Aja: I thought the fanservice was what made “The Empty Hearse” phenomenal—and I don’t normally say that because fanservice usually feels exploitative. But for the most part, last night’s episode felt to me as if Gatiss spent months gorging himself on Sherlock fandom theories. Then he sat down and wrote an episode that responded to everything, incorporated everything, and—problematic elements aside—had something for everyone. It even opened with a gratuitous shot of Cumberbatch, shirtless and posed like a Christ figure, bearing the weight of two years of fandom expectations on his tawny chiseled shoulders.
Gav: His pasty white shoulders. Not only is the core cast of “The Empty Hearse” entirely made up of white English people, but there were no people of color with a meaningful speaking role, at all. Like, ANYWHERE. It was even worse than the Doctor Who Christmas special in that regard.
After having two years to become acclimatised to Elementary’s realistic level of racial diversity, this episode seemed to highlight just how odd and uncomfortable it is to film a feature-length crime drama all over London and have every single character be white. An episode set in the Conservative Party conference would still require a more diverse cast than what we saw in “The Empty Hearse,” which takes place all over London at various times of day and night. Also, Sherlock already has some decidedly dodgy history with the way it portrays non-white characters, particularly in “The Blind Banker.”
The one other comparison I have to make is between the Holmes/Watson relationships in each show. Elementary’s Joan Watson and Sherlock Holmes have changed a great deal in the year and a half they’ve been together, learning each other’s foibles and actively working to strengthen their relationship in a mature and intelligent way. John and Sherlock, on the other hand, are far more antagonistic. There’s no denying that their partnership is intense to the point of symbiosis, but it relies upon John tolerating Sherlock’s unbearable behaviour, which in this episode was more unbearable than ever. [READ MORE]