Well, I liked it. Sherlock, like its stablemate Doctor Who (the connective tissue being Steven Moffat) can often be frustrating, but this Christmas special was a lot more delightful and confection than I was expecting. Actually, I expected the whole thing to be really disappointing, and it certainly wasn’t that. In all honesty, I had hoped that the whole twisty turny timey wimey aspect to be entirely unexplained – that the Christmas (alright, New Years Day) special was simply a giftwrapped, one-off bit of nonsense, that any attempt to cram into an actual narrative would be pale and uninteresting.
In the end, the logic was – well, logical. The fact that (spoilers ahoy) was a journey inside Sherlock’s mind palace made absolute sense, and meant that fans could have their cake and eat it. It was supremely cheeky at times (I’m pretty sure that I heard a riff on the Jeremey Brett / Granada theme at one point), while fanserving to the point of indulgence (getting to see the actual Reinbach Falls). It was, rarely for Sherlock, an actual mystery for the audience to solve. I don’t mean the titular investigation of The Abominable Bride, which was as frustrating and cheating as we’ve come to expect (of which more in a moment), but the mystery that the audience were presented with – namely, why was Sherlock suddenly in the Victorian era? Fairly uniquely, the script played fair with the clues, from Sherlock apparently misgendering someone in the morgue, to a couple of bouts of turbulence at 221b Baker Street, and the whole episode had the feel of a overstuffed Advent calendar where you’ve been allowed to eat all the chocolates at once. Much of the hate on twitter centred on it being a confusing episode, an opinion that I don’t agree with, or even have much time for.
I enjoyed it immensely and watched it beaming (once you work out that the narrative development of the episode consists of Sherlock getting out of one mode of transport, into another, and nothing else, you’re allowed to relax and just enjoy it), but it remains that there are things very wrong with the writing. I appreciated the gag about the women not having anything to say outside of their narrative function, and if the joke had been allowed to remain meta and self-involved, it would have been a lot more successful. But since an early Suffragette movement was modelled on the KKK and in disarray until that nice man Sherlock helped them out, it was a bit more of a bitter pill to swallow – even if you know your Conan Doyle (orange pips), or that there were indeed early (American) women’s rights activist groups that shared some DNA with the Klan. The really lazy/needlessy superior line was smuggled in earlier, however, with Mycroft’s line about ‘a fight we must lose’. It sounds very noble and self-sacrificing, until you read it as the men ‘letting’ the girls win, which isn’t even remotely how women fought – and died – for equality.
My other quibble is minor in comparison, but probably more serious for the show. In this and Doctor Who, Steven Moffat is often displaying that he’s far more interested in the journey than the destination. In both shows, there are repeated promises of ‘look til you see what we’ve got for you NEXT year!’. In a show like Doctor Who, where – in theory – there is never an actual narrative closure, it’s a particular problem, since a showrunner might feel no compulsion to end a story or tie up lose ends, but it’s also true that – particularly with Sherlock – you need to see the case being solved. By all means, have ambiguity and teasing misleads, but it can’t all be about the exciting foreplay. Sometimes you have to finish what you started. Luckily, Moffat is excellent at smoke and mirrors, and so he gets a free pass a lot of the time, but there’s only so often that he can promise exciting things for the future in one breath, and then get distracted by a shiny new thing with the next. He’s a writer, for God’s sake. He shouldn’t have the attention of an overly excited kitten. In other words, Steven: finish your greens.
All that said, I genuinely adored all shades of hell out of Sherlock. Frustrating, annoying, and a gorgeous mess of wit and fun. You certainly couldn’t accuse it of being complacent.
Cast Iron Theatre is curating a gender-flipped evening of iconic male roles for International Women’s Day:https://www.facebook.com/NotJustTheCompanion/?fref=ts