Sherlock: The Abominable Bride is a little more than what was advertised. Everything pointed to an episode set entirely in the nineteenth century and the fans believed that it would be stand-alone, with no connection to the nine regular episodes released over the last few years. But no, not exactly.
The episode starts off lightly, first with a small recap of everything we’ve seen so far, before the calendar is turned back many, many decades. Once again, we see Sherlock Holmes and John Watson meeting, though in a much more dingy and seedy version of the mortuary. Once again, we find Sherlock solving cases which interest him while Watson writes about them for The Strand, as the Internet hasn’t been invented yet. We also meet Detective Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard, who turns to Sherlock for help with his more difficult cases. Altogether, not much is different from the regular series.
“After all, this is the nineteenth century!” – John Watson, as he tries to light a candle.
The truth (such as it is in a TV show) is much more complex. Present day Sherlock is, to put it bluntly, high. This entire episode is actually taking place in Sherlock’s famed “mind palace.” The trailers made plenty of references to the supernatural and this episode is full of it. We have a suicidal bride, who rises from the dead and goes on a killing spree over several months. This, however, is a real case in the TV show universe, one which Sherlock is trying to solve using his mind palace.
The episode is certainly more than just a bone thrown to eager fans. It acts as a bridge between Series 3 and Series 4, and gives us some important information, which I’ll omit to save you from spoilers. The problem is, the actual information certainly didn’t require a 90-minute episode, especially one which decided to explore the suffrage movement of the time. Personally, I would have preferred an actual episode, which would have been much more satisfying. Instead, we’re left with a one off, something that resembles a compilation of well executed fan fictions, more than anything else.
The characters are much the same — John Watson is as lovable as ever, Mrs Hudson is still bringing Sherlock tea, though she has no idea why, Mycroft and Sherlock have the same sibling rivalry we’ve seen so far and Sherlock himself is as great as ever, deducing everything in the blink of an eye. And that’s another problem. Sherlock Holmes has become an even greater man, a titan who just can’t fail, and his flaws are even more trivial.
That’s not to say the episode wasn’t good. It was. All the elements which make Sherlock great are present here. Unfortunately, however good it is, fans who have been waiting for an update for months now will be disappointed to be left hanging for several more months. But it is a delightful watch, full of Easter Eggs and you should definitely go for it. Just don’t expect to be blown away by it.