It’s the last episode of the great Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes. Overall, even with a handful of duds, I still say, there is no man who has done such justice to Sherlock Holmes. There are others that warrant some recognition (stay tuned) but no one captured the character off the page as well as Brett.
How do we do on the last episode? Thankfully, very well. Brett’s health, while declining, seems to have given him some respite for him to truly be Holmes one more time. The story is a macabre one too; just as I like them. And the final scene is a disturbing one to go out on, but hey… it’s memorable.
I don’t recall there being any other Christmas-themed episodes in the written word short of The Blue Carbuncle but the episodes are a different matter. Miss Susan Cushing kicks out a lodger who is overly fond of her sister, Sarah. That lodger, Jakotett, is a medical student which is significant. On Christmas eve, they open presents; one of which was a parcel left under the tree. Upon unwrapping it, she passes out which leads us to…
The package contained two severed ears. At first, she blames the former lodger, but he has an alibi. She then makes the leap that it is a gag played by one of her former students. However, Holmes gets involved and immediately realizes something is missing: the smell of formaldehyde, typically present in student laboratories. The only gag here is the gag reflex to finding two freshly severed human ears in a box of salt on Christmas Eve! The game is often afoot… but this time, it’s an ear! (Sorry…)
This is the work of Jim Browner, Sarah and Susan’s brother in law. A crime of passion, the story unfolds: Jim was happily married to their other sister Mary, who has been missing. Sarah fell for Jim so she introduces Mary to another man, with designs on having Jim for herself. But Jim wants no part of her. Alas, when he sees Mary with the other man, he stalks them both and kills them. He cuts their ears off and sends them to Sarah, but Susan gets the parcel instead.
The episode ends with them having found Susan, frozen under the ice. The freeze-frame of her dead staring eyes is quite disturbing and a surprising way to end the series!
The lack of formaldehyde is the key element. The rest comes from deductions around the behavior of Sarah and the absence of Mary. Also the time tables have changed for Christmas leading Holmes to realize he still had time to find the fleeing killer. Upon hearing Browner’s story, he does sympathize and says it is a shame they are not in France where the crime of passion is recognized.
Holmes again claims that people in the medical profession are “notoriously illegible”. Watson rolls his eyes, comically. Also, when Mrs. Hudson takes one of Sherlock’s plants, he yells that she dare not take it. “I do dare!” she says, as she walks away with it. Those little touches are such delightful points. They take so little effort to bring them to life, but they enhance the episodes enormously.
To end the series, Holmes speculates on human nature, and perhaps in the end, this is what keeps him in business.
Sherlock Holmes: What is the meaning of it, Watson? What is the object of this circle of misery and violence and fear? It must have a purpose or our universe has no meaning and that is unthinkable. But what purpose? That is humanity’s great problem to which reason, so far, has no answer.
“The men and I would be very honored if you would drop by on Christmas Eve…” Hawkings is back, played again by Duggan from Doctor Who, Tom Chadbon. He asks Sherlock to the station which is a nice call back to Lestrade’s comment earlier in the series that the force would like to shake his hand. A nice way to end the series; he actually goes!
A fantastically enjoyable ending to a great series. Glad it went out on a strong note. Season 4 was weaker than average but this story is a good way to go out. Memorable, with a friendly visit to Scotland Yard and a bit of philosophical ponderings by the great detective. Coupled that with a lovely Christmas setting and an absolutely stunning house, this was a truly enjoyable end to a series that I recommend highly.
I’m not done following our favorite detective though. We’re going to explore a few more versions of Sherlock Holmes. Stick around. The game is still afoot… ML