Benedict Cumberbatch, best actor nominee for his role in "The Imitation Game," arrives at the 87th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California February 22, 2015. Reuters/Lucas Jackson

There was a lot of anticipation leading up to the release of "Sherlock" special episode, “The Abominable Bride.” It had been about two years since the last "Sherlock" episode, “His Last Vow,” aired on Jan. 12, 2014.

This year's "Sherlock" special episode was touted as a one-off set in Victorian times, unrelated to BBC’s regular “Sherlock” set in modern-day Britain. But things were not so simple in the episode that aired on Jan. 1, they rarely are in “Sherlock.”

The story of the "Sherlock" special is set in 1895 and the plot revolves around a woman's killer ghost (Natasha O'Keeffe). The woman had committed suicide. Her ghost kills her husband (Gerald Kyd) and is shown walking the foggy streets of London, with a bullet hole at the back of her head, looking for revenge for the wrongs committed against her by a certain Sir Eustace Carmichael (Tim McInnerny).

The special episode opens with a quick recap of all that has happened on “Sherlock” ever since the first episode of Season 1, ending with Moriarty (Andrew Scott) saying “Miss me?” across television channels in Britain and Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) being summoned back from his deportation to Eastern Europe for the sake of England. Then the clock runs backwards, to 1895.

John Watson (Martin Freeman), a military doctor caught in the midst of firing and shelling in the Second Afghan War, is introduced. He gets hit with a bullet in his left shoulder and after months of healing appears in Victorian London, limping with a cane grasped firmly in his right wrist, looking for lodging. He ends up sharing, like always, 221B apartment with “consulting detective” Sherlock Holmes.

Fast forward to a few years and Sherlock Holmes’ adventures, written by Dr John Watson, are already getting published in “The Strand Magazine,” where Conan Doyle published his “Sherlock Holmes” stories. Dr Watson is sporting a Victorian moustache and looks slightly more wiser than the John of the modern timeline. However, to his chagrin, Mrs. Hudson (Una Stubbs), their landlady, does not like his writings.

In the "Sherlock" special, the 1895 Watson is more observant as well; things that even Holmes seems to miss, like figuring that the Victorian version of Molly Hooper (Louise Brealey) has to dress like a man and get a moustache to “get ahead in a man’s world.”

Shockingly enough, Sherlock’s investigation into the case of the dead woman is revealed as a cocaine-induced hallucinogenic dive into his “mind palace,” as he is seated on the plane, having been brought back to England, with concerned friend John, brother Mycroft and Mary Morstan (Amanda Abbington), John’s wife, looking on, awaiting his coming back to senses. It’s not a disconnected one-off narrative.

Sherlock is trying to solve the mystery of Moriarty’s death to figure out how he could have returned. To do so, he has to plant himself and everyone else that matters, into the late 19th century and attempt to solve a similar case of the dead Mrs Ricoletti, who apparently came back to life as well.

As Sherlock goes deeper to solve the case of the mysterious ghost, he snaps in and out of his drug-induced dream. A hint that it is a dream is given when a morbidly obese Victorian Mycroft (Mark Gatiss) says Moriarty may have returned from the grave to haunt him and is like a “virus in the data.” What initially appears to be an anachronism; a mistake on the part of the writers is clearly not so.

Talking to his elder brother Sherlock asks, surprised, “Have you put on weight?” Yet it isn’t possible as an even fatter Mycroft says, “You saw me only yesterday. Does that seem possible?” Then adds, “Yet here I am, increased.” This is when the writers first begin to drop hints that Sherlock is deeper inside his “mind palace” than he “ever intended to be.” Sherlock replies, “I have to finish this.”

After an intense exchange with the dead Moriarty inside his mind, he is jolted back to his senses as his jet lands. The jerks and turns in the plane influencing the shaking in the 221B study. However, a little later, The Victorian Holmes wakes up and recalls being on a jet a word which the Victorian Watson has never heard before. It is quiet unlikely that Holmes in his Cocaine induced sleep has imagined a 21st century, exactly as it is today.

From this point on the special episode becomes increasingly Meta, like Sherlock’s deepening dive into his subconscious. It becomes difficult to distinguish between the real and the dream. It seems the co-writers, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, were clearly inspired by Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending “Inception,” which had the similar ‘dream within a dream’ concept.

The Victorian Homes with the aid of the 21st century Sherlock solves Mrs. Ricoletti’s case, and soon after, he confirms that Moriarty is indeed dead, because Mrs. Ricoletti never returned back from the dead herself. He wakes up, finally, and says he knows exactly what the dead Moriarty is going to do next, serving as a cliffhanger for "Sherlock" Season 4 episode 1.

There is also an epilogue of sorts: Holmes and Watson are back in their original Victorian London, as their old selves. Watson asks Holmes, about the “flying machines” and “telephone contraptions.” To him those appear to be “lunatic” fantasies, to which Holmes replies that it was simply his conjecture of what a future world might look like.

These dialogues, once again, play with our notion of holding on to a reality. Well, the Victorian Watson isn’t convinced as well. He thinks Holmes’ visions of the future populated by motor-driven cars, jet planes and mobile phones are an effect of the Cocaine. Holmes admits he may have been a wee bit more fanciful.

This treatment of the character and the time paradoxes in this special are not surprising, considering Moffat is the writer of BBC’s “Doctor Who," a time-traveller. Also, “The Abominable Bride” now becomes a far more interesting prelude to "Shelock" Season 4, having put to rest the notion of whether or not Moriarty survived.

Finally, the special episode of "Sherlock" serves to emphasise that Sherlock Holmes is immortal. He was relevant in the 19th century and is as relevant and popular today. He has always been “a man out of his time.”