“The stage is set…the curtain rises…we are ready to begin”
Sherlock returns to the Victorian era to his familiar place of dwelling, 221B Baker Street in this period special episode that I was so fortunate to be able to see on the big screen as well as being able to watch a “making-of” feature-length documentary afterwards starring Gatiss, Cumberbatch, Freeman as well as other members of the cast as well. Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) and the ‘always-never-being-noticed’ army veteran, Dr John Watson (Martin Freeman) find themselves in Victorian London in 1895 chasing after a phantom killer. A spectre, a vanishing dame or should I say ghost? To even contemplate their existence is ludicrous…or is it?
“I am an army doctor which means I can break every bone in your body whilst naming them”
Dr John Watson
We begin to believe that our killer is from the other realm. Our adversary being not from the land of the living. One could call her a corpse bride. It shows ghosts from the past. Sherlock must also fight his own ghosts to solve this case. This episode is like every other episode in the way that it has epic plot twists, great reveals and Sherlock showing off with his deductions. Let’s not forget to mention, Watson’s fatherly friend figure to Sherlock as well as putting him in his place when needed. It’s co-written by Mark Gatiss (Game Of Thrones) and Steven Moffat (Doctor Who) and the story is heavily inspired by a reference to the case of Ricoletti of the club foot and his much murderous wife in author, Arthur Conan Doyle’s story titled ‘The Adventure Of The Musgrave Ritual’.
This episode is one of the best episodes to date. It’s elevated up my list to number two, falling short behind A Scandal In Belgravia where Irene Adler AKA The Woman (Lara Pulver) runs rings around Sherlock and Watson. This episode is a throwback to the 1960s with the horror movies that were being churned out of Hammer Horror studios at the time with great examples of slapstick humor…Dr Watson, not corny but very amusing witty one liners. “What the devil are you doing here?” is something you’d only here in a period drama. The content of the writing has something to do with it but it’s more how it said and that’s down to the masterclass acting prowess of Martin Freeman. Alas, the devil’s a foot and the chase is on. Sherlock dug deep into his mind palace in this episode whilst on cocaine and we see a story within a story inside his mind, his final confrontation with Professor Jim Moriarty (Andrew Scott). Scott delivers another first class performance as Holmes’ arch nemesis, the Prince Of Crime, miss me?
This episode explores Sherlock even more than any other. It humanizes his character and shows how mortal he is, despite his reservations on this. He knows he’s in deep and he knows not how to shake off this feeling he has. This is his most devastating case and everyone knows it. He’s having feelings. Sherlock having feelings? Never. He’s feeling doubt and that’s a rarity. He has a phobia of the impossible, things that can’t be seen by him, as we saw in The Hound Of The Baskervilles with the great hound which was also very gothic horror. It highlights his true flaws, his humanity and this terrifies him.
It’s set in the late 19th century where women are commodity items to bear children and are only homemakers. Out of this, rose the Women’s Suffrage hence the suffragettes and the suffragists. Mrs Hudson get irritated when she reads Watson’s cases and she is only a breakfast-maker and an usher. She vents her rage to Watson by saying “I am your landlady, not your plot device”. This is the beginning of votes for women and this feminist theme comes to play a vital role into Holmes’ final deduction in the last scenes of the episode. Lestrade (Rupert Graves) also stars as the useless detective inspector as well as the highly irritating Anderson (Jonathan Aris) and Molly Hooper (Louise Brealey) with the return of the very fat and porky Mycroft Holmes (Mark Gatiss).
I found the episode has been getting a lot disdain. People are holding to the purely detective side of Sherlock rather than the this flawed character who is conflicted inside. He appears cold and emotionless yet in reality he is just as human as the best of us. He sees love as a disadvantage. Who can blame him really? In a lot crimes, loved ones get taken to exert an outcome? The show runners, Moffat and Gatiss have proclaimed on multiple occasions that the show is not about crime-solving, it’s about the friendship and bond between Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. That’s what this episode is about, more so than fighting phantom damsels.
The narrow-minded viewers and show casuals would find this episode difficult to watch and the entirety of season three for that matter. It was scripted by two of television’s biggest geeks and Sherlock fanatics, one also writes for Doctor Who and the other has a role in HBO’s Game Of Thrones. They don’t want to give us, as an audience easy pickings. They want us to question, to reason and to argue as Sherlock does with each case. They want us to think and to challenge and their geekery is shown in every episode as there are easter eggs from Conan Doyle’s life and his stories in and around the set. If you want an easy show to watch, watch something like Arrow.
Great performances from Benedict Cumberbatch (Black Mass) and Martin Freeman (The Hobbit) against the backdrop of an eerie, Victorian, gothic London…at Christmas with reanimated dead bodies. It’s very Doctor Who, don’t you think? Sherlock is intelligent, witty, sadistically amusing and after all he is intelligent sociopath. Sherlock is Sherlock. Freeman as Watson is a traditional man back in those times. A great example when he is shocked when his wife Mary (Amanda Abbington) isn’t doing womanly things, but instead is working their case with them without his permission.
It’s a shame we probably won’t get another season of Sherlock for another century since both actors are both big in Hollywood now having signed contracts with Marvel.