Sherlock: The Abominable Bride

01/01/16

The recent small-screen success of the BBC television series, Sherlock has prompted its creators to try something a little different this time around; after successfully updating the concept, they’ve decided to present a standalone episode as a period piece and moreover, to simultaneously release The Abominable Bride in cinemas across the UK in a series of exclusive one-off screenings; all things, no doubt designed to generate excitement in the hearts and minds of its huge army of ardent followers.

The problem is, of course, we’re not quite sure how this switch in time has been achieved – (is it the result of one of Sherlock’s cocaine-adulterated dreams? Or are we simply inhabiting one of the scenarios dreamed up by Doctor Watson in his role as an author of detective fiction?) The fact that we’re never really sure is one of the blades that fatally stabs this enterprise, even as it sprints merrily out of the starting gate, but infinitely more worrying is the ensuing surfeit of intolerable smugness that seems to drip from every sly in-joke and ‘clever’ character interplay we’re presented with. Authors Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss seem to be hovering in the background, proudly announcing how very arch they’ve been with Conan Doyle’s legacy, but I have to confess that after careful viewing and much consideration, I’m still really not sure what was supposed to be happening in the story and can’t help feeling that the writers have been rather less clever than they suppose.

Anyway, the plot revolves around the case of Emilia Ricoletti (Emily O’ Keefe) dressed in a bridal gown, who appears in a public place, indiscriminately firing pistols at passers-by before committing an apparent suicide; only to reappear shortly afterwards, complete with a large hole in her head, to murder her husband. She then promptly disappears. Baffling? Well, yes. Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Watson (Martin Freeman), go gamely into detection mode, but the eventual solution for the murder is so risible, it’s hard to believe that the authors thought it would pass muster as anything more than a joke. Blaming it on the Suffragettes? Oh, please… A late appearance by Professor Moriaty (Andrew Scott) at the Reichenbach Falls, has been crowbarred into the story with a total absence of subtlety, which just about puts the deerstalker hat on it.

Of course, Sherlock fans are usually a notoriously loyal regiment, so it must be extremely worrying for Moffat and Gatiss, that amidst the onslaught of social media pronouncements, posted shortly after transmission, only a very few scribes have arisen to defend this debacle and the ones that have, seem to be channelling a definite whiff of the Emperor’s New Clothes (take a bow Lucy Mangan of the Guardian). I’ll admit, I haven’t been a massive fan of the series before now, but this ‘event’ has pretty much put me off investigating further instalments. I’d have loved to have finished this review with the word ‘elementary,’ but sadly, that’s a quality that was missing here.

2 stars

Philip Caveney

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