TV Review: “Sherlock” – Gothic Brilliance

Written by Danielle Sing February 26, 2016

Sherlock

At the beginning of January, BBC’s “Sherlock” released a special episode, titled ‘The Abominable Bride”, to bridge the gap – and the long wait – between season 3 and season 4. ‘The Abominable Bride’ does the fans great service and still follows the brilliant precision within the writing of the regular seasons. Other than the Victorian Era setting, much was unknown about this special and that did lead to some plot confusion while watching, but “Sherlock” embodied a wonderful Gothic tone that greatly aided in its success.

At the end of the 19th century, Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman) and Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) return to 221B Baker Street and are given a strange case by Detective Lestrade (Rupert Graves) about Emilia Ricoletti (Natasha O’Keeffe), a bride suffering from tuberculosis who commits suicide.  But later that same day, she murders her groom. The case stumps Sherlock, and the murderous ghost bride does not return until he is referred to the case of Lady Carmichael (Catherine McCormack) by his brother, Mycroft (Mark Gatiss), months later. Sherlock and Watson promise Lady Carmichael to supervise her husband, Sir Eustace Carmichael (Tim McInnerny), but the bride murders him while under their watch. To solve the case, Sherlock uses cocaine which brings the characters back into the present when Watson, Mary Watson (Amanda Abbington), and Mycroft find Sherlock high and disorientated on the recently landed airplane.

“It’s not the fall that kills you, Sherlock! Of all people, you should know that.”

When the ‘The Abominable Bride’ begins, we are introduced to Watson as an army doctor who has returned from the Second Anglo-Afghan War. While that coincides perfectly with his regular season character, it’s confusing at first that the special is copying the premier “Sherlock” episode. There are a few other instances that are also confusing to the plot because it’s not revealed until almost the end of the special that the events of ‘The Abominable Bride’ immediately follow the season 3 finale. The characters of “Sherlock” are re-imagined well for the Victorian setting, especially Dr. Molly Hooper (Louise Brealey) who goes through a well-calculated gender swap, and there’s a nice nod to The Strand, the magazine in which Sir Arthur Conan Doyle published his “Sherlock Holmes” short stories. While some events in the plot are confusing, the writing is precise and brilliant; I would not expect anything less from a show that takes several years to make only a few episodes.

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The Gothic tone present in ‘The Abominable Bride’ is quite fantastic. Gothic is not horror, it’s about suspense and the uncanny, and specifically how that affects the psyche of characters. The idea of the dead rising again without the medical advancements of our modern times to explain it puts Sherlock and Watson in a curious and suspenseful position of unknowing – and this perfectly reflects Sherlock’s own rising from the dead in season 3 and plays with the possibility that James Moriarty (Andrew Scott) is still alive. The Gothic tone is not only in the Victorian Era setting but it transfers well into the modern day events of the special.

“I’m an army doctor, which means I could break every bone in your body while naming them.”

If you’re a fan of the “Sherlock” series, you will find that same precision in the writing and character creation within ‘The Abominable Bride’ as with the regular season. While I’m not sure if this special episode will be necessary viewing to understand the fourth season or if it was just fan service, it’s well done and the Gothic tone brings Sherlock Holmes back into the Victorian setting of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories. The small confusions in the plot is something that can be easily looked over because ‘The Abominable Bride’ is entertaining and will leave you with goosebumps.

My Rating: 8.5/10

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