It seems that the world always looks for something to get offended about these days, and over the New Year's weekend, that something is the Sherlock episode "The Abominable Bride."
After the episode aired, many viewers cried foul, arguing that the series "mansplained" the suffragette movement and made it look bad by dressing women in KKK-like robes as a secret order that terrorized and attacked men who deceived them.
However, this isn't the case, and it's obvious that Sherlock attempted to embrace feminism, and not only included the suffragette movement as a cause wholeheartedly supported by Sherlock Holmes himself, but also showed the struggles that women of the time had, as well as the lengths they had to go to get heard. The show also gave viewers two strong female characters in the form of Mary Watson and Molly Hooper, who often prove themselves smarter than the men around them.
Please note that the following contains spoilers for "The Abominable Bride."
In this episode, Sherlock must solve a case involving a "ghost" of a woman who continues to return from the dead to punish men who have done women wrong. The episode, however, takes place in Sherlock's mind, in his "mind palace," as he tries to figure out how Moriarty could have possibly escaped death.
The Suffragette Movement
Sherlock does solve the case, and discovers that the brutal attacks on men were actually done by a group of women, who meet in secret and dress in red robes. Those robes did appear similar to robes worn by those in the KKK, which is unfortunate, because it's likely that these robes were only used to show that the women had their own secret order, similar to the fraternal orders men have traditionally had throughout history.
In Sherlock's mind, though, these women weren't villains, but merely desperate, attempting to have their voices heard in a world that belonged to men. Sherlock explains that these women are noble, and that their cause is just.
"But an army nonetheless, ready to rise up in the best of causes, to put right an injustice as old as humanity itself," says Sherlock in the episode. "So you see, Watson, this is a war we must lose."
And this comes from a character who's already been depicted as someone who doesn't understand women or really take much interest in them, unless they're involved in a case. This insight was a rare peek into Sherlock's mind (which this scenario took place in) where he sees that women should have the same rights as men.
Also, the women showed a kind of brilliance in creating the "ghost" figure that attacked men, so much that Sherlock very nearly didn't solve the case. In the end, this group of women nearly outsmarted one of the greatest minds of all time ... in his own mind.
Of course, there's also Molly Hooper, who disguised herself as a man so that she could work in the city's morgue: interestingly enough, the disguise fools Sherlock, but not Watson.
In the episode, viewers saw Mary in both the scenario inside Sherlock's mind, as well as in the "real" world. Even in Sherlock's mind palace scenario, Mary was resourceful and far more clever than her husband and nearly as clever as the great detective himself. In fact, without Mary, Sherlock would have never solved the case of the "ghost" bride.
But Mary proves herself just as invaluable in the "real" world. When Mycroft mentions that they need to research something, by the time he's finished his sentence, Mary has already hacked into MI-5's database and has acquired the information that the team needs. She does this time and again throughout the episode, proving herself more clever than the men surrounding her.
These Victorian depictions of Molly and Mary made such an impression on audiences that many fans started requesting that the two get their own spin-off series.