Anyone who enjoys Sherlock Holmes has undoubtedly seen the recent Robert Downey Jr. movies costarring Jude Law as Watson. He’s a good Watson but color me a surprised shade of that famously studied scarlet: I had no idea he was in Sherlock Holmes when he was just a lad. I didn’t realize it either even looking at him throughout this episode. It wasn’t until a (weird) slow motion scene that I thought the actor looked familiar. So, like Marina Sirtis in The Six Napoleons, I opted to watch the credits, and nearly fell out of my seat. There he was, plain as day. Sherlock would have been disappointed at my observations skills alright.
Also of interest is that this is the second episode that features something to do with a horse and a clue that is offered by a dog. Silver Blaze may even be credited when Holmes walks through the house and passes the picture of a horse: the name Silver ____ is clearly visible, however, pause as I might, I could not read if the word said “Blaze” or not. Anyway… the story…
Holmes is brought a case by one of the workers at the home of Sir Robert “Grumpy” Norberton. Sir Robert has been moodier than normal: a stable boy has gone missing and his sister – who once loved horses – doesn’t even stop to see them since her illness got worse, but she still rides around the place in a cart. And he gave away his sister’s beloved dog. He’s also been making late night trips to the local church. And a human femur has been found in the furnace… But what is the crime?!
Giving away a much beloved dog isn’t a good idea. When Holmes tries to get the dog close to his owner, the Lady Beatrice, the maid rushes them away which flags something amiss to Holmes. He investigates the church when he learns that the dog also had some negative reaction when near it.
Well, theoretically, there isn’t one. At worst, Sir Robert defiles the grave of an ancestor in order to bury his sister and he uses his “missing” stable boy to masquerade as the sister, complete with full face covering so no one knows its not her. (This is where we get the slow motion reveal that the sister is in fact Jude Law!) The body that had been in the coffin was disposed of in the furnace, hence the found bone. Sir Robert’s sister had been ill and died of a heart condition, but her death would mean his home and all of his belongings would have fallen to his brother in law due to excessive debt. That is, unless he could hide the fact of her death long enough to win a horserace. He does win the race, pays off all his debts, and claims his sister died after the race. Holmes allows the deceit to save the man his home.
“And then there’s the other trouble…” Using Watson as an actual medical man was a stroke of brilliance, but it is outright hilarious when he comes to distract the butler and asks for a list of ailments. The man goes through a significant list before knowingly hinting at some other trouble that he won’t vocalize in from of the maid.
We also get some comedy at the end when Watson admits to having bet on the horse himself and won some money. Mrs. Hudson comes in with champagne to celebrate with them, and we learn that she too won some money. Holmes laughs gleefully.
Here’s another fine example of Watson throwing someone under the proverbial horse and carriage: he writes the events of these stories. Perhaps Sir Robert was doing well in life and no longer Captain of the Grumpy Brigade. Watson releases this information and that means the law could pursue him. Perhaps Watson was courteous enough to release it after the death of Norberton? Oh well… Anyway, it’s rare that we get a dog’s eye view during the episode but then this is a weird episode. It works, but it’s still not one of my favorites, and yet I can say nothing to condemn it. Maybe the way Sir Robert hauls Jasper, the dog, up the stairs at one point: it’s a bit rough and I’m sure the dog was alright, but it bothered me. Having said that, I did enjoy the mystery, but at no point did I feel Holmes had his moment. Definitely a good episode, but not quite a great one. ML