Sherlock Lives: The Empty Hearse Review

Sherlock Lives: The Empty Hearse Review

Mention 221B Baker Street to most fans and it would seem like hinting at a favourite childhood memory – and a childhood memory it may very well be, because a lot of us have grown up reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

Almost a century down the road, we have movies, TV shows and fan fiction all trying to take the story of the consultant detective forward but who does it best? For me, BBC One’s adaptation appears to be a winning contestant.

Cue first episode of the third season. Chances are if you haven’t seen the episode yet, you still have a fair amount of idea of what it’s going to be about, thanks to over-enthusiastic friends, an ever-refreshing newsfeed and a very intriguing hashtag, #SherlockLives.

As with all the previous episodes of the series, Season 3’s first installment has great production value. From breathtaking landscape shots of architecture to creatively moving portrait shots, the cinematography of the show keeps you hooked. There’s prose and then there’s poetry. The camera work is hands down the latter.


The editing is tight (no pun intended). At one particular instance, scenes of Sherlock in his study are intercut with Watson at his clinic as if they are completing sentences of the other without realising. Sheer genius could be a good way to describe it. No wonder, the episode garnered nearly 10 million viewers for BBC One when it first aired.

And then there’s Benedict Cumberbatch himself. From sporting long raincoats to hand drawn moustaches and from faking his death to trolling Watson, audiences and waiters all at the same time, the actor has proved that he can live, breath and make you believe in Sherlock like no other.

Cumberbatch 1

The conversation between Mrs Hudson and Watson is where the heart and soul of the episode lies. Great acting and a brilliantly written script has you choking with laughter at one instance (“I have moved on” “Oh God, you’re immigrating!”) and feeling for them at the next (“I know I’m not your mother…but one call would have done.”)

Hudson and Watson

Also, this is one adaptation that have come the closest to being true to the book. With even the names of episodes drawn from actual cases, the BBC One series is at once reminiscent of what Sir Arthur Conan Doyle actually wrote and how he envisioned Sherlock – annoying, eccentric and mostly right.

However, if I were to change something about the episode, I would take away the somewhat forced nature of his deductions. We get it. He is a genius and likes to flaunt it but showing that again and again seem to take away the credibility of it and maybe requires more finesse on screen.

While this episode seemed to be poking fun at fan stories by playing various scenarios his death could have been faked (and that is great) but Sherlock in the book was never this much of a troll. Even his interactions with Watson are over played but this, as a reader and an audience one could forgive in the name of entertainment – some, however maybe less forgiving than others.

Having said that, this episode for me was one hell of a way to pay tribute to a character that still hasn’t found a match in wit, class and humour in almost a hundred years of his fictional existence.


This particular interaction between Watson and Sherlock can very well serve to describe the episode.

Watson (while ordering drinks): “Surprise me.”

Sherlock (in the guise of a waiter): “Certainly endeavouring to, sir.”

Are you for real, bro?

Are you for real, bro?

From naming yourself after your favourite Star Wars character to putting up highly fantasized pictures of your human self on Bitstrips, your online identity has seen you do a bunch of crazy things.  However, what started as fun and games has long since existed to be just. You’re now as much of an amalgamation of your online experiences as your real-life ones and who’s to say which one’s what?

With phone vibrations punctuating almost all our human interactions, the time and importance we give to knowing what #Karachi on Twitter is saying is way more than how we actually spend an ordinary day in the city. But where does our online life end and where does the real life begin and does the latter even matter anymore?

Though seemingly a preposterous idea, our increasing participation in cloud communities (online food groups, art pages and movie review forums) at the expense of real-life interaction with fellow mortals says otherwise. Even when it comes to doing such things as developing skill-sets or finding a living, we are more likely to spend time on activities that are valued on the internet as opposed to real life things, like getting out of bed.

Adorning our cell-phone experience with the furniture of apps, we are slowly doing away with the need of having tangible things around. Notebooks, calculators, chess boards, canvases, alarm clocks are all examples of things that have slowly disappeared from our physical surroundings, only to appear in our virtual one.

In fact, we shy away from having real-life encounters (try running into a “well-meaning” acquaintance at Dolmen Mall) and wish for extra lives in Candy Crush as opposed to brownies in real life (or maybe, that’s a tough call). It is the banning of websites that makes us abandon our comfort zones to protest and it is when we are blocked on online pages that we truly begin to feel for our “fundamental” rights.

With our rooms slowly transforming into Batcaves where we wish we could store a week-long supply of food to go with our technology, we know our online lives are taking over, leaving little or no room to develop our offline identity. We know how to respond to various situations online with standard phrases like YOLO (you only live one), bitch please!, the staple LOL (laugh out loud) coming to the rescue but often find it hard to tell someone off in real life – a fact which was made more convincing to me when my friend disclosed she had taken a “How to say NO and stand up to your peers” course online!

Even though we’d like to thing that this is a problem that only concerns a certain strata of society, upon closer inspection this gets proved wrong. From daily-wage earners to salaried drivers, sometimes it is their life in their mobile phones, which keeps them going.

With people Instagramming to add filters to their photos to cropping out their photo-bombing friends, our appearances online have started to matter just as much as our real selves – if not more.

Who are we turning into and who are we leaving behind? The question in these times to ask your self is, “are you for real, bro?”

If you think I’m exaggerating, here’s why I am not:

Mark Zuckerberg’s sister thinks you should register a baby’s online identity at birth.

Published in The Express Tribune blogs here.


Mafia Wars

I woke up to my cellphone’s call for attention – the occasional ping of a social media website that sends a shiver of excitement down anyone’s spine each time it’s heard, only to often end up being an invite from a food group that they had forgotten to unlike.

With partly open eyes and a mind still clouded with the last night’s episode of Game of Thrones, I clamored to find the phone from under my pillow – my hands reaching out as if a drowning man calling for help – frantic and all over the place.

“Fauzia Arif,” the notification read, “has completed 56 levels of Candy Crush. Post on her wall to congratulate her.”

“How difficult is it to have a life these days?” I questioned angrily before, logging in to Sims Freeplay to check if my Sim was well-hydrated after the hours of virtual gardening I had put it through.

Now that I was finally up and getting my daily installment off the newsfeed, I scrolled down to spot familiar faces doing things that I only wished I could.

Sofia “Princess” Mir, the first update read: Just got updated to an iPhone 5, thanks to my hubby to be <3.

This was my friend from school who I had lost touch over the years and what remained of her memory were just the ugly bits that still stung like an evil bee. The status, as if spiraling me back to that time had me wanting to reply, but I couldn’t just comment on her status. That would just prove that she had my attention, which she didn’t of course.

I decided to update a status of my own.

“How cute. People are just beginning to get an iPhone 5. Steve Jobs is dead, folks!” I wrote.

And just as I was thinking my passive aggressive rant was done with, a new notification checked my smile that hadn’t fully appeared on my sleepy face.

“Don’t compare yourself to me. I’m someone they couldn’t even dare to be.”

“Whoa! Who is comparing who? Wait, where is that picture of Ali with that goofy smile of his where everyone thinks he resembles a deer?” I thought immediately scanning my desktop for saved pictures from yesteryears.

I had posted of photo of Ali and I at our best. The caption read, hubby already. It was the only picture of him where he hadn’t lost those few extra strands of hair covering his forehead and when his smile was just a genuine show of good countenance and not a silent question of “What’s for dinner?”.

The photo even though misleading was gold. Contented, I thought this would shut her bitch fit up but here’s the thing about social media: You can never be too sure – about anything.

And sure enough, a new status update from Sophia had followed: “I pity my friend who ended up with someone who has such an ugly face.”

My head was now reeling. I felt betrayed, backstabbed, insulted – all at once. This person, who had more asterisks in her name than my computer password was actually having fun at the expense of me? Me? Who had always scored the highest, got the better job, gotten the guy and had real friends for a change.  Who does she think she was?

My mental blabbering was interrupted by another ping from my cell phone.

“What? Is she not even going to wait for her turn now?”

It was a notification from my high school’s principal who thought tagging both of us in a status would be akin to calling us in to the principal’s room. She had proceeded to give us an online scolding – caps lock and all and said something about how our failed attempts at trolling still gave her nightmares.

If our online spat with each other wasn’t embarrassing enough – well, it wasn’t quite embarrassing, I am known to be more challenging on Facebook, that tagged status took the cake.

I quietly switched my phone off, pretended the online me was going on a hiatus and proceeded to tend to my real life responsibilities – the first of which included me getting out of the bed.

(This was done as part of a creative writing course at SZABIST)



Part of the problem


A lot of women have internalized gender discrimination. Tell them that they deserve more and you will be met with shocked eyes – tell them their daughters deserve better and they will shoo you away. What with all the blogs and articles on feminism pointing out how it is the men who perpetrate sexual discrimination, I’d like to say that I have seen more women who do.

“Are you insane? Girls don’t play sports.”

“It’s in a sign of religious devotion for women to work in the kitchen even if they lose the skins on their hands.”

“Using a woman’s money to pay for utility bills takes away the barkat from the house.”

“Don’t raise your voice in front of the men in the family.”

“Just get married.”

“What was she wearing? She was clearly looking for attention” [When news about sexual assaults appears]

These are all the things that I have heard friends’ moms and female relatives say – not just the men.

While it’s true that the kind of family you’re brought up in is different for everyone, I think it’s unfair that it’s only the men who are assumed to be sole perpetrator of sexism. If it was a first-person account I’d say my dad has never disallowed me from studying (I have quite a knack for going the extra mile), or working (At one point, I was working at two places), I have never heard male colleagues or classmates ever discriminate against me because of my gender. In fact, I have seen more men being vocal about crimes against women. I have seen them drive women around to help them out with assignments, household chores – just because of the fact that they are men and have internalized the fact that they are supposed to be facilitators in certain situations.

Even when certain households have men that are clearly domineering and have “rules” about who gets to do what, I have not seen a lot of women questioning the “status-quo”. Challenging, arguing or asking for a reason are practices that are looked down upon. Even when women are presented with outlets or opportunities to take their rights, they feel it’s inappropriate to accept it. Several take discrimination matter-of-factly with “this-is-how-it’s-supposed-to-be” kind of an attitude.

The womankind have been struggling to get gender equality for years and to be honest, there is so much “talk” about it that I’m afraid it’s not taken as seriously as it should. But why are so many people just talk and nothing more? Why is it that we have been unable to get what we want? Equality is not something that can be handed over on a single platter and yet, what is it that’s stopping us from attaining it?

In my opinion, part of the problem lies in identifying who perpetrates the gender inequality that exists. Just because it’s rights of the women that we are asking for doesn’t mean every women has worked to get it – a lot of women in our society are actively involved in fostering environments where their daughters, nieces and so on won’t feel comfortable asking for it at all.

This is not supposed to be a blog bashing women – I have heard a number of feminists say that that’s the last thing we need.  I just think that under the “woman deserve equality” banner, a lot of women who are actually contributing the problem are given a free pass, while men, regardless of their views on the topic are termed as the enemies.

As mothers, mothers-in-law, aunts, teachers, or any other influential role women play in society, if they are perpetrating women inequality in their own ways, they should also be called out as part of the problem- I think it’s only fair.