TV Review | Sherlock: The Abominable Bride
Here comes the bride...
Episode summary: 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. (Baker Street Wiki)
In all honesty, I couldn't remember a great deal about Sherlock: The Abominable Bride and I think I must've only watched it the once and it was like seeing a brand new episode for me - it's also effectively set up the idea in my head that season four will feel like new Sherlock material too when I get around to watching it.
This 'newness' both worked in the episode's favour and ultimately against it, thanks primarily due to the Victorian setting giving way to the modern day of the series and suffering for it. The most aggravating thing about this is this story does a fine job early on of letting you know its relevance to what happened in season three, but doesn't seem to trust the audience.
I really enjoyed how The Abominable Bride started, especially how it called back to the first season so strongly, and seeing all the actors playing different versions of their usual characters, not just in hair, make-up and costume, but style of speech and even the change in their voices too.
It was all going so, so well and was genuinely starting to feel like what could've been a great introductory episode for people who hadn't seen the show before, despite the differing time period to Sherlock's normal twenty-first century London. All the characters are set up and relationships are established, so it would've taken much effort to get used to the modern-day versions.
Even the case was set up brilliantly: someone who committed suicide by putting a gun in their mouth and blowing their brains out and returning from the dead was a perfect puzzle to match Moriarty's 'return' at the end of the third season. Unfortunately, the show isn't as clever as it likes to think it is.
As the case goes on, the episode starts moving back and forth between the Victorian and modern settings and simply falls apart. It makes the link between the two deaths as clear as day, but also means that it demands familiarity from the audience about what's going on. For new viewers, it'll be confusing; for regular viewers, it's just repetitive.
It's a creative decision that I can't understand, because it also completely ruins the pacing of the Victorian-set story and makes it all feel a little bit irrelevant, like you've been wasting your time. I do get wanting to tie the older case into the series proper, but there's no reason the modern day stuff couldn't have waited until the Abominable Bride case was over.
I feel for the actors too, with the entire cast doing such wonderful work to bring new versions of their usual roles to life, only for the story to ruin their efforts. I honestly would watch this same cast actually doing a period-correct Sherlock Holmes adaptation, with some intriguing plots laid bare in the little we spend in Victorian London this episode.
Spoiler alert for this paragraph, but the single biggest sin of the new setting is how the male creative team screw things up so much, with the Abominable Bride case being about women's rights, yet turning away from the women as often as possible to focus on Sherlock and Moriarty. How did anyone involved in this think that was a sensible idea?
Ultimately, The Abominable Bride feels like a bit of a wasted opportunity. The first part of the episode is fantastic and I absolutely loved it, which only made the descent into nonsense all that more disappointing. It'll take watching season four again to be sure, but I'm pretty confident that you could skip this episode completely and not miss out on anything.
Sherlock: The Abominable Bride starts off well enough but as soon as it starts tying in to the present day setting, it slowly deteriorates and ends up a bit of a mess. This could've been a great way to bring in new viewers with it being a one-off special, but ends being something you should only watch as part of a complete run through of the series for it to make any kind of sense.