Saturday, January 02, 2016

Sherlock: "The Abominable Bride"

Increasingly in this series, the puzzle for 'Sherlock' is taken to be Sherlock himself.

The ostensible plot is a 'bride' who fires wildly at men in the Victorian street from a balcony, then shoots herself fatally in the head - this is the abominable bride. Later, however, she seems to have returned from the dead to shoot her husband, before dying again. And then the 'bride' keeps returning and killing men: the signature is the word 'YOU' sketched in blood near the scene of the crime.

Sherlock is a certain archetype of twenty first century intellectualism: super-smart and asexual. Along with Watson, we are appalled at his arrogance, his disregard for women (except for Irene Adler, the one woman whom he acknowledges as an intellectual equal - and even then there is no sexual frisson), and his lack of interest in anything other than solving puzzles.

It's time to probe deeper into the Holmes subconscious.

In homage to Inception, the Victorian setting appears to be a deep simulation, a kind of super-memory-palace into which Holmes has retreated under the influence of drugs in an attempt to solve a historical mystery. Within the Victoriana, Holmes and Mycroft occasionally insert discordant 21st century references to jets, computer viruses and the like which they explain by the sheer 'anticipatory power' of their minds.

Sherlock eventually solves the nuts-and-bolts of how the 'abominable bride' accomplished her apparently-impossible feats. With only moderate spoilers, it comes down to the coordinated action of a secret society of militant vote-seeking feminists. But since this is a deep-dream sequence, the realisation that the super-smart crime was the action of .. mere women, can't be allowed - how could they be smart enough? So Moriarty has to be invoked: no-one less could have discomfited Sherlock's intellect.

In the end, it always comes down to Sherlock vs. Moriarty - Sherlock can never escape the limitations of his own archetype. At the Reichenbach Falls (within the deep dream-simulation) Watson intervenes to break the fearful symmetry and free Sherlock to wake (nice homage to 'The Matrix' there).

At which point, unlike the viewer, Sherlock has learned precisely nothing about himself.

We are thus cued to the next series. Excellent!

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