Oh, how nice to have Mr Holmes and Mr Watson back! The hour and a half special brings back our two favorite detectives, but in 1895 London, as opposed to the usual contemporary setting. After a bride kills herself on her own wedding anniversary, her ghost goes on a killing spree around London. Holmes and Watson are on the case, while the former works out a parallel case in his head. Watson and Mary do their usual marriage troubles dance along the way as well.
Except for the the time period, it’s the same basic show we all know and love. The opening credits, our characters’ backstories, and more are all familiar, yet with its original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle spin. (I truly enjoyed the Mycroft surprise.) It’s a fun change of pace for the show in a rare appearance.
All of the actors are back in their roles or at least their Victorian England counterparts, male or female or swapped. The episode keeps the same quirks as the previous seasons: the on screen text, flashback set pieces, and unique transitions. Of course, it’s all just the cherry on the Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch chemistry sundae. I much prefer their Sherlock and John over Smaug and Bilbo. They’re still as sharp as ever, clearly having a great time having slipped back into these comfortable characters. Their banter, camaraderie, and working relationship is all on point, as is the writing for most of the episode. It flows nicely with the main mystery over shadowing any of the smaller plots for most of the running time. Beautifully shot, the episode’s style stays true to the previous iterations in this BBC series.
Thematically, the episode deals with ghosts and how the past affects our present. Everything that has happened throughout the run of the show still exists in this timeline, so our favorite characters are still dealing with their same demons. Moriarty, drug abuse, and Irene Adler all come back into play, some more than others. And then the twist that could have been called from a mile away happens, but it’s still pretty rewarding.
*SPOILERS FROM HERE ON OUT. SKIP TO THE LAST PARAGRAPH TO AVOID THEM.*
Again, spoilers. Okay. You good? Great. So, the 19th century sequences are actually Holmes in his mind palace while on the plane at the end of the series 3 finale. He’s attempting to solve how Moriarty can be back, but by understanding the centuries old mystery of the bride. (Of which the answer is a little lame.) Once we’re back in Victorian England, Holmes gets a telegram from Mary conveniently leading him and Watson to the church of pissed off wives. Holmes easily solves the case, which in another episode would seem pretty dull, but here, since it’s in his mind palace and we’re now engaged in the Moriarty storyline, it’s forgivable.
The final ten minutes are extremely entertaining, if not a little convoluted. The idea that Moriarty is so in Holmes’ head that he infects every dark corner of his mind palace is interesting. The writers explore it nicely, if not unevenly. It’s always an added bonus when Andrew Scott gets to reprise the role of the crazed professor, Moriarty. However, what I found the most fulfilling is how Sherlock allows Watson to help him. Holmes may be the same arrogant, narcissistic sleuth, but his acceptance of Watson’s help in this dire situation is a rewarding character development. Of course Watson is always there to help, but Holmes calling upon him in his own mind’s eye was pretty sweet. Additionally, the episode ended on a fun note, blurring the lines between which time period is reality and which is the mind palace. Essentially it doesn’t matter because he’s a man of many times, but it answered my biggest pet peeve of the entire episode: How does Sherlock of the 19th century know what a jet is and why didn’t Watson question the word/ concept earlier?
*END OF SPOILERS*
It’s not my favorite of the Sherlock episodes, but I had a great time delving back into this world regardless. The first two acts are a little stronger than the third and Holmes doesn’t really do any detective work, per se. Everything is handed to him, which may or may not be the point, but things are a little too easy and clear cut. It’s heavily reliant on his drug use than any other season and the twist almost cheapens the whole experiences, even though it ties a lot together. All of the smaller plot lines are lost along the way, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as they didn’t have a strong introduction. However, these characters, the chemistry between actors, and witty writing are always welcome, even if they come in fits and stops. I will wait for however long it takes Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss to get the gang back together, as there are still mysteries afoot.
Keep on Watchin’!