Synopsis – Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson find themselves in 1890s London in this holiday special.
Episode – S04E00 ‘The Abominable Bride’
My Take – You know why I adore this show so much? Other than the unbiased fact of how much I love Sir Arthur Conan Doyle‘s work, I very much like that it is set in the modern age with certain intriguing twists to fit the current mind set, & of course this is the show which put its stars Benedict Cumberbatch & Martin Freeman on the road to Hollywood success. This show is able to innovatively turn Doyle’s 1800’s originality into elements advancing the plot. There’s no denying this stand alone/ continuation has massive shoes to fill. The last episode, “His Last Vow,” aired on January 14, 2014, almost two years ago, and Season 3 amassed an average of almost 12 million viewers.“The Abominable Bride” was released to a few cinemas in the United Kingdom, making this a cultural event, so did it live up the massive hype that it set itself? Well, of course yes! After a very quick recap of the series so far the word ‘Alternatively’ appears on the screen and we are suddenly back in Victorian London. Lestrade brings an intriguing case to Holmes and Watson; a woman, in a bridal dress, appeared at a balcony with a revolver in each hand and started shooting at people in the street before putting one of the revolvers in her mouth and pulling the trigger the mystery is that she was witnessed murdering her husband with a shotgun some time later!
Her identity was no mystery and her body is in the morgue, there is no twin sister and Sherlock does not believe in ghosts a mystery indeed. The plot thickens when she is implicated in more killings including a man who Sherlock and Watson had been protecting. Will our protagonists be able to solve the case or is it too strange even for them? Some parts of this are genuinely scary, especially scenes in the mansion where everything seems to make a sharp turn into the unimaginable. Moving the action to Victorian London was an interesting idea which at times did get a little convoluted; after almost an hour we are told that everything we’ve seen is part of Sherlock’s ‘Mind Palace’ then later Victorian Holmes tells Watson that the twenty first century scenes are actually his speculation about how technology will progress just as the camera pans outside to show a modern street scene. This may be annoying for some people but I found it rather fun, just like most of the episode. The central case was interesting with a satisfying explanation; it should keep most viewers guessing. There are plenty of strangely amusing moments such as the doctor in the morgue who is clearly a woman, despite an impressive mustache, that only Watson spotted and an enormous Mycroft who was eating himself to death as part of a bet with Sherlock. It wasn’t all laughs though Moriarty makes a return in a way that threatens Sherlock’s life or sanity. While some might argue it is downplaying Doyle‘s contributions, I beg to differ. While the use of some references to his original work might appear random, nothing is further from the truth. Particularly the interpretation of the death scene that Conan Doyle originally wrote to get rid of his famous detective is used here to advance the story and to further resonate one of the themes of this episode: that however much we would like to see a legitimate Morianty return from the grave, it is not going to happen: he is simply dead. Secondly, all who whine about the dialog being “too clever”. The story was set in 1880s, the dialog is supposed to be “cleverer” simply because the expressions and the manner of speech which were commonplace then and employed in the show are not widely used anymore. Such a manner of speech and acting simply echo the historical context of the time thus reflecting more on the attempts to maintain historical authenticity of the episode rather than writers who are “trying to be too clever”. Additionally, the acting was excellent, nearly sublime at times. Theatrical every so often, yes, but again for the sake of historic authenticity it simply adds value to the episode.
The writing really was terrific with a plot that had more ups and downs than a mountain range, more ins and outs than Hampton Court Maze and more twists and turns than a dozen corkscrews, in short it was a triumph. Starting with a Victorian-era impossible murder with an even more impossible murderer, guest appearances by all the previous supporting cast including a massively-bloated Mycroft, surely a homage to Sydney Greenstreet and the return of the master-criminal we’ve all missed, a premonition of another husband-slaying in a big old house after dark, a recreation of the real Reichenbach Fall climax of yore, an ingenious denouement anticipating female suffrage years later but perhaps the best thing of all was the promise of a new series to come. As ever, the technical aspects of the production were great, I’m a sucker for the multiple camera-angle, 360 degrees perspective, time-freezing, computer graphics and microscopic zoom shots employed. There was humor a-plenty and hosts of references to the Conan-Doyle original, including, if I’m not mistaken, the first time this Sherlock has ever said “Elementary my dear Watson”. The acting of this special was very good as always. Sherlock played by Bennedict Cumberbatch still remains the best choice ever. Martin Freeman was good as well, he had some great chemistry with Sherlock, as evident in the rest of the series. The actress who played the bride was scary, and acted good. The verdict? Writers Mark Gatiss & Steven Moffat along with director Douglas Mackinnon with stroke of genius remind us again why we love this show so much & why it needs to be back, immediately! ‘The Abominable Bride’ leaves you fulfilled and wanting more.
Director – Douglas Mackinnon
Status – Season 4
Network – BBC One