Now, before I tell you about this episode, let me be clear about my position towards this show. I loved Season 1, right up to “The Great Game” (my least favourite of 2010) and I adored Season 2, right up to “The Reichenbach Fall” (definitely my least favourite of 2011). I thoroughly enjoyed Season 3 […]
Now, before I tell you about this episode, let me be clear about my position towards this show. I loved Season 1, right up to “The Great Game” (my least favourite of 2010) and I adored Season 2, right up to “The Reichenbach Fall” (definitely my least favourite of 2011). I thoroughly enjoyed Season 3 as well, though episode 1 was a little too self-absorbed for my taste and episode 3 was complete nonsensical. So yes, I seem to have a problem with last episodes or, to be completely honest, I think the authors do. They create beautiful one-shot stories, but they lack the time to build the hype they try to came through with, and when they tie the knot on the season’s main baddie all I can do is shrug. Therefore I wasn’t at all thrilled to see Andrew Scott‘s Moriarty returning (nothing againts the man himself: he is a terrific psychopath but I find his character to be terrifying inflated and overrated by its fandom). Still, I was intrigued to hear about this Abominable Bride Christmas Special, and like everyone else I was intrigued by his unexpected Victorian setting.
And yet make no mistakes, this Christmas Special is no spin-off but a proper episode, set right after Season 3 finale, His Last Vow. Sherlock is on a plane, set to his brotherly-arranged exile after taking off Charles Augustus Magnussen with a gun, when he is called back by Mycroft for yet another Country-level emergency. The authors take their time to remind us that, with a classic “recently on Sherlock” sequence, and also recap for us the very first scenes of the very first episode, only to repeat them in a Victorian setting, with the original actors playing their original characters. So far so good.
Then the episode starts and it’s a damn good episode in itself. Beautiful writing of a marvellous gory Victorian drama, featuring a killer consumpted bride, her avenging ghost, a very clever use of both Amanda Abbington (always witty former/actual spy Mary Watson) and Louise Brealey, a dr Hopper who not only is still incredibly in character but also finds her own rightful and meaningful place in the story despite her brief presence on screen. Very good narrative inventions go hand in hand with an inspired directing by Jekyll‘s director Douglas Mackinnon. Among my personal favourite sequences, you have to count:
1) a reconstruction of the crime scene, with Holmes stopping the action as if with a remote control and the characters sitting in the middle of the action, living room and all;
2) the mind palace scene was one of the most beautiful in the original series and finds its own beautiful equivalent in this episode, with Holmes sitting on his living room floor and scraps of newspaper circling around him like electrons around an atom’s nucleus;
3) the Reichenbach Falls painting hanging in Mycroft’s office, with flowing water, and later on Sherlock’s confrontation with Moriarty on the falls themselves: though I never liked the original episode and I’m not fan-like fond of the character, it was a marvellous scene and somewhat came through with some of the psychological concepts the author tried (and failed) to convey in Season 2.
Now for my least favourite. I thought the first awakening scene, with Holmes running nonsensicaly to the cemetery to exume Emilia Ricoletti, was quite useless. At that point of the story, everyone understood what was really going on, and it would have been enough to have Sherlock wake up in the plane and then fall into trance again.
Also, this episode has been controversial for the choice to depict Suffragettes as KKK acolytes. Still, you have to be blind not to see and not to hear what the main character is saying in that scene, following what Mycroft said before about a “battle that needs to be lost”. Also, I am somewhat glad they took the drug addiction in the open: I thought they have been a little too shy about it in the original series and it was about time this became an actual topic. Other hints of fealty to Conan Doyle‘s original works can be found everywhere, and I loved to see how authors proved us that they have been doing their homework, and that they willingly decided to change some characters not because they didn’t know them but because they did. Great performances are given by everyone, returning and supporting characters alike. Cumberbatch and Freeman are like in a race to whom is the best and I find that this time the good old doctor comes out on top. Now I don’t really know if we are entitled to hope for an actual Season 4, but I do hope this series keeps being more like this and a little less like where it failed before.