Discussion/Review: SHERLOCK: “The Hounds of Baskerville”

WARNING: This is an in-depth review and discussion of SHERLOCK Series 2 Episode 2, “The Hounds of Baskerville.” If you do not wish SPOILERS, do not read further.

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I’m back with my best friend and co-author–and avid Sherlockian–T. D. McKinney, for a discussion of the second offering of this year’s SHERLOCK triad, “The Hounds of Baskerville.” Written by Mark Gatiss, one of the co-creators of SHERLOCK, the story is based on the original Canon offering, The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

TW: Judging by the comments I’ve seen on Twitter, the opinion on this episode was a bit more mixed. Me, personally, I thought it was brilliantly done and perfectly in the spirit of the original. What’s your take? Last week you weren’t sure what you were looking forward to with it.

TD: I think I told you earlier this evening, I’m still processing parts of it. Unlike most Holmes fans, I don’t consider The Hound of the Baskervilles to be the greatest Holmes story Doyle ever penned. I’m very ambivalent about the original tale and some of that flows over to every adaptation. This week’s episode actually “fixed” a lot of the issues I have with Doyle’s original. Overall, I think it was splendid.

TW: Would you like to elaborate on one or two of the points it “fixed” for you?

TD: I never particularly enjoyed the plot device separating Holmes and Watson. Mark Gatiss showed John as perfectly capable of doing investigations on his own, and finding clues all by his lonesome, and yet have our two favorite heroes share the screen. The interactions were wonderful, too.

The story is basically a horror story and it’s often not done as such. Mr. Gatiss, smart thing, played that up. That helps. I know a lot of people complain that the hound turns out to be a fake or looks cheesy in the end, screaming “Scooby Doo,” but seriously, isn’t that the point? It was a trick. It wasn’t a demonic hound. It was a fake. A charlatan’s sleight of hand. Smoke and mirrors.

TW: Agreed. It was an amateur-hour creation of the pub owners to drum up tourism. And it looked the part. You mentioned John Watson and the interactions between him and Sherlock. We’re certainly seeing the friendship solidify and deepen, aren’t we?

TD: The whole season is showing that ripening of the relationship.

TW: And take a few wounds as well.

TD: Sherlock is not an easy man to live with. And John is not one to take a blow without fighting back, literally and figuratively.

TW: Let’s talk about the actors for a minute. We didn’t get to Benedict and Martin last week. What are we seeing this season? LOL, besides the brilliance we got last season.

TD: Relaxed. There is a strong undercurrent of relaxed around each other. Their performances are polished, professional, and of the highest calibre. Martin Freeman has been a star in the UK for over a decade. The rest of the world is just now seeing why. He’s amazing. He’s a master of nuances. Benedict Cumberbatch is likewise poised for international fame. His talent is obvious; just read any of the articles and reviews that have come out in the last two weeks. Likewise, the good looks – any photo will do.

TW: They seem to bring out the best in each other on-screen, too. There’s a chemistry between them that I’m not sure we’ve ever seen in any other Holmes/Watson pairing.

TD: I think we saw something close in the Brett/Burke and Brett/Hardwicke days. Interestingly enough, those gentlemen were also friends off-screen.

TW: True. The Canon nods were cute in this one. I noticed the Persian Slipper has appeared, the bet conversation from The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle, and you pointed out a nod to The Adventure of Black Peter.

TD: Yes, there was – the harpoon. I love the little Easter Eggs.

TW: We can’t discuss The Hounds of Baskerville
without a mention of guest star Russell Tovey as Henry Knight. I thought he was marvelous.

TD: He was. He has that boyish, personable, innocent face. Then he hits you with the added vulnerability and you’re sucked right into caring about him and whatever character he’s portraying. He makes his people believable.

TW: We ended up caring about a lot of them. Martin scared me to death in that lab scene.

TD: So you told me. I think you still have heart failure.

TW: Now who’s a brat? :-D

TD: I have never claimed differently. In fact, I’ve achieved levels most only dream of.

TW: Oh yeah. Seriously, though. The suspense levels?

TD: Excellently done. You have to remember I’m very hard to frighten, unless I’m in actual physical danger (which honestly either pisses me off or gives me a rush). So I didn’t actually share the fear you did. But I could appreciate the job done by all involved.

TW: I know you’ve got a comment hovering about you regarding the appearance of Detective Inspector Lestrade.

TD: Lestrade! There was Greg Lestrade. Finally the dear man has a first name. He looked great in the shades, the casual clothes, and the tan. The marriage is obviously over. The lack of wedding ring was so obvious you don’t need my observational skills to see it. Nice hints of a friendship between him and John. I really like that. It was keeping with Canon for him to be there, so that was very nice. My only complaint is there is never enough of him. He needs more screen time.

TW: Anything else you’d like to talk about before I get to the inevitable question you always want to strangle me over? ;-)

TD: I’ll take my punishment now, ma’am.

TW: LOL – after A Scandal in Belgravia, I think I’ll just let keep my reply to that safely in the confines of my own brain.

TD: LMAO! Smart woman. You’ve seen my wardrobe.

TW: Most powerful scene? And your favorite, if they’re not one and the same.

TD: This time they aren’t the same. The most powerful scene was the argument between John and Sherlock in front of the fireplace. My favorite is the “make-up” the next day in the cemetery.

TW: And your reasons for both? I agree with you, by the way.

TD: The appeal of Doyle’s stories has always been the relationship, the deep ties between Holmes and Watson. So many adaptations have failed because they don’t get that. SHERLOCK is all about that friendship. Both these scenes revolve around the relationship. Throughout both S1 and what we’ve had of this season, we’ve seen Sherlock spend equal amounts of time captivating John and pushing him away. Not great at relationships. This pair of scenes are a great example of their growth as friends.

I’ve seen a lot of discussion about Sherlock and his show of emotion and fear and such after seeing the hound. What I haven’t seen mentioned is that he chooses to share this with John. He’s been sitting there, alone. He’s had time to order a drink and have it brought ’round. He’s obviously not been speaking to anyone else. Nor has he been acting oddly enough to draw attention (until his later outburst). He didn’t have to tell anyone. He chose to share this very emotional thing with John. Maybe not in the most user-friendly way. Certainly not in a way that made John feel wanted. But under all that, Sherlock still turned to John.

Of course, anything mixing Sherlock and emotions ends up being jacked up.

TW: Very true. I do like that things weren’t resolved in a completely tidy manner. I think it was a very real conversation that took place at the cemetery. Sherlock sort of jacked that up, too, and John’s temper didn’t vanish all at once.

TD: Yes. John has plenty of reason to be pissed off. Probably more than we’ll ever know! But, Sherlock does man up and apologize. And there’s the now-famous “I don’t have friends…I’ve just got one” line. For him, that’s huge. An astonishing admission of affection. Of course, John is adorable. “Don’t ruin it.” That may be one of the best lines in the whole thing. Not THE best. But close.

TW: Well, now I have to ask: what IS the best line in the episode? In BELG I think it was “Sherlock always replies. He’s Mr. Punchline. He will outlive God trying to have the last word.”

TD: [In BASK] It’s John’s line as they’re leaving Baskerville. “Please, can we not do this?” Sherlock looks confused. “Do what?” John has that yeah-right look all over his face. “You being all mysterious with your cheekbones and turning your collar up so you look cool.” For once, John wins.

TW: LOL! Oh, yeah. Okay, on to the inevitable. I assume you’ve stocked up on tissues for this Sunday’s series finale, “The Reichenbach Fall.” Expectations?

TD: That I’m going to be a complete wreck. My boss has already jokingly suggested I take Monday off. My friends have already refused—not jokingly—to be anywhere near me Sunday afternoon.

TW: I’ll still be here. Promise.

TD: I cried the first time I read The Final Problem when I was ten. Admittedly I didn’t know Sherlock Holmes would make it back. Damn Doyle for that, btw. I still get misty over that note for Watson. I’ve seen Jeremy Brett go over those damned falls over a hundred times now and I still cry. I blame it on lingering childhood trauma. Okay…that and my Brett fixation.

I figure Sunday is going to be very bad for me. In a very good way.

TW: I’ll be sobbing right along with you. I sincerely doubt Misters Moffat, Gatiss and Stephen Thompson (FALL’s writer) will let up on us now. It’s been a hell of a ride so far. Thanks for stopping by again this week. Shall we put the kettle on, or just head out to Angelo’s?

TD: Hang on, I think we have a call from Greg Lestrade. Everything else can wait.

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