‘Sherlock: The Abominable Bride’ review: Holmes and the great ghost story

Sherlock season 3It has been a while since we’ve had new episodes of “Sherlock” and fans have been dying to know if Moriarty is really coming back and also Mycroft’s mysterious comment about there being another Holmes sibling … but with this being a one-off episode set in the Victorian era, we suspect that those questions will not be answered today. Instead we are going to have a fun ride with Sherlock and John as they are throw into a different time period and will have to solve crimes using different methods.

Ultimately, though, what we were reminded of through this special for the most part was that the more things change, the more they do stay the same. “The Abominable Bride” ultimately ended up being a story about Sherlock’s psychology, and also a twist that is probably going to be incredibly polarizing to fans. (Warning: SPOILERS ahead, and big ones!)

Going into this special, we anticipated this being 90 minutes all about a Victorian Holmes and Watson trying to solve what was a ghost story: A woman who died, but proceeded to kill herself dressed in her bridal gown and with a freaky song in her heart. It was pretty incredible stuff for the most part; haunting, daring, and different. Also, the show had some fun giving us odd interpretations of new characters. Chubby Mycroft is something that we’ll have a hard time not picturing moving forward.

We also anticipated spending much of our time talking about the Victorian story, but given that none of this was real, what is the point? As it turns out, this was all a dream … or was it? We have some disconnect to the Victoria case thanks to the flash-forward, and yet, we think there is something important to it. It’s about getting Sherlock to the emotional place where he can prepare himself for season 4. He had to learn how to find the truth in the most surprising of places, and there was mass desperation on his part to have this happen.

In the end, he uncovered back in the world of the past (or back in the dream, what have you) that the Bride did not die at her intended time, and instead faked her death (temporarily) to become a sort of vigilante. Holmes reckoned that there was an agenda behind this was perhaps his understanding of feminism, to destroy the “brutes” and ensure some semblance of justice before he death. As we jumped again to the present, we wondered if him trying to solve this case and every element of it was his way of deflecting the truth as presented to him in the season 3 finale: Moriarty may be back. This is why he continued to see him in the past, a ghost in his own right threatening violence and destruction. Then, the same goes for the present. Eventually Holmes determined that he was dead, but that he knew what his “next move” would be thanks to these inner battles.

With all of the talk of “mind palaces” in the closing minutes we were starting to wonder whether or not Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss spent too much time watching “Hannibal” before this, or mistook this for a script of “Doctor Who.” The truth is that even after seeing the epic battle sequences between Holmes and “Moriarty” in the present, we still have little idea if Andrew Scott’s character is actually alive, or is merely the physical / mental manifestation of his demons. Sherlock has always been his own worst enemy, so to get his version of Patti Levin from “The Leftovers” as his next adversary (his worst inner self) would not be that much of a surprise.

We imagine that this special will be described as many different things by many different people: Confusing, fantastic, disappointing, frustrating, brilliant, imaginative. It depends on who you are. It will be polarizing, largely because it is hard to say that anything definite took place. Our one complaint would be that the whole feminism-is-the-killer explanation was far too heavy-handed, but as a whole we enjoyed this special as great, horrifying, and thought-provoking fun. The game is on again! Episode grade: A-.

What did you think of this “Sherlock” special and did you like that it was set in a different era? Leave us a comment below and share your thoughts. If you want more news on “Sherlock” then head on over to the link here and let us be your guide. Also if you want more great TV news sent your way then be sure to sign up for our weekly CarterMatt newsletter. It comes out every weekend and in addition to getting the top stories of the week, our readers also enjoy some first look TV scoop. (Photo: BBC One)

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