We waited two years for that?

I’ve said several times now that I want to be Steven Moffat when I grow up. The ambition seems more achievable after Sunday night. It’s nice of him to drop the bar so low.

This man gave us Jekyll, “A Study In Pink,” “Blink,” “The Empty Child,” and “The Silence in the Library.” The first two are among the most masterful and intelligent adaptations of source material it has ever been my pleasure to encounter. All of them feature tight plots, solidly built worlds, characters skillfully conveyed through astonishingly few lines of dialogue, and genuine emotional arcs that prompt a genuine emotional audience reaction. “Dense” sounds like an insult, but I mean it as a compliment. There is so much going on there. I watch them (over and over) thinking “I have got to learn how to do that. I have got to figure out the techniques he is using to do that.”

“The Empty Hearse,” in contrast, deliveres flash, sizzle, plot holes, a real lack of an answer to last season’s big cliffhanger question, pacing so choppy it communicates neither plot nor character arc, no effort to deconstruct and adapt the canonical story for which it is named, and a villain we don’t get to know at all, who has no apparent motivation for committing his crime, which is solved in a completely linear narrative, and in so few on-screen minutes that the villain actually doesn’t speak a single line.

I do not understand how Moffat could have sat through creative meetings and not noticed any of this.

Perhaps more seriously, I cannot fathom how the writer who gave us the scene by the pool could have possibly written the scene in the train. Let me be very clear here: I am not objecting to deviation from canon, contradiction of my personal head-canon, or natural failure to meet two years’ worth of hyper-inflated expectations. I am objecting to character arc inconsistencies within this show. Hell, within this episode! Forget the scene by the pool – how could Gatniss have written the scene in the restaurant, followed it with the scene by the bonfire, and then figured the right conclusion to that arc was the scene in the train?

So what the hell? Did Moffat fall and hit his head? Was Gatniss kidnapped by aliens and replaced with Folgers’ crystals? I mean, it’s not like they had to rush to get it done. So what happened?

This is the way a series reichenbach-falls. Not by fickle fans unfairly turning on the hand that feeds them…by a slow erosion in feed-quality until the fans give up in sorrowful disgust.

I’m going to watch it again. Maybe it will improve upon further examination. And maybe I’ll like it better as the first act of a three-act season. But for now, I am honestly disappointed.

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