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'Sherlock' Review: 'The Empty Hearse' Finds An Emotional Reunion For Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman In Long-Awaited Return

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The most highly-awaited show of the year returned, and within one sharp, mind-boggling minute in the company of Sherlock and Co, it was all explained away… apparently.

We had a far-fetched (but possible!) combination of bungee rope, a Sherlock mask over a Moriarty body, a big grateful kiss for enamoured lab assistant Molly… oh, and Derren Brown???? Hang on a minute!

Ah, that'll be one big nod to the conspiracy theorists everywhere, then. No one listens to their fans like writers Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, and plays with them a little in return. According to Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock on the roof, there are 13 possible outcomes in total. So looks like we might have to wait for the truth for a bit longer after all...

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Sherlock's return was greeted with a welcome less warm than he would have perhaps liked

Cut to… Gatiss as weary Mycroft having to tap some numbers into his international speed-dial, brush up his Serbian, engage in some tiresome 'field work' to locate his errant little brother, and return him to his Baker Street fold.

MORE: Sherlock's Parents - Was This This Biggest In-Joke Of All?

And that, expectant viewers, was very much that. Two years' worth of all our wondering, tucked into a drawer for the time being. Onward…

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Mary (Amanda Abbington) had (almost) replaced Sherlock in Doctor Watson's affections, but proved crucial to the restoration of their bromance

Into the up-to-date world of Dr Watson (Martin Freeman), complete with fiancee Mary (Freeman's real-life partner Amanda Abbington) and moustache, moving on with his life, much to the surprise of Mrs Hudson (Una Stubbs) - "So soon after Sherlock?" she asked guilelessly.

But this was a light appetiser for the serious business of his reunion with the much-missed Holmes who, despite his big brain, managed to misjudge such concepts as how grief can turn to resentment when it turns out to be misplaced for two sad, lonely years. Sherlock got a much warmer reception even from DI Lestrade (Rupert Graves), and that was even after Holmes got his name wrong.

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Benedict Cumberbatch was on fine form as the loner detective

Fortunately for fans, it wasn't too long before Holmes and Watson were reconciled to combat an underground terrorism network operating on the underground network. From then on, it was all torches in dark tunnels, upturned collars and lots and lots of nifty editing as Holmes homed in on quite a bit of a bomb, and Watson continued to prove his peerless Everyman acting stripes, equal parts confusion, good intention, and deep indignation when said bomb turned out to have an off-switch. That Sherlock fella, eh? Such a wag.

Because of all of Watson's understandable, brooding resentment for much of the 90 minutes, a lot of the real pleasure in this episode in fact came from the jollier exchanges between the Holmes brothers, with both siblings proving that absence makes the heart grow more competitive... who can deduce more accurately? Who can say more more words in one minute? Who can enunciate more c-c-r-r-i-sply? Wonderful stuff from both Cumberbatch and Gatiss.

A challenge to keep up with, a joy to watch - there's a reason this kind of telly takes two years to make. But oh, how we've missed it, and oh, how it was worth the wait.

How DID he do it? Let us know your thoughts below, and what you thought of Sherlock's big return...

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