With season three wrapped up in 2014, the stellar BBC series Sherlock took pity on its fans Jan 1 with a shiny new Christmas special, “Sherlock: The Abominable Bride”. I never thought I’d say this of what is quite possibly my favourite TV show, but I think if I had to describe whatever it is that I watched on Friday night in a single word, I’d say it was abominable.
Now, it’s entirely possible that my expectations for this show have reached unreasonable heights. After three solid seasons, it’s no mystery to me that Sherlock currently rates 9.3/10 on IMDb, or even scores 99% freshness according to the traditionally harsh Rotten Tomatoes. What is a mystery to me, however, is how writers Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat even came up with the concept for this special.
I’m blaming apple juice before bed, or maybe just a hit of acid.
From the posters and trailers they’ve been flogging since last October, they’ve made it seem like fans will be getting an oldey-timey Victorian romp with a comparatively lightweight case. This was maybe true for about an hour, after which we were offered a weird, disjointed trip through Sherlock’s “mind palace” while he was on a cocktail of drugs, from the comfort of the plane we left him in at the end of series 3.
Seriously, Mycroft sticks him on the plane at the end of “His Last Vow” (S3.E3), and then takes him out of it again at the end of “The Abominable Bride”. The whole 90-minute episode progressed us about a whole fifteen “real” minutes.
Meanwhile, Sherlock’s hallucinations have us looking at the Victorian case of the “abominable bride”, concerning the public suicide-by-pistol of Emilia Ricoletti and subsequent ghostly killing spree targeting the chauvinist husbands and lovers of London who mistreat their women. Sherlock staunchly refuses to believe in the existence of ghosts, and must discover how a dead woman can possibly be returning from the grave to carry out her bloody justice months after the fact.
With this plot, the show writers drew an obvious parallel to the supposed return of Jim Moriarty at the end of “His Last Vow” (S3.E3). If you’ll remember, everybody saw Moriarty blow his own head off at the end of “The Reichenbach Fall” (S2.E3), just before Sherlock took a dive. In that detail, Sherlock is absolutely, positively certain: Jim Moriarty is dead. So if he’s dead, how can he be back?
In “The Abominable Bride”, Sherlock reveals the truth of Emilia’s “return”: a secret society of bloodthirsty suffragettes in purple hoods who cut down London’s men under the guise of the ghostly bride. Emilia Ricoletti is decidedly not dishing out vengeance from the grave because she’s stone-cold dead; but her sisters-at-arms perpetuate her image with their victims, thereby gaining the freedom and protection in anonymity to carry out their feminist agenda.
(I didn’t know there was a feminist-supremacy cult I could join! Thankfully a man took the time to explain feminism to a room full of suffragettes, and gave their bloodthirsty, KKK-esque lynchings of chauvinist men the aura of noble rebellion.)
If the special was a way of addressing the Moriarty issue, does that mean there’s a secret society of psychopaths in modern-day London, ready to wreak havoc while disguised as someone who should be dead? Sounds plausible, I guess, but we won’t find out for sure until 2017!
Which was surely the incentive for this whole contrived, disjointed, disappointing special episode in the first place. Making fans wait three years until the new series was too much, but putting together a special just for the sake of creating new content was maybe not the answer if “The Abominable Bride” is the end result.
I’d much rather have just revisited series 1-3 for the next eighteen months, but now I’m judging the writers for making me watch 90 minutes of Sherlock in the throes of a drug overdose giving feminists in KKK hoods a free pass and having weird, fanfic-inspiring tête-à-têtes with Moriarty. Not better!
If you want to learn more, check out these links:
The Telegraph – Sherlock: The Abominable Bride, 9 Things We Learned (1/2/16)
Screen Rant – Sherlock: The Abominable Bride Needs a History Lesson (1/2/16)
The Independent – Sherlock ‘mansplaining feminism to feminists dressed in KKK hoods’ in The Abominable Bride has annoyed viewers (1/3/16)
Den of Geek! – Sherlock: The Abominable Bride review (1/3/16)
The Verge – In Sherlock: The Abominable Bride, Holmes is the worst kind of superhero (1/4/16)