Yesterday I reviewed the New Year’s day premiere of the 4th season Sherlock episode The Abominable Bride. If you’ve read the review (its here), you know I absolutely loved it.
But what’s most surprising is the fact that it appears this episode has really torn some fans of the show. While I’m clearly in the camp that loved it, there are those who really detested the episode.
Over at IMDB and on the page representing the episode, the main user review featured (at least for now), is highly negative. Scroll down a little more and a couple of the topics featured in the message board also note the series is “going downhill”.
Frankly, seeing these negative comments surprises me though by now it should not.
It proves yet again that critical opinions of artistic works can vary -sometimes wildly- from person to person.
Yet the negative reviews of The Abominable Bride nonetheless did surprise me. Not that they’re many (despite the mentioned critical comments, the film nonetheless scores a high 8.6 out of 10 on IMDB), but it just seemed like those who didn’t like it either didn’t get “into” it (ie, lose themselves in the story as I did) or were frustrated by the fact that the show went on such a flight of fancy.
I admit, the episode did go off on a tangent (especially when the previous series ended on such a cliffhanger). Still, it’s hard to believe those who didn’t like it didn’t at least see something good in that episode, whether it be the clever dialogue or acting or…
Seriously, with perhaps a single exception, Sherlock could well be one of the greatest things to make their way to television in these past couple of years. The idea behind the series is to make adaptations of Sir Conan Arthur Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories but set them in modern times.
Benedict Cumberpatch rocketed to superstardom as Sherlock Holmes but equally effective is Martin Freeman as the sardonic Dr. Watson. The two play off each other magnificently and the movies presented are alternatively hilarious, incredibly clever, and eminently watchable.
(I mentioned above that there was one exception. That would be the adaptation of perhaps the most famous of the Sherlock Holmes stories, The Hound of the Baskervilles. Sadly, of all the Sherlock episodes made, this proved to be the most confusing one, to me)
On New Year’s Day, the BBC released The Abonimable Bride, a special “one-off” Sherlock film that had our intrepid characters going back in time to the era Sherlock Holmes is most associated, the late 1800’s.
I’m so tempted to get into details regarding the episode but all that would do is spoil things so I won’t. I will say this, however: This might well be one of the absolute best of the Sherlock episodes/movies ever made. It is clever, engaging, hilarious (some of the dialogue! I would kill to write such clever dialogue!), and incredibly surprising.
When it was over I was absolutely blown away by what I had just seen.
The story, in short: In late 19th Century London, a woman in a wedding dress appears to go crazy on the balcony of her apartment and fires at people down below. Ultimately, she puts the barrel of one of her revolvers in her mouth and blows her brains out.
She’s dead, it would appear, yet her husband, who is about to head out to identify her corpse, is confronted by his wife in her wedding dress. He sees her and positively identifies her before witnesses…before she kills him with a shotgun. She then vanishes but her corpse is still in the morgue!
How could a dead woman kill her husband?
Holmes is tasked to solve the mystery but is unable to. A year later, he is presented with a new mystery…and the ghostly bride appears to have returned from the grave to seek out another victim.
Great, great stuff.
I’m once again tempted to go into SPOILERS but I won’t.
Suffice to say, this “old fashioned setting” episode plays an intricate role in the Sherlock series though, on the surface, it would appear not to.
For those who haven’t seen the series, you simply must try to catch it. For those who have, The Abominable Bride might well be one of the very best episodes of the series ever created.
I’m not kidding here: Sherlock, and The Abominable Bride in particular, is television at its very best.
If you know anything at all about the Evil Dead films (the original Evil Dead, Evil Dead II, and Army of Darkness) and actor/God Bruce Campbell, there’s nothing I can add to the myth/legend that is Ashley “Ash” J. Williams, the “hero” of these three films and the new Starz! series Ash Vs. Evil Dead.
Good ol’ Ash (Bruce Campbell, of course), like all of us is a little older but -hopefully unlike all of us- not at all wiser than he was in the original series of films. He’s still full of those delightful, often vulgar wisecracks and smart ass comments that endeared him to legions of fans, of which I’m one.
The Ash Vs. Evil Dead series started out incredibly strong with a premiere episode directed by Sam Raimi, who was the director of the previous three original Evil Dead movies (the less said about the modern remake, the better). One of the biggest problems subsequent episodes of the series had was that Mr. Raimi didn’t direct any of the other 9 episodes and, while the other directors didn’t do a bad job by any stretch, that premiere episode looked and flowed, to my mind, much better than what followed. Please note this was not a critical problem with the bulk of the series but became more noticeable when we reached the the last two to three episodes of the season. It was in the climactic moments I wished Mr. Raimi was there, directing us through the greatest mayhem.
I’ll get back to the first season’s climax in a moment.
So the plot of the show goes like this: Ash screws up yet again and while stoned and with his latest “girlfriend” reads from the cursed Book of the Dead, the Lovecraftian Necronomicon. Of course, this releases a new wave of deadly demons/deadites.
Ash comes to this realization and while in his dull Superstore job he reluctantly gathers his coworkers Pablo Simon Bolivar (Ray Santiago) and Kelly Maxwell (Dana DeLorenzo) and off they go together to try to end the deadite menace once and for all.
Meanwhile FBI agent Amanda Fisher (Jill Marie Jones) also has an encounter with the strange and this leads her to believe Ash is behind the menace. We’re concurrently introduced to the mysterious Ruby Knowby (Lucy Lawless who, for most of the ten episodes is but a cameo player), who eventually joins forces with Agent Fisher in her pursuit of Ash.
The episodes that follow are filled with gory, bloody effects mixed with hilarious dialogue that further proves Ash is a blowhard fool. The show, however, shows us that deep beneath the swagger lies a man who genuinely wants to do the right thing even with his mental handicap(s).
Again, this is played to great effect and I absolutely loved -and relished!- every moment Bruce Campbell’s Ash opened his mouth, so eager was I to hear the latest silliness he was about to utter. My favorite line of the series came early and is found at the 50 second mark of the series’ trailer and concerns…churros?
So the series proceeded and characters got together and eventually made their way -it was logical- to the cabin in the woods that birthed the whole mess in Evil Dead and Evil Dead II.
Repeating once again: While the direction in these concluding episodes wasn’t terrible by any stretch of the imagination, one can’t help but compare the cabin scenes in Ash Vs. Evil Dead with those of the movies, particularly Evil Dead II. And when one does this, one can’t help but feel that the Sam Raimi directed movie had a greater manic energy and humor and, once again (redux), one comes away wishing Mr. Raimi was again at the helm during these episodes.
Moving away from the direction, the crux of my critique lies in the way the series “ended”. Or, rather, didn’t.
Evil Dead II, the movie that most resembles Ash Vs. Evil Dead, gave us a great story which had a definite ending. It was then followed by a coda meant to get us interested in more Evil Dead material. This coda was the jumping off point into Army of Darkness.
Unfortunately with Ash Vs. Evil Dead, we get a great story but even with the 10 episodes of approximately half an hour each for a total run-time of five or so hours, when all is said and done what we were given was nothing more than an introduction to a story.
Ash Vs. Evil Dead’s conclusion wasn’t much of one at all. Through the series we move from place to place and reach that cursed cabin in the woods but instead of getting a conclusion to the story we’re effectively told the story is about to happen (hello, season 2!) and this disappointed me tremendously.
We still don’t know who/what exactly Ruby Knowby is. Sure we were given some big hints but she remains an enigma that will obviously be dealt with in greater detail in the future. Worse was the fate of another of the main characters (I won’t get into spoilers here) who wound up being nothing more than an overglorified victim.
As for the remaining characters, including Ash, its obvious his fight against the deadites has just begun.
In sum, I loved loved lovedAsh Vs. Evil Dead…up to the conclusion which I felt wasn’t much of one.
Given the amount of joy the series offered versus that disappointing final five or so minutes, I suppose Ash would likely say, “quit your bitchin’, there’s a second season on the way”.
Of course that’s true. And you know what? I’ll be right there to see it.
Alright, I’ll quit my bitchin’. Despite my reservations regarding the conclusion, I HIGHLY recommend the first season of Ash Vs. Evil Dead to anyone who likes their gory horror mixed with some hilarious -and vulgar- comedy.
Just go into this realizing that the full story will take at least two seasons to tell…I hope!
So its 2016 and I feel super-refreshed. Why? Because for one week I got to get out the house for the first time in way too long and was extremely lucky, it turned out considering the too-warm weather, to have a day like this…
I went up those mighty fifty or so feet and their terrific 10 degree drop and came down several dozen times with but two near wipe-outs. Great fun was had until the final run, when I did the Bunny Hill + (a slightly longer Bunny Hill with a somewhat sharper angle descent) and a father and his daughter were in my path, forcing me to swerve while going waaaay too fast onto a not-too smooth surface.
Yes, it was there I had a mighty wipe-out. Messed up my left shoulder a little and it still hurts when I turn my head to the right…
Well, that’s what ibuprofen is for.
Hope everyone had a great Holiday and are as refreshed as I am for the new year!