New Year’s Day brought us a brand new special episode of Sherlock after two, too long years. So was the long overdue return of television’s favourite high-functioning sociopath sleuth worth the wait?
Well, of course, it was, but that’s not to say that The Abominable Bride is without its faults.
In my own little Mind Palace, I envision a scene featuring the high-fiving, back-slapping glee of Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss as they plotted the storyline for The Abominable Bride. “Let’s give them drama! Mystery! Gothic horror! Twists!” they exclaim. “Oh, yes – and LOLs. Mustn’t forget the LOLs.”
While it’s entirely unlikely that this ever actually happened, what we do know is that Moffat and Gatiss have delivered when it comes to all of the above. The Abominable Bride has the lot – smoggy Victorian London, a murderous, ghostly bride apparently back from the dead, and Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) on the case with John Watson (Martin Freeman), the Best Friend A Man Ever Had, at his side. And plenty of LOLs.
Picking up where the series three finale left off, with Sherlock on a plane in the present day having learned that Moriarty is apparently back from the dead (spot a theme here?), we’re plunged into an alternate reality in 1895 where Sherlock must unravel the mystery of Emilia Rosetti, our deadly rampaging ghost bride.
Of course, as you know, once you’re dead, you generally stay that way, and so how can Mrs Rosetti have very publicly blown her own head off and then gone after her husband in an act of vengeance? This is the mystery that Sherlock must solve in order to resolve his own, very real dilemma in the present day: how can Jim Moriarty be back when Sherlock saw him blow his own head off?
This feature-length episode takes the viewer with it as an accomplice as it very knowingly – and very amusingly – references itself. From Mrs Hudson (Una Stubbs) being cross at merely being depicted in Doctor Watson’s tales in The Strand Magazine as letting people in and making tea – “I’m a housekeeper, not a plot device” – to the Victorian Sherlock mind-juggling newspaper clippings instead of on-screen text messages, there is plenty to keep the avid fan of the show engaged. For the not-so-avid fan, however, it would be fair to say that the tangled back-and-forth timelines in The Abominable Bride could leave the old head in a bit of a spin.
As the twin plots in two-time frames unfold, we have two major denouements. The Case of The Abominable Bride turns out – quite remarkably – to be the doings of an angry, murderous cult of women who are in the habit (‘scuse the pun) of dressing up like the Prince fan club sub-branch of a KKK gathering (*rolls eyes*). Sherlock solves the case while mansplaining (to use modern parlance) the importance of unseen women being heard (*more eye-rolling*).
Of course, the whole Emilia Rosetti case is a construct in Sherlock’s Mind Palace as he wrestles with a self-administered overdose of drugs and the real mystery: that of Jim Moriarty. Chewing up every scene he’s in, Andrew Scott brings his usual menace to the role as he mind-taunts Sherlock. Sherlock’s showdown with his dark twin – shot against the vast bleakness of the Reichenbach Falls – is a thing of wit and wonder.
If you stuck with it til the end, The Abominable Bride was well worth the wait, even with its flaws. Whether you loved it or were just confused, it certainly bears repeated viewing. What’s almost certain is that Jim Moriarty may be dead, but it doesn’t mean he won’t be back.
Blogtor Rating – 8/10
“Dr John Watson, meet Mr Sherlock Holmes.”
We’ve been here before – but what if this wasn’t the modern day but the late Victorian period? What if the world’s most famous consulting detective and his best friend lived in a Baker Street of steam trains, hansom cabs, top hats and frock coats? Welcome to Sherlock in 1895!
Some things, though, remain reassuringly the same. Friendship, adventure and especially, murder…
Why is Thomas Ricoletti a little surprised to see his wife dressed in her old wedding gown? Because, just a few hours before, she took her own life…
Mrs Ricoletti’s ghost now appears to be prowling the streets with an unslakable thirst for revenge. From fog-shrouded Limehouse to the bowels of a ruined church, Holmes, Watson and their friends must use all their cunning to combat an enemy seemingly from beyond the grave, and the final, shocking truth about… the Abominable Bride!
Sherlock Holmes – Benedict Cumberbatch
Dr John Watson – Martin Freeman
Mrs Hudson – Una Stubbs
Inspector Lestrade – Rupert Graves
Mycroft Holmes – Mark Gatiss
Molly Hooper – Louise Brealey
Mary Watson – Amanda Abbington
Anderson – Jonathan Aris
Stamford – David Nellist
Lady Carmichael – Catherine McCormack
Sir Eustace Carmichael – Tim McInnerny
Emelia Ricoletti – Natasha O’Keeffe
Writer – Mark Gatiss
Writer – Steven Moffat
Producer – Sue Vertue
Director – Douglas Mackinnon
Executive Producer – Mark Gatiss
Executive Producer – Steven Moffat