After an enjoyable but not amazing beginning to its second season, “Sherlock” has recovered spectacularly. “The Hounds of Baskerville” (the second installment in this three-part series) definitely exceeded my expectations. This fantastic and highly amusing episode more than makes up for any problems I had with “A Scandal in Belgravia.” In fact, it might possibly be my favorite episode yet.
The first five minutes alone are packed with enough awesome to make your head spin. Beginning with the very first shot of Sherlock, who steps into the Baker Street living room covered in blood and brandishing a harpoon. “Well, that was tedious,” he says, in tone that suggests he’d just gotten back from grocery shopping. Right you are, then.
We then get an brilliant scene in which a desperate, jittery Sherlock begs an unyielding John to let him have access to his nicotine patches/cigarettes (and possibly something more?). I have to say, I am really liking what this series is doing with Sherlock’s nicotine addiction. (The fact that Mycroft, John, and Mrs. Hudson habitually team up to keep Sherlock clean is especially awesome.) This scene does a great job portraying Sherlock’s drug use as an element of his never-ending struggle against boredom (as it is in the original canon). We see Sherlock’s burning need for continuous mental stimulation, and how he resorts to the nicotine for relief when there are no cases to occupy his mind. And Sherlock’s comment about needing “something stronger than tea…seven per cent stronger” is a clever nod to the “seven per cent” cocaine solution in the original. Also: The half-crazed rant about the missing rabbit is hilarious. “…like a FAIRY!”
I thought the Baskervilles story was pretty cleverly adapted. I had been skeptical after watching the episode trailer, as a genetically modified dog-monster did not sound like a particularly convincing menace. “Hound” turning out to be an acronym, and the real culprit being a hallucinogenic drug fog, was much more interesting than anything I’d been expecting (even if some parts of the plot were a bit predictable). And the episode succeeds in being genuinely creepy. The final scene on the moor (Moriarty’s face!) was quite scary. By the way, Russell Tovey does a great job as the terrified, traumatized Henry Knight.
John is wonderful here. He got kind of sidelined in “A Scandal,” so I was happy that he was back in the middle of all the action. He seems to become more amazing with each episode. I loved seeing him bring out his “Captain John Watson, Military BAMF” side. Like a boss. (Sherlock approves.)
Terrified, doubtful, trembling, freaked-out Sherlock is equally excellent. Yes, his emotions are partly drug-induced, but it’s still very satisfying to watch his normally impassive exterior break down.
This episode also makes clear just how much John means to Sherlock (and vice-versa). Sherlock and John’s friendship (or relationship, or however you interpret it) is definitely one of the highlights of “Hounds.” That borderline-angsty “I don’t have friends!” scene, and the awkwardness between the two of them the next day… so very good. And then, Sherlock’s earnest, contrite, wonderful: “What I said before, John, I meant it. I don’t have friends — I’ve just got one.” I think my heart melted. It’s of course been obvious since “The Great Game” that Sherlock cares deeply about John, but Sherlock acknowledging that fact in words (especially since it is so out of character for him) made me insanely happy.
Other great things:
- Mycroft. He was only onscreen for about two seconds, but his “Okay, Sherlock Holmes, what on EARTH have you gotten yourself into this time?” eye-roll is perfect.
- Sherlock can drive? What?
- The visuals of Sherlock’s “mind palace.” Really, realy cool.
- The reference to Sherlock and John playing Cluedo
- The fact that John has at this point just given up on correcting all the people who assume that he and Sherlock are a couple
- (Tanned!) Lestrade just being awesome
Then there is *this* exchange, destined to be honored forever within the halls of fandom:
John: Oh, please can we not do this, this time?
Sherlock: Do what?
John: You, being all mysterious with your…cheekbones, and turning your coat collar up so you look cool.
Sherlock: I don’t do that.
John: Yeah you do.
Oh, so you’ve noticed Sherlock’s cheekbones too, John? Interesting. (Mark Gatiss, how you love to tease us all.) The whining tone in which Martin Freeman delivers the line makes the dialogue, if possible, even better.
And then, finally, that brilliantly sinister ending scene. The shot of Sherlock’s name etched over and over into Moriarty’s prison cell walls is downright chilling. If you weren’t already freaking out about the “Reichenbach Fall” finale, then you definitely will be after this scene. You know that it’s going to be dark and it’s going to be creepy and it’s going to be exciting and it’s going to be *good.* And that it will likely tear all our hearts into shreds and leave us in tears for a week.
Brace yourselves for Sunday.