The Sherlock special entertains as much as it disappoints.
After a two year hiatus, Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat's foray into television takes us all to the 19th century, the hat-detective is back and is full of surprises.
The special takes off with a hint of nostalgia- we are particularly delighted to find that the opening credits sequence has been furnished with images of the 19th century London, which truly announces that the special is something different and creative from the showrunners. Alas, different it was. But we'll get into the sweaty parts of the episode. First, let me tell you, the special was tremendously entertaining. It wasn't the best, it wasn't downright awful too. I was particularly happy to see Benedict Cumberbatch in the hat again and Martin Freeman looked absolutely spiffing in that Walrus moustache of his.
The 19th century twist has been nicely incorporated in the story, which features the ghost of a dead bride murdering a handful of people, including her widower husband. Of course, the case proves to be a bit too much to chew for Scotland Yard, and Lestrade like a faithful friend serves this extraordinary cup of tea to Sherlock with a couple of biscuits, which Sherlock so delightfully accepts, taking note that Lestrade in fact is "spoiling him" by being such a constant source of delicious puzzles.
But the special sails into a much darker category, when a woman (Mrs.Carmichael) consults Sherlock on the matter of her husband (Sir Eustace Carmichael), who is haunted by the bride that is so ruthlessly killing people. Sherlock agrees to help on discovering that Sir Eustace is in mortal danger and decides it's finally time to catch the bride. He fails, and Sir Eustace ends up being stabbed which results in his death. Watson witnesses the ghost fleeing the scene which basically petrifies him out of his senses.
Till this point in the story, the episode is a phenomenal hour of television, a remarkable accomplishment by the showrunners that entertained the hell out of us. Every second of the episode till this point is expertly executed resulting in a grasping story and striking locations that made the it one of the well-directed, awesomely choreographed bits of filmmaking that define what it is to be a part of Sherlock's world. If it hadn't been for the last 30 minutes of the episode, I would have awarded it the perfect score of a rare 9. Alas, the twist ruined this.
The huge revelation that has been hinted at so heavily throughout the review is that (SPOILER) Sherlock was actually dreaming for the duration of the special and that he is actually in the modern world and he is exploring through his mind palace how it would have been in the 19th century if he was there to solve the century-old case. And guess what, this leads to a parallel running timeline where both the new and the old Sherlock co-exist and work upon the same case. Now, this would have been acceptable if not awesome, only if the showrunners had executed it in a proper manner. Instead, they made it as confusing as possible, and instead of looking intelligent and captivating, this looked like an inferior fan-fiction that was entirely based on a ludicrous idea which so fails to impress just because they didn't know how to present it in a satisfying manner.
The only good thing that happened during these painful minutes where I watched one of the best shows on television make mistakes repeatedly, was the inclusion of Andrew Scott as Moriarty which filled the special with much needed enthusiasm. But they ruined it too by doing a reenactment of The Reichenbach Fall situation (this time from the books) with an actual waterfall this time, where Watson shows up at the end and throws off Moriarty from the cliff in a comical fashion. This scene shows the lengths to which Gatiss and Moffat are ready to go to, to make the fans happy by actually incorporating their own version of fan-fiction into a brilliant television show. Though the part Sherlock and Watson about being there for each other is heartwarming, it is not enough to make us swallow that Sherlock is actually imagining all this rubbish in his mind palace.
Oh yeah, and Sherlock solves the case, which would have been an interesting solve if the modern-day storyline hadn't meddled, but there are some upsides to it too. For one, we now definitely know that Moriarty is back, but we are equally assured of the fact that he is dead. I know, right?
Well, there is another year to go before we get a full-seasons' worth of episodes, but we can wait. All we can pray for is that the upcoming episodes prove to be an improvement over the special, which is ruined due to the lack of a proper direction for a ridiculously overstuffed storyline.
That is not to say that I hated the special, on the contrary, I liked it. So we'll cut the showrunners some slack, after all they worked day and night to make this special possible. Because at the end of the day, no one can say that Sherlock has lost it's touch. It's lost it's path, but it is still Sherlock, and remains to this day, one of the greatest shows on television.