Studying Sherlock: “The Hounds of Baskerville”

Sherlock - Series 2

While I’d say that Mark Gatiss is a writer who’s work can drastically vary in quality, I would say that the majority of his scripts are enjoyable. Even when they’re dark, like The Unquiet Dead, there is something about them which feels rather lively and watchable. He’s not the world’s greatest writer, but he’s not a boring one either. His scripts have heart and effort is put into all of them. They don’t always work, and some of his Doctor Who scripts are some of my least favourites, but, when he does work as a writer, he can be fantastic. He’s inconsistent, but he can produce some great things. The Hounds of Baskerville is one of them.

Okay, The Hounds of Baskerville is nothing amazing. It’s not as good as The Great Game and it’s not the best script he has ever written, but, it’s a highly enjoyable 90 minutes of television. Here, Gatiss plays to his strengths of horror and humour, and it really works. It’s not a perfect story, but it’s certainly a good one. There’s a good mystery in there, as well as some good character work, so you can’t ask for anything more.

The Hound of Baskerville, as I said, works as it fuses together Gatiss’ skills of both horror and humour. Let’s start with the horror. Combined with some good direction by Paul McGuigan (though not as noticeably interesting as his other efforts), Hound manages to be a tense mystery which does keep you interested throughout. The concept is great, and as somebody who can be a bit scared of big dogs (I’m not bad with them, but I don’t like it when they’re particularly loud or jumpy) it is pretty chilling. The script plays out in a very suspenseful manner, and the horror is very psychological. What could have been a bit silly is actually pretty tense and terrifying.

Where this episode really strives though is its humour. Gatiss does have a very witty style, the way the characters pick at each other is hilarious, and thanks to the stellar comic timing of the cast, I’m laughing a lot throughout. I loved the scene at the beginning when Sherlock was almost having a fit in search for his cigarettes. It’s almost childlike and crazy, and Cumberbatch is stellar. I also really liked such moments as when they drive into the base using Mycroft’s ID, and the scene where they find out that Lestrade is also in Dartmoor. The witty relationship between all of these characters is something that really makes this series a hit, and I do think Gatiss has the edge of representing that.

There’s also some lovely character moments. I really liked the scene at the end when Sherlock reveals that he deliberately locked John in the room is an excellent scene, and where he admits that John is his only friend is really touching. I also really enjoyed Sherlock’s mind palace sequence, that was really clever and beautifully shot. These past two episodes, Sherlock has really grown as a character, and he has become really interesting to watch. Looking forward to what gets done with him next, as his development thus far has been impressive.

With most of the action taking place in Dartmoor, a lot of the familiar locations and characters are pushed aside or absent. It’s good to see Lestrade, as Rupert Graves is brilliant, but this effectively means Hounds had to make use of a proper guest cast. They did an excellent job here. Russell Tovey does a good job, though maybe overdoes it in some parts and his voice is obviously put on, but he does capture the fear of his character very well. The other characters are well performed too.

The way the case comes together is very clever, and the drug twist, while not exactly genius, is a satisfying resolution to the case. I must admit though that I saw Dr Frankland being a baddie from the very beginning, there was something about the way he was shot and even performed which seemed suspicious, but it was still an interesting conclusion to the problem.

Production wise, again, stellar. The direction helped add to the horror, creating it in some scenes, such as when Watson got locked in the cupboard, and the music was very eerie too. The pacing was fine, and I wasn’t bored through any length of the runtime, though it did feel about five minutes too long.

It’s not the best episode of anything ever, but it’s a solid, enjoyable script. Solid, enjoyable scripts are not exactly what I want in a series which is three episodes long, but you can only review what we have, and what we have is a decent 90 minutes of TV. It’s not the greatest Sherlock episode, but if this is one of your weaker ones, then that goes to show the quality of your show. Sherlock is becoming one of my favourite TV shows, and this journey has been an excellent one so far.

Overall: A good mix of horror and humour and an enjoyable 90 minutes of television, but nothing particularly special.

8/10

Episode Ranking
1. A Study in Pink
2. The Great Game
3. A Scandal in Belgravia
4. The Hounds of Baskerville
5. The Blind Banker

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