Exploring the art of storytelling.
“The Abominable Bride” was an episode of “Sherlock” unlike any other. It was a Christmas special set in the Victorian Era.
Setting the Scene
The crew did an amazing job at setting the time period. Everything took a step back in time: the costumes, the hair and makeup, the set. Sherlock’s apartment was set up the usual way, but it had a Victorian twist. The wallpaper and furniture were representative of the time. The actors even altered their accents to reflect the dialect of the time.
An Homage to the Series
Throughout “The Abominable Bride,” there were commentaries on the series as a whole.
The beginning of “The Abominable Bride” was like deja vu. We watched John Watson stir in his sleep, suffering from the symptoms of PTSD. He had just moved home to London after fighting in Afghanistan. He was looking for a roommate, and an old friend of his just happened to know someone in need of a roommate. Next, we saw Sherlock whipping a corpse in the morgue. This opening to “The Abominable Bride” was almost a word for word copy of the beginning of the very first episode, “A Study in Pink.”
Mycroft is a wealthy politician. In Victorian times, the wealthy could afford more food and were usually overweight. This was reflected in Mycroft’s appearance in “The Abominable Bride.” This was an interesting contrast because in past episodes, it has been noted that Mycroft diets.
Mrs. Hudson complained that she was never given any lines in Watson’s stories. She argued that she was much more involved than Watson gave her credit. In fact, she was so bitter about this that she refused to talk during the start of the episode.
Sherlock referred to “The Hounds of Baskerville” case as “the dog one.” Which to be honest, almost everyone I talk to refers to it as “the dog one” as well. The writers of “Sherlock” are always in tune with what their fans are thinking.
When Lestrade described the abominable bride to Sherlock, the group took a step inside the crime scene, literally. Whenever Sherlock interrupted Lestrade to ask a question or make a comment about the case, the crime scene would freeze. The apartment would appear in the thick of the scene. This was a very unique directing approach. It captivated my attention.
We had a bit of an inception moment when Sherlock went into his brain palace in his brain palace. In Victorian times, Sherlock sat on the floor of his apartment crosslegged with his eyes closed. Newspaper clippings were scattered on the floor around him. In Sherlock’s mind, these newspaper clippings floated in thin air as he shuffled between them. It allowed us to better understand Sherlock’s thought process.
There were a lot of untraditional transitions between scenes in “The Abominable Bride.” Several of these involved one scene literally spinning into another. One example was the night Sherlock and Watson did a stake out outside the Carmichael’s estate. To show the progress in time from day to night, we were shown a shot of the estate. As the scene darkened, the image spun. Personally, I found this type of transitioning to be a bit dizzying. I also couldn’t figure out the specific reasoning for this type of transition other than for special effect.
Moriarty is one of the most sinister villains I have ever seen on TV. Andrew Scott (Moriarty) does a fantastic job portraying someone who is not only disturbed, but extremely manipulative. His facial expressions and mumbled dialogue were as creepy as ever. Scott plays the sociopath perfectly.
The writing in “Sherlock” is always impressive, especially in “The Abominable Bride.”
In “The Abominable Bride,” Sherlock and Watson had to deal with accusations of a deceased woman murdering men. Watson was convinced that ghosts could actually exist, but Sherlock was insistent that the supernatural isn’t scientifically plausible. Rooted in science, Sherlock knew there was a logical explanation to this corpse bride. A lot of this episode was spent defining “ghosts.” In one particular scene, Sherlock said how everyone has ghosts- that they’re shadows of people’s pasts. This was a very interest concept and commentary on how the past can haunt people.
Along with this, “The Abominable Bride” was filled with some great, memorable lines. One great line was when Watson first met Sherlock. He corrected Sherlock on his occupation, saying, “An army doctor, which means I can break every bone in your body while naming them.”
My favorite line in “The Abominable Bride” was when Moriarty said, “Because, it’s not the fall that kills you, Sherlock. Of all people, you should know that. It’s not the fall. It’s never the fall. It’s the landing.” This is such an interesting metaphor. What made this line even more significant was that it was the lead in to present day. As soon as Moriarty spoke these words, the plane that Sherlock was on landed back on the ground in London. This was a huge surprise.
The Big Twist
When news first broke about Sherlock’s Victorian Christmas special, I wondered if the episode would be connected to the rest of the series at all. In fact, “The Abominable Bride” works in the chronology of the whole “Sherlock” series. The Victorian era was Sherlock’s mind palace. It was like a parallel universe. I definitely wasn’t expecting the flash forward to present time. “The Abominable Bride” is a much more significant episode than I expected it to be.
Watching the episode a second time, there were a few hints to that flash forward surprise bombshell. There were several slips of the tongue in which Sherlock would refer to present day. “I have to visit an old case,” he said towards the beginning of the episode. Watson questioned Sherlock because it seemed out of context. While in the morgue after seeing the bride’s corpse, the duo saw the word “you” written on the wall in blood. “How could he survive?” Sherlock asked. Watson corrected him saying “she.” It was only until later that we realize he is referring to Moriarty in this moment.
So what happens next? Sherlock insists that Moriarty is still dead, but he is back. What does that mean? What did Sherlock learn from investigating the case of the abominable bride? We have another year or so to surmise until next season…