Some of those answers — about things like Guy Fawkes Day, Derren Brown, Sherlock’s explanations and more — are here.
Guy Fawkes Day
“Sherlock” is a very British show, no matter how beloved it is around the world, so it’s kind of fitting that the season premiere’s major crime and a pivotal event in the episode both reference a distinctly British event: Guy Fawkes Day.
What is that? If you’re like most Americans, the name “Guy Fawkes” conjures up masks and comic-book movies. You don’t think of poor Watson nearly getting broiled in a bonfire. Neither are you likely to think of anti-government terrorism. Both of these things, however, have a great deal to do with the day.
Occurring every Nov. 5, Guy Fawkes Day celebrates a failed attempt to blow up the English House of Lords — and to assassinate King James I — back in 1605. Fawkes was one of the conspirators involved in the plot and managed to get arrested while guarding the explosives. In honor of this spectacular failure and the king’s survival, the country began celebrating by lighting bonfires to celebrate.
A few centuries of political and religious overtones done away with, the holiday (also known as Bonfire Night) now tends to be celebrated with large gatherings at public bonfires and with fireworks displays. The effigy of Guy Fawkes is sometimes burned as well, explaining why the human figure of Watson wouldn’t be so noticeable before he started to protest.
In the first explanation for Sherlock’s faked death, one of the detective’s fans posits that Dr. Watson never missed the major clues because he was waylaid by Derren Brown.
But who is this guy? While not unknown on this side of the pond, Brown is a much bigger performer in Britain. He is a television personality known for hosting shows about mentalism, magic, illusion and hypnotism. On his shows, Brown often demonstrates hypnosis and mind-reading tricks.
He probably isn’t necessary to explain what happened with Sherlock, but it does make for a fun conspiracy theory.
All those fake deaths …
Were any of them real? That’s the big question — and it’s one with no definite answer. We can, however, hypothesize that the following things hold up:
1. Sherlock, probably working with his brother, figured out ahead of time that Moriarty was going to want him to commit suicide. Multiple plans would have been necessary to deal with the evil genius.
2. Sherlock almost definitely went over the side of the roof. Every version of events (except the “Sherlock and Moriarty as lovers” one, of course) had this as part of it.
3. The bicycle that knocked down John wasn’t random.
4. Molly knew Sherlock was alive and was somehow knowledgeable about his methods for survival.
5. Unless he and Sherlock were secret lovers, Moriarty really did stick a gun in his mouth and pull the trigger.
Details beyond that are sketchier.
A few fun casting tidbits
Three actors appearing in “The Empty Hearse” have close family connections to the show’s two stars. Amanda Abbington, who plays John’s fiancee Mary, is the real-life romantic partner of Martin Freeman. Together for roughly a decade, Freeman and Abbington have two children together.
“Sherlock” Season 3 continues on PBS Sunday, Jan. 26 at 9 p.m.