I am delighted to say that after a very weak start to Season 4 of Sherlock Holmes, the second episode was a major triumph. It spends over half the episode getting us ready for the pièce de résistance, but when it comes, it’s extremely triumphant!
Jonathan Hyde plays Culverton Smith. This is the man known to genre fans as Eldritch Palmer in the FX vampire series The Strain. I recognized him instantly and he’s excellent at playing a villain, so once again we see the value of a good villain. Then we get Downton Abbey’s Lord Grantham, Hugh Bonneville as the primary victim, Victor Savage. So early on we have a good cast. Luckily both Holmes and Watson are also on form again although it’s hard to watch Jeremy Brett’s deterioration. He was so perfect as Holmes that it’s hard to imagine that my final few episodes with him will show his weight gain and the paleness of his skin. At least for this episode that might have worked well for him, but it isn’t a great state of affairs since this episode is called the Dying Detective. Very sad indeed. I still say, no one comes close to Sherlock the way he does!
Victor Savage frequents an opium den because he wants to be a poet – you know, as people do – under the misapprehension that opium brings out his more sensitive side. His cousin, Culverton Smith, seems to egg him on much to his wife’s annoyance. Alas, he becomes desperately sick and dies. His wife and children are then forced to vacate their home as Victor will leaves it all to Smith. Holmes gets involved and knows something is amiss and makes a vocal threat to Smith. Shortly thereafter, Holmes comes down with the same symptoms that killed Savage.
Smith is a pioneer in tropical diseases. Holmes begs Watson to apologize to Smith and request his aid. When Smith arrives, he realizes Holmes has little time left and brags about how he used a mosquito with a deadly virus to poison his cousin. When Holmes threatened him, he sent Holmes a care package with the same strain…
Culverton wanted Savage’s home and belongings. Watson, ever attracted to a lovely woman, even one who just lost her husband, is determined to help her and presses Holmes to aid her.
When Mrs. Hudson asks Watson for help, Holmes lashes out saying Watson knows nothing that can help and forbids him to come near. Watson brings Smith back, but arrives earlier and Holmes pleads with him to hide. Watson goes behind a curtain in the darkened room as Culverton reveals all. But his mistake is not knowing Holmes as well as he knows his strains! Holmes pushed Watson away because Watson would have seen through the ruse: Holmes used a number of methods to make himself look the part of a Dying Detective to get a confession out of the man. When Smith is asking for any last requests, Holmes asks him for a cigarette and matches; when he turns around he heard Holmes light up on his own. He turns back to face the awful truth… Holmes is alive and well and catches the villain in a confession with both Watson as witness, and Scotland Yard at the door.
It’s quite fun watching Holmes when a guest comes to visit. He immediately goes into a pose, before they come in, just to impress them. I also love the relationship between Holmes and Watson; these are the very best of friends. When Holmes tells Watson to stay away, he says he’s too contagious to which Watson says, “Do you think such a thing weighs with me?” He would put himself in harms way for his dear friend.
This episode also gives us a few moments of Holmes being good with children. The Baker Street Irregulars appear in 221b and later, when the “little Savage” goes to thank him for his help allowing her to keep her home, he gives that fast smile and a handshake that quickly makes the girl laugh.
“This is quite good!” It really was a delight watching this episode. I’ve been watching these off Amazon Prime and they put the 3 movies at the end of season three followed by The Three Gables. None of these were the sort of episodes that made me want to press on and I ended up waiting about 2 weeks before coming back to the show. Thankfully, this episode really was the shot in the arm I needed. An apt metaphor, perhaps, for an episode about a virus. It still has that heartbreaking quality of watching Brett deteriorate, but at least this episode leads me to believe we might still end on a high note! ML
In retrospect I can certainly agree that Jeremy Brett is a most perfectly cast Sherlock Holmes. There was something in his eyes and his voice for sure that fit the role quite suitably. Thank you, ML, for helping us all to appreciate Brett’s Holmes even more.
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