Sherlock, Ep. 2.02, “The Hounds of Baskerville”: A classic tale with a modern twist

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Season 2, Episode 2: The Hounds of Baskerville
Written by Mark Gatiss
Directed by Paul McGuigan
Aired Sunday January 7th, 2012 at 8.30pm GMT on BBC 1

After last week’s quite thrilling episode A Scandal in Belgravia, fans are treated to an adaptation of one of, if not the most, famous Sherlock Holmes stories – The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Writer Mark Gatiss has the pleasure and pressure of reinventing the story.  With its underlying supernatural elements, it is a challenge to revitalise it for modern fans of the acclaimed television series while staying true to the strengths that made this the most well known of Holmes’ cases.  As a result, Sir Knight is now a traumatised and paranoid young man and Baskerville Hall transformed into a Government testing facility, with its scenes that bring in an almost science-fiction element – proving that Sherlock is no one-trick pony.
Gatiss has gone for the more suspenseful route and his experience in working on the BBC dark comedy The League of Gentlemen helps with creating an ideal horror setting for his creation.

The story finds our heroes in rural Devon, where the dishevelled Henry Knight, played by wonderful Russell Tovey, reports seeing a gigantic and legendary hound, which supposedly killed his father 20 years ago.  Seeing Tovey in Sherlock is an inspiring casting choice – drawing comparisons between this episode and his role in BBC dramedy Being Human (where he plays a werewolf) are quickly made although seeing his character’s descent into madness is suspenseful and intriguing.

This series is proving to be quite revelationary for our hero.  Last week, we see a sensual side of Mr. Holmes during his encounter with Irene Adler, and this episode is no exception.  The cynical yet mildly curious Sherlock is there for a good 45 minutes, only for him to become completely spooked.  For the first time – not only in this season but also in any of the episodes produced – we see our hero lost for words.

The incomprehensible expressions from Cumberbatch render the character almost unrecognisable – we are used to seeing Sherlock as being cool and collected, using his undeniable logic to find his way but during one scene, we see Martin Freeman’s Watson take charge in bringing his partner…nay, friend, back to Earth.
It’s also enjoyable for Watson to get in on the fun – pulling rank at Baskerville is definitely a giggle worthy moment, and when it comes to being an unwitting guinea pig courtesy of Sherlock, there is no sense of anger or disapproval afterwards.  He just has the pleasure of telling Holmes that he was wrong, therefore getting the last laugh for once.

As faithful as the elements are to the original story (the inclusion of characters Stapleton and Dr. Mortimer to name a few) the episode plot is not as cryptic as previous instalments. If anything, it reminds you of Scooby Doo cartoons – the clues are there; you just have to put them together.

Paul McGuigan’s direction of quick edits and scenic Dartmoor views that are reminiscent of Jane Austen novels are quite fitting, with Sherlock’s ‘mind-palace’ sequence, where his powers of deduction shine, being quite exemplary.

The Hound of Baskerville doesn’t disappoint and Sherlock fans – of both the book and the TV series – cannot fault the attention to detail that Gatiss has put into the script.  There are so many things that have not been covered in great detail – the headlight in-joke, Watson’s great lines – but even with all this fun, Sherlock Holmes cannot afford to be cranky…he has one more problem to solve.  And it will make unmissable viewing.

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