Gardening, as far as I’ve always been told, is typically considered a relaxing hobby, but when Elsie Cubitt finds some chalk images on the garden bench, she nearly has a breakdown. Her husband, Hilton, knows who to contact to solve the mystery of the Dancing Men, but will Sherlock be in time to prevent a disaster? For our second story, Holmes doesn’t fare much better than last week. Interesting when one considers his popularity, but I almost wonder if showing his failures also increases his likability.
Initially, the crime is nothing more than vandalism with chalk etchings left for Elsie to see. However, when Hilton is murdered and Elsie is found with a bullet in her head, the local constabulary believe Elsie shot her husband and then tried to take her own life, but Holmes suspects something far more sinister. In speaking with the household staff, they indicate that the first shot was explosively loud, leading Holmes to believe that two shots were fired simultaneously. He investigates and finds a bullet lodged in wood near the window. He concludes that there was an altercation leading to Hilton’s death while another man escaped. In her despair at losing her husband, Elsie tried to take her own life.
Love, plain and simple, leads to a nightmare for Hilton and his wife. Hilton loved his wife and promised never to dig into her hidden past but he was beset with grief by how she was acting. He suspected their relationship was too good to be true leading her into the arms of another. A mysterious figure stalking Elsie and leaving threatening letters in the form of Dancing Men lent credence to his belief but, as we know, things are rarely that simple in love. Elsie did love her husband, but it might not have been enough.
For Abe Slaney, the man who murdered Hilton and referred to as “the most dangerous man in Chicago”, his mistake was loving Elsie. Seems a problem Elsie has to deal with from a few people! When he receives a message in the same chalk figures telling him to “come here at once”, he wastes no time in running to his beloved Elsie. Presumably he thinks she may be reconsidering her position now that her husband is dead, although one might question the logic, since Abe shot Hilton. Regardless, Holmes had deciphered the code and set the trap that leads to Hilton’s capture. Holmes is ruthless in his apprehension of the villain who calmly walks into the trap.
We have the first instance of Holmes reading Watson’s mind, much to the latter’s incredulity. Holmes even reminds Watson that he will say how absurdly simple it all is once told, leading to some humor for the viewer. There’s also reference to Sherlock’s occasional use of cocaine when bored. And we see Sherlock’s cold logic at work when Watson says he was hardly sympathetic to Hilton’s plight. “He doesn’t come to me for sympathy.” Holmes knows that when his services are needed, clients come to him for answers, not kindness.
For the second episode, David Burke again gives us an enthusiastic performance over Mrs. Hudson’s cooking. I love that this Watson is so fond of food. He’s also very human, as he reminds Sherlock to have an elderly housekeeper sit down while telling her story and is every bit the audience identification figure.
Another classic adventure with Brett capturing the performance brilliantly and Burke offering a very kind, relatable Watson. Watson is completely our gateway into the story as both he and the audience stand in awe of Sherlock. Even the detective on the case, Inspector Ross, isn’t the traditional heavy, being upset with Sherlock for invading his turf; he admires Holmes and longs to work with him again. Coupled with some simple but effective animation of the Dancing Men over Cubitt’s sleeping form, this episode is both eye and mind candy. And it might even make you want to play cryptograms when it’s over. Another triumph! ML