BBC Sherlock’s Christmas Special The Abominable Bride – Strange but Somewhat Endearing

After a two year hiatus, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss have finally put together a Christmas special so bizarre that it will make you laugh, cry, and confuse you all at once.

When it was announced that BBC Sherlock’s Christmas special would feature the detective and his blogger in Victorian times, I had my doubts. My first thought was, “Has Steven Moffat forgotten which show has time travel and which one doesn’t?”

To my surprise, Moffat created a masterpiece up to every last detail, from the recreation of the original 221B Baker Street, the quotes from the previous episodes, and the hilarious moments. It was strange seeing the characters in top hats and Victorian menswear, riding in buggies instead of taxies to 221B Baker Street, and one of the women in men’s clothing (literally). However, as much as I wanted to revert back to the original BBC Sherlock that I fell in love with, I actually enjoyed it. The episode was action-packed, and I got to see the boys back in business.

Holmes and Watson investigate the Gothic case of Emelia Ricoletti, a woman who committed suicide on her one-year wedding anniversary, came back from the dead, and shot her husband. The case in based on the one quote from the Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle:

“Here’s the record of the Tarleton murders and the case of Vambery, the wine merchant, and the adventure of the old Russian woman, and the singular affair of the aluminium crutch, as well as a full account of Ricoletti of the club foot and his abominable wife.”

Although the canon gives no other information about Ricoletti and the abominable bride, Moffat and Gatiss are able to mold the originals into an entirely new story of its own, using references from A Study in Scarlet, A Scandal in Bohemia, The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter, The Five Orange Pips, and many more canon stories.

Benedict Cumberbatch, who played the enigmatic Sherlock Holmes for the past three seasons, was particularly stolid as the Victorian-era Holmes. The Sherlock Holmes from the original series seemed human, but this one seemed too mechanical for my liking. Perhaps Moffat was trying to bring back the analytical Holmes of the canon stories, but I like the BBC version much better. I feel like BBC Sherlock really captured Holmes’ human heart–who he was inside:what he believed, whether he ever felt lonely or disappointed, and how he cared so much for John Watson.

I loved the other nineteenth century portrayals as well. I especially enjoyed John Watson’s sign language scene, Molly Hooper as a man, the adorable Mrs. Hudson, Lestrade with sideburns, and Mary Watson’s feminist remarks.

Despite the fabulous acting by Cumberbatch and the others, the true star of The Abominable Bride was Moriarty. Not only did his return show how haunted Sherlock really was by the fall, but Andrew Scott’s acting gave me chills. It was nice to get the Moriarty thrill we all secretly enjoy. Which segways us into…


When I talked to my friend about the new Sherlock, she looked at me very seriously and said, “The whole time, I was wondering, ‘What drugs is he on?’”

This episode is actually an entire twist of the ‘it’s a dream’ cliché, where the main character wakes up delusioned, surrounded by the ones who love him most. In this case, Sherlock injects himself with cocaine to enter a stimulated state and to investigate a case in his mind palace, where a woman committed suicide and raised herself from the dead. He wanted to find out how could Moriarty survive after shooting himself.

To find answers, Sherlock finds the grave of the actual Emelia Ricoletti, digs her up, and imagines that he is attacked by her rotting corpse (after all, he is still in a cocaine-induced state). Steven Moffat might have wanted to make this Gothic and horrific, but enough is enough when it comes to seeing a 150-year-old body, crawling with worms, on screen.

After that, the episode becomes confusing. It switches from the world in Sherlock’s drugged head to the present world, then back again, then back again. I saw this episode as a well-made interpretation of Inception, where every world exists inside of another one. Perhaps it was Steven Moffat warning us that a drugged world is a delusion where nothing makes sense at all.

However, I have learned by experience that understanding a Sherlock episode takes two or three rewatches. Moffat makes complex episodes with any number of sub-plots: I’ve already seen The Abominable Bride, but I know I’ll have to watch it again to try and catch any hidden clues.

End Spoiler

Ultimately, The Abominable Bride was a well-made episode, except for the chaotic ending. The acting was phenomenal, but I couldn’t get used to the more stoic Sherlock Holmes– I’m too attached to his character in the first three seasons. .

There are moments in this episode that made me tear up , and others when I wanted to throw popcorn at the screen.

If you have been a Sherlockian every step of the way, prepare for emotions and more confirmation of your favorite #otps. If this was your first time watching BBC Sherlock, watch the first three seasons first (suddenly it will make way more sense). Trust me, it’s an amazing journey you’ll want to take.

Sherlock’s encore showing is on PBS Masterpiece, Sunday, January 10 at 9:00 pm ET (6:00 pm PT).