Saturday, January 9, 2016

Sherlock: The Abominable Bride (A Review)


Did you watch "The Abominable Bride" when it premiered on January 2nd?  Leonard did!  GAAAAAHH!  We don't have "regular TV" of any kind (not even PBS), so I had to settle for the live-streaming PBS promised.  Apparently, so did millions of other viewers as I was plagued with network errors, especially in the very beginning to I missed the set-up of why we were in Victorian London.  However, before we go any further...

Spoilers Below!

Thank God for dear friends who are also watching live and have no problem texting you answers to your questions for things you missed!  And who also offer hilarious commentary via text.  Liz and John told me that our set-up to Victorian London was simply a "alternatively" tagline, and then ta-da!  There we are.  That is a little disappointing.  I want a reason for being there, besides the obvious fun of dressing up and putting the show back in its original era.
But don't worry.  Leonard did, eventually, get a reason, a very good reason.

If you've not yet watched the episode, it's airing again on Sunday, January 10th -- and for the last time, here come spoilers!

As Liz said, "It's so meta!"  And that's about the best word I can use to describe Moffat's twisting, turning, there and back again, past-present-future Christmas special.  There is a reason for the Victorian twist, more than just cosplaying fun.  There are layers, people!  Dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream layers (see also, "Last Christmas," the Doctor Who Series 8 Christmas special, also written by -- surprise, surprise -- Steven Moffat).  Layers, like an onion.

I can't explain it better than that.  Like some fiction, it simply is; if you try to look past that initial feeling you get, the first mind-blowing, ohmygoditallmakessensebutmybrainstillhurts sensation, it crumbles.  Any textual or rhetorical analysis has to tread carefully (like when dealing with magical realism), or the whole thing shatters under the pressure.

When alternative-reality-Mycroft ("Holy shit, Gatiss!  Way to throw your dignity into the creative furnace of accuracy," says Liz) says, "an invisible army, always at our elbow," I knew.
I knew exactly who/what he meant.  I didn't know how it was going to take shape or all the details, but I knew.

I knew thanks to James Triptree, Jr.'s short story "The Screwfly Solution" -- rather, the radio play adaptation I was in back in October.  Mycroft's lines sounded nearly verbatim from that script:
"The Devil has walked beside us this whole time.  The Devil cooks in our kitchens.  The Devil sleeps in our beds.  The Devil watches over our children!"
No?  Well, perhaps the phrase "the Angel in the House" rings a bell?  It is the Victorian ideal that the wife is always there, silent and subservient, attending her husband's needs cheerfully and quietly.  And in "The Abominable Bride," those quiet, submissive women strike back.

Moffat has often been accused of being sexist in his writing, particularly where Doctor Who is concerned (hello, 50+ years of having white straight men [usually over 40] being in charge!).  For me, the reveal of the "invisible army" that Mycroft mentions feels like a partial apology from Moffat, or at least an acknowledgement of his sexist shortcomings in his previous writings:
"I get it.  Women are important, too.  I'm sorry they're always playing secondary roles to a whole bunch of straight white men.  I'm trying to improve!  Will you help me?  Here are some suffragettes as an offering."

Do I think Moffat will improve/suddenly become less sexist?  Probably not.  Did I enjoy the costume-porn-time-traveling-suffragette-twist of "The Abominable Bride"?  Abso-fucking-lutely.  I will try to watch the episode again during its encore airing because I feel like I'm missing some of my original analytical thoughts here; although, my initial reaction to the whole episode was simply, "ALL THE FEELINGS!"

Grumpy Cat lies.  Of course we did!

Please Note:  Leonard has not once, ever, read any of the original Sherlock Holmes stories.  Worst. English teacher. EVER.

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