The Abominable Bride
Finally after an absence of 2 years Sherlock has returned. The series, created by Steven Moffat and John Gatiss, has been a fan favorite since its first season aired in 2010. The second season, which expanded the cast to include Lara Pulver, solidified the show’s reputation and that of actors Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. Sadly, the third season missed the spot for me. Those episodes could be best described as boring, convoluted and missing the mystery of earlier stories. After a two year hiatus Sherlock has returned for a one episode holiday special. The Abominable Bride, a story set mostly in Victorian London, is a considerable improvement over the third season yet it suffers from some of the same issues.
The mystery of the story is that of the deceased Mrs. Ricoletti, who after randomly firing at people in the street blows the top of her head off with her last shot. Inspector Lestrade fearfully recounts how Mr. Ricoletti was murdered the evening after by… Mrs. Ricoletti. Sherlock takes the case but for several months nothing happens until more deaths occur at the apparent hands of the vengeful Mrs. Ricoletti. Lady Carmichael becomes frightened her husband Eustace may be the next victim. She was referred to him by Mycroft who admits to already having solved the case. Mycroft make a bet with Sherlock to see if he can solve it. Eustace Carmichael denies any connection to Mrs. Ricoletti but is murdered soon after.
Watson and Sherlock had staked out the Carmichael’s country mansion. On the night of the murder they see an apparition of Mrs. Ricoletti, but Watson fails to pursue her. Sherlock becomes scared when a note is found on Eustace from Moriarty after he has inspected the body. Mycroft berates Sherlock for his failure in dealing with the case. That evening Sherlock takes a large amount of cocaine and undergoes a vision of Moriarty. After taunting Sherlock that he is more than a figment Moriarty again commits suicide by shooting himself in the head.
Sherlock then awakens in the present day onboard the small jet that was ordered back after Moriarty’s apparent return. Sherlock had been in his own mind palace trying to solve The Case of The Abominable Bride. He is berated by everyone when they discover he had to use drugs to do it. Sherlock then wakes up back in the Victorian age. Watson is angry with him when he finds a syringe with cocaine. A message arrives from Watson’s wife Mary, she warns them she needs their help. At an abandoned church in the countryside Mary reveals she has been working for Mycroft trying to solve the case. In the church they discover a group of woman dressed as cultist. Sherlock reveals to them he knows how they faked Ricoletti’s suicide and used her haunting to go after men they deemed unworthy.
Back in the present day Sherlock attempts to proof his theory women were behind the murders by finding the body-double of Mrs. Ricoletti in her grave. After her decaying corpse attacks him Sherlock becomes aware he has been dreaming all of it, both events set in the Victorian age as well as in the present. A final showdown with Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls allows him to awaken. He now wakes up on the jet, for real. He nearly died of an overdose trying to solve the Ricoletti case, but memories of Moriarty made that increasingly difficult. Sherlock accepts Mycroft’s call to solve the return of Moriarty. The episode ends with Sherlock confiding to Watson that he now knows Moriarty to be truly dead, somebody wants everybody to think otherwise.
This special episode of Sherlock is hard to judge. It is an improvement over season 3, but the fun and mystery of the first two season’s has yet to return. To sum things up, the first half hour of The Abominable Bride was a bit boring. Sure it was fun to see how Watson and Sherlock became friends in 1895 and how it mirrored the pilot episode. It was also fun to see how certain female characters were interwoven into the story. That said, as Sherlock does not begin to investigate the Ricoletti quickly events are unduly delayed. The story picks up steam afterwards but after Eustace Carmichael is murdered it slows down again. Things make little sense until the viewer deduces Sherlock may be hallucinating the entire story. Sadly, the denouement only partly makes up for this confusion. The flashbacks and flash-forwards feel too contrived and remind me too much of the shows third season.
The Abominable Bride has a number of big reveals at the end. As a viewer I was only interested in one. How did Mrs. Ricoletti rise was from the grave to kill her husband after her apparent suicide. The revelations that she and her female conspirators left a dead look alike at the scene of the suicide felt novel. That they later on switched the body with that of the real Mrs. Ricoletti, who committed suicide just for the occasion, reminded me of the how good things were during the first two seasons. It was certainly the high-point of the episode. One odd thing was Mary, though her character in the Victorian age was interesting I hardly recognized her in the present day. For me she is not working out as a character on the show. In contrast to this is Louise Brealey’s depiction of Molly Hooper. It was fun how Sherlock’s subconscious deduces he has been wrong about his affections for her.
The Abominable Bride was a good episode of Sherlock, but not as good as any from the first two seasons. For that it sidetracks too much. This was my review of The Abominable Bride. Sherlock will return in 2017, presumably in early January.