Sherlock, between its 3 seasons so few and far apart, has accumulated a growing string of fans and as a result, a ridiculous amount of pressure on the creators to create something more spectacular and jaw dropping with each new episode. As a result, when a christmas special was announced, many of us, knew that this would be the only bit of new Sherlock material from writers Steve Moffat and Mark Gatiss for at least another year, and so waited for The Abominable Bride with record breaking levels of anticipation, tinged with worry. How would this episode affect the new season? Would the Victorian setting lessen the magic of the show? Most importantly, how could we possibly deal with the return of John’s moustache?
I think it is safe too say that the majority of viewers (an astounding 37% of all television watchers in the UK were tuned in, which I think says something about the quality of the show) were by no means underwhelmed. Sure, some problems were picked out, but the overall reaction seemed to be amazement at how the writers had ‘done it again.’
A recurring theme I noticed and experienced myself was a certain level of confusion; it was not so much that we didn’t understand the plot, but more that we weren’t sure where they could possibly be going with this. I myself did not see the changing time periods aspect coming, but I am sure there was speculation that this would occur from other fans of the show. As the plot continued however, we were presented with this Inception like complex- was what we were seeing reality, or just another layer deeper within Sherlock’s mind palace? There was some criticism that the toying with what was real was a little much at times, but I found this to only sweeten my experience as a viewer.
Plot is so important when it comes to this show; the writers are dealing with this classic character but giving a fresh take in modern society. In this case we went back a few time periods, yet the freshness in the main characters remained constant for me, which is largely due to the supreme acting of the main cast. The reason so many of us felt satisfied coming out of this was that there were all the classic ingredients needed to make an episode of Sherlock successful. We were presented with a case, notably much darker (visually speaking) than others we have seen before. We then followed Sherlock with his deductions and as the episode progressed, pulled clues and came to our own conclusions. Most importantly, we were presented with a solution that didn’t leave too many unanswered questions. (Although it opened up about a million questions on how the bride’s suicide could be linked to Moriarty’s…)
Now for the characters. It brought such joy to have references to characters other than the main, and my personal favourite was the picture of Irene Adler so subtly thrown in there. But of course, the one that left our jaws all hanging was the return of Moriarty. I personally think that Andrew Scott does not have a very varied acting style, yet I firmly believe that he executes the character of Moriarty to perfection. I think it is very clear that the episode was teasing us at times, using the bride’s own doings and linking them to the question and line that has plagued us all- ‘Did you miss me?‘ I personally never believed that Moriarty could really have survived ‘blowing his brains out’, and am glad that Sherlock also came to that conclusion- that it was not so much the person but the idea of Moriarty that still lived on. I cannot wait to see how they carry out that concept in Season 4!
As a fan, I was enthralled. When I sat back, and regarded the episode with a more critical eye, a few questions and worries popped up. I saw a tweet that described this episode to have ‘Spectre Syndrome’- if you are unaware, this is referring to the latest James Bond movie, which was accused of bringing too many elements and references from previous films to appease the fans. In many ways, I do agree with this statement, and think it could already be seen in Season 3 of Sherlock. As a result, it can be seen that the episodes are becoming less and less centred on solving cases, and more on exploring the complexity of Sherlock’s character. Of course, the ‘Superfan’ side of me loves this, yet I can’t help but miss the slightly different vibe we got from the first two series.
Now, we come to the most concerning part of the episode. We were all curious to see where the Victorian times setting would leave our female characters, in an environment of such oppression against them. Through John’s own sexism among other things, we were given the message that ‘SEXISM IS BAD’ and all that good stuff.
Then comes that one scene. The one with all the women. You know where I’m going with this.
There has been somewhat of a debate online as to whether this scene is actually sexist or whether it is being misinterpreted, but when Sherlock walked in and explained the concept of feminism to a room full of women, alarm bells were going off in my head. I think almost everyone associated the purple tunics which the women were wearing with that of the KKK, which begs the question- why was that particular costume needed? That and referring to this suffragette group as some sort of cult certainly did not add anything to the scene (for me at least), and I think I would be more at peace giving this episode such a high rating if that part had not been included.
However, overall, I enjoyed this episode more than I can express in words. It was satisfying, enough to hold us for another year, answered yet opened so many new questions, and overall, had the spirit of a Sherlock episode which I adore so much. As to how I would rank it with other series, I don’t think that it can be compared in this way. I separate this Christmas special from the 3 series, though this may just be a personal preference.
Oh, and how could I possibly forget. Mycroft was so ridiculously brilliant- I cannot seem to get the image of him eating pie out of my head.
Thank you very much for reading, feel free to leave your own thoughts and reactions to this Christmas special. If one thing is for certain, it is that this will not be an episode to forget.