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‘Sherlock’ Review: “The Abominable Bride”

Law Jia-Yun ’19 / Emertainment Monthly Assistant Web Editor

Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch in the Sherlock episode "The Abominable Bride." Photo Credit: BBC/PBS
Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch in the Sherlock episode “The Abominable Bride.” Photo Credit: BBC/PBS

After waiting yet another 2 years, Sherlock is finally back! It’s not with a usual three-episode dosage since Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are constantly starring in other movies, but one New Year’s special will have to do–for now.

Before the article goes any further, this is a spoiler warning. Read at your own risk.

After a short recap of the last three seasons, The Abominable Bride takes us back to the Victorian era–specifically the 1880s, the same time period in which Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote the original stories. It opens with a recreation (or original) of Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Dr. John Watson’s (Martin Freeman) memorable first meeting at the morgue-making arrangements to meet at the famous 221B Baker Street before Sherlock had to leave for a hanging (because he takes a professional interest).

After the short introduction, we jump further into time, a point in time during which Holmes and Watson have been a team and investigating for quite a while. The good doctor has even published stories of their adventures in The Strand. Immediately, the episode pushes us into the narrative, no time wasted on re-introductions or recaps. As usual, Inspector Lestrade (Rupert Graves) needs help and comes to the duo with the mysterious case of Emelia Ricoletti, a bride who committed suicide by shooting herself but somehow rose from the dead to murder her husband on the same night. Despite Watson insisting that it was either a ghost or a twin (and according to our favorite consultant detective, it is NEVER a twin), Holmes soon gets bored with the case and leaves it open. Months later, Mycroft (Mark Gatiss), now obese (yes, that’s right, he put on a fat suit!) and endangering his life in order to win a bet against his brother, brings Holmes and Watson in on another case. Lady Carmichael had insisted that her husband had been behaving strangely, and the couple had even met with the ghost of Emelia Ricoletti, who promised certain death for Sir Eustace. Despite their best efforts, Sir Eustace is stabbed by someone. Lestrade arrives later and points out that the murderer left a note, a note that was absent when Holmes first saw the body, a note tied to the murder weapon, a note with a very familiar phrase from our favorite consultant criminal: Miss Me?

Soon after, a present day Sherlock is jolted awake by a moustache-less John. That’s right, the entire first hour of the show took place in his drug-enhanced mind palace. The months (maybe even years) Victorian era Sherlock and Watson spent on the Ricoletti case was actually the  five minutes it took for the plane to land after Mycroft’s phone call.

Natasha O’Keeffe in the Sherlock episode "The Abominable Bride." Photo Credit: BBC/PBS
Natasha O’Keeffe in the Sherlock episode “The Abominable Bride.” Photo Credit: BBC/PBS

The rest of the episode goes like this: spending some time in the real world and being part of Sherlock’s mind palace both in the Victorian and modern era. It is truly a narrative masterpiece, honoring Doyle’s original work and providing a fantastic lead up to season four.

Writers Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss did a great job writing the most entertaining dialogue, which worked with the context of the plot but also explored the chemistry between Holmes and Watson. Without giving away too much, here are some examples:

“Suicide street theatre, murder by corpse–Lestrade, you’re spoiling us.”

“There is a woman in my sitting room–is this intentional?”

“I shall have a word with my wife to have a word with you.”

Building up to the reveal, Moffat and Gatiss sprinkled the word “deep” as casually as possible, warning viewers about the Sherlock’s dive into his mind palace. Moriarty (Andrew Scott), giving a dramatic and compelling performance, even warning Sherlock about “going too deep. (Is it possible to hate someone so hateful yet lovable?)

Benedict Cumberbatch in the Sherlock episode "The Abominable Bride." Photo Credit: BBC/PBS
Benedict Cumberbatch in the Sherlock episode “The Abominable Bride.” Photo Credit: BBC/PBS

The ninety-minute special also guest starred some of our favorite characters over the season, with a little modifications, of course. Molly Hooper (Louise Brealey) cross-dressed as a man in order to climb the career ladder, Amanda Abbington reprised her role as the spy-wife working for Mycroft, Irene Adler made a small appearance as a picture in a locket, and Janine Donlevy (Yasmine Akram) even had something to say to her ex-boyfriend about feminism. Was it pandering? Probably. Could they have done without? Yes, definitely. Is it worth watching to meet them again? YES.

The New Year’s special, though worth a second or third watching, was like a cocktail of previous seasons, dead brides and even time travel, which was honestly confusing and sometimes unnecessary. That said, it was a highly captivating episode, one that set the stage perfectly for season four. Now that we know definitively (maybe, you never know with Sherlock) that Moriarty is dead and what his next move will be, there is only one thing to do until the release in 2017. Shooting begins this spring, so log on to your Twitter accounts and make sure they keep their promise.

Overall Grade: A-

 

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3 Comments

  1. I don’t think it deserves an A-, at all. It deserve at most, a C. The ‘exciting’ plot twist was transparent from the very beginning, when Sherlock refers to the killer bride as a ‘he’ instead of a ‘she’, and the solution was so obvious that even my dog was barking ‘copy-cat killings’ before Sherlock shout it to Lestrade.
    There are whole scenes which only were there as fan-service: Sherlock digging the tomb, just to have Mycroft and Lestrade together, Sherlock flying! What did those scenes add to the story? Nothing at all. First rule of writing: if it doesn’t move the story along, delete it.
    The pseudo-feminist plot was pathetic, with Sherlock (a middle-aged, well positioned white man) teaching their rights to a group of silent suffragettes, dressed like a female Ku-Klux-Klan! Nice touch, that one!
    That without going into the characters, and how they are less and less themselves: Mycroft and Sherlock keep being outwitted by Mary. Even MindPalace!Sherlock can’t find the ‘sect of women’ until he follows Mary. Who also happens to be, aside of a better shot than John, and a killer for hire, an amazing hacker, who can access MI5 files from Sherlock’s phone.
    I wonder how is a good idea to have a secondary character being better at everything than… well, everybody.
    Molly went from being a kind, shy, mousie girl, to the kind of person who hits (repetitively) an addict while he’s high. And here, she has been upgraded to complicit in murder! Way to go, girl!
    And I would like to know who thought that having John Watson kicking Moriarty down an abyss, when the man was defeated, on his knees and unarmed was a funny touch. Because it wasn’t.
    As it wasn’t funny having Mycroft committing suicide by food. And really, not having Sherlock encouraging his brother to do it faster would have been nice, too.
    And then, Sherlock recovers ipso facto from his overdose and run to the sunset with his gullible best friend and his killer wife to chase a shadow.
    Because in this show, at least, people can shoot other people in cold blood and there will not be any consequence to be paid.
    The worst, though: it was boring. By the time that Sherlock falls in the Reichenbach Falls I’m grunting with him: ‘Will this never end?’
    Oh, and let’s not forget those who believed that this would be an episode with no relation to the show and paid good money to see it in the theatres! I call that misleading advertisement, but what do I know?
    At least, after watching this self-absorbed, complacent and less than entertaining episode, I finally sure: I’m done with Sherlock.

    1. Those scenes are in Sherlock’s mind, so thats what he thinks of them, that’s what they add to the story. Sherlock thinks Lestrade and his brother would stand by him even if he is wrong about everything, he thinks Molly is still mad at him, that Mary is super skiled and that John is some kind of hero always ready to save him from danger- that is until Mary apears and he abandons Sherlock for her-, and at the end Sherlock wishes everything ends with him and John together -alone- at 221b because he is in love with him
      He doesn’t recovers too quickly from the drugs, he doesnt recovers at all, it was all in his mind

  2. Sherlock has been my favorite of all favorites. I won’t go into all the reasons why I love this series with Cumberbatch, but he is the number one reason. Cumberbatch is a breath of fresh air after the many years of boring Sherlocks. The S1: E3 prelude was so clever, I recorded it on my cell phone and watch it when I need a fix!

    The Abominable Bride was an abomination, and even though I’ve tried twice, I can’t get through it. However, I won’t let one episode taint the series for me.

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