Episode Review – Sherlock: The Abominable Bride


I’m late to the game on this. I usually am. But I can officially say I’ve seen the Sherlock “Christmas” Special that everyone else has already seen and analyzed to death. Yes, I know how Sherlock fans are, being one myself. Mild spoilers ahead!

First off, “Christmas” is in quotes because it sort of takes place during Christmas for a space, but then it doesn’t really have much to do with Christmas. It’s even sort of lampshaded with everyone saying “Merry Christmas” and Sherlock being relieved they got that out of the way. So is this an episode you can watch during the holiday season and feel all cozy? No, but if you wanted that thin excuse, it is there.

“The Abominable Bride” takes on the traditional Sherlock Holmes set in the Victorian era with all the trappings. The characters are mainly cut from the cloth of the books and previous adaptations here with little flourishes that remind us of the modern take we’re accustomed to from the show.

There’s a grand twist in there, as well. For the case, yes, but also for Sherlock as a character and the entire reason we’re watching old-school Holmes and Watson running after ghosts. It’s enough to have any fan speculating for years to come, but I will say that I take it more at face value than some fans seem to. I don’t believe it’s going to destroy the whole series and become a cheap, it-was-all-a-dream cop-out that will echo through the ages. I did think it was clever, and this show always delivers on that front.

I’ve seen a lot of backlash from what the ultimate solution was. Many felt that the show-runners tackling feminism sent the wrong message. For my part, I was relieved they finally broached the subject. After Sherlock’s treatment of characters like Molly and Janine, their introduction of Irene Adler as a lesbian turned straight thanks to Sherlock’s awesomeness… They needed to answer for some things. They needed to address that Sherlock’s attitude toward women, and in some ways their own, is flawed. I use that word “flawed” very specifically. No one needs to be strung up from a tree, but improvements could certainly be made. This episode felt like an apology, a love letter to the women of the series, who are all amazing by the way. I appreciated it. Especially after Janine (has ever a fictional woman been more used, scorned, and tossed aside?), I wanted some form of apology, and this felt like I got it. So good job, I say.

That’s actually a nice way to slip into talking about Mary Watson. A character generally panned and hated, and I know people’s reasons. For me, the only one that might hold even an ounce of water is that she shot Sherlock. How can she be trusted after that? I find myself not questioning it, not caring about that part of things, and simply marveling at the character Mary is. Also, wishing she was much more a part of things. I love how unassuming she is, how her skills and prowess come as such a pleasant surprise. I love that she’s much sneakier than Sherlock and John. I just adore this character, and it needed to be said. Her role here is small, but I noticed every second of it.

Again, a little spoilery, but Moriarty is here. He’s sort of the main reason we’re here. He’s as fantastic as always, raising the bar of every scene he’s in. We get a lot more insight into the relationship between Mycroft and Sherlock, both heartbreaking and making me wonder once again what Mycroft isn’t telling us. We get a tiny dose of Irene Adler. There’s enough in this episode for a bucket-load of squee.

This story, for me, was less about a case to solve (and the episode itself basically says that) and more about Sherlock’s psychology. In that way, it’s being picked apart by fans who want answers, but I don’t think all that is entirely necessary. Sherlock himself is all about details, but “The Abominable Bride” is about a general feeling, showing us the brush that his mind is painted with. Obsession, addiction, excuses, and sadness. And I hope Series 4 continues to explore these ideas.

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