The very first thing I want to acknowledge is the title of this blog. As some of you may not know, the TV show House is actually based on Sherlock Holmes. You could argue that it was the very first Holmes modernization. Watson becomes Wilson. Holmes becomes House. He’s still an anti-social, drug-addicted, crotchety bastard. Not much has changed. One of my favorite bits from the New Year’s Special, The Abominable Bride, was the scene where Sherlock and John are standing in the morgue and Watson reaches the conclusion that the bride could be a twin. Sherlock exclaims, “It is NEVER twins.” I couldn’t help but harken to the common refrain from House, “It’s never Lupus.” As a result, I was possibly the only one in the theater (my second viewing) that giggled at this particular scene. No matter what incarnation of Mr. Holmes we get, no matter the time period, he can still be quite consistent.
So! Onto The Abominable Bride. I want everyone to keep in mind, this episode makes SO much more sense the second go-around. The first time you see it, you have to wrap your brain around the costuming, John’s mustache, Sherlock’s super-speedy dialogue, the amazing sets (and how they’ve changed them for the time period), the frankly beautiful cinematography, and on top of ALL that, you have to follow along with the convoluted story line of a ghost who’s not a ghost.
By the second time you watch it, you have already accepted John’s mustache, you already know who the murderer is and how it was committed, you have already marveled at the beauty of Victorian London. Going in with this knowledge allows you to focus in on what’s dream vs. reality. You can fully concentrate on the fact that about 90% of the episode is a fabrication of Sherlock’s drugged-up mind. Once you make that your sole focus, you will watch with different eyes. You’ll also notice several things that you probably missed the first time around.
For the majority of Sherlock history, all incarnations of Holmes stories are told through the eyes of his bumbling partner, John Watson. Whether he’s writing his blog or composing stories for The Strand, the local newspaper at the time, it’ll always be known that the narrator of the Sherlock stories is Dr. John Watson. Now I can’t speak to other incarnations of the story, but this is the first time in BBC Sherlock’s history that the story is told by Sherlock instead of John. Not only that, but the story is told through the lens of Sherlock’s Mind Palace, which I like to think represents his subconscious. Finally, we get insight into Sherlock’s inner workings. Finally, we get insight into what Sherlock actually feels about his surroundings.
For the sake of ease, I will refer to Sherlock while he’s in his Mind Palace (arguably 90% of the episode) as “Dreaming” even though he’s not asleep—he’s just as high as a kite. However, for even more ease, I’m not going to constantly remind you that he’s “dreaming.” You should just remember that he is, it’s all in his head, and if I’m talking about one of those 10% moments where’s he’s actually cognizant and it’s happening in real time, I’ll mention that he’s “Awake.” Capiche?
How he Views Mrs. Hudson
- Though the way he treats Mrs. Hudson fluctuates depending on the season you watch, you cannot deny that somewhere in the depths of his mind, he regards and values her deeply. Whereas others may write her off (in John’s case, literally,) he works to bring her to the forefront of any small story where she takes a part.
- In this episode he freely admits that without Mrs. Hudson around, he would starve.
- “I fear she has branched into literary criticism by mean of satire. It is a distressing trend in the modern landlady.” I’m not sorry at all; this quote was quite possibly my favorite from the entire episode. From a narrative standpoint, it truly had me giggling.
When Sherlock falsely “wakes up” and both you (and he) believe he is awake (when he’s digging up Emilia’s grave) you get a real good glimpse of How he Views Mary.
- While they are on the plane, Sherlock is spouting off about Emilia. Mycroft scoffs and brushes him off. It’s old information; it would take forever to find in the files hidden somewhere in MI5. Mycroft continually cites the law (and inconvenience) as the reason he can’t look up the information. Mary immediately hacks MI5 with her phone.
- Between the three people on the plane with him, Mary is the one who believes him…John doesn’t even have significant dialogue in this scene.
- Mary takes Mycroft’s usual place as the useful informant.
- Side-tangent: I honestly believe that Sherlock doesn’t know what to make of Mary after she shot him. The entire shooting threw him off his game, in that he didn’t think it conceivable of her. Because she’s the second woman to pull the wool over his eyes, I feel like that’s why he presents her as this bad-ass hacker that’s cutting all the corners and getting the in before Mycroft. I doubt Mary is that much of a badass in real life, but it seems to be how Sherlock perceives her.
How Sherlock Views John
- Before we begin, I am SO glad that I now know how to sign in British Sign Language, “I am glad you liked my potato.” This episode was chock-full of useful information that everyone needs to know. 🙂
- Several times throughout the episode, Sherlock claims that John is always right and Sherlock owns up to his mistakes. Sherlock typically doesn’t like to admit this out loud, because he’s a genius, dotchaknow. On the flip side, he throws both himself and John under the bus for the botched case within the episode. Yay for equal opportunity throwing.
- In the dream (particularly when he’s digging up Emilia’s grave), John draws the line. John LEAVES. Now, he might not have been leaving for good, but you can be certain that Sherlock considers John walking away (symbolically…with his wife…) as abandonment. I’m choosing to believe this shows that Sherlock unconsciously knows that if he returns to the drugs, John is gone.
- In the dream, we re-hear the line about John being a soldier as well as a doctor. Clearly that left an impression on Sherlock. “I’m an army doctor, which means I could break every bone in your body while naming them.” That bit was excellently delivered.
- Sherlock also 100% believes that Mary calls the shots in that relationship.
- “I’m taking Mary home.”
“Mary’s taking me home.”
- “I’m taking Mary home.”
- When all is said and done, Sherlock knows that John will be there for him. Whether real or fake, dreaming or awake, John has his back.
- He also freely admits that it was John’s turn to take a shot at Moriarty…meaning he has acknowledged that John was owed that shot…and then he gives John the opportunity to knock his ass out. I choose to interpret this as Sherlock acknowledging that he messed up during the Moriarty situation the first time. This was his attempt to make amends. In his mind. Where it doesn’t really count. But he’s trying!
- And finally, the most frustrating part of all. When Sherlock receives the telegram from Mary and convinces John to come with him, they’re in a carriage in the countryside. John and Sherlock get into one of their arguments. (I believe the conversation starts with something like, “How else would we fill the time were you not there to ask questions, Watson!”) Remember the scene yet?
- Though this scene takes place in the Victorian-era Mind Palace and John has his serious mustache going on, there is one line of dialogue where he must say something that is so futuristic!John that for a split second, Modern Mustacheless John makes an appearance. Literally mid-scene, John’s wardrobe changes and his mustache is gone. Sherlock responds to the quip and John’s costume is immediately back to rights…as is his mustache, unfortunately. It really irks me that I don’t remember exactly what he’s saying when he slips between era’s, I’d have to watch it again, but I’m certain that’s relevant beyond mere costuming.
How Sherlock Views Himself
- At one point in the dream John calls him an unprincipled drug addict. However, and this is where the lines start to blur, because it’s Dream!John, that makes it Sherlock’s version of John. So does that mean that Sherlock thinks John thinks he’s an unprincipled drug addict? Don’t think too long on it. It’ll start to hurt your head.
- At some point later in the episode, Sherlock spits out that he’s “not an addict, but a user.” I can’t recall if he said that when he was still in his Mind Palace on the plane or if it was after he woke up on the plane… either way, he seems to be actively taking drugs again. This makes my heart hurt. Make it stop. 😦
- Or is he? Remember, he tears up the list. I distinctly recall Sherlock saying, “Enough of this, I don’t need it.” Does that mean he didn’t take it? I’d have to watch this scene again to grasp what was going on between Sherlock and Mycroft. We never actually see the list. Maybe this is one of those occasions where we won’t know what actually happened until 2017 when the show returns for season 4.
- Sherlock’s subconscious is self-aware of the fact that John makes him more socially acceptable. He’s even amenable to changing his ways when he and John are faced with a client. Sherlock immediately corrects himself when John hastens to make him more appropriate. I choose to interpret this as Sherlock knowing that sometimes he’s out of line, but he trusts John to be there and watch his left so that he doesn’t get hurt by someone who takes him at face value.
- At least three times throughout the episode (by several varying characters) Mycroft is referred to as the cleverer brother. This also generally happens in the dream. I’m not saying this is a complex, but this is totally Sherlock with a complex. Or maybe it’s just younger brother syndrome… And speaking of Mycroft…!
Brotherly Feels – SO MANY
- I’ll preface this bit by fangirling for a second. I am a huge proponent of Sherlock and Mycroft actually liking each other. There’s a very small portion of the fandom that thinks their adversity is all a ruse to protect each other and that, in reality, they are extremely close. (No really, if you want some really good examples, I could link you to the perfect fanfictions. They’re short and lovely. =D ) Now, I don’t want you to argue with me. You can disagree if you so choose. But I prefer to live in a happy-go-lucky bubble-world where all is well and they’re secretly best friends. Because of that, I LOVED certain bits of this episode, particularly the bits where Sherlock and Mycroft were together (whether in the dream-world or awake.)
- Throughout the series, Sherlock has poked fun at Mycroft for being overweight at some point in his history. That is actually Sir Arthur Conan Doyle canon. (Canon: Another word for official. Used quite often in fanfiction to differentiate between the official storyline and whatever the fanfiction author has made up). So throughout Holmes lore, you get Mycroft being fat. We finally get to see a visual of how Sherlock imagines his brother when he brings up Mycroft’s weight. This could be construed as comic relief (I choose to see it as brotherly concern…but whatever!) but you could also read into it a bit further. Look at the bit where Sherlock actually believes Mycroft gambles with his life. Clearly, in Sherlock’s mind, he brings this up a lot. The two banter back and forth, they refer to Mycroft’s weight and his gambling with his life as if they’ve spoken about it at length. It’s old hat, if you will. Even though in this instance it manifests itself in taunting and demeaning in the direction towards death, it still shows a certain level of caring. If Sherlock didn’t truly care, it wouldn’t have made an appearance in the dream.
- This episode seems to be the first time Mycroft is genuinely concerned for Sherlock.
- Now, I could totally be reading into this, but the sheer fact that Mycroft set a pact with Sherlock years ago when the drugs STARTED really resonates as someone who understands there’s nothing he can do to stop the drug use, so he adapts instead.
- Meanwhile, on the flip side, no matter how many sneer comments are tossed back and forth, no matter how many times they claim not to care about the other, Sherlock STILL MAKES HIS LIST and honors the pact he made with Mycroft.
- In his heart of hearts (or would it be in the very depths of his mind) he still relies on Mycroft to save his ass.
- Who then turns to John for help. Talk about trust.
Finally, completely irrelevant to the majority of my readers, but those who have sunk into the depths of the Sherlock fandom will understand my unequivocal glee when I squee a moment about Mystrade and claim, “GUYS!!! Mycroft and Lestrade finally SHARED A SCENE.” Even if it was in Sherlock’s head. I ship it.
All in all, I thought it was a solid episode. My recommendation is that you definitely watch it once again if the first time was overwhelming. There are a few select individuals who thought it was a tad fan-servicing. To that I say,
- And why shouldn’t it be? We get one episode every two years. They owe us.
- It wasn’t nearly as fan-servicey as the entirety of season three…so it could have been worse.
I enjoyed it. I hope you enjoyed it. Is what I’m saying making sense? Is it crazy-talk? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.