Law Jia-Yun ’19 / Emertainment Monthly Assistant Web Editor
After waiting yet another 2 years, Sherlock is finally back! It’s not with a usual three-episode dosage since Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are constantly starring in other movies, but one New Year’s special will have to do–for now.
Before the article goes any further, this is a spoiler warning. Read at your own risk.
After a short recap of the last three seasons, The Abominable Bride takes us back to the Victorian era–specifically the 1880s, the same time period in which Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote the original stories. It opens with a recreation (or original) of Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Dr. John Watson’s (Martin Freeman) memorable first meeting at the morgue-making arrangements to meet at the famous 221B Baker Street before Sherlock had to leave for a hanging (because he takes a professional interest).
After the short introduction, we jump further into time, a point in time during which Holmes and Watson have been a team and investigating for quite a while. The good doctor has even published stories of their adventures in The Strand. Immediately, the episode pushes us into the narrative, no time wasted on re-introductions or recaps. As usual, Inspector Lestrade (Rupert Graves) needs help and comes to the duo with the mysterious case of Emelia Ricoletti, a bride who committed suicide by shooting herself but somehow rose from the dead to murder her husband on the same night. Despite Watson insisting that it was either a ghost or a twin (and according to our favorite consultant detective, it is NEVER a twin), Holmes soon gets bored with the case and leaves it open. Months later, Mycroft (Mark Gatiss), now obese (yes, that’s right, he put on a fat suit!) and endangering his life in order to win a bet against his brother, brings Holmes and Watson in on another case. Lady Carmichael had insisted that her husband had been behaving strangely, and the couple had even met with the ghost of Emelia Ricoletti, who promised certain death for Sir Eustace. Despite their best efforts, Sir Eustace is stabbed by someone. Lestrade arrives later and points out that the murderer left a note, a note that was absent when Holmes first saw the body, a note tied to the murder weapon, a note with a very familiar phrase from our favorite consultant criminal: Miss Me?
Soon after, a present day Sherlock is jolted awake by a moustache-less John. That’s right, the entire first hour of the show took place in his drug-enhanced mind palace. The months (maybe even years) Victorian era Sherlock and Watson spent on the Ricoletti case was actually the five minutes it took for the plane to land after Mycroft’s phone call.
The rest of the episode goes like this: spending some time in the real world and being part of Sherlock’s mind palace both in the Victorian and modern era. It is truly a narrative masterpiece, honoring Doyle’s original work and providing a fantastic lead up to season four.
Writers Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss did a great job writing the most entertaining dialogue, which worked with the context of the plot but also explored the chemistry between Holmes and Watson. Without giving away too much, here are some examples:
“Suicide street theatre, murder by corpse–Lestrade, you’re spoiling us.”
“There is a woman in my sitting room–is this intentional?”
“I shall have a word with my wife to have a word with you.”
Building up to the reveal, Moffat and Gatiss sprinkled the word “deep” as casually as possible, warning viewers about the Sherlock’s dive into his mind palace. Moriarty (Andrew Scott), giving a dramatic and compelling performance, even warning Sherlock about “going too deep.” (Is it possible to hate someone so hateful yet lovable?)
The ninety-minute special also guest starred some of our favorite characters over the season, with a little modifications, of course. Molly Hooper (Louise Brealey) cross-dressed as a man in order to climb the career ladder, Amanda Abbington reprised her role as the spy-wife working for Mycroft, Irene Adler made a small appearance as a picture in a locket, and Janine Donlevy (Yasmine Akram) even had something to say to her ex-boyfriend about feminism. Was it pandering? Probably. Could they have done without? Yes, definitely. Is it worth watching to meet them again? YES.
The New Year’s special, though worth a second or third watching, was like a cocktail of previous seasons, dead brides and even time travel, which was honestly confusing and sometimes unnecessary. That said, it was a highly captivating episode, one that set the stage perfectly for season four. Now that we know definitively (maybe, you never know with Sherlock) that Moriarty is dead and what his next move will be, there is only one thing to do until the release in 2017. Shooting begins this spring, so log on to your Twitter accounts and make sure they keep their promise.