What can I say about the “Sherlock” Christmas special, “The Abominable Bride?” Extremely little, for fear of spoilers.
I will say that I loved it — I’d rate it a perfect 10, as I would just about any episode of this amazing TV show. Also, as good as the trailer was … I can say that it offers much more in its story than you’d expect.
I’d also say that it strongly, strongly parallels a movie that I happen to love — right down to its surprise plot device, key character interactions, and a symbolic act by the main protagonist in the climactic scene. The similarities are just too much for this to be a coincidence — it’s just got to be a well done (and a damn fun) homage. It’s unexpected, too, as the film I’m thinking off probably appeals to a different fan base. “The Abominable Bride” also cheerfully skewers another excellent recent film and the twist employed there. [My blog posts link automatically to Facebook. If you see this via my page, then PLEASE do not name the movies you think I’m talking about.]
There’s some terrific acting, especially between Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) and our main villain. And the dialogue is as sly and superbly delivered as always. I don’t think I’ve ever watched a new episode of “Sherlock” and not laughed out loud at least once. The stronger, more assertive John Watson (Martin Freeman) that we see is damn terrific. (There’s a compelling and sensible reason why this iteration of Watson seems a little different than our usual mild anti-hero, but I just can’t say why.)
My quibbles were wholly forgivable. I thought that the Victorian versions of Molly Hooper (Louise Brealey) and Mycroft Holmes (Mark Gatiss) were just so cartoonish that they seemed right out of a “Saturday Night Live” sketch. It “took me out of the movie,” and hampered my willing suspension of disbelief. It felt more like farce and silly sight-gags, instead of the dry, dialogue- and character-driven humor that the show is known for.
I also though that the climactic scene occurring among three primary characters, felt a little … off. Was it just not staged right? Was the pacing off? Maybe I got the sense that I was looking at a soundstage? I’m not sure.
Finally, I am an inveterate horror movie fan, and I might have liked to have seen the director and screenwriters play up the horror story elements just a little bit more here. The mystery for this episode was a jewel of an opportunity — a garish, fearsome “ghost bride” that assassinates men. It could have been just a little scarier, given that story. I know that “Sherlock” is not a horror show, but its creators did just fine in making their adaptation of “The Hound of the Baskervilles” both a bit frightening and a proper mystery.
But, again, those are just forgivable quibbles. This show remains the best thing on television!
[Update: there’s a direct reference to “The Five Orange Pips,” but we see little parallel with the story shown.]