16 Times Sherlock Drove Us All Crazy

6 of 17

Sherlock and John in the best Victorian garb in “The Abominable Bride”. (Photo © Robert Viglasky/Hartswood Films and BBC Wales for BBC One and MASTERPIECE)

When the Victorian Special Turned Out to Be an Elaborate Dream Sequence

Sherlock’s highly anticipated Victorian special is many things. Beautiful to look at. A potentially intriguing ghost story that has all the markers of a holiday classic. A fun little diversion from a primary narrative that’s become increasingly self-indulgent on occasion. Unfortunately, it is also basically an extended dream sequence that serves almost entirely as a tease for the series’ fourth season.

On the one hand, this isn’t the worst thing ever. Plenty of people thought a standalone Victorian episode with no ties back to the original series was an awful idea. And maybe it would have been. But maybe it would have been a fun holiday treat that didn’t come prepackaged with painfully self-aware expectations that it has to be the cleverest thing that’s ever aired. At any rate, there’s nothing inherently wrong with tying the Victorian special back into Sherlock’s main narrative. And it did provide the opportunity for many enjoyable Easter eggs and a certain amount of poking fun at itself. But the episode doesn’t actually move the plot of the show along in any substantial way.

The art of a dream sequence is that it allows our narrative and characters to explore things they otherwise wouldn’t be able to do in real life. To some extent, this happens. Thanks to a rather aggressive application of drugs, we take a deep dive into Sherlock’s psyche, where he’s re-imagining an old case to try and solve a current problem.  We learn, basically, that Sherlock thinks everyone around him is a helpless idiot, that he cares greatly about John, that he has a lot of issues with his brother that mean they should probably see a therapist ASAP. Surprise, y’all, but we already knew all of this.

The dream sequence reveal makes the episode feel less like a bit of holiday fluff, and more like a 90-minute chunk of self-indulgence. In the real world of the show, roughly ten minutes have passed since Season 3. Thanks to Sherlock’s drug trip, he apparently understands how his nemesis Moriarty is back. But he doesn’t share that information with us, or really even clarify whether or not Moriarty is dead. (Even though he’s clearly dead.) You could skip this episode and basically miss nothing and that is irritating as all get out.

Number of eyerolls: 8