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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Sherlock: The Abominable Bride is a mystery story about a series of murders committed by a ghostly woman. A continuation of the popular BBC series, it takes place in the Victorian era as opposed to modern times. A woman commits suicide on-screen by shooting herself in the mouth; expect blood and gore. In battlefield scenes, characters are shot, and dead bodies are seen. A woman in a veil stalks and kills men; there's ghostly imagery of fog and loved ones presumed returned from the grave. Expect discussion of grave injuries and images of terrible head wounds. A man and woman are seen nude (no private parts visible). Very occasional cursing includes "bastard." Of-age characters say they "need" drinks because of nerves.
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What's the story?
Set in the vintage 19th-century London in which Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote his Sherlock Holmes series, SHERLOCK: THE ABOMINABLE BRIDE concerns a series of murders seemingly committed by mysterious new brides. When Dr. Watson (Martin Freeman) and Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) learn of a strange incident in which a ghostly woman in a lace veil commits suicide and then later appears to murder her husband at gunpoint, they uncover five other dead men, each of whom died in their homes with rice scattered on the floor and "YOU!" written in blood on the wall. What could be behind these terrible crimes? Using old-timey criminal technology and methods, plus a hefty dose of Holmesian insight, Watson and Holmes are on the case.
Is it any good?
It turns out that injecting some steampunk-era technology and ghostly imagery into a Sherlock and Holmes procedural is a lot of fun. The vintage clothing, plot contrivances -- retro politics play a big part -- and crime-solving techniques are all things that any self-respecting PBS-watcher has seen on other Mystery! series. But the quick-witted chemistry between Cumberbatch and Watson is as potent in The Abominable Bride as ever, and the swooping camera injects a modern note. When an inspector describes a murder scene, we see Holmes' view: He "fast-forwards" through some parts, then freezes the scene right where he needs to see something -- a detail anyone else would miss.
Having the murderous plot at first appear like a ghost story is a fun Scooby Doo touch, too. It turns out the real culprit isn't those meddling kids but instead a cabal with aims sympathetic to modern tastes (even if their methods are suspect). Already-converted Sherlock fans will be in heaven, while those new to this adaptation are given a self-contained story to lure them in.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why murder mysteries like Sherlock: The Abominable Bride are such a popular and venerable staple on television. What is it about murder that interests people? Does it make for good drama?
Sherlock Holmes is portrayed as having an abrasive manner yet given enough positive qualities so audiences will like him. Is he a hero, a flawed hero, or an antihero?
This Sherlock Holmes special is set in the 19th century instead of the modern London which actors Cumberbatch and Freeman usually inhabit as their characters. How does the vintage setting change the characters or plot?
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