Note: Normally when I write a review I don’t like including any spoilers as I feel it ruins the purpose of reading a review to determine if the reader thinks it is worth watching. While there won’t be overt spoilers outright, there is going to be allusions to big spoilers as it is a big part of my thoughts on this television special.
Cars for carriages, text messages for telegrams, transitioning the world of Sherlock from the 21st century to the Victorian age is surprisingly straightforward. Then again, it’s only reversing what the first series Sherlock proposed to us back in 2010. A modern twist on a Victorian classic. So when the New Years special was announced to be going back to Sherlock’s roots, I was happy at what I thought would be a nice change of pace of for the show. As I’ve written on the blog before, the direction of the show as of the Series 3 finale doesn’t have me exactly giddy with excitement for Series 4. But I thought that maybe a nice break would get me in the right frame of mind. As it turns out any hope I had of feeling refreshed were dash about half-way in and I was left once again feeling rather disappointed in Sherlock.
It starts off on the right foot. We’re introduced to a “traditional” Sherlock and Watson coming home to 221B Baker Street after dealing with a case and it seems all like we’re right at home to the viewer. I commend Moffat and Gattis for being able to keep everything familiar enough that the differences aren’t jarring but rather a subtle change in the show’s flavour. Relatively quickly we are introduced to the core of the episode with what will be known by the end as The Case of The Abominable Bride. It all seems simple enough. A seemingly impossible crime takes place and the police are too useless (and frightened) to do anything about it. Had they focused on this case for the entirety of this episode then I think the special would have been one of my favourites, but just when things are getting good they fall apart.
The almost fatal flaw in The Abominable Bride is the first of the many big twists in the individual. This one takes place about halfway and ends making the entire episode feel like a waste of time. There are warning signs throughout the first half as to what it and while you can easily see it coming, I couldn’t help but feel like my happiness and excitement shift to dread and worry. Now I should preface that most won’t be bothered by this at all, but because of what I had expected (I really should have known better) from Abominable Bride I can’t help but a little crushed. “Like a waste of time” might be a bit extreme, but when I think back to how I felt at the time, that sums it up nicely.
Still, there are some good things to take away from The Abominable Bride. The Victorian setting first and for most the biggest highlight of the special. What could have easily come across as fan-fiction feels more like a plausible alternate universe (to another alternate universe.) In addition to the fascinating world of the special are the wonderful performances by the principal cast. As always Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, and Amanda Abbington do an excellent job reprising their roles as characters we have fallen in love with over the years. Their Victorian counterparts feel particularly sharp and I hope this isn’t the last we see of Victorian Sherlock, Watson, and Mary.
I had a lot of hopes for The Abominable Bride. Unfortunately, most of them were dashed by the time the end credits rolled. It’s difficult to recommend watching when I had problems with it, but I know that there are many out there who won’t take issue with it. Maybe the next time they do a special in Victorian England they’ll won’t take the approach they did for this one, but I don’t think I’ll be getting my hopes up next time.