Sherlock: The Abominable Bride Review
I went into Sherlock: The Abominable Bride expecting a self-indulgent stand alone episode with no bearing on the overall plot of the series. Given the way it was advertised, this seemed likely, as is sometimes the case with Christmas viewing. For the first forty-five minutes or so this was exactly what it appeared to be. I would have been happy with that; a simple fun adventure between seasons, a chance for the writers to play around with their characters. What I got, however, was something quite different.
The episode begins with a flashback of Holmes and Watson meeting, this time in Victorian England. It goes much the same as it did the first time we saw this. It then skips ahead to a more recent alternative past when the two men know each other well. A case is brought to their attention by a very shaken Lestrade who recounts the tale of Emelia Ricoletti, a lady who terrorized a London street before shooting herself. The same, supposedly dead woman came back to life later that night and murdered her husband. Naturally, Holmes is intrigued and the famous duo set out to find the undead bride before she strikes again. But in this case, nothing is quite what it seems.
The writers have a lot of fun with the premise, injecting the episode with a lot of meta self-referential humor and jokes that reference the fandom. It is quite funny in places. There are also a lot of small touches that tie it back to the original Conan Doyle’s stories. To those in the know, this is very enjoyable. Though, for this same reason those not up to date on Sherlock or unfamiliar with the source text may find it frustrating to watch. The story was perhaps not as tightly plotted as it could have been with odd pacing that detracted from my overall enjoyment. The individual scenes between Holmes and Watson, however, sparkled with wit and there are many gems of dialogue.
There are also a number of twists that I did not expect. These were executed cleverly and elevated the episode to something greater than it might otherwise have been. Without giving too much away, some of the questions left at the end of season three are answered (albeit in a rather roundabout fashion). I also quite liked the critical, slightly feminist angle to one of the final reveals which may or may not be critiquing the treatment of female characters in the original stories. Which was quite nice. The capacity in which they included Molly was also a nice touch.
The acting as ever was brilliant and it was good to see the temporary return of a fan favorite. The episode takes advantage of the melodrama and Gothic undertones of Victorian literature making it very atmospheric. While it was fun to see the writers pay homage to the original Holmes stories, it does remind you that people love the show precisely because the modernization made it fresh. Especially in terms of the latter half, viewers may be divided on how well the episode works as a whole. Some may have preferred it if it had continued to be a simple ghostly murder mystery. Others may prefer that Moffatt and Gatiss chose to take risks and give us something a little more experimental to tide us over to the next season. I myself am one of the latter but I can understand why you might disagree. I suggest you give it a try and decide for yourself.
Photo Credits: The BBC
What did you think of the special? Did you find the twists surprising or frustrating? What do you think is next for Sherlock and co?
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