I love it when an episode is unintentionally funny. This episode opens up with a woman dressed in a pinkish-red dress standing ominously among flowers. She looks like she’s playing a particularly daunting game of Where’s Waldo (Wally, to you Brits). She then picks a flower, shows it to her beast of a husband through a window and, when he closes the curtain on her, she destroys it violently! The whole opening is comical although for all the wrong reasons. But the actual story is not funny; it’s actually tragic. And I remember finding it immensely enjoyable even when I’d first read it.
It’s one of those weirdly titled ones too. Most are adventures, but this season has had two back to back episodes with long and unusual titles. That changes nothing about the story, but it is an observation… one I think Holmes himself would have speculated over.
“Never allow yourself to love someone too deeply. It will destroy you!” So says the “murder victim” before she is found dead on a bridge of a gunshot wound to the temple, clutching in her hand the invitation to be on the bridge in the first place. She is Maria Gibson, wife of Mr. Gibson (played villainously by Daniel Massey), an American with a hot temper and a love of guns. Gibson is a monster to his wife, occasionally smacking her and generally treating her poorly. He dotes on the governess, Grace Dunbar, who actually has no interest in him romantically, preferring to take care of his children while their mother plays in the rose garden. When Maria is found dead, all suspicion turns to the governess; she had no alibi and one of a set of dueling pistols was found in her wardrobe having had a single shot fired from it.
Maria loved her husband too deeply but he lost interest in her. He treated her badly in the hopes that she would divorce him but she’d have none of it. She sets up Grace to be on the bridge to make her suicide look like a murder. If she can’t have her family, she’s not ready to give up to Grace so easily.
Dueling pistols come in pairs; you can see that by the box they come in! Finding one in a wardrobe, even with a single shot fired, does not make it the murder weapon! Holmes examines where the body was found and notices a chip in the concrete in an unusual place. He works out that Maria was a very clever, if vindictive, woman. She had the first dueling pistol fired and placed in Dunbar’s wardrobe, then had the other attached between twine and a heavy rock hanging over the side of the bridge. When she shot herself in the head, the murder weapon was pulled rapidly into the water, chipping some of the concrete off the bridge as it went.
The whole case comes to Holmes’ attention when Gibson comes to hire Holmes but when asked if he has any relations with the Governess, Gibson lies. Holmes, in character, dismisses Gibson who comes over to smack him, but without missing a beat, Holmes waves him away. I’ve said it before: a strong villain makes it immensely enjoyable to watch Holmes triumph. Gibson is a very difficult man to warm to and no amount of success feels like a victory here. Holmes does save Ms. Dunbar, but that serves only to release her to be with Gibson who dresses up as the phantom of the opera (nearly – you’ll have to see it to believe it) to take her out of prison and leave with her.
We do have a little comedy at the start of the episode as Mrs. Hudson is away and the cook brings Holmes and Watson barely edible breakfast. We also meet Billy, the page who escorts visitors in to see Holmes.
An excellent story, but a very bleak ending. A woman was driven to suicide and the man who drove her there gets to be with the woman he loves. How long will it be until she too ends her own life, when he tires of her? That may be The Problem of Odin’s Bridge. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist!) The bottom line is that it was an excellent episode to watch it all come together, but it does not instill the viewer with a sense of a job well done. If only there were a way to punish Gibson for being a jerk! ML