It was a lot of fun watching ‘Sherlock’ with a theater filled with devoted fans (who else would go see a TV special that just aired on PBS last Friday, will air again on Sunday, and will be available on DVD and Bluray Next Tuesday (January 12)) laughing at all the funny moments. The episode is very layered and detailed, so people can get more out of it on repeated viewings. ‘The Abominable Bride’ is even more meta (and in jokes that had an appeal that went beyond message board fans) than ‘The Empty Hearse.’
When I finished watching the special last Friday, my first thought was that it reminded me of the ‘Normal Again’ episode of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer.’ It was also a bit like the ‘Amy’s Choice’ episode of ‘Doctor Who’-but I think it had more similarities with
‘Normal Again.’ Explanation: in ‘Amy’s Choice’ both realities were dreams and she woke up from both of them. In both ‘Normal Again’ and ‘The Abominable Bride’ the final scenes with the protagonists are in the worlds outside of the normal “reality” of each show. Here’s a little summary of ‘Normal Again’: Buffy if given an injection (not entirely unlike the drugs Sherlock took before entering his Mind Palace) that causes her to have an illusion that she is in a metal hospital and that everything that has happened since she was activated as the Slayer was delusions. The doctors try to convince her to kill her friends in order to free herself. She ultimately decides that the hospital is the delusion and that she has to save her friends. The final scene is the doctor telling her parents that she is lost. Joss Whedon had stated that the episode showed that the entire series took place inside the head of a lunatic in Los Angeles-referring to himself.
Likewise, the entire series of ’Sherlock’ has taken place inside of the heads of two lunatics: Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat. ‘The Abominable Bride’ certainly leaves open which reality is true: the modern take viewers have enjoyed since 2010 or the traditional Victorian setting. Sherlock does go dangerously deep into his own mind palace, to ultimately be saved by the John in his own head (who is aware that he’s in a story at that point). Even after waking up and being ready to solve the Moriarty, the final scene of the episode was of Holmes and Watson, sitting by a Victorian fireplace and discussing the visions of the future rather that Sherlock and John in the 21st century setting. At one point, Holmes was even pulled back to the 19th century from Sherlock in the 21st century by Watson. Sherlock and the audience hears Watson’s voice while John isn’t saying anything. Ultimately, both settings are fiction.
The ‘Buffy’ connection in my own head, brought back the memory of why I started to love the show. It was the wonderful relationship between two characters (and their relationship with the supporting characters). It reminded me of Joss Whedon’s shows and the chemistry of the casts, particularly on ‘Angel’ (might have something to do with a detective in a long coat that is very much a part of his image) and ‘Firefly’. Molly Hooper reminded me of Willow and Fred (and a little bit of Kaylee). Like Willow and Fred, Molly starts out as the timid girl with a crush on the main character (or the main male in Willow’s case) who evolves into a source of strength rather than a romantic interest for that character. Mrs. Hudson and Lestrade are both certainly more fully developed than they have been in any previous incarnations. The same can be said for Mary. She is the woman with a past trying to seek redemption, not unlike Faith- or Shepherd Book on ‘Firefly.’
Of course, as always, at the heart of the show is fans generally love the most about it: the relationship between Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock and Martin Freeman’s John. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman just work better together than any other actors, in my opinion- and that includes the casts of Angel and Firefly.