I found it difficult to put Elementary out of my mind when watching this episode — although I don’t want to start a debate over which Holmes adaptation is “better” because they each have their own strengths and flaws. Elementary will never be a 90-minute thriller with so many snappy one-liners and double-takes that you sometimes have to rewind and rewatch because you were laughing so hard. Then again, Sherlock has never displayed anything that even approaches the emotional complexity and maturity of Elementary, not to mention its unusually diverse cast.
After having two years to become acclimatised to Elementary’s realistic level of racial diversity, this episode just seemed to highlight just how odd and uncomfortable it is to film a feature-length crime drama all over London and have every single character be white. An episode set in the Conservative Party conference would still require a more diverse cast than what we saw in “The Empty Hearse,” which takes place all over London at various times of day and night. Also, Sherlock already has some decidedly dodgy history with the way it portrays non-white characters, particularly in “The Blind Banker.”
The one other comparison I have to make is between the Holmes/Watson relationships in each show. Elementary’s Joan Watson and Sherlock Holmes have changed a great deal in the year and a half they’ve been together, learning each other’s foibles and actively working to strengthen their relationship in a mature and intelligent way. John and Sherlock, on the other hand, are far more antagonistic. There’s no denying that their partnership is intense to the point of symbiosis, but it relies upon John tolerating Sherlock’s unbearable behaviour, which in this episode was more unbearable than ever."