The Empty Hearse

Episode Report Card
Cindy McLennan: A- | 659 USERS: A-
I Don't Shave For Sherlock Holmes
In a hurry? Read the recaplet for a nutshell description!

Welcome to a very different episode of Sherlock. I suppose it's silly of me to welcome you to it since you, gentle reader, are already a character in "The Empty Hearse." Allow me to front-load some commentary, which I'll begin by delving into my one-trick bag of tricks.

In the "Ted" episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, while Buffy and Giles are out on patrol, Buffy vents about vampires but it soon becomes apparent something else has her in a snit. "I mean, people are perfectly happy getting along, and then vampires come, and they run around and they kill people, and they take over your whole house and start making these stupid little mini-pizzas. Now I like a mini-pizza, but I'm telling you..."

For those of you who never watched, the mini-pizza-making monster in question is Buffy's mom's new boyfriend (and in Buffy's defense, he does turn out to be an evil robot). None of that is my point, though. Once Buffy loses the thread of her metaphor, Giles tells her, "Buffy, I believe the subtext here is rapidly becoming text." While watching "The Empty Hearse," I hear Anthony Stewart Head saying, "Gatiss, I believe the text here is rapidly becoming metatext." Hey, if you have to have voices in your head, Tony Head's is not the worst option. P.S. to Moffat et al, please cast Mr. Head as a Sherlock villain.

In Sherlock's season three premiere, "The Empty Hearse," the text immediately becomes metatextual criticism on Sherlock fan theories, fan fiction and fandom itself. Less obviously, it becomes metatextual criticism on the very making of Sherlock. That's right. Gatiss isn't just taking the piss out of fandom. He's taking it out of the writing and production of the show. My assertion and belief is that he is doing it more out of love than disdain (although I'll allow there's a healthy dose of fear in there, too).

Meta-laden works are polarizing and "The Empty Hearse" is no exception. Provided the meta works with the plot and doesn't overwhelm it, I enjoy it. Writer Mark Gatiss skates the line between text and commentary so well, I'm disappointed he won't be competing in Sochi. His triple Axel that is "The Empty Hearse" is nearly flawless. Even the Chinese judges agree.

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