TV REVIEW: Sherlock Season 2 Episode 2 – The Hounds of Baskerville

Sherlock and Watson are drawn out of London by an intriguing mystery. A young man, Henry Knight, turns up at Baker Street begging Sherlock to solve the mystery of his dead father, and the monster that stalks him in the wilds of Dartmoor.

Last week, Sherlock examined the idea of the title character being able to give and receive love. This week, we learn even more about the enigmatic consulting detective, and the cracks made in his cool veneer by Irene Adler grow a little bit wider. Sherlock is thrown into turmoil for one all to brief scene and we see a little deeper into the man himself.

The Hound of the Baskervilles – slightly renamed by writer Gatiss – is arguably the most famous story in the Sherlock Holmes canon, but it is also one that does not have Sherlock at the centre of it, and this could be why this episode is slightly less brilliant than the season premiere. Before you get all up in arms, we didn’t say it was bad, we just said it was slightly less brilliant.

Once Sherlock and Watson get outside London, Sherlock seems to be thrown by the fact that he is no longer in a big city that he knows intimately. He allows Watson to take control of the situation – to a point – and even goes so far as to drive a car. It seems strange to see Sherlock behind the wheel of a car; he is the type of impulsive character who does not always operate in the real world, and the fact that he is allowed to operate heavy machinery is weird. Sherlock steps back and allows Watson to do some investigating on his own and to pull rank at the Ministry of Defence station that they investigate. This may be a logical step in the relationship between Watson and Sherlock – Watson even makes some clever deductions when the doorbell is rung – but when it comes down to it, Sherlock is still the one who solves the mystery first.

We get a deeper glimpse into the character of Sherlock this week. When he sees something that he could not possibly have seen, but cannot doubt the reliability of his eyes, Sherlock is entirely thrown, shaken and afraid. This is the first time that the detective has seen the mystery he is solving as anything other than a game, and it serves to allow the audience to understand him a little more, and for him to open up and finally tell Watson that he considers him a friend. Another huge development with the character, as he has always been something of a one-man wolf pack.

Speaking of wolves, Being Human’s Russell Tovey turns up this week as the man who is being terrorised by the hound on the moor. Tovey is on fine form as Henry Knight, but this may not have been the best role for him. This is nothing to do with his performance – he is great as always – but the fact that he has just finished up on Being Human, a show in which he played a werewolf, and now he is turning up again in an episode of a BBC drama that is reigned over my a massive hound. Dogs are a subspecies of the wolf, you know. At first, it is hard for the audience to shake the notion that this is a secret episode of Being Human, which is a shame for Tovey. Is it possible to be typecast as an actor who has strong ties to the wolf? Is that a bad thing?

If this wasn’t an episode of Sherlock – which has proven, time and again that it is a cut above the average TV show – this would be an excellent episode, but when the memory of last week’s episode A Scandal in Belgravia is so fresh, it is hard not to be disappointed. It is just not a very Sherlock-y episode. The lead character takes a back seat – as he does in the original story – and only has one incredible deductive scene. There are issues with including too much of Sherlock’s method, but this week we see too little of it. London has almost become a character of itself in the show, so when that is removed, along with the leading man, the episode suffers. Also, there is barely a trace of Moriarty and Mrs Hudson to be seen; both are characters that keep Sherlock in his place, but this week, it is fear that dominates.

Mark Gatiss has done a great job in adapting the story, the best he could – and he knows horror – and there would surely have been a fan outcry if the story had not been told, but this is a weaker episode than we are used to. Not to focus on the negative though; the dialogue is still top rate, and Sherlock uses some quick little tricks to get answers, and the best of the people around him. There is also a great scene where Sherlock uses his ‘mind palace’ to connect the dots of the case, and an oppressive air of suspense hangs over the episode, which keeps the audience guessing.

It is clear that the show is ramping up to another fantastic finale – Sherlock’s fear of Moriarty is finally revealed this week – so we can look forward to that, but in a bittersweet irony, the episode we are looking forward to most, will be the last for a while.

GS Reviewer: Brogen Hayes

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3 comments

  1. “Slightly less brilliant” is spot on. Baskervilles is a horrible story to redo, as it’s so well known and actually one of Conan Doyle’s less accomplished efforts, despite the fantastic atmospheric feel of the piece.

    My three favourite moments:

    When Sherlock admits to John. “I don’t have ‘friends’. I’ve got just one”. It’s beautifully played by both Cumberbatch and Freeman.

    I loved the way the fog suddenly became integral to the plot rather than just mere atmospheric window dressing.

    Most important of all – Lestrade finally gets a first name! In the books he is simply G Lestrade – now we know he’s a Greg. He doesn’t really strike me as a Greg though. Geraint maybe?

    Totally agree about the password thing, though. You’re in charge of a top secret facility and your password is ‘Maggie’? Seriously? Why not go the whole hog and make it ‘password’?!?

    Anyhow, 8/10 from me. Is there really only one more episode to go? 🙁

    http://slouchingtowardsthatcham.com/2012/01/09/sherlock-the-hounds-of-baskerville-review/

  2. Mark /

    Good review. (Which means, of course, that I agree with it!)

    I think you sum it up the main deficiency well when you say it just wasn’t as “Sherlock-y” as the others. It also seemed to lack the clever writing of earlier episodes — we aren’t quoting lines of dialog to one another this morning. (The scene in which three characters explain the meaning of H.O.U.N.D. while reading if from the computer screen is so stock that I laughed aloud at how bad it was.)

    I would say it that it would be an average episode of some typical series but I have come to expect better.

  3. SnazzyO /

    WARNING SPOILERS FOR EP2:

    I think the high standards for Sherlock do put it in a league of it’s own. I agree I liked Scandal better but I am impressed by the adaptation Gatiss took. It’s a brave man to reinterpret ACD in the first place, let alone a book read by most people sometime during their schooling. I thought the elements (government lab generated hallucinations, psychiatrist vice doctor, friend of the family vice maid and butler, etc…) were all well done. I DID spot the fog as a hallucinogen pretty early on (when Sherlock lost his nut) but since I knew the original story so well I could delight in the little touches. The friendship is what drives and that was well handled. I also liked how Moriarty is looming in Sherlock’s mind. If you haven’t seen the creepy video blog of Moriarty fangirling through 221B Baker St I suggest you visit the home site and tee it up. Creepy.

    Next week’s adventure seems to be well set up.

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