"I am now about to summarize" [ENGR]
Just as Friday, January 1 was a day like no other for Sherlock fans, today was a day like no other for I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere readers. With no fewer than five reviews from our team, our "correspondence certainly has the charm of variety," [NOBL] and was fairly balanced in its take on ABOM. But the thing that struck us about our reviewers is that, love it or hate it, they all found something positive about the episode or about what transpired afterward.
And for our money, that means that the program was successful.
I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere Reviews of The Abominable BrideGordon Dymowski fired the first warning shot across the bow with a scathing review, wondering "can it be that bad?" Find out just how bad in The Abominable Bride Lived Up to Its Name.
But first-time contributor Rachel Grosch took a different tone, as she found some Fun in Challenging the Past, looking at the friendship of Holmes and Watson and how it was portrayed in the alternative setting.
Then Derrick Belanger's personality split in two and managed to come down on both sides of the argument as Purist Derrick faced off against Fan Derrick in A Review of Two Minds. Both are formidable opponents. Who will win?
And Margaret McMahon looked at the what worked well and what failed miserably, coming up with a mixed bag. The flashbacks (and flashfowards) threw her off a bit, almost like The Wizard of Oz, but she definitely knew We Weren't in Baker Street Any More.
Finally, Anastasia Klimchynskaya made a very deep dive into the intertwining aspects of the Victorian and modern story lines, concluding that the self-referential aspects of ABOM were not only intentional, but were required in Meta, Meta, Meta.
Opinions Across the WebWe'll weigh in with our own editorial opinion below, but first we wanted to bring you some nuggets of what's been happening around the Web. As you can imagine (or perhaps as you've seen yourself), emotions have been running high following this particular episode. Opinions came down strongly on one side or the other, with very few expressing no feeling at all. As with any strong design or work of art, it is meant to evoke emotion. Some may love it, others may hate it, but few express apathy.
The Verge took issue with Sherlock's brain, claiming that he is the worst kind of superhero, giving us the view of everything through his eyes, "and the result is a warped world that’s more frustrating in its unlikelihood than usual." They even went so far as to say that the "present-day Sherlock is an anti-hero...the dream Victorian Sherlock is just obnoxious." With regard to the suffragette movement, they claim that it "feels more like bait for Tumblr fans than the seeds of a lasting change," although we'd have a hard time seeing Mrs. Hudson playing a more significant role in the series, quite frankly.
Den of Geek thought the story "detonated itself " so that "[b]its of story went everywhere, timelines were blown apart and the resulting smoking crater was filled with shards of meta-commentary," leading the reviewer to understand why no press previews were issued for this episode. But they concluded that "divisive does not equal failure" and that the result was grand adventure, shock, storytelling, friendship and ultimately an ambitious risk that paid off.
BuzzFeed capitalized on how sections of the Internet got their knickers in a twist over the perceived "mansplaining" of feminism in the episode. There's always a good controversy to be had with this series, and the arbiter of viral was there to capture it all.
And yet, The Telegraph didn't think mansplaining was the worst part of ABOM. The great sin, according to them, was that the show thinks it is too clever, but that its dream sequence is a cop-out.
Girl Meets Sherlock reminds us that the episode really wasn't about plot, but about advancing the series. She makes a most excellent observation: "Much as "The Sign of Three" explored the relationship between Holmes and Watson, The Abominable Bride explores Sherlock’s relationship to himself." Despite what we were told about this being a standalone episode, it is very much a part of the overall story arc being formed by the creative team.
Lyndsay Faye never disappoints with her insights and her delightfully descriptive writing. In this case, it is no exception, as she ensures we know who the two main actors are: "Benedict 'High-Octane Hamlet' Cumberbatch and Martin 'My Face Does Pony Tricks Ponies Never Dreamed Of' Freeman." But she also reminds us of how we've been consistently plot-duped by Mofftiss, yet we keep coming back for more. More importantly, Faye makes sure that Sir Arthur gets credit for creating strong women as she rattles off a number of Canonical examples that would be fine modern-day heroines, before reminding us that this episode is about one thing that no one else touched on: Sherlockians. Yes, that's right — it's a tribute to the audience. We can't do justice to her entire argument; go and read the entire thing yourself. It's okay, we'll wait.
Facebook Posts — "the endless procession of faces" [SIGN]We thought it might be useful to catch a glimpse of some of the things being said on Facebook that passed our way.
David Marcum had a rather long post the Sherlock Street Irregulars group (why it's Sherlock Street, we have no idea), in which he called the production "an abomination" and "a mess" written by "liars" who ended up "messing up original material that has millions of loyal followers for a reason." It may sound harsh, but David has plenty of valid points in his essay.
Sherlock Holmes for Dummies also wrote of the mess: "So much potential, so much pandering, a few moments of brilliance, so many more moments of self-conscious B.S. I was really rooting for this trainwreck." What's interesting here is the discussion that ensued in the comments to this short post.
Andy Solberg acknowledged the disparity of opinion among the community, noting the entertainment value and helpfully reminding everyone that it's more than just this episode — "the whole series is a fantasy."
Bonnie MacBird wrote that Gatiss and Moffat never said they were going for Canonical, nor should we have expected it. The link to her Facebook post isn't public, so here it is in its entirety:
Here's what I wonder. Moffatt and Gatiss have never professed to be doing Doylean Holmes. That wasn't their promise, was never their art form, and people who have liked their show (myself included) like it for various ways that it did....and did not... match the originals which inspired it. I'm not sure why so many people are rabidly angry at not getting what was never promised. Like many of you, I would love to see these two fine actors, and excellent writers attempt a Doylean Sherlock. That's not what they did with the Christmas episode, but I for one wasn't expecting it. The humor of the trailers was a big clue, come on folks. Didn't this tip you off? This is a jazz riff on Sherlock. Don't like the sevenths and ninths in your harmonies? Then don't listen to jazz. I for one love baroque music, opera, jazz, musicals, blues, dixieland, Beatles and many more types. I also love Shakespearean sonnets and TS Eliot. But I don't confuse one form for another and hate the Beatles because there is no fugue part. Movies are an art form, BBC Sherlock never promised you a Doylean ride, not even for a second, and pouting about it not matching what YOU would have done isn't a review, it's a rant. I understand disllke. I understand preferences. I understand longing for writers and actors you like to do stuff you kind of have in your head. But... I don't understand,,, petulance. No, it wouldn't have been what I would have written, either. But I enjoyed it. It's what they did. They gave me a very fun ride.
This is probably the most apt analogy and succinct review we've yet read.
What's Left For Us to Add?After everything you've read above (assuming you got this far), you might think there's nothing left to be said about ABOM. Don't be silly. People are still writing about Sherlock Holmes nearly 130 years after his first appearance in print; what makes you think we'd refrain from offering a bit more about a show from Friday evening?
Our experience live-tweeting the event was like none we've had before. As you'll recall, Series 3 ended two years ago (!) and the online space, although it was active then, is even more crazy now. Keeping up with tweets and the show simultaneously — without a press preview — was quite a challenge.
We kept most of our observations to what we could tie in Canonically, from quotes to references and more. But we also noted a few things that we'd like to share here:
- You probably already figured out that Sir Eustace Carmichael was played by Tim McInnerny, who also played John Clay in the Granada production of "The Red-Headed League."
- But Granada tie-ins didn't end there; Tim Barlow played the Diogenes Club attendant "Wilder," who communicated via sign language in the public area. Barlow played the Russian Count in the Granada version of "The Resident Patient."
In mid-December, the official Twitter handle of the show, @Sherlock221B, ran a promotion in which a tweet to them with the hashtag #Telegram221B would result in the text of your tweet being overlaid onto a video of Dr. Watson opening a telegram and subsequently getting up to rush off. Knowing the Canon as we do, we suggested the following:
Imagine our satisfaction when the episode aired and that's exactly what appeared on the screen.@IHearofSherlock Greetings. We can confirm that your telegram has arrived... #Telegram221B pic.twitter.com/fjT8tZUJNA— Sherlock (@Sherlock221B) December 16, 2015
But something else appeared on the screen — something that others have mentioned in passing — that we'd like to address. Yes, the view of everything Victorian is the view in Sherlock's mind; but the morbidly obese Mycroft went a bit too far. It was distracting, comical and, as some have said, even fat-shaming. We were hoping for an authentic Mycroft more akin to Paget's original:
And yet, Mycroft of ABOM was given to us as this caricature:
The "broad, fat hand, like the flipper of a seal was certainly in evidence, but surrounding Gatiss-in-a-fat-suit with carts and trays of food was a bit over the top. In fact, it reminded us of another similar parody:
While we're on the subject of visuals, we did want to share something that we weren't able to comment on during the flurry of tweets. Again, this is acknowledging Lyndsay's point that the show was really about the fans. After Series 1, the Internet (particularly Tumblr) blew up about the "death frisbee" (aka the deerstalker cap). The final scene in ABOM on Reichenbach Falls — the place where Sherlock Holmes traditionally was thought to have gone to his death — involves Holmes standing on the edge and basically playing frisbee with his hat, making it literally a death frisbee:
And finally, we'd like to close with one final point about this episode that also includes others. Andrew Scott, while he may be a fine actor overall, tends to overdo his part when it comes to Moriarty. Yes, we get that the character is a psychopath who has no regard for humanity (especially for our sensibilities), but to us, he seems like he's trying too hard. We'd go so far as to call Andrew Scott the Jim Carrey of the Sherlock series.
What did we miss? And what did you think of the special? Feel free to let us know in a comment below.