Life is funny sometimes. I was driving home from work with one of my colleagues and she says to me, “I love looking at the wisteria.” Strange thing to observe on a good day, but certainly unexpected when that night, 4 hours later, I select the next Sherlock Holmes episode on the list and it’s Wisteria Lodge. Of course, I told her. I mean, how unlikely is that?!
But that’s where the enjoyment of the story ended. I can’t say this was a favorite; in fact, I’d say it was out and out the worst of the lot so far. Holmes never really solves the case and the inspector on the case seems to have most of the pieces in hand. Freddie Jones plays Inspector Baynes and I was torn between liking him and despising him throughout the episode. His smile is such a weird one that when I tried it out for myself, it looked like I was trying to swallow my lower jaw. It’s all upper teeth in a way I can’t explain, but it comes off both fake and cocky; perhaps the very thing they were aiming for. And even the mystery of the story barely ranks. The best part of the story is at the start when Holmes calls Watson a “man of letters” and asks him to define the word “grotesque”. One can hardly make an episode out of that though, can they?!
The issue brought to Sherlock’s attention is hardly worthy of attention. Cartographer Scott Eccles is invited to the home of Garcia. In the middle of the night, he’s woken but goes back to sleep. He wakes the next day to find no one home. What he doesn’t know is that Garcia has been murdered nearby but that’s hardly the reason he goes to see Holmes. He’s really going to a detective to find out where his hosts went and why dinner was so dreadful. That’s like me calling the police to complain about the groundhog that’s tormenting my yard! The only thing that makes it of interest is that the dead man is found with a letter on his person from Mr. Scott Eccles. While doing some investigating, a woman is spotted in a window and she seems in distress, but that’s also only tangentially related to what Holmes is asked to investigate.
What mistakes? The only mistake is Holmes thinking this might be a case worth investigating.
This is one of those convoluted tales that don’t work well in the canon. There’s a villain named Henderson, AKA Don Murillo, aka The Tiger of San Pedro. He actually could have made a mean stand-in for Roger Delgado’s Master in Doctor Who. The moment he sat on his throne and placed his bejeweled hand over his other, I expected him to say that was the Master and Holmes would obey him. It certainly would have been more entertaining at least. Anyway, he’s a former dictator and ruthless man who is being hunted by some undercover operatives. His children’s governess is one of them and Garcia was another. Henderson tricks Garcia out of hiding and beats him brutally with a sandbag. It’s actually a really disturbing murder when it’s enacted before the audience! It’s purely coincidental that Eccles was staying with Garcia the night he’s tricked out of hiding.
Holmes: “We must not confuse the unlikely with the impossible.”
When Watson is spying on the nearby household and spots the distressed woman in the window, he is suddenly jumped by two young girls who manage to utterly incapacitate him and drag him to their home where Holmes is in waiting. Watson calls the children “gorgons” which had to be the funniest line of the story!
As far as a victory for Holmes, he has none. The best he’s able to do is smack his cane into the window of the train as Murillo is getting away, cracking the window directly where Murillo’s face was. This is more vandalism to the London transportation system than anything approaching a win for Holmes. Watson can get the credit for pulling the woman off the train and rescuing her, and I suppose that is truly the victory here, but it’s hardly a strong one.
Oh, of some interest, Watson mentions the case of the Five Orange Pips. A great story, but never made into one of the Brett episodes, depressingly.
The episode may be the definition Holmes was looking for around the word “grotesque”. It ends with a sequence that takes place on the train. It appears Murillo’s fate is sealed when he’s intercepted on the train and shot. We only see the guns enter the train cabin and fire, so there’s a chance Murillo escaped, but then Watson will have a hard time getting me to read the sequel. This is far from a good episode and is damned convoluted. I didn’t love the Greek Interpreter either, but that one is better by a long shot! I’m going back to watch the wisteria on my drive home from work; that would be far more entertaining! ML