I don’t remember reading this story! I know I read all of them, but could not reproduce anything from memory while watching it. And yet, it’s very good! Maybe the written version of Baron Gruner on paper didn’t match the deadly foe that Anthony Valentine was on screen. I’ve said many times that the hero is only as good as the villains s/he fights. Baron Gruner is a really great villain!
The problem I have with this episode is that, while Holmes wins, it has less to do with his own cleverness and more the chance encounter with a very beautiful but physically scarred woman who manages to come to his rescue. The baddie gets his just reward alright – and I can’t say any tears were shed watching it happen – but it’s based too heavily on luck. Holmes nearly loses all in this story, and that’s a harder pill to swallow. Perhaps I blocked this one out of my memory, huh?
An unnamed, but “illustrious client” hires Holmes because his daughter is determined to marry Baron Gruner. By all accounts, Gruner is responsible for the death of his last wife and the one witness to the crime. Holmes confronts Gruner and in some ways this is reminiscent of the confrontation with Moriarty, but without the mutual respect. Gruner threatens Holmes and gloats in his own power. Meanwhile, his fiancée Violet is fully supportive of Gruner, even when presented with evidence of his checkered past.
Holmes doesn’t uncover clues as such; merely facts. He learns that one of his informants, Kitty, was a former love interest. Kitty was scarred terribly by acid when Gruner was done with her. Her chest is revealed to be horribly scarred and there are burns on the back of her neck. Kitty reveals that Gruner keeps a journal with photos, often topless, of his many conquests. He meticulously maintains that journal
Holmes spends a good deal of time laid up in this story, having been attacked by Gruner’s men. He’s left in a pitiable state and Watson is told to exaggerate the details to the paper to make it sound like Sherlock is in worse shape than he is. Watson then learns all he can about Gruner’s other hobby, pottery, to keep Gruner in the country (he had planned to be away for a few days). Gruner realizes who Watson is and is planning on shooting him when he hears a break in. He leaves Watson and finds Holmes breaking into the house.
If villains would rewrite the Villains Guide to Better Living, they would know to shoot their enemies and move on. Luckily, they have a “ye olde copee” of the book and thus fail to shoot their foes when a good gloat can be had first. He raises his gun to shoot Holmes when Kitty runs in with acid and throws it in his face. Holmes extracts the notebook and leaves while Gruner is last seen with Watson attempting to minister to his wounds.
Later, at 221b, Holmes is told that the police are coming for him as there is actual proof of his breaking into Gruner’s home, but Holmes seems to be little concerned by this. It’s perhaps the best thing I can say of him in this particular story.
Holmes: “Elementary psychology, Watson!”
I was so excited by the villain of the episode that I failed to note any specific Holmesian lines to speak of. There are no stand-out moments for our heroes in this. In fact, it felt too clichéd when Watson says to Holmes that he has a mountain of work back at the surgery; it highlighted in bright luminous shades that Holmes was about to have a bad day indeed.
For a change, Watson keeps his mouth shut! At the end of the episode, Watson deduces who the illustrious client was, but Holmes prevents him saying anything about it. Well done, Sherlock. Watson has systematically blurted out a half dozen other people but this guy must be powerful indeed! I think the title of this episode is weird, when you come right down to it. The client never comes into the picture and we never see him, so why not call this the Adventure of the Acid Throwing Jerk or something. I am sure I would have remembered it with a title like that. There’s also a fairly enjoyable fight scene between two attackers and the man escorting Kitty to see Sherlock Holmes. It has an unexpected win on the part of the good guys. It almost makes Sherlock’s beat-down hurt that much more, since this guy was able to singlehandedly take out two attackers. Shouldn’t Holmes be even more capable!? Either way, it’s an excellent entry into the world of Holmes with a great villain, but I almost wish they turned it into a 2-parter solely so we could see Holmes actually outsmart his enemy. Alas, sometimes we just don’t get what we want. ML