THE PERFORMER | Martin Freeman
THE SHOW | Sherlock
THE EPISODE | “The Empty Hearse”
THE AIRDATE | Jan. 19, 2014
THE PERFORMANCE | It takes a good actor to unexpectedly shift a scene from utter heartbreak to pure comedy, and an exceptional one to maintain both moods with effortless believability. And that’s exactly the magic trick Martin Freeman pulled off in Sherlock‘s Season 3 premiere.
Specifically, we’re talking about that gut-wrenching moment where Freeman’s Dr. John Watson discovered — at a most inopportune time — that his best friend and partner in crime-solving, Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch), was alive and well and briefly posing as a wine-expert waiter in the London restaurant where Watson was attempting to propose to his girlfriend Mary.
Our favorite part was when Watson, already twisted up with nervous anticipation from the ring box in his pocket, finally looked up and saw his old pal. Freeman painted a portrait of a man experiencing profound shock and disbelief, the sudden urge to cry, and then — quickly thereafter — a deep undercurrent of anger at the deceit to which he’d been subjected. (For the uninitiated, Sherlock had let Watson believe he’d hurled himself off the roof of a building and met a tragic death some two years prior.)
Watson’s fist slamming against the table in response to Sherlock’s flip, “I probably owe you some sort of apology,” shifted the airy mood that the famous detective had been trying to set. “Two years,” Watson gulped, looking downward, averting his gaze, then finally locking eyes with Sherlock. “I thought, I thought you were dead. Now, you let me grieve. How could you do that?” Watson’s voice was so ragged with emotion, his speech so peppered with guttural little “hmms,” that you could almost feel him trying not to fall completely to pieces.
Of course, when Sherlock cut the tension by asking Watson if he intended to keep his bushy moustache, the stage was set for something completely different. Freeman hilariously catapulted his incensed character across the restaurant, tackling Holmes and attempting to strangle him in front of a shocked audience of diners.
Throughout the rest of the episode, Freeman expertly juggled comedy (trying to convince landlady Mrs. Hudson that he and Sherlock had never been romantically involved), terror (waking up from kidnapping/sedation at the bottom of a Guy Fawkes Night bonfire — yikes!), romance (the chemistry with real-life partner Amanda Abbington as Mary was expectedly stellar) and suspense (uncovering a stolen subway car set to blow up Parliament).
We’re not sure what more we can ask of Freeman for the remainder of Sherlock‘s painfully short third season, but we’re certain his work will continue to impress.
HONORABLE MENTION | The Mindy Project‘s winter finale was full of shock and awww — with formerly prickly colleagues Mindy (Mindy Kaling) and Danny (Chris Messina) finally succumbing to their heretofore unspoken attraction. Messina, especially, delivered Emmy-worthy work as his Dr. Castellano gruffly reunited with the father who abadoned him, begrudgingly began a sweet relationship with his little sis Dani and then — on a flight back home from LA with Mindy — delivered the swoon-worthiest TV scene of the 2013-2014 TV season.
As Danny helped Mindy draft a love letter to her estranged boyfriend Cliff, you could see him realize that he ought to be speaking the words to Mindy himself. “You know you’re right for someone when they force you to be the best version of yourself. That’s how I know we’re right for each other, Cliff,” Danny dictated, before giving a satisfied smile, then staring longingly at his clueless pal. Seconds later, after getting rocked by a bout of turbulence (nice callback to a prior Mindy installment there!), Danny rushed to the back of the cabin, interrupted Mindy’s tonic-water mission, and planted on her a whopper of a kiss (complete with sexy ass-grab!) that we’re pretty sure made even our flat-screen turn to Jell-O. And just like that, the cruelest six words in the English language are now: “The Mindy Project returns April 1.”
Which performances rocked your TV set this week? Let us know in the comments!