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The Empty Hearse

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The Empty Hearse

Series 03, Episode 01

The empty hearse
Air Date 1 January, 2014
Writer Mark Gatiss
Director Jeremy Lovering
Viewers 9.2 million [citation needed]
Previous Many Happy Returns
Next The Sign of Three

The Empty Hearse is the first episode of series three of Sherlock.[1] It was directed by newcomer to the series, Jeremy Lovering[2] and was written by Mark Gatiss.[3]

The episode premiered on the 1 January, 2014 on BBC One in the UK,[4] and on the 19 January, 2014 on PBS in the USA.[5]


""Just one more miracle, Sherlock. Don't be dead!."
―Dr John Watson

Two years after the devastating events of The Reichenbach Fall, John appears to have got on with his life. New horizons and romance beckon. But, with London under threat of a devastating terrorist attack, Sherlock is about to take John at his word, staging his resurrection with all the theatricality that comes so naturally to him. If Sherlock thinks everything will be just as he left it, though, he's in for a very big surprise...[6]


Roughly two years before, Sherlock is standing on the rooftop of St. Bart's Hospital , John on the pavement below (see The Reichenbach Fall). As Sherlock is speaking to John over the phone, Moriarty's body is dragged away and his face is covered with a mask of Sherlock's face. Sherlock falls off the roof, and as John is looking up he is hit by a bicyclist. Molly is shown looking out the window when this happens and looks suprised when she sees Sherlock go past it. It is shown that there is a bungee rope attached to Sherlock's back, which bounces him upwards before he can hit the ground. Sherlock crashes through a window to meet Molly Hooper. He then kisses her and walks away. Meanwhile, on the ground, Moriarty's body is dragged onto the pavement and decorated with fake blood. As John stands up slowly, Derren Brown intervenes by sending John to sleep for a short time, and gives the people with Moriarty's corpse more time.

"Bollocks," says Lestrade, and it is revealed that this is just a theory of Anderson's. The two stand in front of a coffee stand, watching reporters who reveal that Sherlock's innocence has been proven, though it is too late for the detective. Lestrade isn't convinced by Anderson's theories, however, saying that they are only based on guilt.

Meanwhile, somewhere in Serbia, a man with long, scraggly hair is being pursued. Night-vision cameras show that he is trapped by three other men.

Later, the long-haired man is chained with his arms outstretched and is being hit by another man, interrogating him. There is another man sitting quietly in the room as well, a member of the jailer's group. The interrogator asks why the man broke in to the area. The prisoner replies with a series of facts about the questioner's personal life, concluding with the fact that his wife is sleeping with the next-door neighbor. The interrogator storms out to go home, and the other man in the room is shown to be Mycroft Holmes, who walks up to the prisoner and tells him that a massive attack about to happen in London. The prisoner is then revealed to be Sherlock.

In Mycroft's office, Mycroft is reading a newspaper regarding something called the "Skeleton Mystery" while Sherlock is being shaved by an assistant. Sherlock and Mycroft quibble about Mycroft's getting involved in getting Sherlock out of Serbia.

John looks at 221B for the first time in a long time and John announces to Mrs. Hudson that he's moving on with life now and is going to propose to his girlfriend. John has to insist that he is not gay after Mrs. Hudson implies multiple times that Sherlock was his boyfriend.

Mycroft warns Sherlock that he might not be welcome if he tries to surprise John in returning, but Sherlock ignores him and leaves.

At The Landmark, a restaurant, Sherlock tries to reveal himself to John, who is at a table with Mary Morstan, his girlfriend. Neither Mary nor John recognize him at first. John sees him finally and Mary figures out who Sherlock is and is as incredulous as John. Sherlock wipes his mustache off as John tries to keep calm, but when Sherlock asks if he's going to keep his mustache, John tackles Sherlock to the floor. After Sherlock angers John several more times and is subsequently attacked, Mary and John drive away in a cab.

Soon after, Sherlock reveals that he's back to Molly Hooper, Greg Lestrade, and Mrs. Hudson.

In a Sherlock fan club, Anderson is arguing with another member who thinks Moriarty was involved romantically with Sherlock, when the telly announces that Sherlock is indeed alive.

Sherlock sets up his information wall in 221B, has a conversation with Mycroft about the underground terrorist cell, and plays a deduction game with him.

Later, John has an ordinary day in his doctor's office with several patients while Sherlock asks Molly to solve crimes with him. After several usual clients, Lestrade shows them the "Skeleton Mystery" that had been in the papers lately, which Sherlock quickly denounces as a fake.

They also talk to a client, Howard Shilcott, who works for the London Underground. His job is to clear security footage after each day but he had noticed someone get into a car on the Tube, but not get out. Sherlock recognizes the man in the security footage as one Lord Moran, but is unable to deduce how he had disappeared.

After work, John decides to go to Baker Street to talk to Sherlock, but is drugged and kidnapped in front of the door. Back near the skeleton crime scene, it is shown that Molly is engaged and that she won't be able to do anything like this day again with Sherlock, who thanks her for having some part in the faking of his death.

Mary receives a text that tells her that John has been taken. She goes to Sherlock, who realizes that the place John is being held at St. James the Less, a church. He and Mary commandeer a motorcycle to get to the church, where they rescue John from being burned in the bonfire for Guy Fawkes Night.

Later, in 221B, Sherlock is listening to his parents in his sitting room. When John comes in, Sherlock's parents leave and Sherlock and John discuss what had happened the night before. Sherlock tells John about the underground network in London and realized that the terrorist plot is related to Lord Moran's disappearance. He deduces that Moran hadn't disappeared, but the entire car had.

When he contacts Shilcott, he is told that between the stations that Moran had disappeared between is an Underground station that had never been opened, on Sumatra Road, near Parliament. Sherlock decides that there must be a bomb in the car, and he and John go to an Underground station where they break into the tunnels and try to find the bomb. John tries to call the police in order to warn the members of Parliament in an important meeting about an anti-terrorism bill, but Sherlock doesn't let him.

When they find the car, they realize that the car isn't carrying a bomb, it is a bomb. The entire compartment is wired with explosives. While Sherlock and John are in the car, the timer, set for two minutes and thirty seconds, starts. Lord Moran has set the bomb remotely.

Knowing they have no time to get out before the bomb detonates, the two try to find out a way to disarm the bomb, but even Sherlock's mind palace doesn't hold 'how to defuse a bomb'. John tells Sherlock that he was the wisest man he has known, and then they brace for death.

Sometime later, Sherlock is being recorded by a camera. He explains how he had faked his death. He and Mycroft had allowed Moriarty to destroy Sherlock's reputation because they had needed to learn information about Moriarty's criminal network. Then, since Sherlock had set up the final meeting place on the roof, there had been thirteen different possible things that could have happened. He and Mycroft had set up a solution for each scenario, with a code word. When Moriarty killed himself, Sherlock had texted the word 'LAZARUS' to his brother, and his homeless network had helped set up everything. Some people set up a giant air cushion directly below his position on the rooftop, and the street had been closed off to the public. Since John was behind the shorter ambulance station below, he couldn't see the air cushion. Molly Hooper was also involved. Since Moriarty had found a way to traumatize one of the kidnapped children, from Sherlock's last case, into thinking that Sherlock was the kidnapper, there must be a body somewhere that looked very much like Sherlock. Sherlock and the rest of the group ran the opposite way around the ambulance station while John was walking toward Bart's. John saw the fake body, and then was knocked down by a cyclist. Once John got back up, Sherlock had replaced the corpse on the pavement, and put a rubber ball under his armpit in order to stop his pulse shortly.

Anderson is the one recording the explanation. After the video is finished, Sherlock says that he hadn't come to explain, he'd come to talk to him about the "Skeleton Mystery", which he knew Anderson had organized. Sherlock berates Anderson for distracting him, almost causing the deaths of countless innocents and the destructon of Parliament. Anderson wonders about loopholes in Sherlock's solution, and then wonders if he'd even been told the true way Sherlock had faked his death.

Back in the Tube car, Sherlock starts laughing, and John looks down and sees that the timer has been stopped since one minute and twenty-nine seconds. Sherlock had stopped the bomb, and he says that there had been an off switch. Soon after, they see people with torches coming down the tunnel towards them, and John realizes that Sherlock had called the police as well.

In a hotel, Lord Moran attempts to run away but is arrested.

Later, Sherlock, John, Mary, Mrs. Hudson, and Lestrade sit in 221B, talking. Molly enters soon, with her boyfriend, Tom, who dresses quite a bit like Sherlock.

Sherlock prepares to go outside to talk to the press outside, and talks to John about his kidnapping. Sherlock doesn't tell John how he'd faked his death, and John tells him about the speech he'd made at his grave.

Sherlock and John go outside to talk to the press, but somewhere in a dark room elsewhere, someone is watching footage of Sherlock's rescue of John from the bonfire.

Allusions to the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories Edit

  • The episode is loosely based on "The Adventure of the Empty House", the short story in which Sherlock Holmes comes back after his presumed death.[3]
    • The patient who comes to see John and offers him videos - whom John assumes is Sherlock in disguise - is a reference to this story. In The Adventure of the Empty House, Holmes returns as a book seller, selling books with the same titles as the videos.
  • The episode references "The Giant Rat of Sumatra", a case that is mentioned in the Sherlock Holmes short story "The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire"
    • The bomb is located near a London Underground station on Sumatra Road, having been planted by Lord Moran, a "rat" in the British Government.
  • Colonel Sebastian Moran is a character in several of the original Sherlock Holmes stories. He first appears in "The Adventure of the Empty House" as a villain, out to kill Sherlock Holmes in order to avenge Moriarty's death.
  • In Arthur Conan Doyle's short story "The Lost Speciall" (not explicitly a Sherlock Holmes story, since his name is not mentioned), a train disappears under mysterious circumstances from between two stations that have no obvious side lines.
  • Sherlock deduced that his client's step-father pretended to be her boyfriend (via the Internet). This is a reference to A Case of Identity. He also named him Windibank.
  • Not a Conan Doyle reference but still worth to mention here: When Sherlock draws a mustache and Watson sports a real one they look really similar to Basil and Dawson gone undercover in The Great Mouse Detective (and in both situations, Sherlock/Basil has fake mustache and Watson/Dawson - real).
  • Sherlock and Mycroft's game of deductions comes from The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter, whilst some of the deductions concerning the client's hat originate from The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle.





  • A special mini episode "Many Happy Returns" was broadcast on 25th December, 2013 which bridges the gap between Series Two and Series Three.
  • Mark Gatiss and Martin Freeman have commented that John's reaction to Sherlock's return will be different from "The Adventure of the Empty House", where Watson simply faints.[citation needed]
  • The episode focuses on the impact Sherlock's faked death has had on John.[7]
  • The couple who played Sherlock's parent's are in fact Benedict Cumberbatch's real life parents; Timothy Carlton and Wanda Ventham.
  • The name of the plan that Sherlock set in motion to fake his death, "Lazarus" is the same name of the character played by Mark Gatiss's Doctor Who character. It is also a person which Jesus is claimed to have awoken from the dead (John 11)
  • At least some of the events in this episode happen on November 5th (Guy Fawkes Day), 2012.  It must be 2012, because the wedding in the next episode takes place in May of the following year.


  • The salsa song heard when Sherlock reveals himself in the restaurant is "Dónde Estás, Yolanda?" by Pink Martini.


  1. Exclusive! Ep 1 will be called 'The Empty Hearse'. The game is on! Mark Gatiss,
  2. ‘Sherlock’ Season 3 Getting Underway; New Helmers For BBC’s Hit Drama, Nancy Tartaglione, Deadline, Monday, 11th March 2013, 14:37 UK.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Sherlock series three filming delayed, confirm show bosses., Tuesday 27 Nov 2012 12:38 pm
  4. #SherlockLives, BBC One, Twitter, 29th November, 2013.
  5. Sherlock series 3 US air date revealed, Stephen Kelly and Tim Glanfield, Radio Times, 23 October, 2013.
  6. TV Preview: Sherlock Episode 1: The Empty Hearse + Panel and Q&A, BFI Film Forever, 5 November, 2013.
  7. Comic-Con: 'Sherlock' Producer on Chances of a Movie, Season 3 and 'Doctor Who', Philiana Ng, The Hollywood Reporter, 18th July, 2013.

Start a Discussion Discussions about The Empty Hearse

  • cast list

    2 messages
    • Hello, Who plays Lord Moran, peer of the realm?  He is not in the credits and I can't find a reference.
    • I've been looking for the same info with no luck as yet!
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