After Holmes fell to his death at Reichenbach, Watson has aged! He almost looks like a different man. I might write this off to the grieving process if not for the fact that it is a different actor. While I was very fond of David Burke, this Watson is probably more akin to what Doyle had in mind: a skilled former army surgeon. Gone is the more humorous version of Watson, but what we get is an admirable member to the many names who have played Sherlock’s best friend, Edward Hardwicke.
The biggest problem for this episode is that it needs to spend almost half of its running time on explaining where Holmes was for the last three years. This offers some marvelously amusing moments with Holmes taking pleasure in causing Watson to pass out and nearly put Mrs. Hudson in an early grave. So, by its very nature, it’s not a deep episode, but it’s still immensely enjoyable.
Ronald Adair is found dead in his locked bedroom, shot in the head by “person or persons unknown.” The room is on the second floor of a large house and there is a sheer drop out the window. Who killed the honorable Adair, and why?
Ah, it’s never a good idea to tell a bad guy that you’re onto them and going to rat them out. Typically a bad guy has very little in the line of morals, so if they feel threatened, they might just react. Sure enough, Adair found that one Colonel Sebastian Moran was cheating at cards and threatened to have him expelled from the club of which they were both members. Moran, one of Moriarty’s henchmen and the only other one to get away during the roundup in the last episode, is an expert marksman and takes out Adair from a distant location with an “airgun”.
For being one of the best hunters in Africa, Moran falls too easily for a trap; one he himself has used many times. Holmes allows his presence to be known, then sets up a wax bust of himself in his rooms at 221b. Holmes and Watson lie in wait, until Moran arrives in the titular empty house across the street, and pounce as soon as Moran takes the shot. Holmes is able to place the weapon as being the same one that was use to kill Adair.
If you ask me, Holmes and Watson also make a mistake. While lying in wait, we know Watson has his service revolver with him yet he fails to use it. He doesn’t even draw it to subdue Moran. They leap out and nearly lose the battle against this trained hunter as a result. Luckily he wears a cape and Holmes gets it over Moran’s head, but it seems like a lame victory!
Holmes’ return is nothing short of delightful. Brett is a master of his art and captures so much, often with just a look; micro-expressions that speak volumes. There is also a lot of foreshadowing that we learn about from the previous episode. During The Final Problem, there is a random gunshot that misses Holmes and Watson. Holmes notices it but it seems to play little part in the rest of that adventure. In this story, we learn that Moran was at the Reichenbach and was responsible for that shot. It’s all surprisingly ahead of its time!
There’s also a great piece of dialogue between Holmes and Watson when Sherlock says that his brother was the only one who knew he was alive.
Watson: I would have thought I was at least as trustworthy as your brother.
Sherlock: Of course you are, but you have a kinder heart!
Once again I was overjoyed to return to the world of Sherlock Holmes. It’s a slightly less complex story, lacking in the mystery for a good deal of the episode, but that takes away very little. The mystery only makes up about half of the enjoyment one gets out of Sherlock Holmes stories. The other half is the joy of watching Sherlock and Watson interact and this is no exception. The Great Detective is back on the case! ML