I suppose this review could be considered tardy since this episode aired on January 1, but I had to give my brain some time to process everything I had seen. After two years of no new Sherlock at all, suddenly being gifted with a nice shiny Victorian special was a bit overwhelming, and I had to make sure my thoughts actually made sense instead of being incoherent fangirl noises.
We start off with a Victorian retelling of how Sherlock and John–though I suppose here I should refer to them as Holmes and Watson–meet, and we even have Victorian-style opening credits (which are completely awesome and which I would share with you if I could find a clip of them). When Moffat and Gatiss put their minds to it, they can sure pull out all the stops. From there on, it’s an unusual mishmash of the Victorian and the modern–the settings and costumes are all Victorian, but the dialogue slips into the modern usage sometimes (and there’s actually a reason for this, which I’ll explain later). This combination gives the episode a bit of a steampunk-y feel, at least to me. What’s really interesting is that the characters we all know and love haven’t changed much in the time shift. Holmes is just as brilliant and distant as ever, Watson just as loyal and grounded. Mary retains her high spirits and balks at being told to stay at home and cook dinner; Mycroft continues his scheming (but has put on an awful lot of weight since the last time we saw him), and Lestrade is…well, Lestrade. Molly still has her job at St. Bart’s but has disguised herself as a man in order to gain respect. All in all, it’s a very fascinating setup, and I wouldn’t mind seeing more episodes set in this Victorian era.
There’s a twist, though–then again, when isn’t there a twist? Anyway, remember how Moffat was saying this was just a one-off special and was not connected to the other seasons? Well, he lied. Again. The Victorian crime is taking place in Sherlock’s mind palace (hence the occasional use of modern dialogue), where he is attempting to figure out how Moriarty can be back when he committed suicide in “The Reichenbach Fall” by blowing his own brains out, using the unsolved case of the Abominable Bride as his template for figuring out how Moriarty faked his death. Long story short, Moriarty faked nothing–he’s dead for real, but someone is using his name to continue his reign of terror. But who? Answers will come whenever we get season 4.
One of the things that impressed me about “The Abominable Bride” was that we finally confronted Sherlock’s drug problem. It was implied in “A Study in Pink”, and he denied using drugs in “His Last Vow”, but here it was finally out in the open. I know a few Holmes adaptations tend to veer away from Sherlock’s drug use, so I was impressed to see that Moffat and Gatiss decided to address the issue head-on. It’s a stark reminder that Sherlock is not the hero everyone makes him out to be, something he has always protested.
“Don’t make people into heroes, John. Heroes don’t exist, and if they did, I wouldn’t be one of them.”
“I may be on the side of the angels, but don’t think for one minute that I am one of them.”
All in all, “The Abominable Bride” was a great way to get Sherlock back on our screens after a two-year absence. My mom even said she enjoyed it more than she did The Force Awakens, which we saw earlier that day (I’m sure you’ve already read my review on that). There’s still no confirmation for when we’ll see season 4, but at least we had a doozy of an episode to tide us over.