The Abominable Bride
The BBC Sherlock gang is back together again in turn of the century Doyle’s London. Is this a self-indulgent Victorian styled caper given as a Christmas present to story starved fans or will this story contribute to the established world that Moffat and Gatiss have created in the past 5 years with 3 seasons and 9 episodes?
I am a true fangirl of only a few select franchises – one of which being BBC’s Sherlock. I noticed and enjoyed Cumberbatch and Freeman before it was cool and have waited YEARS for a new season of 3 meager episodes while others get to jump from Sherlock’s death to resurrection with Netflix ease.
It’s a dangerous game – playing with a fan bases’ collective short term memories. Humans do like shiny things and in rapid succession. Yet, with each new chapter, I fall in love all over again, the time away instantly forgiven and the appetite all the more apparent.
This episode / movie / latest installment is not only no exception to this feeling, but continues to bring the viewer ever deeper into the world of Sherlock Holmes – both in overall storyline and in the character development – all the while dancing between heart wrenchingly deep to satirically tongue in cheek.
Me: “I’m going to see the new Sherlock at the movies with [my coworker] Amy.”
Husband: “Why? Is it not on TV?”
M: “Not at the moment.”
H: “So it’s so exclusive, it’s never going to be on TV and you have to see it at the movies?”
M: “Yep. And it’s only showing for two nights…at only a select theaters. So, yeah – Tuesday night I’ll be home late.”
For context on just how out of character the above discussion was, I think it’s stupid to waste money to go to the movies and I really only go for those films that are truly worth (in my humble opinion) seeing on the big screen and dropping about $50 for the experience. So the fact that I not only didn’t hesitate but do not regret spending the time and money to go see what basically boils down to a season premier episode in the movie theater should tell you something.
I did not binge watch prior so it was nice when it started off with the classic ‘previously on…’ review. I remembered, but it is always nice to get a clue to what you need to pay special attention to. After that, you jump right back to the 1800’s as an alternate universe and the action doesn’t stop until the credits.
Holmes and Watson find themselves back in 1800’s – historically accurate versions of themselves, complete with a new slicked back hair cut and a dapper handlebar mustache respectively. Not only is it a delight to see the period world, but you’re reminded of just how many things have changed with society, technology, science, crime solving, gender equality, etc. Watson has traded his blog for newspaper submissions, telegrams for texts.
A woman dressed in her wedding gown decides she needs to shoot up the street – all the while screaming ‘YOU’ at her targets. She then puts one of the two revolvers in her mouth and is apparently seen to blow the back of her head off. That night this bride corpse is ‘positively identified’ by her husband before being shot himself – by her in the street…and since the husband had “no reason to lie,” that is all the evidence required to prove the body on the slab couldn’t possibly be anyone other than whom they surmised.
The bride continues to show up at other murders and eventually a related case is interesting enough for Sherlock to become involved. Not only is he unable to protect that victim, but the ghost seems to be the messenger of none other than Moriarty with the succinct “Miss me?” message attached to the bloodied dagger.
A grotesquely obese – and apparently suicidal – Mycroft aids / taunts his younger brother as is their custom. I will never look at plum pudding the same way again. The lighting in these scenes is as beautiful as it is gothic. Also true to form, the two speak in their own broken language so you don’t get a straight answer even when they apparently understand each other perfectly. When ‘the list’ that Mycroft asks for here is revealed at the end for what it truly is, not only does your heart break, but an additional level to their brotherly bond is brought to light.
The other major fangirl obsession of mine is Doctor Who – so I am very well versed in how Moffatt sustains himself with the tears of both fanbases. He is a troll in every sense of the word – but also the biggest nerd and fan boy of us all. Because of this, I cannot stay mad at him for causing me so much anguish alongside my joy. Bring him and Gatiss together, and I’m destined to look like Alice Cooper by the end.
These gentlemen not only love the story of Mr. Holmes, but they seem to be able to understand the characters as if they were best mates. They ARE Watson – both of them – retelling the stories of Sherlock as easily as if they were the ones tagging along with each adventure. Of course, their advantage, unlike Watson, is that they know how it will end.
I was curious how and if this story would fit into the greater scheme. SPOILERS: In the five minutes from when Sherlock takes off at the end of the last season to the time the jet touches down, he takes a very large dose of something illegal and probably deadly to a man not so accustomed in order to access his mind palace to a deeper level to solve the old case of the episode’s namesake. If he can solve that 200 year old conundrum, maybe he will have a shot at taking on Moriarty who has also apparently risen from the dead.
Some may feel that once the audience is let in on that link, the jumps between mind palace and present start to feel more and more dodgy. I was reminded of Inception a bit myself…dream within a dream within a dream. Is he officially awake yet? There may be some grace needed here…because this is a mind of an addict after all.
In a word: Flawless. Not just because they know the characters so well, but because Cumberbatch, Freeman, Gatiss, and Andrew Scott are just damn great actors. They play both the 1800’s men and the 2016 versions perfectly and appropriately – without missing a beat or feeling forced on either side. Una Stubbs (Mrs. Hudson), Louise Brealey (Molly Hooper), and Amanda Abbington (Mary Morstan) give the gents a run for their money as well – again accurately portraying a woman’s role of the era while still retaining their own modern character. Not an easy feat – but it comes across so effortlessly, you feel like there couldn’t possibly be any other way.
This episode airs in the US again Sunday January 10th starting at 9:00 on PBS Masterpiece. Record it – so you can watch it later if you must or so you can watch it over and over again. Once you do that – if this will be your introduction to the show, may I be the first to say, “Welcome to the fandom…we’re all highly functioning sociopaths here.”