Retrospective Review #6 1/2: Many Happy Returns

Written by Prof. Jenn

Before the resolution of the insane “How did Sherlock survive” cliffhanger in Series 3, we got a charming little short released online called “Many Happy Returns.” The title is already a play on words as it refers not only to birthday greetings but also the imminent return of Sherlock. If you’ve never seen it before, watch it above.

Our story opens with the identical opening score from The Blind Banker, and we see a Tibetan monastery scene with the unveiling of a villain, which hard-cuts directly to newly-fanboy-crazed Anderson, who is in a pub with Lestrade, maps and notes spread out all over the table. We understand therefore that Anderson is quite changed from his previously antagonistic point of view, having turned 180 degrees from main accuser of Sherlock in “The Reichenbach Fall” to this bearded obsessive, and we also hear that this obsession has cost him his job. Lestrade is beyond skeptical, and exasperatedly listens to Anderson go through a story in India and then Germany, before he admonishes Anderson that Sherlock is indeed dead, and goes to the home of Dr. Watson.

Martin Freeman gives an exquisitely subtle acting job in his portrayal of grieving John, who’s apparently doing “much better,” which makes us think that maybe it got very bad for him. Lestrade returns (again with the play on Many Happy Returns) a box of some of Sherlock’s old things that were left at Scotland Yard, among which is an uncut version of a birthday video he had made for Watson. After pouring a stiff drink later, John watches the video, and has some odd (almost portentous) exchanges with it. Those of you who are Doctor Who fans will be reminded of eerie episode “Blink,” with its odd DVD-related puzzles and omens. Speaking of omens, we get one more right as Lestrade leaves, walking past a man reading a newspaper, the headline of which reads: “The Game is Back On.”

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CLOSING THOUGHT: Though there is a scene at the beginning of “The Empty Hearse” between Lestrade and Anderson (the first of a few fanboy theories of Sherlock’s survival), I feel that this mini-episode is still an essential part of the series as a whole, and adds much depth to the continuity of the whole. What it mainly does is twofold: it shows the change in Anderson’s character, and shows the seriousness of John’s grieving. Those two character developments added to seeing bluff, competent Lestrade doing business as usual, prepares us much more for what “The Empty Hearse” then does.

EASTER EGG: Oh, there are a few, but my favorite one is the glimpse we get of the yellow face-mask in the box of Sherlock’s things. It’s a reference to Doyle story “The Adventure of the Yellow Face.” That and the Indian inspector’s deducing the time of death by the depth of chocolate flake in an ice cream cone both gave me delight, as they both are pretty obscure references to adventures (and mere mentions of unwritten adventures) in the original canon, even here in a short film.

RATING: 5 Xs on the map out of 5

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