Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Forgiving "Abominable Bride," the big screen experience.

Let's face it, even M. Night Shyamalan can't do M. Night Shyamalan any more.

There was a prime moment when that Shyamalan plot-twist-out-of-nowhere made his name and made you want to go back and re-watch his films to see all the details you had missed, the clues to the sharp turn you never saw coming, but were delighted in. But even he couldn't keep that pace up. Why was I thinking of Shyamalan tonight? Not because of the twist -- because of that re-watch his early movies made so enjoyable. One watch to be surprised, one re-watch to see all the clues you missed.

When I first saw Sherlock's "The Abominable Bride" on New Year's Day eve, I was hit by a different sort of plot twist out of nowhere . . . one that wasn't all that delightful. Instead of a happy "Wow, they pulled that trick off with such skill!" my reaction was, "What? Why did they ruin it with that?" I spent the next four days thinking of the Sherlock special as damaged goods.

But, being a Sherlockian means devotion to our man Sherlock, and devotion means sometimes doing things that aren't your first impulse. Like watching three full seasons of Elementary. Or paying fifteen bucks (about six more than the average Peoria evening ticket price) to see a TV show that I just saw four days ago. Sherlock Holmes is in theaters so infrequently that I think if Fathom Events put an episode of Elementary in a theater for one night, I'd pay fifteen bucks and go see that . . . just because I'm a devout Sherlockian.

Yeah. I know.

So I paid my fifteen bucks tonight, plus another twelve for popcorn and Coke (the drink for a Sherlock Holmes film), and went to watch "The Abominable Bride" for a second time.

First, big kudos to Fathom Events for their presentation -- Holmes trivia on-screen all during the pre-show, limited promotional ads, a little Moffet-led "Tour of 221B" before the episode and a "Sherlock Special" cast interview show after it. I really felt like I got my money's worth, and want to go see some of their other events.

But back to that "Abominable Bride." Watching it a second time, knowing all the tricks to come, knowing that when those odd words "a virus in the data" come out, why they're there, it was a much better experience. Sure, there is a whole prologue of Watson narration up until the point Sherlock declares his purpose in the case that makes absolutely no sense when you know what's going on . . . it's still a flawed episode, yes . . . but there is just so much worthwhile content in the damned thing that I think it will one day be one of the most beloved episodes of the show.

When I wasn't busy having my head angrily spinning at the twisty-turn bits this time, the Reichenbach Falls scene was something I looked forward to, and loved for the message it delivered: We all have our Moriartys. We also have our Watsons. I'm going to cherish that bit, even if it's something I'm over-playing in my own mind, because over-play or not, I got it handed to me by the Sherlock team and it's a worthy message. And there were a lot of other things, just as lovely, to enjoy when you are not getting pissed off at being banged about the bus by the driver jerking the wheel a bit too much.

Like good old Swift once said (Taylor, not Johnathan), "And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate," and I can respect that. If you weren't much of a fan of Moffat, Cumberbatch, and company before, and were hoping for a little retro Granada-Brett homage action, WOW, was this a poisoned pill to swallow. Sorry you got lured into taking it. If you're an Elementary fan who was just looking for weakness in a Sherlock episode to be able to feel better about that show, well, good luck with that. Hold on to this moment until Elementary's eventual musical episode.

But if you like the new BBC kids at all, I think the superfans who immediately rewatched "The Abominable Bride" over and over again actually had it right. This is the one you come to love despite its faults as you hang around it a little more. It's a real treasure chest.

Tonight was a good night. I got to see a crowd of a couple hundred Sherlock fans enjoying Sherlock Holmes on a goodly sized screen in Pekin, Illinois. And maybe it's the Coca-cola talking (my own mind palace kind of gets a little wild during the rare indulgence), but tonight, I've forgiven "The Abominable Bride" all its sins and looking forward to its long and happy inclusion in the Canon of Sherlock.

Headcanon of Sherlock, even. *snort* Yeah, Coca-cola. If I knew the recipe beyond caffeine-laden cola nuts and high fructose corn syrup, I'd be putting that on my list.


  1. "We all have our Moriartys. We also have our Watsons."

    *That* is *beautiful*. (And, really, if we do have our Watsons, we should count ourselves lucky!)

  2. This was a fun read. :-)

    Being one of those who were disappointed with The Abominable Bride, your post is making me think: "Why not watch it again? Maybe I'll discover something I missed out in the excitement of watching a new Sherlock episode?"

  3. I had mixed feelings about the special, having been down the "it's just a dream" path before, and would have preferred a totally Victorian special for a one-off. However, I have tickets to the movie tonight along with family members who haven't seen it, so I look forward to seeing how that plays out. Thanks for the review!

  4. I didn't realize it was playing in Pekin or I may have joined you. I did enjoy the Bride the first time I watched it. Will be watching it again on the 10th. Thanks for your blog.


    I DVR'd the PBS presentation so I could see it on the big screen first and do my small screen rewatches over the summer. Actually, they played it two nights in Edwardsville (downstate of you), and I bought tickets for both nights early on, for fear of it selling out. I was pleased to see a good crowd both nights.

    My reaction was largely like your own: It was better the second time around.

    I still have mixed feelings about it. As a narrative, it doesn't hold up. Never mind the reality hopping for a moment. Mycroft's "I ain't telling 'cause what's the fun in that" is thin spackle to cover a plot hole.

    And the "invisible army" which adopted secret society rules? They're bright and accomplished. Why not perpetrate the crimes without the cloak and dagger after-hours doin's?

    I suspect the bit I admired most is the same part that gives others a headache. The reality hopping. While it rattled an already shaky story, it was pretty darn bold, and well done. They could have left us with a straight Victorian one-off. Took courage to reach. I appreciate that.

    The tongue-in-cheek was both hit and miss, for me.

    But all in, as you say, it's Sherlock. A very good thing, this.