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Sherlock – The Hound cometh before the Fall

Katie and I team back up to discuss the Hound of the Baskervilles episode of 'Sherlock', have a love-in for Martin Freeman (and Russell Tovey's predilection for tragic bit roles), exchange more nerd references than strictly necessary, and steel ourselves for next week's killer finale.

- Season 2, Episode 2 - "The Hounds of Baskerville"

Julia: I’m not sure if two seasons make it count as a trend, but historically speaking I don’t like the middle episode of Sherlock as much as I like the first and third. I’m not sure if I liked this or last week’s better, but I do know that this week when the episode wasn’t in London, it made me feel like some vital character was missing. Because it’s not in London, and because it goes too far into Brontë-esque Gothic whackadoo for my tastes,  The Hound of the Baskervilles has always been one of my least favorite Holmes stories. So I should admit that while I really deeply enjoyed the episode, it’s very hard for me to be totally objective with my bias that has preexisted ever since I first saw the Baskervilles episode of Wishbone when I was, like, five.

Katie: While I’m with you on the first series’ middle episode, I actually enjoyed this episode far more than last week’s. I’m sure part of that was because I couldn’t for the life of me remember how The Hound of Baskerville originally ended, so I’m was really in the dark the whole episode (although I totally guessed who the villain was, just not how he did it). There was a whole lot of tension throughout the story, and I liked seeing Sherlock scared, even if he was mostly scared that he didn’t understand what his brain was telling him.

Julia: I’ve heard a lot of back and forth on how Benedict Cumberbatch (still the greatest name ever, by the way) played Sherlock’s mania. Especially in regards to the mind palace bit. I’m still unsure about how I feel about that. It was entertaining, but it seemed a little … hokey?

Katie: The mind palace was probably the weakest part of the episode for me. It’s not bad, but kind of cliche. Once he got to Elvis’ Hound Dog, I rolled my eyes. However, I do love that Sherlock chose to call his mind a palace because of course Sherlock would call his mind a palace.

Julia: Apparently, this was the first episode they filmed of the series, and before that he was doing theater work, so a lot of people were saying that they thought his mania was something that would have worked on stage but was too large to work on screen.

I’m kind of on the fence. On one hand, I do think it was far less subtle than Sherlock usually is. Though I did think that once Sherlock tipped into fear, that was played very well, especially when you consider that a fundamental tenant of Sherlock’s character is that he’s never afraid, and fear is probably so much more scary when you have no idea what exactly it is you’re experiencing.

Katie: Yep, I can see that. The other day a friend of mine watched the first episode of last series and he thought Sherlock wasn’t “perfect” enough … that he made too many mistakes. But in this episode, his fear makes the situation that much more frightening — if Sherlock Holmes can’t trust his senses, who can? I also think it makes sense in this episode because he was without his precious nicotine. And I love how good Benedict has gotten at Sherlock showing off … that man is a master at fast talking.

Julia: That seems ridiculous to me. Sherlock has to fail a little, otherwise he’d be exceedingly boring and unsympathetic. Sherlock is canonically supposed to have flaws. He says as much to John in the first season — “Heroes don’t exist, and if they did, I wouldn’t be one.” He isn’t supposed to be good, or perfect, he’s just supposed to have the very thin veneer of that. He’s like a cat, you know, no matter what stupid things a cat does (and cats do a lot of stupid things), they make it look cool and like they totally meant to do that.  And I mean, yes, Benedict Cumberbatch is a master at Sherlock, it’s pretty much the role he was born to play, but the owner of my raptures will always and forever be Martin Freeman’s John Watson. He’s just perfect.

But my nominee for Best Shot of the Show: Benedict Cumberbatch getting his Legolas on while gazing over the moors, bellowing with resplendent timbre down to John, who’s just plodding along with a map behind him like, “Oh my god, Sherlock, we’re just hiking.”

Katie: Jesus, I’m going to have such a nerdgasm during the Smoag and Bilbo scene in The Hobbit.

Julia: Speaking of nerdgasms, I am told if I had watched Being Human, Russell Tovey would have been even more exciting than I already found him, but I thought he was pretty damn excellent, regardless. I always felt I was missing something because I never really got his appeal beyond his  absolutely enormous ears, but I guess he’s sort of like my other favorite big-eared BBC star, Colin Morgan. He looks kind of funny when you see still pictures, but then you see him in motion and it’s like your entire world view re-arranges. I mean, I don’t think he’s nearly as lovely as Colin Morgan (well, okay, in my view, almost no one is), but he was really, really good. He reminded me of a Neville Longbottom type — first few years, Neville, before he got all badass.

… I think I just managed to completely out-nerd you there. How many dorky references did I just fit in that paragraph? I don’t even want to count.

Katie:Aw, don’t make this about outnerding … let’s just enjoy each other’s fondness for nerd culture!But yes, Russell Tovey is very good in Being Human. He really does tortured quite well. Honestly, between being driven bad by a mystical hound and burdened with the painful, maddening curse of lycanthropy. Oh, and he has to steer the space Titanic in Doctor Who. Yep, just the worst luck and Tovey really drives it home with his acting. And I was going to say, he’s probably one of the best “one episode” characters Sherlock has had so far. You really feel invested in his story, which is probably why I was swept up in the mystery.

Julia: He was just so cute and pouty and tortured in lovely knitwear! I mean, between him and Watson (who I swear I love for more than this reason), I think it’s pretty obvious that the way to my heart is through a man’s sweater. Preferably ones that look like they were stolen from the closet of the love of my life, Mr. Rogers.

Katie: Martin Freeman is just so, so good in this show (and pretty much everything else). He keeps up with Sherlock better than practically anyone else, he’s incredibly smart in his own right and yet he’s still the audience’s eyes into the world of Sherlock. He speaks for us. That’s why I loved when John brought up Sherlock’s cheekbones and the flipped collar. I wanted to yell, “Thank you! Somebody said it!”

Julia: What I’ll always love best about this incarnation of John Watson is how competent and badass he is. I hate versions of John Watson where he just exists to stroke Sherlock’s ego. John Watson is one of my favorite characters of all time, and what I love about him is that he seems quiet and unassuming, but in reality he’s just as much of a spitfire and genius as Sherlock Holmes is. He’s just as crazy, he’s just as reckless, he just hides it better. (Like the aside with the Morse code that turned out to be people getting it on in their cars. Such a great aside! It showed that John is competent, observant, and insane enough to go tramping off around the moors at night, alone, but it was such a silly explanation that it injected some much-needed humor into the episode.) And that’s why Holmes and Watson work, that’s what makes them the prototype for the timeless partnership of the eccentric genius and their socially savvy sidekick.

Katie: What I like about the 2nd series is that you really feel like a good amount of time has passed in John and Sherlock’s relationship. It feels like they’ve been on dozens of adventures by now, so when Sherlock proclaims that he has no friends … you know that did cut John to the quick, even if he’s used to Sherlock snapping.

Julia: If it hadn’t already clicked for the entire audience that John and Sherlock are pretty much an old, cranky, married couple, and they still didn’t get it after this episode, I’m pretty sure they’re just doomed to miss the point of this show forever. See, to translate, when Sherlock says, “You’re my only friend,” what he actually means to say is “John, I love you, because you are the only person in the universe who will not blink when I come into the flat with a harpoon and covered in what may or may not be human blood, help me break into a top-secret military base, allow me to drug your coffee, and will still talk to me the morning after. Let’s make friendship bracelets and run into the sunset, but instead of holding hands, we will be chasing a serial killer.”

Katie: Whereas John is saying, “Sherlock, you tell me I’m stupid and occasionally almost get me blown up, but our bond is so strong that our friendship will sabotage all of my sexual relationships from here until the end of time. And I will still let you drug me.”

I was thinking of Reichenbach throughout the episode, too. It’s hard enough to know that we only have one episode left, but its even worse when you know what’s coming. Of course, even the viewers who don’t know that story can guess after how this episode ended.

Julia: Before we go on, I should warn any readers who are not devotees of the Holmes canon enough to know what Reichenbach Falls means to not google it. Really. Preserve the mystery, but do be emotionally prepared to bawl your eyes out. Also be prepared that next week Katie may have to carry the bulk of this column because all I will be doing is wailing the names of characters and sobbing a lot due to all my feelings.

That being said, even though I know the original canon, I have no idea how they’re going to work it out in this series. The whole thing with Mycroft and Moriarty at the end confused the hell out of me. Why would Mycroft let Moriarty go, especially if he’d defaced his cell the way he had? And I highly doubt Mycroft doesn’t know about Moriarty and the pool, even if Sherlock (almost definitely) didn’t tell him what happened. Isn’t the point of Mycroft that he knows everything about everyone’s business because he’s the man in the most Orwellian sense of the word? If this were a normal person, I’d say he let Moriarty go because he had no legal reason to detain him, but it’s not like Mycroft really cares about due process or operating legally and above-board, so what the heck is going on? The only thing I could think while watching that part was, “Oh my god, is Mycroft actually evil?” Am I supposed to think that? the only explanation I can think of is that Mycroft is secretly in league with Moriarty, which is so out of left field it just might work, but man. I know I shouldn’t speculate before an episode even happens, but I can’t help it.

Katie: I don’t want Mycroft to be evil, though! My big guess is that Moriarty has some sort of ace in his pocket that’s keeping him protected from the government … some kind of threat to national security so great that Mycroft had to let him go despite the guy figuratively (and almost literally) writing “Mr. James Moriarty Holmes” all over the walls. I am seriously excited and worried about the finale next week because however this is going to go down, it’s going to be intense.

Julia: “Intense” is one word for it. “Soul-destroying” may be more accurate. But I’m looking forward to it! I think. Maybe.

Photo Credit: BBC

One Response to “Sherlock – The Hound cometh before the Fall”

January 12, 2012 at 4:41 PM

Watson did actually reveal a lot on his blog. He updates it with all the cases that they refer to in the episodes.

But I still don’t get when Moriarty was arrested? How did that happen?

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