SHERLOCK has always been famous for keeping its fans waiting. Like junkies waiting for a fix, we’ve been salivating for anything SHERLOCK related for over a year, after we were left with yet another infuriating cliffhanger at the end of Season 3. Moffat and Gatiss decided to bestow a little Christmas present on us, however, by gifting us with something to whet the appetite while we wait yet another year for Season 4.
‘The Abominable Bride’ takes place in Victorian London, the original timeframe that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle meant for our dynamic duo. But before we can take a step back 120 years into filthy, dank London of the past…we have to be reminded of where we left off. It’s been over a year, okay. We need a refresher.
The episode starts with a refresher course on pretty much all three seasons so far. Sherlock’s showdown with the shark-eyed Magnussen, and Mycroft forcing exile on him just when Moriarty leaves an ultra creeptastic vid message for the whole of London.
But if you think this episode will be a simple time jump…you are in for a spectacular series of twists that will likely give you a headache.
The setting is fantastically vivid. Horse-drawn carriages crowd the muddy streets of London. The costumes are superb and the lighting is dimmed realistically from soot-choked air and sputtering lanterns. We begin, as we did in the present-day series, with John Watson; coming home from war with wounds internal and external. He meets Sherlock in much the same way as before, and off they run into danger and mystery, with Watson writing about Sherlock’s exploits in the Strand newspaper for all his adoring readers.
Baker Street has an appropriate make-over as well, and nothing feels out of place (except Mrs. Hudson is not happy with her limited plot-device role in Watson’s stories). Even Mycroft looks the part that Conan Doyle wrote for him — and you have to admire Gatiss getting into that fat suit to play the enormous elder Holmes.
The case is something better suited to Halloween than Christmas. A wife driven mad from a cheating husband sprays a street with bullets before blowing her own head off. Then she somehow manages to grab a cab across town later and shoot her husband. The Ghost Bride tale is born, and half of London is understandably freaked out.
From here on out, the episode is one manic turn after another. The Bride targets an aristocrat’s husband and Sherlock and Watson make some classic horror movie mistakes trying to protect him, to no avail. Sprinkled in throughout the lovely period details are little moments that hearken back to modern times. You get the feeling right off that The Bride is just a place holder for an older, darker case closer to Holmes’ heart.
And that’s where the problems really start. If they had stuck to one time frame instead of acid-tripping us backward and forward, it might have been less jarring. And, as it turns out, that’s exactly what this story is…one big dream sequence with the viewer (and Sherlock himself) stuck in his Mind Palace.
The Victorian details were superb and I actually really liked that even in this time frame Mary is a spy and a suffragist, and Molly Hooper has to cross-dress in order to fill her role in the dungeon morgue of St. Barts. The Bride case is a fairly good allegory to the suffragist movement for women in the 19th century — even if the cult of hooded women helping their sisterhood against men’s oppression was utterly over dramatic. But perhaps over dramatic is just how SHERLOCK rolls.
It is a bit appalling to learn that Sherlock is, in fact, still doping up, and apparently so high that he gets trapped in his Mind Palace and has a Victorian time-warped Moriarty filled trip all within a few minutes of taking off. Moriarty shows up to always kick Sherlock when he’s down. And maybe that’s the moral of this whole thing — Sherlock has to crash before he can get back on track and back to work.
But all in all, this episode was a wildly weird way to usher us back into the SHERLOCK fold. Would it have been easier to just have a Victorian ghost story; a case, a twist or two and the boys back home for tea? It was nice to see the gang back where we left them at the tarmac, but the flashback-flashforward jumps, to me, took away from the story in places.
Like Alice struggling to wake up from Wonderland, I found myself yelling at the TV for Sherlock to snap out of it (even if I do adore watching Benedict Cumberbatch and Andrew Scott do battle with the scathing snark). The waterfall sequence was frankly a bit over-done, but I suppose it’s as good a way as any for Sherlock to fall out of the rabbit hole.
The ghost story was good. Moriarty is still very much dead (Moffatt had to make sure and beat us over the head with that fact) but Sherlock isn’t giving away too much too soon. But I can’t help but think that this episode would have been so much easier if they’d kept to the simpler times of telegram text messages, oil lanterns and pipe-smoking instead of forcing us to navigate the maze of Sherlock’s drug-addled Mind Palace.
Unfortunatly it will be 2017 before SHERLOCK returns with Season 4.