“The Abominable Bride” was a Sherlock special that aired between Series 3 and Series 4. It is a true treat for those of us who were fans of the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories long before Benedict Cumberbatch donned the hat, as the bulk of this episode is set in Victorian London instead of the modern day.
As I watched “Bride,” I decided that I would still love the show if it were always this way. Part of my enjoyment of Sherlock so far has been, I’ll admit, seeing how the characters and situations are adapted for the modern world. It has proven to me that Sherlock Holmes is a character that could exist in any time. I’m sure there will be a program about Holmes in a far science-fiction future, if there isn’t already. But, seeing Holmes and Watson in their natural habitat, the 1800s, is a treat. And it’s what makes this special episode, well, special.
The central mystery that Victorian-era Holmes and Dr. Watson must solve involves Mrs. Ricoletti, a bride who commits suicide by shooting herself in the mouth and then returns from the dead to kill her husband. This part of the story sinks to quite gothic depths, and is a lot of fun. Holmes insists that there is no such thing as ghosts, but Watson doesn’t seem to be convinced. The effect of a ghostly woman in a white wedding dress is a creepy one.
The parallels between the bride’s suicide and Moriarty’s rooftop suicide are more than coincidental. Before the mystery can be solved, Moriarty himself shows up in the Victorian story. As it turns out, this entire episode has been taking place in Sherlock’s mind palace. He’s been chewing the bones of this old mystery to try to solve the current era mystery of how Moriarty has been able to “return” from the dead, his image appearing on all of those television screens in time to save him from exile. It turns out that Sherlock has overdosed on drugs, and is caught deep within his own mind palace. He solves the case of Mrs. Ricoletti, and then he tussles with Moriarty at Reichenbach Falls, as he did in the source material. In this case, he is saved from defeat at the hands of Moriarty by John H. Watson, of course. Or, his doppleganger in Holmes’s mind palace, at any rate.
When Sherlock is revived, still on the plane that carried him back to present-day London, he has solved the cold case mystery of the abominable bride, and has also come to the conclusion that Moriarty is indeed dead. He committed suicide, and you don’t come back from that. But, he adds cryptically, Moriarty has also come back.
When this special episode originally aired, viewers had to wait for another entire year before Series 4 began. That had to be frustrating. I’m happy to be starting Series 4 next week, but I will be sad when it’s over.