Well…that was interesting!
There’s something special about Sherlock. It’s like catching up with an old friend. You haven’t seen them in a long while, you’re excited and then the moment is over quicker than you can say “elementary, my dear Watson”. Before you know it, you’re already counting down the days until your next encounter.
This one off special is no different albeit a strange return to our screens.
The special, The Abominable Bride is bonkers – absolutely, mind bending, trippy, off its nut, crazy, bonkers. It’s an episode that will leave you with a headache because Sherlock produced an episode that Christopher Nolan would have been proud of.
Sherlock turned into Inception.
The Abominable Bride had everyone fooled. Just when you thought it was set in one time period, it does a Doctor Who-esque rope-a-dope, something which hasn’t been seen since Ali and Foreman in Rumble in the Jungle. Something that was suppose to be a one off and non-canonical suddenly becomes relevant to the entire series.
Does it work? In some strange sort of way, yes – it worked for me. It’s a bold and brave twist that’s unexpected, like someone performing an unique experiment. However, it’s something that’s not going to be universally loved and the moment will come off as divisive.
It would have been cool if the entire episode was set in Victorian London. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman certainly look the part and comfortably slipped back into their old habits. Their dialogue and banter is brilliant and quirky as always. But even from the get go, I knew this episode was up to no good. After a brief recap, the episode opens up with Dr. Watson coming back from the Afghan War. In fact the whole pre-credit sequence was a retread of the first episode from series one, beat for beat. Familiar territory once you’ve substituted taxis and the internet for horse drawn carriages and newspapers. As the episode ticks along, we get further hints about the suspicious nature surrounding this time period. For example, Sherlock referring to Mrs Ricoletti, the ghostly bride as a “he” not a she whilst in the morgue or acknowledging that he has to go deeper to uncover the truth.
Whilst the twist does throw you out of your comfort zone, the clues are already in place, which is handy in case you want to re-investigate it!
The case in The Abominable Bride is relatively simple and obvious, especially if you’ve watched enough Poirot like I have. The references are clearly there along with any smoke and mirrors trickery. In the end it’s a war we must lose.
However, in reality the case serves as a distraction, a mere subterfuge for the real issue. “There are no ghosts in this world, save those we make for ourselves”, Sherlock quips. That sentence alone sums up the entire episode because the real issue is Moriarty.
Moriarty is “the ghost”, a virus in Sherlock’s memory, haunting him, judging him and playing psychological games. Moriarty is dead (or is he?) but that doesn’t stop Sherlock from pushing his mind to greater depths to understand, regardless of the cost. As soon as the reveal becomes clear and you place the beginning in context, you realise that Sherlock has been using the present and all its references to help shape the past and back again. Sherlock created this drug induced problem and world and only he can battle his way out of his own mind palace.
You can tell from Moriarty’s introduction how out of place he is. All the other characters, including Sherlock himself fit the Victorian setting based on the manner and tone. Moriarty is still his modern/cocky/arrogant self, trying to push Sherlock out of his comfort zone. This is what Sherlock perceives him to be, the antithesis of his own persona. A worthy adversary.
It also shows how dark Sherlock can go. For someone so brilliant, he can be his own worst demon.
On a lighter note, the time period does allow for some aspects of fun. I laughed out loud seeing Molly Hooper’s transformation or Mycroft embodying the “big brother” role. The sign language scene had me in stitches.
The same modern quirks and visual aids that we love from Sherlock are cleverly integrated for the period setting such as Dr. Watson reading Sherlock’s telegram or Sherlock scanning newspapers. Again it adds to the unique experience of the episode. For fans of Arthur Conan Doyle the episode includes nice touches dedicated to his work, my favourite being the reference to the five orange pips.
I guess The Abominable Bride can be viewed as a little poetic. It may have thrown logic out the window but it never loses the essence. Sherlock Holmes as a literary character has transcended the ages, adapted and modernised for whatever purpose. The Abominable Bride is the best of both worlds. It might not be to everyone’s taste but I certainly got it and was worth the wait.
So…how long do we have to wait for Series 4?