Saturday, January 02, 2016

‘Sherlock: The Abominable Bride’ is a Tough Act to Follow for 2016 TV

(Warning: SPOILERS!)
Just finished watching Sherlock’s feature-length Christmas New Year’s Day special, The Abominable Bride, for the second time (yep, watched it twice before writing this).  *whistle* Once again, Sherlock floored me!  Will this show ever run out of brilliant ideas?   Writers Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat just keep finding ways to surprise and delight.

Sherlock: The Abominable Bride is nothing short of awesome.  It’s not necessarily the best Sherlock installment.  But the thing with this show is that it’s really hard for me to pin-point a particular installment as “the best.”  Nonetheless, The Abominable Bride possesses a good amount of high points.

One of my favorite aspects of this special is seeing Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman’s take on Victorian Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.  It’s a fantasy of mine to see something like this happening – to see them portray Conan Doyle’s original, Strand Magazine vision of the duo.  And they were perfect.  No matter how big Cumberbatch and Freeman become in Hollywood, it looks like they won’t ever lose their love in portraying their breakout characters.  It really showed in their respective performances in The Abominable Bride.  They were really invested.  In my book – probably in forever – these two are the best actors that portrayed the iconic duo of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson in live-action.

At first, The Abominable Bride might seem a stand-alone, non-canon story in order to have the opportunity to have Cumberbatch’s Holmes and Freeman’s Watson in a Victorian adventure.  But it’s actually a direct sequel to Series 3 Episode 3: “His Last Vow.”

There were two things I predicted about the story.   First, that it would be a “dream sequence.”  That’s the most likely explanation of how this modern Sherlock Holmes mythology would return to its Victorian roots.  And I was right.  Still, despite something that is heavily clichéd, the “dream sequence” flawlessly fits with the plot – probably even the best execution of such that I’ve encountered in fiction.  We are already familiar that Sherlock’s “mind palace” works in an extraordinary manner.  Thus, when he used it to create a vivid, plausible simulation of how he would have solved a case over a hundred years old if he were there, it wonderfully makes sense.  The narrative might be slightly confusing at times because of this set-up, but the result is magnificent storytelling nevertheless.

My second spot-on prediction was that a conspiracy of feminists is behind the mystery.  Either I was just too sharp with this one or The Abominable Bride was the easiest Sherlock mystery ever.  I felt it was heavily foreshadowed.

It has several noteworthy scenes, but I would like to talk about one that really resonated on me, and that is the ending part.  Victorian Holmes and Watson are sitting in their 221B Baker Street abode.  The former talks of his vision of a future with “flying machines, telephone contraptions”, of which the latter comments that it’s “lunatic fantasy.”  It implies that this Victorian Holmes, a figment of the modern Holmes, is also imagining – simulating – in his mind the adventures of modern Holmes (!).  Victorian Holmes comments that he would be “very much at home in such a world” and that he is “a man out of his time.”  Victorian Holmes looks outside to a scene of modern Baker Street.  It was a fantastic sequence.   This is saying that Sherlock Holmes, a character that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created during and for the late 19th century, was ahead of his time and has always been a more perfect fit in a modern setting – or, if I may improve it myself, Sherlock Holmes is a timeless fictional character.

As usual of a Sherlock story, The Abominable Bride is generously peppered with thrills, humor, creativity, and charm – I had a great time with it.  And not only does it cleverly referenced elements from the original Conan Doyle stories, per usual, but also a few non-canon Sherlock Holmes stories written by other authors as well.  As a whole, it’s an outright brilliant product.

Sherlock: The Abominable Bride is an outstanding start for 2016 TV.  But it likely won’t get much better than this.

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