Sherlock blogging: “The Hounds of Baskerville”

Sherlock Martin Freeman Benedict Cumberbatch

(all spoilers! don’t read till you’ve seen the episode… or unless you don’t care if it’s spoiled for you. previous: “A Scandal in Belgravia”)
There’s little resemblance to Arthur Conan Doyle’s story here, apart from the lashings of creepy atmosphere:


Plus the fact that someone is indeed keeping a dog to glom onto the scary stories of a huge hound terrifying hikers. This was so very obvious, wasn’t it?


I mean, the “Vegetarian Cuisine” just leapt right out at me! Did Mark Gatiss mean to be so blatant? Or am I just harder to fool after so many years paying so close attention to visual storytelling?

So of course I caught this right away, too:


I also started figuring “hallucinogen” fairly early on, though Henry’s motion-activated security lights did throw me off that for a bit, too (because there was definitely something in his yard — although I suppose even the lights coming on could have been a hallucination, too). Bit of a cheat, perhaps, to have both a real dog and a hallucinated one… or else it’s very clever.

So, another fun episode, if perhaps more interesting on the character side than the plot side. It’s fascinating to see Holmes so vulnerable, even defenseless. Sherlock comes under attack in a way that he didn’t think he was open to. “Look at me, I’m afraid,” he tells John.

Sherlock Benedict Cumberbatch

I’ve always been able to keep myself distant, divorce myself from feelings, but don’t you see? My body is betraying me.

What’s funny, though, is that the nicotine craving that grips Sherlock in the opening sequence is also an example of his body betraying him: he so clearly is not the disembodied mind without physical needs and desires he would like to think he is. And yet it’s not the need for a cigarette that indicates this to him — perhaps because that’s a pleasurable physical thing — but his fear and doubt, an unpleasant mental thing tied to an unpleasant physical thing.

Or perhaps the nicotine craving did bother him, and that set him up for being even more on edge — both physically and mentally — when the fear and doubt come along.

I wonder, too: “A Scandal in Belgravia” was also about exposing a weakness of Sherlock’s that even he didn’t expect. Will the finale episode see Sherlock under attack from yet another unanticipated angle? John calls him “Spock” in one bit, and alludes to Sherlock’s “Asperger’s” in another. Maybe we’re looking at some sort of clinical diagnosis for Sherlock coming up? Something that would genuinely undercut his belief in his own superiority?

Perhaps Sherlock fears that Moriarty is simply smarter than he is. Certainly he does fear Moriarty so much that he hallucinates his face:

Sherlock Andrew Scott


Sherlock’s “mind palace” is very Asperger’s, very neuro atypical. Brilliant depiction of how a different sort of mind works:

Sherlock Benedict Cumberbatch

Sherlock Benedict Cumberbatch

Sherlock Benedict Cumberbatch

I figure this is why the phrase “the footprints of a gigantic hound” resonated so strongly with Sherlock when Henry mentioned it: the word hound howled around his mind palace and started setting off pertinent associations immediately.

Random thoughts on “The Hounds of Baskerville”:

• I wasn’t the only one thinking OMG, the hound of Baskerville is a werewolf!, was I?

Sherlock Russell Tovey

Steven Moffat is yanking our collective chain by casting Russell “George the werewolf” Tovey, isn’t he?

• God, life can be so tedious sometimes:

Sherlock Benedict Cumberbatch

• The evasive language Sherlock uses to talk about his nicotine craving — he needs “some,” he wants “some,” no one will sell him “any” — is clearly meant to hint at something far more potent and more illegal than cigarettes (we’re thinking heroin cocaine, like Conan Doyle’s Sherlock used — and Sherlock does say he wants something “seven percent stronger” than the tea Mrs. Hudson offers, another heroin cocaine reference). And there were hints of that back in the first series, in the “drugs bust” scene, that Sherlock does use something illegal. I wonder if Moffat and Gatiss will get back to that at some point.

• That’s funny…

Sherlock Benedict Cumberbatch

…Sherlock never makes coffee at home…

• Hey, what with Dr. Stapleton’s glowing rabbit Bluebell, this was almost Night of the Lepus

• Franklin’s “Here’s my cell number” set off alarms for me right away, but not in the way it eventually played out. I was wondering, for a while, whether Americanisms were creeping even more into British English than I had already been noticing. I’ve heard tons of Brits, for instance, use the word cookie instead of biscuit. But I hadn’t yet heard a Brit use cell instead of mobile.

• You know, I bet Baskerville really does have a pair of aliens they call Abbott and Costello locked up in a lower level…

• I love love love how startled Sherlock is to discover that Lestrade’s first name is “Greg,” after just accusing him of using that as a false name.

I’ve been trying to find a good reason to make a note of the fact that our heroes are calling each other “Sherlock” and “John” when it was always, always “Holmes” and “Watson” in Conan Doyle, and in, I think, nearly every other version of these stories. And I think this is it: It does suddenly seem weird that they’ve been calling Lestrade by his last name only. (It also seems equally weird that Lestrade has a first name at all! I thought it was “Inspector.”) It certainly wouldn’t ring true to have two guys who share a flat and consider themselves friends calling each other by their surnames. This might be one of the most striking deviations from Conan Doyle. Updating some things to modern parallels seems so right to the point of being almost unquestionable — like telegrams becoming mobile texts — but this is one moderization that is unexpectedly pointed: society is a lot less formal than it was in the 1880s.

• Pretty:


Very pretty:

Sherlock Benedict Cumberbatch

I need to go see Dartmoor for myself, I think.

• Wait: Mycroft has had Moriarty locked up, and then let him go?

Sherlock Andrew Scott Mark Gatiss

I suppose there’s gonna be a good explanation for this…

• Great quotes:

“We are never playing that again.” –John, about Cluedo
“Why not?” –Sherlock
“Because it’s not actually possible for the victim to have done it, Sherlock, that’s why.” –John
“It’s the only possible solution.” –Sherlock
“It’s not in the rules.” –John
“Well then the rules are wrong!” –Sherlock

“In your own time.” –John, to a prospective client who appears upset
“But quite quickly.” –Sherlock

“You’re just showing off.” –John
“Of course, I am a showoff. That’s what we do.” –Sherlock

“Thank you for smoking.” –Sherlock

“I haven’t pulled rank in ages.” –John
“Did you enjoy it?” –Sherlock
“Oh yeah.” –John

“What exactly is it that you do here?” –Sherlock
“Mr. Holmes, I would love to tell you. But then of course I’d have to kill you.” –Franklin
“That would be tremendously ambitious of you.” –Sherlock

“Oh please, can we not do this this time?” –John
“Do what?” –Sherlock
“You being all mysterious with your cheekbones and turning your coat collar up so you look cool.” –John
“I don’t do that.” –Sherlock
“Yeah, you do.” –John

“Once you rule out the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be true.” –Sherlock
“What does that mean?” –John

“Funny doesn’t suit you. I’d stick to ice.” –John, to Sherlock

(next: “The Reichenbach Fall”)

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