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'Sherlock' returns with odd departure piece

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Sherlock: The Empty Hearse

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The BBC's "Sherlock" television series returned to PBS after a two year hiatus with its third season opener titled "The Empty Hearse." As with the two previous seasons, season three will consist of three 90 minute movies offering modern versions of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's classic detective stories. "The Empty Hearse" brought back new Hollywood star Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Holmes and Watson in a decidedly mixed bag departure piece oddity.

"Sherlock" earned its critical praise and avid fan base with highly literate scripts and rich characters with fascinating interactions brought to life through brilliant performances, starting with the two perfectly cast stars. "The Empty Hearse" threw most of that out the window and almost parodied itself by catering to fan fiction, being uncertain in tone and having more fun than its viewers.

It played like an amped up episode of "C.S.I." with busy editing and visual effects accompanied by an edgy and hip electronic score. Much of the story dealt with Sherlock's return from the dead and offered various scenarios from ideas circulating in the internet fanverse of how he survived his last season ending rooftop leap. One even went so far as to offer a bizarre moment of intimacy between Holmes and Moriarty. There were also several bits of winking and inside jokes such as Cumberbatch's actual parents appearing as Holmes' parents.

It took far too long to finally settle into a mystery regarding a terrorist threat that was broken up with more tomfoolery just as it was getting interesting. Ultimately it presented an unsatisfying open ending apparently setting up the villain for the next two movies. First time viewers should not misjudge the series from this one weird outing and would be well served to see the earlier movies on DVD. Hopefully "The Empty Hearse" got something out of the creators' systems and the next two Sundays will return to the good stuff.

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