The long-awaited Sherlock Christmas holiday special came out just a few days ago on New Year’s Day, with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman reprising their roles as Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. Combining feminism, Gothic horror and a perplexing murder mystery, The Abominable Bride was just as flashy and fun to watch as the other episodes, even whilst it made a return to Holmes’ home era of Victorian England. Visuals were excellently done, and the witty repartee that so captured audiences in previous seasons is even more prominent here – helped greatly by the Victorian setting, polishing Sherlock’s already dazzling intellect till it is almost blinding.
*Spoilers follow onwards.
But the episode fell far short of its predecessors, with an at times confusing plot line. Chief among them are the time jumps back and forth, with the entire escapade in the Victorian era being explained away as Sherlock delving into his mind palace. Apparently, an attempt to solve the cliffhanger of the season 3 ending, Sherlock took drugs to stimulate his mind, going deeper into it than he ever has before to puzzle out a case unsolved for over a century.
The decision by the creative team to explain the entire case as a dream by the modern day Sherlock is where the episode becomes rather messy – instead of continuing the case the scene then diverges to a lecture on drug abuse and addiction. While true, this entire scene is so incongruous with the preceding portions of the episode that it just falls flat as nothing more than a blatant PSA about drug use. The feminism subplot too, falls flat for a number of reasons.
More importantly, after we discover that this escapade is just a drug induced conjecture by Sherlock, the episode feels like a 90 minute trailer for the resolution of Moriarty’s apparent return – a resolution which never comes, although he does conclude that Moriarty is dead and that he knows what the next phase of the dead man’s switch is. The special would have been better served if the entire adventure had simply taken place outside of the current continuity without acknowledging the present day Sherlock – a fun, self-contained Christmas special set completely in the Victorian era. A good Gothic horror/mystery – what more could we ask for for the Christmas holiday season? As it was, the confusing jumps back and forth between mind palace and reality left the episode distinctly disjointed.
But it did have its positives – for one thing, with the entire episode taking place within Sherlock’s mind, we get a far more deeper look at how he perceives himself and the others around him.
All in all, it wasn’t terrible, but it certainly wasn’t one of the best episodes of Sherlock either. Hopefully season 4 is much more neater with the plot threads.