Down, Dog! Sherlock Encounters “The Hounds of Baskerville”

Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes
A case, a case, my kingdom for a case!
A 20-year-old disappearance.  A monstrous hound. Wouldn’t miss this for the world.

Literally climbing the walls—or at least the furniture—for lack of a case (it’s positively been minutes since his last one!) Sherlock is bored /nonplussed/ repelled /intrigued by the scenario Henry Knight presents to him: 20 years earlier, Henry’s father was mauled to death by a “gigantic hound” at a place called Dewar’s Hollow. Henry, just a little boy at the time, saw the whole thing happen. Now he’s gone back to visit the site—on the advice of his therapist, no less—and he’s seen the hound again. If he’s to unravel this mystery and come to terms with his childhood trauma, he’ll need more than a shrink to help him: he’ll need Sherlock Holmes.

Upon a nanosecond’s reflection, Sherlock agrees to take the case, and before you can say “weekend in the country,” he and Watson are off to the wilds of Dartmoor in the picturesque county of Devon.

Once upon a time, the actual Hound of the Baskervilles might have been inspired by folklore and legend. This time, the creature is the manifestation of locals’ concerns and conjectures about the nearby Baskerville chemical and biological weapons research center. (And, let’s face it, those places are a heck of a lot scarier than any distant howling on the moors.) Exactly what the teams of government-funded scientists are doing behind the barbed wire fences and minefields that surround Baskerville is anyone’s guess. But whatever it is; it’s not good.

The episode maintains a fine level of spookiness throughout, creating a mood so tense that the lights going on can be just as terrifying as the lights going off.

Russel Tovey
Haunted by a hound.
Russell Tovey plays the distraught Henry Knight. You’ll recognize him. He pops up in lots of things, from Miss Marple to Doctor Who to Being Human, in which he plays a werewolf. Seems like his characters never have an easy time of things, and this is no exception.

Rupert Graves does a quick, but memorable turn as Inspector Greg (who knew?) Lestrade, looking tanned and fit.

And in this episode particularly, special mention must be made of Martin Freeman as Dr. John Watson. While most of the attention and praise for Sherlock tends to fall on Benedict Cumberbatch and his cheekbones—both of which are worthy of note—Martin Freeman consistently demonstrates his skill as an actor with the merest glance, gesture, or grimace. Who better to represent us mere mortals? Smart, confident, capable, and stubborn, as Watson he willingly gives Sherlock respect and expects the same in return. And Sherlock, being a genius, knows enough to comply.

 To describe the episode in more detail would be to reveal spoilers, and that I won’t do. But I will say this: It seems to me that a pivotal clue is based on a misperception by the series creators. That would be an unusual misstep, so I’m curious to hear from anyone else who noticed an incongruity. (NO SPOILERS PLEASE!)

Also read Lyndsay Faye’s views on The Hounds of Baskerville episode.

Next week: The conclusion of Sherlock season 2, “The Reichenbach Fall.”

Leslie Gilbert Elman is the author of Weird But True: 200 Astounding, Outrageous, and Totally Off the Wall Facts. Follow her on Twitter @leslieelman.

Read all of Leslie Gilbert Elman’s posts for Criminal Element.


  1. Terrie Farley Moran

    After being woefully disappointed by the Irene Adler scandel last week, I DVRed this but didn’t watch. Your assessment encourages me to try again because I really want to like this series but have trouble with a young Holmes and a modern story.

  2. Leslie Gilbert Elman

    Sorry to hear you’re disappointed, Terrie.

    Sherlock is definitely not your traditional Holmes, but I think there’s a lot for traditionalists to like. So many allusions to the original works, handled with a nod and a wink. Benedict Cumberbatch is 35, so he’s not really a pup, and I think he has the gravitas to suit the role. Give it another try! 😉

  3. Jennifer Proffitt

    One of my favorite moments (outside of my usual ogling of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman) was Sherlock’s reaction to Lestrade’s first name “Is that why you’re calling yourself Greg?!” Fabulous, I still chuckle.

    I thought the episode was good overall, but nothing compared to Irene Adler’s debut or the upcoming Reichenbach Fall.

  4. Deborah Lacy

    I love this series, but this episode wasn’t my favorite. I thought the Irene Adler one last week was so much better. I am looking forward to Reichenbach Fall this week. Although I wish they hadn’t gotten there so fast.

  5. nancoli

    I am totally obsessed with this series. My daughter talked me into watching it and I wasn’t sure I would like it but it is so funny. I am convinced that it is John Watson’s reaction to what Sherlock says and does that makes it so much fun. It’s just not your normal everyday mystery.

  6. Leslie Gilbert Elman

    It is funny @nancoli and I love that it doesn’t cross the line into farce. (Okay, a blood-spattered Sherlock carrying a harpoon might be a little bit over the line!)

    This episode wasn’t my favorite either @DeborahLacy and @JenniferProffitt, but it had its moments. The wrap-up moved a little too swiftly, maybe.

  7. Terrie Farley Moran

    Well, I had trouble with the Irene Adler show when she walked in to meet Holmes and was stark naked. I’m a bit of a prude and I love to imagine Irene Adler in elegant 19th century clothes. But I can get over that and move on.

    Since you are all having such a fine time with this new, modern Holmes, I’ll watch the Hounds this weekend with a bias-free eye.

  8. Clare 2e

    I do think the Adler episode was spicier, surely! However, this one has–nearer the finish–a very strange and telling episode between Sherlock and John. John’s terrified for himself and Sherlock while Sherlock’s off testing a theory. It ends up in a situation both carelessly cruel and intimate, especially considering John’s a recovering vet with PTSD. Still it forwards their unusual relationship, revealing how their broken-part mesh in a deep way.

  9. Leslie Gilbert Elman

    Read Lyndsay Faye’s commentary on Sherlock season 2 here at CE. She’s deeply familiar with Holmes/Doyle and she puts the TV series in context. (She does give spoilers though, so beware.) Her take on Irene Adler essentially is this: Irene is supposed to be shocking and dangerous, but these days it takes an awful lot to be considered “shocking” so the writers went to extremes. I understand and agree with Terrie’s point, but what redeemed the scene for me was Sherlock’s reaction to her.

    Anyway, the coast is clear: no one’s naked in the Hounds…

  10. SlatteryE

    I enjoyed this episode (along with the others of this season), but I’m going to go nuts trying to figure out what the overlooked clue was… Someone on the DorothyL list suggested that it relates to the title of this episode (compared to the slightly different original title of the story), but that’s not a clue. (And, anyway, the title of the episode takes reasonable poetic license with the original title to update it for the contemporary feel of the series. So that can’t be it! Off to the shelves… 🙂

  11. Leslie Gilbert Elman

    Don’t want to drive you crazy @SlatteryE but I don’t want to print spoilers either. (Oh! the pressure!) It relates to Henry’s recollection of the night his father died and has to do with an error that an American would notice and others might not, but Sherlock should.

  12. Terrie Farley Moran

    I stand repentant. Finally watched this episode last night and realized that if I stop expecting the deer stalker hat and horse drawn carriages, this is an excellent show on its own.

  13. Leslie Gilbert Elman

    So true Terrie! We have Jeremy Brett for the horse-drawn carriages and deerstalker hats, and I [b]love[/b] the Jeremy Brett series. I agree that the new Sherlock stands on its own.

  14. Meatbridge

    @SlatteryE and for anyone else just discovering this amazing show, don’t drive yourself crazy trying to figure out Leslie’s clue. It should have been “IN” not “In.” Every American knows that, just as every Brit would know that calling a mobile phone a “cell” means that you have spent time in America.

  15. Leslie Gilbert Elman

    @Meatbridge You are correct!

  16. nada quraishi

    I dont understand what made the big foot prints though?

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