A lot has been said about this episode already, by me as well, but I nevertheless want to go into again because there is so much to see and analyze, and I love how it is like this, because that makes a good TV show – at first you laugh a lot (and I sure did), but then you look behind all that and it is not so funny anymore.
I try to sort these through like my OUAT reviews; don’t know if it works here as well ^^

About Molstrade or Molly/Lestrade

We start off with one of Anderson’s theories as to how Sherlock survived. At first I was totally into it and believed it – until the moment we saw Sherlock kissing Molly because I knew that wouldn’t just happen. Not because I ship Johnlock and don’t want it to happen (okay, maybe a bit), but because this would so not be Sherlock. Too James Bond.
Anyways, what I loved most was Lestrade calling this theory stupid. But you know, it is rather plausible – bit dramatic and overdone, yes, but Sherlock is Sherlock, and he has in Mycroft someone who would make it possible to pull that off. So of course Lestrade will refuse to believe any of it because Sherlock Holmes is dead and he doesn’t want to pain hope brings along, which is completely fine. But one other thing I couldn’t help but think was that maybe he didn’t like that details of Sherlock kissing Molly in particular.
Because if we see one thing in TEH, it’s that Lestrade does have a weakness for Molly. Still has. I mean, I have shipped them ever since ASiB because of that Christmas scene that made it so clear he’s totally infatuated with her, and by now I can almost bet that Lestrade is separated, if not divorced from his wife, and I’d love for him to be with Molly, they make such an adorable couple. I thought it was interesting that in the end it was Lestrade who asked Molly whether it’s serious with Tom; could have been John, or Mrs. Hudson, but no, it was Lestrade.

About Molly Hooper

And yes, poor Molly. She’d been pining for Sherlock for so long, and now she says/believes she has moved on, and
The most important scene here is definitely Sherlock’s and Molly’s conversation after they leave the train guy. I loved that he really thanked her, but the sadness in his face confused me – at least initially. Then I began to wonder – why does he look so sad?
Is it because Molly has a boyfriend now and Sherlock realizes that he’ll miss her crush on him? No, I don’t think so, that’s not Sherlock.
Is it because she has moved on, just like John, just like everyone seems to have, while he was away, and he realizes that the world indeed continues turning and doesn’t stop just because he’s not around? That he isn’t all that important after all? Because he sure has noticed it by now and we saw in his reaction to Mycroft telling Sherlock that John has moved on that he doesn’t understand it; but now it must hit him hard, the fact that life does go on, and at the same time Sherlock might just have to admit that he was hoping for that kind of sentiment, of people needing him so much that they can’t move on as long as he isn’t around.
Or is it because he knows that something’s very wrong, and that Molly doesn’t really has moved on, as is then confirmed in the end when we see fiance Tom, who is basically a Sherlock look-a-like? I still expect there to be more to it – there are theories and pictures floating around on Tumblr about Tom being the sniper who was supposed to take out John in TRF, and it is possible, though I only see a resemblance when I squint very hard. Nevertheless I assume that Sherlock, in his abilities, has seen something that for him already gives away that this engagement/relationship isn’t going to end well, no matter why. And maybe that makes him sad, maybe he really wants her to be happy (I very much think so), but knows it won’t happen, but doesn’t say anything because he has learned something after all.
When Sherlock invites her to work the case with him, she’s willing to accept that she might nothing more than a substitute for John, just so she can be with Sherlock for a while – think about that and how she has moved on. Because she hasn’t and that is the first moment we realize it. And then later on we meet Tom and see what Sherlock possibly has already assumed earlier – that she has anything but moved on. In the end, this could be why he said to her:

Moriarty slipped up. He made a mistake. The one person he thought didn’t matter at all to me mattered the most. You made it all possible. But you can’t do it again, can you?

This is so beautiful. Looking back, I think Sherlock always saw her as this; but he, and especially his old self, assumed that she just knows. Even more so when John comes around and accepts him and likes him no matter what he says and does. Of course Sherlock knows she’s smitten by him and he uses it to manipulate her, but at the same time I believe he thinks she is clever, and she’ll know that whatever he does, or that he interacts with her at all and brings out his charming side, is because she does matter to him.
And then there’s the last two sentences. “You made it all possible. But you can’t do it again, can you?” – and I wondered what he is talking about. Of course she made it possible that he could fake his death; I believe he needed someone inside Bart’s or all this wouldn’t have worked out, even with Mycroft’s help and influence. But what can’t she do again? Help him fake his death? Keep it all to herself? Lie to people she cares about as well, like John or even Lestrade (somehow I assume that she and Lestrade have seen each other more often than she and John)?
Or is it, ultimately, just being with him? Seeing Sherlock on a regular basis, now that he is back? Molly never had the chance to even try and move on because she knew that Sherlock’s still alive. The man she loved hadn’t died – he was still out there, and thus she also couldn’t bury him in her heart, close that chapter, because there was always this teeny, tiny bit of hope. We all know it – when we’ve been in love with someone we could never have, or when it just never came to it. I’ve had that, many years back, and I haven’t forgotten him, to this day. We were out on one date, but nothing ever came out of it, and still, if I had the chance… I’d take him any time. I believe it has to be like this for Molly; no matter how much time passes and for how long they don’t see each other, she at least knew Sherlock was still out there, so can’t just forget him and leave him behind.
It is proven that it is just like that for Molly when we see Tom. Everyone recognizes that he is Sherlock, at least on the outside. Kudos to the production team for finding someone like this! This makes Molly a very tragic figure, because unless Sherlock gives her free, does something that helps her free herself of him, she won’t truly move on. And how should Sherlock know how to do that? I guess Molly needs someone who will love her, cherish her, but also accept her infatuation with Sherlock (and that’s where we are back to Greg).

About Mary

There is this central thing that concerns me about TEH and Mary. John is attacked and abducted in front of 221B.
He is in front of 221B.
Now think about this for a moment. If they’d followed him around, they could have attacked anywhere. Anywhere where it wouldn’t have been so open and obvious, since Baker Street seems to be a rather busy street. But no, they waited in front of 221B. But how could they know he would come there? He doesn’t live there anymore, and if they are in any way at least a bit informed, they also know that he and Sherlock are not quite on speaking terms. Plus, Sherlock isn’t home.
But there is one other person who knew John would go to 221B that afternoon: Mary. It is implicated when they say goodbye to each other at the clinic. She knew. Mary knew he would go to 221B.
I’ve now watched the episode twice and several parts a lot more often, it all seems to slowly fall into place. We know that it was Mary who got the text message with the hints as to where find John. It was also Mary who solved the puzzle and told Sherlock.
She has to be in on it. And not in the way that she is blackmailed or anything. No, she has to have been the one to tip those people off so they’d know where to find John.
I love Mary, I really do, but the more I think about it, she seems to be almost too perfect, too nice and too accepting of Sherlock. I wouldn’t be surprised if she turns out to be, for the lack of a better word, evil, in any way. I have this theory that Mary is one of the bad guys, for whatever reason, and that she’s supposed to get to Sherlock through John. She could even have known that Sherlock was alive before, and that he would return, that’s why she got together with John in the first place.
Whatever it is, there has to be more to her, and I don’t believe that she is just there to be John’s love interest, give a few witty remarks, and then be killed off as a plot device; she’ll play an important role. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be one we’re going to like.
Yes, Mary dying is canon, but what if they go for something else – Mary has to go according to canon and I sort of expect Mofftiss to stick to it, but with a huge twist – just killing her would be too easy, and even though John loves her, it would still lack impact if she is “just another victim”. I can see her being involved with something bad, something that will turn out to endanger John (there is this theory on Tumblr that John was kidnapped because of her, not because of Sherlock, and I think it makes perfect sense) – maybe even Magnussen. It is even possible that her last act is saving John and/or Sherlock while giving her own life because she realizes that she’s done something wrong. But if she stays just as nice and cute as she is now, it will be strange to me.
The other things is, just as Mary readily accepts Sherlock, so does he. She even goes and convinces John to reconcile with Sherlock, and to me that is kind of quick. What do they know about each other? We saw him deduce her; he knows things about Mary, and some of them are, as it seems, (dark) secrets. Could it be that Mary knows about Sherlock as well, that it is her job to accept him?
I don’t go into Sherlock’s deductions of Mary because I think they are misleading. They are just words without any connection whatsoever, so it would be easy to completely misinterpret them. That he sees a “liar” in her doesn’t necessarily mean that he thinks she’s involved in shady business; it can be just because of the moustache she pretended to like. Or maybe Sherlock doesn’t know why he sees it in her, only that he does. So I’ve so far done my best to avoid these deduction of her he does.

About John

So John has moved on – but then, he hasn’t. He still visits the grave. He still mourns. He hears Sherlock’s voice, and remembers their first (happy) moments after the cab chase so many years back. He still hears Sherlock playing the violin, a random melody we’ve never heard before (I think). Oh. And he still has the key to 221B (that was one of the things that really got me – two years of not visiting, not even calling Mrs. Hudson, and he still has the keys).
So no, John hasn’t moved on. He has continued to live his life as it would be normal – have a job, have a flat, have a relationship. But he’s not living. He’s trying to convince himself that he does the same; he goes and tells Mrs. Hudson to he is about to get married as if he needs her permission, as if suddenly, he needs her blessing, even though he apparently hasn’t contacted her in two years because it would have been too painful. He’s been stuck in his grief, the whole scene with Mrs. Hudson shows that clearly. And now he thinks by telling her and saying goodbye to 221B, he can leave all that behind, but we know that he can.
His reaction to Mrs. Hudson once again suggesting that he is gay. She isn’t saying it to tease or anger him. She doesn’t mock him. She firmly believes he was in love with Sherlock, and that they were together. She saw other women with John, but she still believes those two were a couple. And John yells at her. He yells. He’s tired and still in mourning and lacks energy and liveliness, but he yells when she suggests that he is moving on from his life and love with Sherlock. In such a situation, I’d give a just as tired answer, or not bother anymore at all, because it’s not important. But it is, isn’t it? Because this is still a wound spot.
Now, this goes two ways. Of course you can say that he is totally fed up with the suggestion. But this is not a random person, this is Mrs. Hudson. Well-meaning, kind, lovely Mrs. Hudson. And this is also probably something he hasn’t heard in years. So why is he reacting like he’s a powder keg that has been threatened with sparks for the past years, and is now exploding?
There is this saying, “if the show fits wear it,” or, as we say in Germany, a dog that is hit will bark. What if John has been wondering about what he really sees in Sherlock, how he really feels about the man he calls his best friend and never stopped believing in? What if he was wondering if he isn’t, at least for Sherlock, gay? That it is different with Sherlock, because he loves the person, not the gender, as it should be? What if he is suddenly reminded of it, painfully reminded, and that in an environment where so many other things also remind him of Sherlock?
Similarly, his reaction to Sherlock reappearing is interesting. If someone close to me I thought dead would suddenly reappear… I’d cry and hug them. So, we’ve established that neither John nor Sherlock are very big when it comes to expressing feelings (note John’s extremely clumsy attempts to propose to Mary – yes, everyone’s nervous in that situation, but that was very “I do that because I feel obliged to”), therefore the reaction is warranted, but still… John’s angry. Just terribly angry, from the very first moment on (after the initial shock-horror he displays). And he stays angry; he attacks Sherlock physically (more about that under Johnlock below).
Later on, after he has left, he lies awake at night. He’s absolutely not over it, and I guess he’s contemplating everything that has happened and what it means to him; whether he can forgive Sherlock, whether he wants to see him again, and if he could go on living, knowing that Sherlock is around, but not deciding not to see him. I don’t think he could ever let go of Sherlock, not yet and not under current circumstances; much more would have to happen. But then, if you think about it, what would your best friend have to do to get rid of you?
It takes a Sherlock Holmes to let John know that the moustache doesn’t do it. And to let him know that Mary doesn’t like it either. No one does, apparently, just like John notices, and he might be right, because it really ages him. In the end, he shaves – and might he argue, in some way he shaves for Sherlock. People called the moustache “mournstache”, and I believe they are right. It’s John’s way of changing things, of moving on; but it also has to be something that’s not too big of a change, that doesn’t make it too painfully clear what is happening. The moustache he can shave off anytime if he chooses to, but for the moment, it makes him a different person, and yes it ages him, so maybe it expresses how he feels – older, more tired; drained.
And something about his choice of Mary. She is Sherlock, basically. She clever and witty and self-confidant, even a bit arrogant, even though in a charming, non-insulting way. She immediately gets along with Sherlock, and my own theories ignored for a moment, that is probably the most significant point in her being similar to Sherlock. So John, while pretending to move on, falls in love with a woman who could, in parts, be Sherlock. He’ll never find a second Sherlock, and he also doesn’t want to, but he still takes the closest thing to it he can get.

About Mycroft (and Sherlock)

Oh how I loved seeing more of these two together. They are so great.
Now, first of all, Mycroft knew that Sherlock was alive, of course – I would have been surprised hadn’t he known. Mycroft knows everything. Or does he? My surprise went into the fact that he obviously didn’t know where Sherlock was – he had to search for and find him first. And then get him out (even though Sherlock will claim otherwise).
Mycroft, interestingly enough, doesn’t say a word about John being with Mary. We know that he has to know, because as indicated did Mycroft keep an eye on John (and again you wonder why – was he asked to do so by Sherlock, or was it for security reasons, or does Mycroft well enough know what John means to Sherlock to do so by himself?) – he has a file on him, after all. So why keeps Mycroft to himself? Because he doesn’t want to squash Sherlock’s hopes completely? Because he wants Sherlock to at least go and try to win John back (in a sense of reconciling and rebuilding their friendship)? Or because he believes it is better when Sherlock goes in there without already having a plan to get rid of Mary ready?
In any way, the scene when they are together at 221B is a pure delight. What we see there aren’t Mycroft and Sherlock as we know them – no, those are actually the children Mycroft and Sherlock. Subtract about 30 years from their ages and you have who we see here. Playing Operation because they are too clever for a game that asks for intelligence rather than deftness (like chess would have). They play a game of deduction because that is apparently what they did when they were young – and something tells me that it is also something Mycroft introduced to Sherlock, taught him, before he regretted it because his brother became too smart 😉
And then there is this:

S: Can’t handle a broken heart, how very telling.
M: Don’t be smart.
S: That takes me back. ‘Don’t be smart, Sherlock, I’m the smart one.’
M: I am the smart one!
S: I used to think I was an idiot.
M: Both of us thought you were an idiot, Sherlock. We had nothing else to go on, until we met other children.
S: Oh, yes, that was a mistake.
M: Ghastly. What were they thinking of?
S: Probably something about trying to make friends.
M: Oh yes, friends. Of course you go in for that thing now.
S: And you don’t? Ever?
M: If you seem slow to me, Sherlock, can you imagine what real people are like? I’m living in a world of goldfish.
S: Yes, but I’ve been away for two years.
M: So?
S: Oh, I don’t know. I thought perhaps you might have found yourself a… goldfish.
M: Change the subject. Now.

Thing is, this comes out of the blue. They’re just talking about the case, how they are both in on it, and then all of a sudden Mycroft loses at Operation (I think he does? Have never played this…) and Sherlock smoothly (or non-so-smoothly) uses it to change the subject to something very private – something I don’t think anyone of us ever expected to hear from the Holmes brothers, and especially not when they are alone and no one’s around to warrant any teasing or mocking (remember “Sex doesn’t alarm me.” – “How would you know?” in ASiB).
No, this actually seems like a honest conversation – still not entirely brotherly heartfelt, but nevertheless with a hint of… let’s be gracious and call it concern. Mycroft calls on Sherlock now having friends, or at least one, something we can assume he never had when they were young (and neither had Mycroft, I guess). And Sherlock gives back that he knows Mycroft has to be alone. Because that’s what Sherlock’s been in the past two years – he knows now more than ever what it means to be truly alone, especially in the wake of having not been alone for two years while living with John, probably his first and only true friend-/companionship.
Now, I like what is implied here – that both brothers are extraordinarily intelligent and for quite a while only had each other. Maybe they were even home schooled – until their parents decided that going out and meeting other children might just improve their social skills they must have lacked at this point, when two (equally) brilliant brothers only have each other. And it seems as if they fought a lot, because Mycroft is just as clever as Sherlock – or even more so, if we believe him. Another interesting fact, since he seems to have the same skills as Sherlock – we’ve gotten an idea of that in TGG when Mycroft saw that John hadn’t slept in Sarah’s bed (or with Sarah, for that matter), but it was never explored deeper. Now we not only have it indicated by words – Mycroft being smarter than Sherlock, so he has to have at least those same skills – but also have we the brothers in a sort of a deduction-off afterwards.
First, however, we have the goldfish. Ah, yes. That took me a bit to get that (mostly because I hadn’t understood it acoustically at first). Ordinary people are goldfish – slow and quite, the latter probably because they don’t say anything that concerns or interests Mycroft, so he doesn’t listen – thus, quite. But that’s not what is notable here – it is Sherlock enquiring whether Mycroft, now that he didn’t even have Sherlock (who already is “slow to him”) to talk to, has found himself a goldfish – a partner, a lover, someone to be with, someone to talk to.
This is so very sad when we think about it – looking back now, the fact that Mycroft regularly appeared in Baker Street or in general always tried to be in contact with Sherlock, one way or another, must mean that he is lonely because he doesn’t have anyone who holds his interest enough. He only has Sherlock; the only person to match his intellect.
And Sherlock’s not yet finished.

Not that you’ve ever spoken to a woman with short hair, or, you know, a woman.

Another thing I only noticed after watching it for the… um… well, after I’ve watched it again (and again and again and…). Is this just payback, or is Sherlock actually serious? I mean, they could of course just teasing each other, but just like with Mycroft basically calling Sherlock a virgin in ASiB, there’s no reason to use that particular kind of comment. Now even less since there’s no one around (except for Mrs. Hudson, but… yeah). Still he makes that comment – implying that Mycroft has never been with a woman, that he doesn’t know anything about women.
Before Sherlock indicates that he thinks Mycroft is lonely – not that he’s never had any kind of relationship, if at least sexual. We know already that Sherlock readily accepts homosexuality as a given; he told John in ASiP so and it appeared he would only have rejected him because of his work, not because the idea itself repulses him. This could very well stem from his brother being gay (and really, it would make sense if Mark Gatiss created his own character as a gay one). Anthea doesn’t count – Mycroft probably only sees her as another employee, woman or man doesn’t matter.
Of course we can spin that forth – if Sherlock calls Mycroft on his lack of contact to women, he’d have to say in the same moment that he has more experience than his brother, which means Sherlock does have contact to women. Does he think of Molly and Mrs. Hudson here, or is that really meant in a more sexual/romantic way? It would give us a clue to Sherlock’s personal history, relationship-wise. Doesn’t mean he still has to prefer women, if he would decide to take up that part of his life again.
Last but not least, I throw in this exchange as well, although I’ve mostly talks about it already:

M: Not at all. Maybe he just doesn’t mind being different. He doesn’t necessarily have to be isolated.
S: Exactly.
M: I’m sorry?
S: He’s different, so what? Why would he mind? You’re quite right. Why would anyone mind?
M: I’m not lonely, Sherlock.
S: How would you know?

To confirm that Sherlock things his brother is lonely, but doesn’t realize it because he lacks the experience. Which brings me back to my earlier assumption that Sherlock now knows very well what it means to be lonely, something Mycroft definitely can’t relate to, as he probably has never been in hiding for two years, without any contact to who one calls their family and friends. And as Mycroft noted before, Sherlock now has friends, and one in particular; one he has missed very much (see analysis below).
While this is all done in a teasing tone (and really, I absolutely love this exchange between Sherlock and Mycroft, this whole scene is brilliant as hell), there is a serious note in there; one that gives us a Sherlock who actually wants his brother to have someone, to be happy. To not be lonely anymore. It is advice Sherlock gives Mycroft here – he tells him that, even different, he doesn’t have to isolate himself. Sherlock would know – he’s been there. For once it’s the younger brother to give advice to the older, because Sherlock knows how it is – he had isolated himself, then he met John, and he learned how great it can be to have someone. If you give it a chance and are ready to accept.

About the different tone in TEH – the new Sherlock

That mostly goes to all those complaining about The Empty Hearse.
I know Sherlock’s different. That goes for the show as well as the person. But why can’t we for once just enjoy it?
Because right now I expect things to change. Yes, this whole episode was fanservice and madness and probably not really what we’re used to from Sherlock. It was comedy more than mystery/crime/however else this is defined in general. But then, to me Sherlock has always had a certain degree of humor.
As a side note, while I will always fiercely defend my fandom, I don’t think they mocked us with that episode. I like to think that they definitely served us, and they served us well. This was for the fans, and this is how I’m going to see it.
Anyways. What I want to say is that I think something will happen, something big, and this is not the Sherlock (again, person and show) how it (and he) will always be from now on. Maybe The Sign Of Three will be funny, too (I very much expect it to, because come on!), but I think His Last Vow will be anything but funny, and so won’t Sherlock. This is an unusual Sherlock, one who apparently has changed, but the thing is, if you have quirks and habits you had time to develop and solidify for more than 30 years, two years undercover and in hiding won’t change you – and most certainly won’t they make you more human.
He’s probably been let loose without anyone and anything stopping him the past two years, alone (mostly), diving right into this insanity, hunting down Moriarty’s network. Maybe he’s gone a little more crazy because of that, and maybe that’s what we see here, a Sherlock that’d been almost driven insane by solitude, carefully schooled humanity bleeding through because of his shaken composure after lacking regular contact to anyone who cares about him or he cares about in return.
There’s more to it, more to this Sherlock and his unusual behavior. Maybe Sherlock is genuinely happy to be back, because he has missed the people who care for him, and he also cares for. He’s been alone, without the people he knows, and knows well, for two years; that’s something that will break everyone. But in essence he is still Sherlock, he still is a prank-playing child, he still doesn’t know proper behavior, he still doesn’t talk about feelings, he still ridicules things, in one way or another, and for whatever reason. This was the magic of the moment, of the return, of being back with people he knows because no matter what he says, no matter if he would ever admit it, he needs those people as foundation of his life.
But old Sherlock will be back, and it will blow us away as it will break our hearts because then there will be no more laughter.

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Tags: Greg Lestrade, John Watson, Mary Morstan, Mary/John, Molly Hooper, Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock, Sherlock Holmes, The Empty Hearse