Sherlock series 3: first episode title provides hints at how detective faked his death

The Empty Hearse is a play on words that could explain part of Sherlock's scheme - but the mystery of the "rat" remains


As filming begins today on series three of Sherlock, co-creator Mark Gatiss has revealed the title of the first episode.


The Empty Hearse is a play on the name of the original Arthur Conan Doyle story The Empty House, in which the detective returns from the dead.

Gatiss had always said that the first episode – which will finally explain how Sherlock survived an apparently fatal fall at the end of series two – would be at least partly based on the adventure in which Doyle resurrected his creation, but fans had not realised that would go as far as the title.

Series two finale The Reichenbach Fall ended with Sherlock’s friend John mourning him in front of his gravestone while, unbeknown to him, the detective looked on. Given that his body was not in his coffin when it was buried, and so presumably not in the car that carried it, the title of the new episode may well be a reference to what happened between Sherlock’s fall and his “funeral”. 

The Empty Hearse continues Gatiss and co-creator Steven Moffat’s trend for naming episodes by tweaking original Sherlock Homes titles. Sherlock was introduced in A Study in Pink, based on the original novel A Study in Scarlet, while series two kicked off with A Scandal in Belgravia, a twist on first Sherlock Holmes short story A Scandal in Bohemia. That was followed by the Hounds of Baskerville, a slight but significant deviation from the title of one of Doyle’s most famous tales.

Gatiss tweeted the episode one title this morning from Cardiff where the first part of filming on Sherlock series three begins today:

What the title does not reveal is what Gatiss and co-creator Steven Moffat were referring to when they chose “rat” as the first of the three words they claimed could define each of the new series episodes.


Given that Moffat has since said the three words “may be misleading, are not titles, are only teases… but might be deliberately designed to get you into a lather”, whether “rat”, “wedding” and “bow” are indeed clues, or just complete red herrings, is one mystery still waiting to be solved…