Sherlock fans from around the world waited in anticipation for the special New Year’s Day episode ‘The Abominable Bride’. Sherlock’s first new adventure since 2014’s series three finale ‘His Last Vow.’ We were teased for months with images of meerschaum pipes, Inverness capes, and of course the iconic deerstalker, but much of the storyline was kept under wraps. This new tradition of a festive edition had been predicted to draw in ratings of over 13m, with it being released in both cinemas and the US.
However, there has been very much a mixed response to this year’s episode. Like any other show with a hardcore fanbase, the analysis of the show was unforgiving, with debates on social media as to whether this ‘TV event’ actually added anything to the storyline. Some voiced their dislike of the over use of Moriarty; others complained of the ‘it was all a dream’ scapegoat twist. There was also criticism of its portrayal of the feminist movement, with the writers being accused of ‘mansplaining’. Of course, some of this negative response is due to the dedicated fans high expectations, yet some claimed that the writers’ self-referential inclinations were condescending to the viewers. The flashbacks (and forwards), Inception-esque dream elements, unreliable narratives, and extreme plot twists, seemed to lose even the most attentive fans.
On the other hand, the performances lived up to the show’s usual high standards with Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Una Stubbs, Louise Brealey and Andrew Scott’s superb acting. The Victorian sets were exceptional and a perfect one-off festive indulgence. The actors all seemed to have enjoyed making the episode with plenty of in-jokes, such as the opening scene, a nod toward where it all began, with a live-action Sherlock recreation that saw an alternative meeting of Sherlock and Watson. The case, that of a bride returning from the dead to wreak havoc on those who had wronged her, was gripping. There were subtle clues hidden throughout the episode as to the reason behind her rampage. The witty banter was a high point and there was a rather astute acknowledgment as to the lack of credit given to women, such as how women were rarely mentioned in Watson’s accounts.
Whether the most highly-anticipated TV show of the last two years garnered great reviews, disappointed others, or left you unsure of what happened and whether or not you even liked it, there’s little doubt that most can take away something from the episode, either from the acting, or brilliant costuming and scenery. After all, isn’t most festive TV a little ‘over-done’ anyway? And it remains that we’re all just as excited for 2017’s new series, now that after this ninty minute episode Sherlock has come all the way… off the plane.
One thing’s for sure: it has proved that the character of Sherlock will live on, either in Conan Doyle’s original Victorian London, a modern-day London, or somewhere in between.
Maybe the only reason this episode was judged so harshly is because we love the show, and expect so much. After all, it is a very long wait between episodes!