‘Sherlock’ Returns For A One-Episode Special Did You Miss It?

BBC’s ‘Sherlock: The Abominable Bride’ can be taken as a Season Four teaser but for all intents and purposes it’s also essentially Episode One.

It’s that special time of year for TV fans when we’re reminded that with the new year comes the return of our favorite shows. For some, January means that the end of hiatus is only weeks away though for others, it could be months! Nobody likes hiatuses but no fandom has more of a right to complain more than those who are familiar with BBC’s Sherlock.

As of today there are officially ten episodes in the entirety of the series’ three season run. Not to mention that those seasons are not just few and far between but it’s a complete mystery as to when there will be more. This is of course to be expected when the two main cast members are as busy as Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are. And of course Sherlock isn’t really back. Sources indicate that it could be an entire year before we get Season Four or perhaps the rest of it and so we’ll take what we can get.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes in BBC’s Sherlock Photo: BBC Gif: ithelpstodream via Tumblr

Sherlock: The Abominable Bride was marketed as a one-off Christmas Special but for all intents and purposes it’s also essentially Episode One of Season Four and what a surprise that was! Information prior to tonight’s premiere was scarce. In fact some of the only information came from the special’s official synopsis on BBC’s website.

“We’ve been here before – but what if this wasn’t the modern day but the late Victorian period? What if the world’s most famous consulting detective and his best friend lived in a Baker Street of steam trains, hansom cabs, top hats and frock coats? Welcome to Sherlock in 1895! Some things, though, remain reassuringly the same. Friendship, adventure and especially, murder… Why is Thomas Ricoletti a little surprised to see his wife dressed in her old wedding gown? Because, just a few hours before, she took her own life… Mrs Ricoletti’s ghost now appears to be prowling the streets with an unslakable thirst for revenge. From fog-shrouded Limehouse to the bowels of a ruined church, Holmes, Watson and their friends must use all their cunning to combat an enemy seemingly from beyond the grave, and the final, shocking truth about… the Abominable Bride!”

Initially, taking the show back to 1895 felt like an excuse to rehash Sherlock‘s stellar first season. The story was being retold. Dr. Watson returns home from war injured, is introduced to Sherlock by his friend Jeffery Patterson and Sherlock and John meet in the morgue where the former rattles off his idiosyncrasies that make him a terrible roommate and then repeats the iconic address with an 1895 update.

Benedict Cumberbatch & Martin Freeman as Sherlock Holmes & Dr. John Watson in BBC’s Sherlock Photo: BBC Gif: kafkabees via Tumblr

Some important themes were examined in the early part of the plot and several questions were actually also clues for where this episode was headed, though we don’t actually get there until almost a full hour into it. The first is that at the morgue Sherlock rightfully insists that it’s never twins and in almost the same sentence questions how Moriarty is back. Now why would he do that? Because as it turns out this entire episode takes place in the four or five minutes that it took for Sherlock’s plane to turn around in present day. And what a delight that was!

It was frustrating finding out that this particular episode would take place in 1895, with absolutely no explanation at all. As someone who is frequently increasingly irritated by Steven Moffat’s answers with non-answers in the hopes that fans will just ignore the fact that there are never any real explanations, this type of special seemed predictable. But I am more than pleased to be wrong. That’s not to say that it was perfect, but those particular issues don’t need to be discussed right now because here’s the exceptional part. I forgot how much I missed and enjoy Sherlock. Everything. Okay, not everything there are some really problematic themes and they were totally there but for the most part I really do just enjoy the show for what it is.

It plays like a cinematic adventure but what made Sherlock: The Abominable Bride so much fun is that it turns out most of the hour and half takes place in Sherlock’s mind palace. This space, specifically has been showcased differently in almost every episode and creates more questions than it answers. But it’s a wonderful and extremely creative way to tell a story and in striping the show down to it’s basics this is exactly what Sherlock is about. They didn’t start the episode to pay homage to themselves, they started the episode that way to setup everything that would be revealed later.

Andrew Scott as Jim Moriarty in BBC’s Sherlock Photo: BBC Gif: huffysherlock via Tumblr

Funny enough, while it seems that everything once again makes sense the episode ends in a way only Sherlock can, making us want more. And in retrospect it makes the episode that much more fun. Sherlock has a fantastic purple housecoat, Mrs. Hudson is in top form with her absolutely perfect delivery, Mycroft being fat is as much gag as it is significant to this tale, Mary is as quick as ever, Irene Adler even gets an honorable mention and Watson’s relationship with both his actual wife and his work husband less ambiguous than ever!

In a lot of ways I prefer Victorian Sherlock and Watson to the update. They have real conversations, their relationship is much less of a joke and one of equals and in some ways Watson is considerably more clever than the drug addict turned genius detective he attempts to both idolize and humanize in his stories. But nothing will quite compare to Sherlock and the wonderfully flamboyant and eccentric Moriarty, who is technically no more alive in 1895 than he is in 2014.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes in BBC’s Sherlock Photo: BBC Gif: queerdraco via Tumblr

Sherlock and Moriarty are arguably a very early version of the frenemy trope. Something that has found it’s way into almost every avenue of pop culture including The Doctor and the Master dynamic within Doctor Who. But seeing Andrew Scott and Benedict Cumberbatch go line for line like some verbal sword play will never get old. Realizing that that conversation exists entirely in Sherlock’s head makes it even more magical.

Of course the plot of the story itself deals with something I speak about often and while it’s not discussed perfectly, it is discussed and that’s a start. The Victorian backdrop might not be real but the story being told is one from Sherlock’s history and one that’s significant. The Suffrage movement is a driving point and it works, especially in the context of Molly Hooper, who has to literally dress like a man in order to get ahead in the same position that she holds in present day. More importantly she’s just as invisible to Sherlock as she always is, which is a shame when it’s considered what a confidant she has been for him. And frankly, with the way the story’s conclusion was reached I can only hope that the signifies a change in the rhetoric from previous episodes regarding the characterization of the women in Sherlock and Watson’s life.

Amanda Abbington as Mary Morstan Watson In BBC’s Sherlock Photo: BBC Gif: fy-gameofthrones via Tumblr

Of course that wasn’t the entire point and that’s okay. I wouldn’t want it to be some sort of social justice rhetoric because like I said it’s a start in the right direction. The episode as a whole managed to surprise me on multiple levels and it was all done with some well placed humor to boot. It’s not something that should be missed or skipped and it actually made me want to rewatch the episodes we do have.

I could have done without Sherlock’s big jump in his own mind but I do love that Watson was the one to stop Moriarty in his own head. Mycroft pinpoints it exactly. Exile, left Sherlock with his worst enemy, himself and so while his greatest adversary isn’t really back, Sherlock is on the case!

Of course, the minute it ends we’re back to missing it again but we can hope that things are a little more meta than they seem and that the rest of the stories left to be told in season four have already been created and we just need to have a little patience to wait for it. Maybe, reread Watson’s blog. Who knows what’s going to happen next? Well, Sherlock actually, but the game is most definitely afoot!

Did you enjoy the special? Where do you think season four is headed now that we have more information about Moriarty? Can Mrs. Hudson just have a spin-off where she yells at Sherlock and John who are off screen? Lestrade can show up with the muttonchops, every once in a while! Share your favorite parts and when you hope to see Sherlock again in the comments!

Martin Freeman as Dr. John Watson in BBC’s Sherlock Photo: BBC Gif: tedystaleva via Tumblr

Sherlock‘s “The Abominable Bride” is on PBS’ Masterpiece Mystery on Jan 10th