Sherlock, 1895

Well that was fun. A new episode of Sherlock is always something to savour, the feature length intellectually savvy TV series from the BBC that had a special pre-season four episode tonight.

Warning: here be spoilers..

The episode, set in 19th century London, was on the surface about the suicide of Mrs Ricoletti (gunshot to the head), her apparent miraculous resurrection and the subsequent killing of her husband. Sherlock and Watson were on the case to solve the crime and to prove it wasn’t a ghost who killed the husband.

Pretty soon it became apparent the links between a bride who shot herself and Moriarty’s rooftop suicide in series two and his apparent resurrection (based on his appearance on TV screens) at the end of series three.

Halfway through it transpired the majority of the episode was within Sherlock’s mind, his “mind palace” as it’s called, the Abominable Bride mystery was Sherlock’s way of trying to solve how Moriarty is still alive after shooting himself in the head.

Once this was obvious the normal narrative began to unravel, it was less important who Mrs Ricoletti was than how Moriarty was still alive. Or was he?

“There are no ghosts in this world.. save those we make for ourselves.”

My take on the episode is the dreamworld mystery is Sherlock’s way of dealing with and exploring the possibility of Moriarty’s reappearance. In the current day Sherlock takes a plane trip, presumably to London, and takes the opportunity to takes a ton of drugs to explore (in his heightened state) whether Moriarty really has survived.

By the time he comes out the other side he concludes Moriarty is dead and gone, only surviving in his head, and he is now free to pursue whoever the hell really is the villain behind the rest of series four.

Apart from the dreamworld shenanigans, the episode had much to entertain, from the brilliant fat, engorged Mycroft Holmes (the Victorian era was a time of some excess!) to Watson’s serialised adventures in the Strand annoying Mrs Hudson and his housemaid (the Sherlock Holmes stories were first published in the Strand). There was also a nice touch as Sherlock meditated trying to solve the puzzle, flicking through virtual newspapers floating in air, mimicking the mind sorting of the current day series.

There were also clever touches of Inception, the film about dreams within dreams: in the current day the plane Sherlock slept on landed; while Sherlock faced down Moriarty at 221B the room rumbled ominously (actual life echoing into the dream). At the Reichenbach Falls the way Sherlock chooses to wake from his dream is to dive into the waterfall, the “jump” from Inception to exit a dream.

The whole episode also had a distinctly feminist agenda behind it, from Mary mentioning the suffragette cause to the apparent militant wing dressed up in KKK style hoods which led Sherlock to agree with his brother this fight (against feminism) has to be lost because they’re right. This rather blunt treatment stirred up a storm on Twitter and seemed to be the thing that lost a lot of people. By this point in the programme, however, I thought the underlying plot had fallen away to the rather overblown gothic nonsense that was more about Sherlock’s inner mind than any particular plot point.

What was it supposed to mean? Sherlock always keeps you guessing (which is part of its appeal). Was it a mix of playing with the Victorian treatment of women, the more powerful figure of Mary (who I hope has a large part to play in series four), or was it just supposed to reflect Sherlock’s inability to connect on a emotional level with women / anyone?

Whatever the meaning behind it all, the episode very much entertained both Kate and I. And we look forward to series four proper, which I do hope is sometime very soon.