Sherlock: The Abominable Bride
January 1, 2016 2:43 PM - Season 3, Episode 4 - Subscribe

We've been here before - but what if this wasn't the modern day but the late Victorian period? What if the world's most famous consulting detective and his best friend lived in a Baker Street of steam trains, hansom cabs, top hats and frock coats? Welcome to Sherlock in 1895!

Because this is a special I wasn't sure how to number it, so I chose to make it part of season 3.
posted by Pendragon (37 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
I liked the episode, especially the framing of the memory palace.
posted by Pendragon at 2:44 PM on January 1, 2016


I had a couple of thoughts:

1) The Victorian setting really emphasized how much of a dick Sherlock is compared to Sherlock Holmes.

2) The perfume thing was one of the stupidest things in His Last Vow, did we really need a callback to it?

3) Feminism is literally a conspiracy, complete with chanting and hats. Oh, Moffat.

4) Moriarty is dead, but he lives on in our hearts.

5) Lestrade ♥

Overall, I enjoyed it more than the rest of series 3 - it's fun and works well as a conclusion to the series.
posted by betweenthebars at 3:38 PM on January 1, 2016 [8 favorites]


It really showed me how much I've fallen out of love with Sherlock. Because I spent most of my time rolling my eyes over things that I'm sure I would've loved a couple of years ago.

It all just felt incredibly smug and self-satisfying. You could feel the smugness just oozing out of the dialogue, Moffat and Gatiss practically high-fiving themselves in every letter.

If this had been produced earlier in the storyline, I think it really could've been interesting. It would bring in Sherlock's addiction, it would've brought in the relationship between Mycroft and Sherlock, it would have ended the whole bloody Moriarty affair, which was just played out and boring as hell already...

But too much has passed. Too much time, too much higher quality TV, too much plot in the storyline. So now, instead, it's just a rehash of the same boring nonsense, and anything's that supposed to be interesting is just...there go my eyes again, rolling so hard.
posted by Katemonkey at 4:07 PM on January 1, 2016 [14 favorites]


Watching that was probably not the right time to Use Up All The Booze... 'Wait, what's happening now? Where are we?'
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:09 PM on January 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


One thing I don't understand is that everyone thinks the video of Moriarty is proof he's alive again. It's not like he had built a giant criminal network that would be fully capable of continuing his legacy or anything.
posted by ymgve at 6:40 PM on January 1, 2016 [5 favorites]


I really liked this episode, but then I'm a sucker for premises like "an overdosing genius writes fanfic in his head to solve a mystery and come to terms with his feelings". (I also loved Restless, for the record.)

The whole thing is just drenched in metaphor and full of subtle little codes and clues, as befits a show about a detective. The writers have said that this is a show about a detective, not a detective show, but I think that a lot of folks still expect the latter, and get disappointed by the weak central mysteries. I get that. Although, hey, this explanation was way better than planes full of dead people, or delayed action stabbing.

The only thing that really bothered me was the fat jokes at Mycroft's expense. I realize that it's Sherlock's mind palace, and Sherlock's a dick, but ugh. If I never hear another fat joke or see another fat suit it will still be too many.
posted by galaxy rise at 8:04 PM on January 1, 2016 [4 favorites]


So... This seems like a commentary on terrorism... but I don't get it.. and I'm not sure they do either.
Terrorists are just and we should let them win?
Women are the real terrorists?
posted by FallowKing at 8:55 PM on January 1, 2016


I'm not really sure how I felt about this special.

I liked that they dove into the drug use head first, and I also liked the fact that John was like, "don't you have needs/ever been with someone/aren't you lonely" because come on, how did they live together for years without John ever asking that damn question? Except that happened in the mind palace, so... yeah.

But I'm kind of afraid that, since this is a one off special, neither of those two plot points will ever get picked up again, which will kind of suck. In fact, because this was a one off special that mostly happened in Sherlock's head (or did it? who the hell knows any more), Moftiss will be able to drop anything they don't feel like dealing with later.

For example, looking at the drug use thing: In the interviews I've read/seen, Moffat and Gatiss always said that they didn't think Sherlock Holmes would ever truly be a drug addict because basically he's too smart for that. Which I think is BS and also contradicted by the things that actually happen in their show, even before this special.

So I don't know if this special is an indication that they've changed their mind on that, or if they'll just drop this and be like, "Oh well, he just OD'd this one time and ignore that whole thing about the list Mycroft is just overprotective" or whatever.

Maybe my feelings will crystallize a bit more on re-watch. Or maybe I'll just be more confused. Who knows.

Either way, I think I can't really judge this special fully until I see season 4, however long that will be, because a lot of this depends on whether they ever pick up these plot points again and if so, what do they do with them.
posted by litera scripta manet at 9:18 PM on January 1, 2016 [5 favorites]


Well, that was some Inception stuff I wasn't expecting. So, basically every single thing not taking place inside the airplane was in his mind (including digging up the body). Got it.

Plenty of delightful moments, but as a whole, really what was the point? What were we supposed to take away from it we haven't already sussed from earlier episodes?

Moriarty was the best part of the special, the way he plays off of Sherlock is always a delight.

Sadly, the relationship between Sherlock and John? Feels pretty empty right now, and has since since series two. It's like they stopped showing us the connection and now just feed us snark and back-and-forth insults. They don't seem to remotely even like each other.
posted by Windigo at 9:41 PM on January 1, 2016 [4 favorites]


The only thing that really bothered me was the fat jokes at Mycroft's expense. I realize that it's Sherlock's mind palace, and Sherlock's a dick, but ugh. If I never hear another fat joke or see another fat suit it will still be too many.

Not that I am a fan of fat jokes, but in the original stories Mycroft is described as obese. Since the mind palace is a supposedly faithful rendering (sometimes word for word) of the original stories, they may have felt they had to include that. It's still kind of crappy but it's also not, like, out of a clear blue sky.


So... This seems like a commentary on terrorism... but I don't get it.. and I'm not sure they do either.
Terrorists are just and we should let them win?
Women are the real terrorists?


Yeah that was a complete shitshow but I don't think it's about terrorism. Pretty sure it's just a big fat middle finger at all of the women who've called him on the carpet for shitty writing of female characters and plotlines. "Oh you want your TV feminism? Let me give you a literal army of murderous TV feminists and then have all my characters praise them backhandedly until you're embarrassed to even be a woman watching my shows anymore."

hmph.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:18 PM on January 1, 2016 [8 favorites]


I haven't watched this show for a long time. And in that time I started watching Doctor Who so I made a lot of Doctor Who jokes to myself ("You're not a soldier, you're a doctor." Moriarty and the Master, they both keep re-appearing mysteriously just to cause trouble and flirt. Watson asks questions and keeps the star out of trouble. This probably isn't original but I stay out of fandom as a rule. PS did this remind anyone else of Amy's Choice?) and liked it well enough. Until the incredibly unnecessary Feminist KKK Scooby Doo stuff that I was really pissed about. Then I was content that it was supposed to be ridiculous and Scooby Doo and the product of an unbalanced mind. Not super happy about it though.

Pretty sure it's just a big fat middle finger at all of the women who've called him on the carpet for shitty writing of female characters and plotlines.
Moffatt's not the showrunner we want, or the show runner we deserve. It's kind of maddening to be always tempted that there's going to be some good content and then it sucks in these little middling nagging ways. It's like someone invites you to a picnic and it's lovely but there's ants and mosquitoes just always around. Never enough to make you actually get up and go but they're always there. Same thing with Downton Abbey.

My fav joke I made with myself was this, did the remarks about the illustrator being "out of control" remind anyone else of this?

Speaking of Downton I watched a PBS marathon of season 5 all day today, during which they noted that there was a social hierarchy about what kind of hat you could wear depending on your social status. Is that why Holmes wore that weird hunting cap, to set him apart and outside of the social hierarchy.
posted by bleep at 10:30 PM on January 1, 2016 [2 favorites]


Sadly, the relationship between Sherlock and John? Feels pretty empty right now, and has since since series two. It's like they stopped showing us the connection and now just feed us snark and back-and-forth insults. They don't seem to remotely even like each other.

Thank you! Yes, that's a much more coherent summarizing of my feelings then I was able to get to. The John/Sherlock relationship was always the heart of the show for me, whether or not it was anything more than a very close friendship. But in this special, it just felt so flat and yeah, empty.

Interestingly, I felt like the Mycroft/Sherlock moments in this episode felt much warmer and meaningful then any of the John/Sherlock elements did. Of course, it also felt like this episode might be foreshadowing them killing off Mycroft which would be so terrible that it's probably exactly what they're going to do, since I'm starting to think Moftiss just wants to drive this show into the ground.

It really showed me how much I've fallen out of love with Sherlock.

Yes, I feel this way too. I used to love this show so, so much. But in this special, I just felt like there was nothing there. I don't even feel particularly inspired to re-watch this episode, although I'm sure I will. I'm also not even particularly pumped about a series 4, although obviously I'll watch that too.

I think I just realized that this is probably never going to be the show that I really want it to be, and that I thought it could be based on the first two series. Actually, I liked a lot of the series 3, but it sort of felt like we were heading in the wrong direction, and this special has only amplified that feeling.

Also, yeah, the feminism shit was so actively terrible I just can't even.
posted by litera scripta manet at 11:20 PM on January 1, 2016 [6 favorites]


If there is not an outtake of Gatiss surrounded by food saying, "Get me a bucket, I'm going to throw up," like Mr Creosote, I shall be sorely disappointed.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 11:46 PM on January 1, 2016 [9 favorites]


Interestingly, it seems like a lot of Johnlock shippers on tumblr are thrilled with this episode, so I guess I should pull out my slash goggles and give this one another watch. Maybe I'll like it better second time around.

To be fair, going in, I really 100% thought this was just going to be an unrelated Victorian one off, so I came into the episode with the mindset of, "This will be fun but it won't actually mean anything" so when it started to possibly meaning something, I wasn't really prepared.

I've been off in a different fandom lately, so maybe I haven't kept up with much recent Sherlock news, so maybe I missed something, but did Moftiss telegraph at all that this would in fact be tied in to the rest of the series? Because I'm pretty sure last I heard they were swearing up and down that this was a one off thing that wouldn't be tied in to the rest of the series.

Of course, I've basically gotten to the point of not believing anything Moftiss says, so it wouldn't really surprise me either way.
posted by litera scripta manet at 12:50 AM on January 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Okay, last thing I'll say:

If Season 4 ends up being all about Johnlock (and it doesn't have to be slash, but really centered on their relationship) more in line with season 1 and 2 which is what a lot of Johnlock shippers on tumblr seem to think is being foreshadowed, then I will be thrilled and I'll probably look a lot more kindly on this special.

But I wouldn't be surprised if Moftiss does a crazy 180 an pairs off Sherlock with [some female character either current or new]. Which would be total BS and probably enough for me to give up on this show, but I guess my expectations are pretty low.

Also, I think the weird, offensive feminism subplot would have been at least 50% less offensive if the "big reveal" didn't involve the KKK style outfits and the weird cabal meeting thing. They could have had them all be dressed up as brides, or wearing, I don't know...pretty much anything else. It wouldn't have solved all the problems, especially since apparently the abominable bride ruse was to allow the women to go kill men, but it would have made it somewhat more palatable.
posted by litera scripta manet at 1:11 AM on January 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


Whilst watching this episode, I had much the same reaction to the whole feminism thing as the rest of you, but after mulling it over a bit I think it might work as a metaphor Sherlock’s own internal dialogue with himself - You have to completely go with with the whole “this is all a dream / modern Sherlock’s recreation of the past and not reality” thing of course.

The link for me comes from reading David Graeber’s “Debt: the first 5,000 years” in which he writes about the way societies who based their economies on slave labour had a kind of societal guilt about the institution that expressed itself in (amongst other ways) bloody violence against the slightest hint of slave revolts out of the fear of what such a revolt would do to the slave-owning classes - in other words they feared the worst because they knew deep down that they deserved the worst. By the same argument, if we read the episode as taking part in Sherlock’s head & not representing anything real, then perhaps Moffat’s plot isn’t saying that feminism wants to kill all men, but rather that this is what men feared - that their subjugation of woman meant that they deserved this, even if no woman ever seriously plotted to kill their husbands for some inchoate feminist cause. Perhaps then the feminist plot in this episode really represents Sherlock’s own buried feelings about his treatment of the women in his life, from Hooper to Irene Adler on? Treating women badly seems to be a Sherlock trope & deep down he knows he deserves censure for it.

Or maybe it’s just Moffat being glib and superficial & I’m reading too much into the whole thing in the hope of redeeming it?

The episode is set a mere 13 years after the Married Women’s Property Act - enough time for society to have shifted further, but for there still to be plenty of men around who had been brought up in a world where they literally owned everything about their wives after all.
posted by pharm at 3:12 AM on January 2, 2016 [10 favorites]


Pharm, that's also how I see the whole Femicabal bit...
posted by Pendragon at 6:40 AM on January 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


I really wish they didn't do the whole drug-addled mind palace framing, and it was simply a one-off set wholly in 1895. My heart sank as soon as Mycroft said "virus in the data." Also, the mystery itself was very weak. Maybe if they had given more screen time the ghost bride's accomplices and victims and their stories and motives it could have been okay, but instead we get more and more Moriarty. I am so done with the Moriarty crap, and so ready for the series to get back to interesting, well-constructed, (mostly) self-contained whodunits.
posted by clorox at 4:02 PM on January 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


I think I just realized that this is probably never going to be the show that I really want it to be, and that I thought it could be based on the first two series. Actually, I liked a lot of the series 3, but it sort of felt like we were heading in the wrong direction, and this special has only amplified that feeling.

If you've been worried about the direction of the show since The Empty Hearse, you've only been worried for 4 episodes. In most other shows, that wouldn't be a big deal, but of course there's so little actual content to Sherlock. 10 episodes total, and only one - this special - between Feb 2014 and Jan 2017 (when series 4 is predicted to air, I think). Given that, I totally get how disappointed folks are with this episode. If you don't like the trippy framing, Moriarty, or Sherlock having emotions, it's a hell of a let down.

But I wouldn't be surprised if Moftiss does a crazy 180 an pairs off Sherlock with [some female character either current or new]. Which would be total BS and probably enough for me to give up on this show, but I guess my expectations are pretty low.

I really cannot see that happening. Whether Sherlock and John Watson will actually end up together is an open question. I've seen some pretty persuasive arguments for it - god bless fandom - but it's ambiguous. On the other hand, Sherlock is pretty clearly gay. ("Girlfriend? Not really my area." "The fairer sex is your department, Watson." The fact that the people who know him best such as Mrs. Hudson assume upon meeting John that he's Sherlock's boyfriend. "I wish you weren't... whatever it is you are." "I know." Etc etc.)

This characterization is strong enough, and queer representation in tv still paltry enough, that I think it would be actively offensive for them to stick him in a hetero relationship. And I can't see showrunner Gatiss, a gay man whose favorite adaptation of Sherlock Holmes has him in unrequited love with Watson, doing that. So I wouldn't worry about it.
posted by galaxy rise at 6:14 PM on January 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


File under "Half Baked Thoughts": Andrew Scott's Moriarty is very similar to Javier Bardem's Raoul Silva from Skyfall. Scott would make a great Bond villain.
posted by clorox at 7:53 PM on January 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Um. clorox, you may like to know that Andrew Scott is, in fact, in Spectre.
posted by prismatic7 at 2:21 AM on January 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


I am so done with the Moriarty crap, and so ready for the series to get back to interesting, well-constructed, (mostly) self-contained whodunits.

According to Mofftiss, it's a show about a detective, not a a detective show. I was slightly annoyed that they didn't bother to solve the mystery of who killed Ricoletti, but knew going in that there would be Moriarty, a speech about women, and costumes/sets left over from Doctor Who, so I adjusted my expectations and enjoyed it. I would prefer a clever show with a genius solving crimes instead of whatever Sherlock is now, but Mofftiss will Mofftiss.
posted by betweenthebars at 9:27 AM on January 3, 2016


I was slightly annoyed that they didn't bother to solve the mystery of who killed Ricoletti

They did, in the scene in the church with all the women in weird hooded outfits.
posted by galaxy rise at 2:47 PM on January 3, 2016


The Ricoletti murder is an actual unsolved murder in the 'real' timeline, the feminist conspiracy is part of the Mind Palace, as is the grave digging scene, which proves that theory wrong. The real killer is... Moriarty!

It would have felt more satisfying if the Mind Palace detective work had led to 'real' detective work, but the creators have repeatedly said that they're not interested in solving mysteries.
posted by betweenthebars at 4:13 PM on January 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


I like the show as it is. There isn't anything else much like it, apart from recent Dr Who, and I like that too. If everything on TV was like those two shows, perhaps I'd have a problem with it, but it's not. TV is full of solemn people solving crimes, and although 'bloke solves crimes' was the USP of Conan Doyle's stories, it's not as if there's likely to be any shortage soon so I don't mind if his characters have been appropriated for something else.
posted by Grangousier at 4:16 PM on January 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


The Ricoletti murder is an actual unsolved murder in the 'real' timeline, the feminist conspiracy is part of the Mind Palace, as is the grave digging scene, which proves that theory wrong. The real killer is... Moriarty!

Well... no. While the reveal in the church was a fantasy, there's no reason that Sherlock's solution couldn't be correct, but less involved (the bride would have needed only one co-conspirator at the morgue, rather than a massive one). This show is beginning to eat itself though, and it does frustrate me that they don't seem to get that there is a fundamental joy to providing a definitive solution. I'm all for ambiguity in many places, but it doesn't feel interesting when it comes to a detective story. A detective story is all about setting up a puzzle and asking you to solve it, and then presenting the solution. The most irritating thing about the whole "oh he could have survived lots of ways" is that while that's obviously true, it's much more satisfying to have an answer which actually works and to know that the writers intended this all along, rather than hand wavey "oh he probably just hired a massive cast of extras to fake his death all so he could fool precisely one person, Watson, and literally no-one else."
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:29 AM on January 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


I enjoy this show so much. It's like being strapped into a funhouse ride and jerked around in the dark while things pop out at you and before you have a chance to react, you're hurtling along the track to the next fright. I love all the asides, Mrs Hudson complaining that she doesn't have any dialog and then refusing to talk, Twins, it's never twins, having to grow a moustache, tweeds?, the illustrator and the interior decoration, the floating newspaper bits. I'm still not sure what happened so I get to watch it again, probably more than once which is great because not many shows require such attention to every corner of the screen. I don't really care about the mysteries, it's the clever writing and the gee-whiz-bang editing that keeps me on my toes. There's still pleeeeenty of mediocrity on tv that makes me appreciate series like Sherlock can get produced.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 12:32 AM on January 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


The part with the female cabal fascinated me because I thought it drew in interesting ways from two other Sherlock Holmes narratives, and I'm wondering if Moftiss did that on purpose.

The first was the movie "Young Sherlock Holmes," which revolved around a secret temple (more of an eternal-life cult than a feminism cult, although co-led by a woman); when I saw the scenes with Sherlock & co. peeking at the costumed "worshippers" in the cavelike temple I immediately thought of YSH (which also has a final pull-chestnuts-out-of-the-fire moment for Moriarty, if you watch the end credits all the way).

Even more connected, though--I'm a fan of Laurie R. King's Mary Russell novels (for those who don't know, Mary Russell is a young, English-born, American-raised and Oxford-educated Jewish theology student who, by the end of the second book in the series, marries Sherlock Holmes quite happily despite a whopping age difference). The second novel in that series is called "A Monstrous Regiment of Women" and I pricked up my ears when I heard that phrase in "The Abominable Bride." Its shadowy feminist cabal is a bit showier than the novel's "New Temple of God"--whose female leader preaches female empowerment--but I can't help but wonder if they're connected. I think I may need to reread this book (and probably watch the episode again) for comparative purposes.
posted by dlugoczaj at 2:35 PM on January 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


I really enjoyed it. I totally agree with TWinbrook8, it's like a fun and fast ride! Some of the banter had me cracking up.
posted by liquorice at 9:53 PM on January 4, 2016


I too believe Sherlock should be another procedural, there's always a terrible shortage of those on TV.
posted by fullerine at 10:59 PM on January 4, 2016


I too believe Sherlock should be another procedural, there's always a terrible shortage of those on TV.

I feel like the show can be what it is and still provide solutions to it's mysteries! It managed it for the first couple of seasons after all. I mostly liked the episode anyway, and actually think the army of feminism can be seen as Sherlock critisising himself: at this point in the narrative we know he's making it all up after all, and it's no co-incidence that as he thinks about women we flash to his abuses of the girl he was engaged to last season, and Hooper.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:05 AM on January 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


The image of the Monstrous Regiment of Women goes back a long, long way.
posted by pharm at 5:34 AM on January 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


We watched this episode while entertaining so I was always on the run to the kitchen to freshen plates and drinks. It's stored on the DVR so I can watch it again but there's a couple things that don't mesh up with His Last Vow. The last we saw, the plane had returned because Sherlock was needed by Mycroft to deal with Moriarty.

I don't recall there being time for Holmes to indulge in a cornucopia of drugs, let alone spend time in his mind palace trying to sort this all out. If Moriarty is still quite dead, then why did his image appear on all those TV screens? Why did Mycroft bring him back when it was clear Holmes had to be sent to a certain death in Eastern Europe? Did Mycroft fake the Moriarty videos to get his brother back?
posted by Ber at 6:53 AM on January 5, 2016


Nah, I think we're supposed to think that some shadowy figure/group is using Moriarty's image to strike fear into people.

Mycroft said Sherlock was already high before he got onto the plane (which has all the tumblr kiddies excited, as they're convinced his love for Watson is so powerful he had to say goodbye stoned to hide the pain, or something).

I just want a tighter plot that isn't quite so self-indulgent. They've only had ten episodes, it's a bit too soon to be so smug and self-referential.
posted by Windigo at 12:25 PM on January 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


Also, speaking of the tumblr fandom, this is the first episode where I saw zero romantic/flirty undertones. They barely seemed to shoulder each others' company up til the end, let alone be in secret love.
posted by Windigo at 12:26 PM on January 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty okay with a secret society of wives taking revenge upon their crappy husbands. They seriously could have found a much better mask to create a visual reveal for them. In my fantasy of Sherlock's fantasy he doesn't even tell the police who did it, and the women continue their revenge.

This episode was kind of a mess though. The mystery was thin by season 1-2 standards, and I think the relationships between characters are really rocky at the moment. That situation doesn't make for a very good one off story because it feels like a frustrating trek through a thin story. It's basically a long NCIS episode with better actors.
posted by lownote at 2:37 PM on January 5, 2016


Huh. Perhaps because I don't really know anything about Moffat, I didn't see the feminism angle as critical, but more of a revenge fantasy type thing. The feminists were in a conspiracy, and several characters pointed out that in this conspiracy the conspirators were the good guys, and those conspired against were the bad guys. Seeing the feminists as the bad guys would be like seeing Django as being the bad guy in Django Unchained.
posted by Bugbread at 6:58 AM on January 15, 2016


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