Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Critic-proof Sherlock?

Once we attained majority internet connectivity, we gained a lot of new terminology, and among them, this one: "critic proof."

"Critic proof" usually means something that's fan base is so strong that any poor reviews by critics will not affect its sales or box office performance. It may not be the perfectly appropriate term for BBC Sherlock's "The Abominable Bride," as its largest consumer base surely saw it all at once on January 1, before any critics could say word one about it. And even now, with it's American theatrical release tonight, the critic aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes has nothing to say about it.

But the fans? Those who make a product "critic proof?"

Well, in reading their reviews, it looks like the creators of Sherlock found a new way to may their show's latest incarnation impossible to pick apart . . . at least to those who would argue in its defense.

Oh, yes . . . spoilers . . . blah, blah, blah, spoiler alert, move along now, silly people who are reading things without having seen it . . . clear? Clear.

By making the entire episode happen in Sherlock Holmes's head, any flies in the ointment can be retroactively explained by some pseudo-psychological analysis of how Holmes thinks. At least the Victorian parts. The modern day parts . . . the character bits, the odd choice to mix a dreamy drug cocktail out of whatever was on that plane (or somehow brought with for who knows what reason) . . . are a little tougher, unless you go with that Sherlock and friends existing in the mind of Victorian Sherlock. The whole episode is a bit of a rabbit hole that way . . . and an interesting contrast to what happened after Sherlock "killed himself" in "The Reichenbach Fall."

After "The Reichenbach Fall," fans spent the next two years trying to explain what they had seen, and actually affected the narrative, making no simple mechanic for Sherlock's survival by the writers a viable option. Having learned that lesson, it's almost as though, this time out, they just dumped a bunch of random data into the episode so that fans could be content spinning their wheels for the next hiatus. "The Abominable Bride" would not exist without the fan interaction with the series of the past five years. Sherlock is, of course, a series ripe with "what ifs." What if Cumberbatch and Freeman had not gotten so much attention from it, and remained fully available for filming new seasons on a regular basis? What if the fans had not worked so hard on solving "The Reichenbach Fall?" And now, what if they had done a Christmas special based in the show's regular continuity, outside of anyone's head?

No doubt, "The Abominable Bride" is a pretty piece of work. It's kind of like another critic-proof property, the Transformers movies . . . quite the extravaganza of remarkable things. Give the center mass of fans such a great big wedding cake of an entertainment, and they'll be happy. "The Abominable Bride" definitely did that. Mission accomplished. We've all got something to talk about during the long wait until . . . well, after this, God knows what. I literally have no expectations for the next season. My Sherlock mind is blown, and not in a transcendent, hippie-tripping way.

There have been those Sherlockians past who, in analyzing the original texts, theorized that after Reichenbach Falls, Sherlock Holmes was not the same man. Literally, not the same man -- a stand-in Vernet cousin brought in by Watson or something. Of course those Sherlockians past may have all been in the head of one particular Sherlockian of the 1920s. Sound familiar?

Because we've all been here before. And Sherlock Holmes has been critic-proof for a very, very long time. Just take a look at some of the Casebook stories we accept as "Canon." Nobody can blame Moffet, Gatiss, or "the Cumberbitches" for those.

So on we go . . . .

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