, as well as a moustache he ill-advisedly is now sporting, has aged him well beyond his years, and he hasn’t even been in touch with his former landlady, Mrs. Hudson (Una Stubbs), since that fateful day.
Meanwhile, viewers are learning what Sherlock has been doing all this time and why. Only brother Mycroft Holmes (Mark Gatiss, who also wrote tonight’s season premiere) and a few members of his team have known that Sherlock isn’t dead. Now, as a horrifying terrorist threat looms over London, it’s time for the great sleuth to reveal himself to his loved ones.
Sherlock is looking forward to reconnecting with John, brushing aside Mycroft’s suggestion that their reunion may be a little sensitive.
“It’s been two years,” Mycroft tells his brother. “He’s gotten on with his life.”
“What life?” Sherlock snorts incredulously. “I’ve been away.”
The show’s creative team has asked critics not to divulge how John reacts to Sherlock’s reappearance, but think about it: How would you react if you discovered that your dearest friend had just put you through two years of the most hellish grief you could ever imagine?
In fact, the majority of tonight’s episode focuses on the close relationship between these two men, but that doesn’t mean it’s short on laughs. The title of the season premiere is “The Empty Hearse,” which refers to a social group Scotland Yard staffer Philip Anderson (Jonathan Aris) has founded for conspiracy theorists who want to get together to hash out possible scenarios for how Sherlock may have eluded death. It’s a clever tip of the hat to the many, many Sherlock fans who just as obsessively have gone online and shared how-he-dunnit theories during this two-year hiatus.
There’s not much else I can divulge about tonight’s episode – the first of three this season – without wading into some serious spoilers, so let me leave it at this: Sherlock is back, and better than ever.