A few years ago, word got out that the guy who directed Momento was turning his hand to the Batman franchise, an idea that perplexed some people, because we already had a couple of nice, atmospheric Batman movies (and a few Godawful crimes against nature, but we won’t talk about those.) And then, Batman Begins came out, and suddenly it became very popular to reboot classics that we hadn’t realized needed a reboot in the first place. We got another Batman movie, and Star Trek, and, of course, Sherlock Holmes.
Sherlock Holmes had already gotten the PBS treatment, with Jeremy Brett in the title role, and plenty of people were quite happy with that. I, however, was never all that invested in the Brett Holmes, so I was delighted to hear that the character was being overhauled and taken back to his grittier, ass-kicking roots as a clever, observant private detective who indulges in drugs and bouts of underground bare-knuckle boxing in his free time. The fact that Robert Downey Jr. was playing the lead, and that we were finally going to see a useful, intelligent, active Watson who has more purpose than as comedic relief or idiotic audience stand-in was icing on the cake. And then there was the little bonus that this turned out to be a sort of double reboot—for the Holmes franchise and for director Guy Richie’s career. Poor Guy started off so strong, and now found himself desperately struggling to pull himself out of the morass of the Madonna Years, which gave us such cinematic gems as Swept Away. Surely the guy who made Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch so much fun would have a blast sending Holmes and Watson running around a filthy, seedy turn-of-the century London. The result was a pleasure—sure, some of the logic breaks down if you think about it too much, so it’s really best not to think a lot. This movie’s an amusement park ride, so just strap yourself in and enjoy.
So, let the fun begin!
The credits roll over shots of an uneven, brick-paved street (with the Warner Brothers logo as part of the paving—cute). The camera’s jerking around a little frenetically, and it finally pans up to take in a police carriage with bars on the windows being driven along the street. We start to chase the carriage, and then go inside, where the police inspector’s sitting across from Watson. Both men prepare their weapons and exchange a look.
We start to cut back and forth between the dashing police carriage and a figure running through the streets and leaping over banisters outside a large, columned building. We see his face at last, and it’s Holmes, in a ratty overcoat, his hair unruly. Definitely not the slick Jeremy Brett Holmes so many know. He wrenches open a nearby door and descends into an Underground Lair, which, of course, we all know must be a place of evil. He emerges onto a balcony at the top of a spiral staircase that leads to a lower room, where, judging from the chanting, some sort of ritual is going on. A nefarious ritual, surely.
Holmes spots a guard patrolling the balcony and ducks behind a pillar, to start the voiceover that always accompanies BeatDownCam™, which will become our dear and close friend over the course of this movie. It’s actually pretty effective—Holmes will take a moment to make a few observations of whomever he’s about to deliver a severe whupping to, outline said whupping, which we then see in slow motion, and finally deliver it, in real time. This time, he observes that the guard has his head cocked to the left, indicating partial deafness in his ear. That’ll be his first point of attack—he’ll slap the guy on the bad ear, and then move on to paralyze his vocal cords so he can’t scream for help. Then, guessing the guy’s a heavy drinker, Holmes will deliver a blow to the liver before punching the guy’s patella. Yep, that should do it.
The guard comes around Holmes’s pillar and gets his promised beatdown, getting his hat nicked by the detective in the process. Holmes grabs the guard’s lantern and hauls ass down the long spiral staircase.
In the Chamber of Secrets down there, a young woman in a white dress is lying on a table, twitching spasmodically while someone chants over her. We pan back to see that there’s a man in deep purple robes standing over her. We can’t make out his face, but we see that he’s got a bit of a snaggletooth, which will end up being a fairly distinguishing characteristic. On the level just above the Chamber, Holmes peeks down and sees what’s going on, and also takes in the sight of several other berobed figures in the room.
What he fails to notice is another guard coming to attack him, and his attempt to swat the guy away like an annoying fly is unsuccessful, but luckily Watson arrives to put the guy in a sleeper hold, with Holmes assisting by pinching the guy’s nose shut. The two chat like an old married couple over the struggling henchman, establishing that Watson likes Holmes’s new hat, and Holmes is a bit forgetful about everyday things, like turning off the stove and bringing a gun along on dangerous missions. The henchman finally goes to sleep and Watson sets him down.
That taken care of, Holmes asks where the inspector is, and is told that he’s getting his troops lined up. Holmes observes that that tends to take a while, so they’d better move. He and Watson spring into action, running down the stairs and taking out a few more henchmen with well-placed punches and kicks. Refreshingly, they get as good as they give. Watson even gets bitten by one rather determined henchman. Meanwhile, the ritual continues, and the girl on the slab reaches for a nearby dagger. Holmes and Watson dispatch the henchmen just in time, and Holmes grabs the girl’s hand before she can stab herself. The man leading the ritual slowly lowers his arms and identifies Holmes (and calls Watson Holmes’s loyal dog). He asks Watson if, as a medical man, he’s enjoyed the man’s work, and Watson proves to be a bit of a hothead as he rushes the man. Holmes stops him just in time, and reveals the very thin, but very sharp glass blade the man was holding in his hands and which very nearly went through Watson’s eye. Holmes shatters the glass and pushes back the man’s hood. Watson, sounding surprised, identifies the man as Lord Blackwood. Blackwood is played by Mark Strong, whom I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a role where he wasn’t the bad guy. Well, he’s got a fairly sinister looking face, so that doesn’t entirely surprise me.
Holmes tells Watson to see to the girl on the slab, and finally the inspector and his guys come strolling in, now that there’s not a damn thing left for them to do but cart Blackwood away to jail. Well done, British Victorian police force! Inspector Lestrade scolds Holmes for moving in ahead of him, but Holmes points out that if he’d waited, they’d have all been too late, and anyway, the girl’s parents hired him, not Scotland Yard, so he didn’t have to listen to them at all.
Baker Street’s a busy place, with teeming crowds, lively shops, carriages trotting down the filthy looking street, and a newsboy hawking a paper with the headline “Blackwood Hangs Tomorrow”. At 221B, Watson’s meeting with a patient, who’s in good health and says he owes it all to Watson’s care. The patient conversationally asks after Watson’s new digs, which are on Cavendish Place, where he plans to move in a week. Oh, and he’ll be getting married soon, too. The patient, an elderly man, starts to congratulate him, but is interrupted by muffled gunshots from a nearby room. The man freaks out a little, but Watson tells him it was just a hammer and nail. I’ll bet that poor guy’s blood pressure isn’t so good now, Watson. The man warily asks if Watson’s colleague plans to move with him to Cavendish Place, and Watson says he definitely will not be.
Watson goes out into the hall and runs into the housekeeper, Mrs. Hudson, who says there’s no way in hell she’s going into Holmes’s room while he has a gun in his hand. Watson tries to soothe her by saying Holmes is just bored and needs another case, and she pleads with Watson to have a longer engagement. He laughs as his patient emerges, swearing he smells gunpowder. Watson sends him off with the housekeeper for a nice cup of tea. Watson calls after her to bring something to cheer Holmes up. Like what, an Uzi?
Watson knocks once on Holmes’s door before entering, just as Holmes fires the revolver one more time. Watson asks for permission to enter the armory, which Holmes grants before firing yet again. We see that he’s fired bullets in a pattern in the opposite wall to spell out VR, for Victoria Regina. Heh. At least he’s patriotic.
The room’s enveloped in gloom, with all the drapes pulled closed. As Watson goes to open them, Holmes explains he’s in the process of inventing a silencer. Watson yanks open the drapes (and Holmes reacts like he’s Dracula, or something) and informs him that the invention doesn’t work. He asks to see the gun and unloads the bullets before picking up a sheaf of telegrams from the desk and nudging the whistling teakettle off the hearth with his foot. What will Holmes do without Watson there to take care of him? By the state of the room, I’m guessing Mrs. Hudson never enters at all, guns or no. Watson reminds Holmes that it’s been a few months since his last case, and he needs a new one. Holmes agrees, so Watson starts reading off the telegrams, which are all cases so easy Holmes is able to answer them hungover, without even leaving his study. As Watson reads them off, Holmes peruses the paper and notices that Watson’s going to be the attending physician at Blackwood’s hanging. Watson confirms this, saying he wanted to see the case through to the end since it’s the last one he and Holmes will be working together. Holmes looks rather sad to realize this, but his thoughtful moment is broken by the arrival of Mrs. Hudson with tea (why was the kettle on the fire up in Holmes’s room if she needed to bring all the tea stuff up?) Holmes teases her a bit, saying he’s observed her comings and goings and finds them most sinister indeed. This is clearly a game she’s familiar with, because she ignores it and just offers him tea. He asks if it’s poisoned, calling her “nanny” and she snarks that there’s enough of that in him already. Ohhh, burned by the housekeeper, Holmes!
She picks up a tray that looks like it was last night’s dinner, and as she sweeps out, she notices that there’s a bulldog lying pretty stiff and still in the corner. She doesn’t seem too concerned, but Watson asks what the heck Holmes has done to “Gladstone” now. I totally want to name any English bulldog I get Gladstone. It’s perfect. Either that or Winston. Even if it’s a girl.
Holmes says he was testing a new anesthetic, and Watson starts to get really annoyed. He says that, as Holmes’s doctor and friend, he’s insisting Holmes get out of the room that he’s been shut up in for two weeks. Two weeks? Eww. I can’t imagine how ripe it must be in that room at the moment. Especially since it doesn’t look like that raggedy dressing gown Holmes is kicking around in has ever been washed in its whole life. Holmes insists there’s nothing out there to interest him, so Watson invites him to dinner. Holmes accepts, but then Watson drops the news that his fiancée Mary will be there, and Holmes tries to unsuccessfully wriggle out. Watson isn’t hearing it, telling Holmes that he’ll be meeting Mary whether he wants to or not. Holmes asks if Watson’s even proposed yet, and it turns out he hasn’t, because he hasn’t found the right ring. That’s a stall tactic if I’ve ever heard one. Apparently Holmes thinks so too, but Watson insists this thing’s happening, and he’ll be seeing Holmes at 8:30 that evening at the Royale.
The Royale’s a pretty ritzy place, and Watson is surprisingly unpunctual, for a military man. Holmes is sitting at a table alone, glancing at his watch and entertaining himself by observing those around him. He sees a married couple arguing, and a busboy pocketing some silver spoons, all of which bores him to tears. Finally, Watson arrives, with Mary on his arm, observing, with some surprise, that Holmes is early. He introduces Holmes to Miss Mary Morstan, who seems nice enough, though she’s a tad on the plain side (or maybe the powers that be on the movie didn’t want her competing with Rachel McAdams for the role of Movie Pretty Girl). Holmes greets her politely and they all take their seats. She enthuses that she’s been dying to meet Holmes, she’s heard so much about him, and she loves mysteries—she has a pile of Wilkie Collins and Poe books at home. Oh, honey, even I can see from a mile away that this is going to go downhill fast. I mean, that was sort of like telling Lance Armstrong that you like to bike to the coffeeshop on the weekends, like that somehow makes you kindred spirits, or something.
Not realizing her mistake, Mary blunders on, saying that the stories do seem rather farfetched, since the detectives always make such grand assumptions out of such tiny details. Holmes has been listening politely up until now, but he can only take so much, and he interrupts her to tell her that that’s not so strange at all, that usually the tiny details are the most important. Watson begins shifting uncomfortably in his chair, no doubt anticipating things going south quickly in the near future, but there’s not much he can do at the moment. Holmes turns his attention to Watson and starts to explain how certain details about him reveal quite a lot—for instance, his walking stick of rare African snakewood which conceals a steel blade was awarded to a few veterans of the Afghan War. It’s therefore safe to assume that Watson’s a decorated soldier, and a man of action. In Watson’s pocket, Holmes finds a stub from a boxing match, which indicates Watson’s a gambler. He tells Mary to hold onto that dowry, since Watson’s cost them the rent more than once.
This doesn’t seem to faze her at all, and she points out that Holmes knows Watson pretty well—how would he do with someone he doesn’t know? Holmes and Watson try to tell her it’s not such a good idea, but she insists, so Holmes jumps right on the opportunity. He guesses she’s a governess, and that her charge is a boy of about eight years old. She corrects him and says Charlie’s actually seven. Holmes says the boy’s tall for his age, and that he flicked ink at her that day. Mary asks if there’s ink on her face, and Watson assures her that there isn’t. There are a couple of drops near her ear, though, says Holmes. And Mary didn’t react angrily to the boy’s naughty behavior, which is why his mother was grateful enough to lend her the big, expensive looking necklace she’s currently wearing. Wow, I didn’t think upper-class Victorian moms were that generous with their kids’ governesses.
Holmes then goes a bit too far by saying that Mary was engaged once; there’s a thin band of slightly lighter skin on one hand. He assumes she wore it abroad somewhere, where I guess she tanned, and showed it off until she found out that it wasn’t worth much, and then she ditched the guy and went looking for greener pastures. Like, say, a doctor? She whips out her copy of The Big book of Classic Movie Clichés and under “Insults, Responses To” finds “Throw wine in face,” as if she wasn’t the one who started up this whole game to begin with. Don’t ask a guy to try and figure out as much about your life as he can without being ready to accept the consequences, Mary.
She recovers her composure a bit and tells Holmes he was right on all counts, except one: the guy died. Then, she gets up and leaves, followed by Watson. Holmes merely sits back and tucks into the dinner that’s just been set in front of him. He’s going to need a good meal, because…
We jump to a bare-knuckle boxing match, where Holmes is facing an opponent a bit larger than him in every way. There’s not much fighting going on, he’s mostly just slapping the guy around and getting pummeled. He stops for a moment to take a swig from the flask of a guy on the sidelines, and then manages to get a good shot in at his opponent before the guy rushes him and pins him to a wall.
They tussle for real for a little bit, with Holmes eventually finding himself on the ground. As he pulls himself up, he sees a handkerchief draped over the edge of the shoulder-height wall around the boxing ring. The clean, white handkerchief is in stark contrast to the grubby surroundings, but I’m pretty sure it’s the initials—IA—embroidered on it that really get Holmes’s attention. He looks around, and there, amongst the cheering, yelling male faces is a beautiful young woman with dark hair, pale skin, and a knowing smile. Holmes spots her just after taking a monster punch from his opponent, and she winks at him once. Holmes tries to concede to his opponent, who isn’t having it. As Holmes tries to walk away, the man calls after him that they aren’t done yet, and then he hocks a loogie into the back of Holmes’s head, as Holmes watches the woman say a few words to one of the men in the crowd, and hand him what looks like a card.
BeatDownCam™ comes back into play as Holmes plans his moves. First, distract the guy by throwing the handkerchief in his face, then block his blind jab and counter with a cross to the left cheek. Discombobulate him by smacking him hard on both ears and cheeks. In his daze, Holmes guesses, the guy’ll attempt a wild haymaker, which Holmes will block with his elbow while delivering a body shot. Then, he’ll block the man’s punch to the left and weaken his jaw with a good hard elbow blow. A follow-up jab to the jaw should fracture it, followed by a punch to break the man’s cracked ribs and a hit to the solar plexus. Finally, he’ll dislocate the man’s jaw and deliver a heel kick to the diaphragm that sends the man flying through the gate they came in through. End result: physical recovery should take about six weeks, full psychological recovery will be about six months, and the guy’s ability to spit at the back of anyone’s head will be effectively neutralized. You just do not spit at Sherlock Holmes, people!
Things speed back up and we see the whole thing go down. It takes about four seconds, which shocks the crowd so much they actually lapse into silence and stare at Holmes in a mixture of fear and awe. He takes his winnings from the bookie, helps himself to a bottle of beer from the bar, and leaves, having already established that Irene’s hit the road. I like this guy’s style.
Blackwood’s spending his last night throwing a rave from his jail cell, from the sound of it. A couple of policemen walk down the corridor between the cells, where the prisoners are shouting and generally causing mayhem. The head policeman asks another one what the deal is, and the underling says Blackwood’s put the other prisoners under some kind of spell. They arrive at Blackwood’s cell, where another guard is writhing on the floor, clutching his throat. Interesting. The head guard tells the underlings to take the writhing guard to the infirmary, then he turns to Blackwood and asks him what’s going on. Blackwood simply tells him there’s someone he wants to see. Three guesses who that’ll be!
Watson strolls down a dark street and enters a pretty shabby building that looks like it might be some sort of inn, but with no clientele. Nobody pays him any mind as he makes his way up a rickety staircase to an upstairs room, where Holmes is strumming a violin while staring at a jar full of flies. As Watson enters and starts puttering around, Holmes informs him that he’s on the brink of a major discovery—if he plays a chromatic scale, there’s no response from the apparently tone-deaf flies. As he talks, Watson checks out some of the bottles Holmes has strewn around and asks Holmes if he realizes that what he’s been drinking is actually meant for eye surgery? Holmes ignores him and presses on with his great experiment. Apparently, if he plays atonal clusters, the flies all fly counterclockwise. He’s created order out of chaos, using musical theory, and it only took him six hours! Man, Holmes, get a hobby. Walk the dog or something. Watson dickishly opens up the jar and lets all the flies out, then tells Holmes to get cleaned up—he’s got a murderer to go visit.
Holmes and Watson drive through the streets in a carriage, and Holmes points out the still under construction Tower Bridge. He seems pretty pleased overall, talking about how awesome the empire is. He also pulls out the winnings he took from the bookie the night before. Watson wasn’t at the fight, so Holmes placed his customary bet. Wow, that was actually pretty nice of him. Especially since he won and all.
Watson doesn’t seem to be in the mood to deal with Sherlock today, but he goes to take the winnings anyway, only to have Holmes snatch them away and say he’ll hold on to them and lock them away with Watson’s checkbook. Watson looks even more pissed off than before, and he continues to seethe as Holmes makes meaningless conversation about the opera. He finally can’t stand it, though, and socks Sherlock right in the nose. Holmes groans a little as Watson says he knew Mary had been engaged before, because she told him. Sherlock guesses this is Watson’s way of saying no to the opera, and he starts to pull on a waistcoat, which apparently used to be Watson’s. They bicker like siblings on a road trip, and finally Holmes hands the waistcoat over, only to have Watson toss it out the window onto the street, where some random guy finds it.
This seems to break the tension between the two men at least, since they seem to be in better spirits when they arrive at the prison, which is surrounded by a shouting, angry mob. Holmes isn’t too concerned abut them and asks Watson if he wants to join him on his pre-execution visit. Watson turns him down and Holmes follows the head guard down to the cell block where Blackwood’s being held. The other prisoners have been moved out, which Holmes remarks on. The lead guard says it seems Blackwood can get inside the other prisoners’ heads, and he also isn’t too keen on going any closer to Blackwood’s cell. Sherlock dismisses him and approaches it alone.
Blackwood’s chanting a sort of prayer, which goes something like this:
“I stood upon the sand of the sea and saw a beast rise up having seven heads and 10 horns. Upon his heads were the name of blasphemy. They worshiped the dragon, which gave power. They worshiped, saying “Who is like unto the beast?” The beast which I saw was like a leopard. His feet were of a bear, his mouth was of a lion, and the dragon gave him his power and his seat and great authority.”
As he murmurs this, Holmes approaches the door and takes in the new décor of Blackwood’s cell. It seems the prisoner’s been busy decorating every wall with strange carvings and symbols. Holmes eventually interrupts the odd prayer and Blackwood welcomes him. Holmes tells him he came partially out of curiosity, because he couldn’t help but notice a certain criminal genius in Blackwood’s work. The early work, at least. The work he got away with. Holmes mentions that the attempted murder in the crypt was sloppy, which makes him think there’s a larger game afoot here.
Blackwood tells Holmes that there are spiritual hands at work here—nothing earthly has led to this moment, and Blackwood’s not the master but the servant of a greater being. Holmes doesn’t give much credence to this, unsurprisingly, but mentions he wishes he’d caught Blackwood sooner, as five lives might have been spared. Blackwood, without showing any remorse at all, says those lives were a necessary sacrifice. Holmes wonders, as he turns his back to the cell, if he and Watson might be allowed to dissect Blackwood’s brain after he’s dead. Holmes is pretty sure there’s some kind of crazy deformity there that would be pretty interesting.
As he goes to light his famous pipe, Blackwood suddenly appears at the bars of the cell, and whispers that Holmes needs to widen his gaze, because he’s way underestimating the importance of certain coming events. He and Holmes are bound together on a task that will twist the fabric of nature, but Blackwood senses some of Holmes’s frailties, and he needs Sherlock to steel his mind. Sherlock listens, but then wishes Blackwood a bon voyage and goes to leave. He’s stopped, however, when Blackwood tells him that three more will die, and there’s nothing Holmes can do to save them. Holmes finally lights the pipe and leaves. Guards, a chaplain, Watson, the Inspector Lestrade are waiting at the top of the stairs, and Lestrade asks what Blackwood wanted. Holmes answers that he’s not sure. He tells the chaplain he won’t be needed for this one.
Blackwood’s been brought to the noose, his sentence is read out, and he’s asked if he has any last words. He answers that “Death is only the beginning.” So, I guess he’s a fan of The Mummy. A hood’s pulled over his head, the noose is tightened, and the lever is pulled, releasing the trapdoor underneath him. We watch the feet twitch, and then sometime later, the body’s laid out on a table and Watson’s checking the pulse. He declares him good and dead.
Back on Baker Street, Holmes is dozing when he’s woken by the sound of a woman crushing walnuts in her bare hand. Ok, what? What a completely ridiculous moment. I think we get, from the rest of the movie, that Irene Adler’s a pretty tough cookie, so throwing in this moment of man-hands strength (although, I’m not sure even an incredibly strong man would have trouble just crushing a walnut with his bare hands, let alone several) seems utterly pointless.
Anyway, as Sherlock comes to, she observes that London’s so bleak this time of year, not that she’s pining for New Jersey or anything. As Holmes’s eyes fly open, the camera backs off to reveal he’s asleep on the floor, using the head of a tiger skin rug as a pillow. In the background, Irene rises with a full teakettle to fill the teapot. She stoops down in front of him and places the walnuts near Holmes’s hand, telling him she brought them all the way from Syria, and she also found these amazing dates in Jordan, as well as his favorite: olives from the Cyclades. She thought they’d have a little tea party, but first, she wants to know a bit more about this file she found with her name on it. Man, did that eye surgery drug finally catch up with Holmes or what? How long has she been poking around in there? Or does he keep secret files on people just scattered around on his desk? Actually, from what we’ve seen of Holmes’s organizational skills, I bet he really does do that.
The file’s full of stories that may or may not link back to her—a stolen necklace, a scandalous affair that ends a royal engagement, some missing naval documents, etc. As she reads these, with her back to the room, Sherlock does a quick once over to see what else she’s gotten into—not the safe hidden behind a portrait, apparently. She turns back around just in time to see him flip down a picture of her he keeps on his desk. Aww, Holmes is a little sentimental. I really wish we got more backstory on these two.
He tells her he’s just keeping tabs on her methods, in case the authorities ever ask him to hunt her down. She points out her name doesn’t appear in any of the articles, and he says her signature was clear. He reaches over and pulls up a necklace partially hidden in her cleavage and asks if the giant bauble at the end of it is the maharaja’s missing diamond. She invites him to sit down and have their tea. They actually settle into a nice rapport here—she surmises he’s between jobs, and he guesses she’s between husbands. Apparently, the guy was boring, jealous, and a snorer. Not a good combination. Holmes pours out the tea and watches as she drinks it, clearly reluctant to take a sip himself. He sniffs it suspiciously, and she sets her tea aside and says she needs his help, she needs him to find someone. She reaches into the front of her dress and Holmes darts forward to keep her hand right where it is. She asks him why he’s so suspicious and he offers to answer either chronologically or alphabetically. Why not both? You have all afternoon. She retrieves an envelope and hands it over to him.
Holmes glances at the envelope and then asks her who she’s working for. She just smiles enigmatically and sets down a heavy purse filled with money. He tells her to keep it, since he hasn’t said he’ll take the case, but she knows better, leaves the money, and heads for the door. Holmes looks at the envelope again and notes that it’s marked from the Grand Hotel on Piccadilly. She calls over her shoulder that she’s reserved “their” old room. Holmes picks up his violin and starts playing with it, ignoring her, so she just picks up her photo, returns it to its rightful place, and leaves, asking Watson to hold the door for her on the way out. Watson fails to recognize her immediately, but does a double take once she leaves, as if something about her voice was familiar. As he makes his way up the stairs, glancing back over his shoulder in confusion, we cut to Irene walking down the street, with a bouquet of flowers suddenly in her arms. She reaches a carriage and climbs inside, where she tells the man already seated there that Sherlock’ll do it. All we see of the man is part of a top hat and a little bit of a chalk-smudged coat. He compliments her on a job well done and she guesses Sherlock will have their man within the day. The mysterious man mentions that “Reordan” (presumably the guy they want Sherlock to find) was the key to what Blackwood was up to, which makes him essential to Mystery Man’s plan.
The carriage lurches suddenly, and outside a man tumbles away, getting a scolding from the driver. The man goes to the carriage window to beg for money, and Mystery Man responds by pulling a tiny gun using a clever contraption strapped to his arm. The other man backs off immediately and the carriage starts moving again.
At 221B, Watson teases Holmes about only ever falling for a world class criminal, as Holmes wipes some grime or makeup off his face with a large handkerchief. Watson exposits that Irene’s the only adversary who’s ever outsmarted Holmes, and she’s done it twice. Really? What was the second time? Because there’s only one time in the books. I’m slightly intrigued, not that we ever get an explanation. Watson asks what she wants, and Holmes reminds him that they’ve already done their last case together, as he picks up the envelope Irene left with him. Watson, from behind a newspaper, says he’s already read what’s in the envelope. Nosy. Watson recites that the missing person is one Luke Reordan, a 4 foot 10 man with red hair and no front teeth. Yeah, that shouldn’t be hard to find. They bicker for a minute over whether this man’s a midget or a dwarf. Holmes says midget and insists it’s important, even though it’s not, at least not to the plot.
Watson asks Holmes to tell him what he was doing, and Holmes offers to explain.
We rewind back to the man hands crushing the walnuts and fast forward through Holmes’s entire interaction with Irene. As soon as she leaves, he leaps to the nearest window, wrenching it open and watching her leave the house. He grabs a fake nose from a nearby table, puts it on, and goes out to the landing, where he runs into Watson, who asks what he’s doing, and by the way, was that…” Holmes has no time to explain, so he just grabs Watson’s overcoat and scarf and jumps out the window, landing on the roof of a nearby shed. He hops down to a smaller shed where the coal’s kept, but goes right through the top of it. He yells for Watson, who just rolls his eyes and closes the window. Heh.
Holmes finally manages to bust out of the coal shed, covered in soot. He hurries along, buttoning up the coat, and finally catches up to Irene, who’s walking through some narrow, dark side street. Holmes hangs back to watch the show as a man pops out of a doorway and offers her a bouquet of flowers. Irene thanks him sweetly, although this is certainly a set up for a robbery or something even worse, and sure enough, an accomplice sneaks up behind her and asks if she has something for him. She pulls out a wicked little weighted battering weapon and proceeds to quickly beat the snot out of the accomplice as his friend looks on in shock. She finishes up with the accomplice, pulls a knife, and neatly slices all the buttons of the bouquet man’s waistcoat. Having scared him properly, she helps herself to his billfold and the flowers as Holmes watches, proudly observing that that’s the Irene he knows.
She makes her way through some kind of circus next, and Holmes follows, committing petty larceny left and right as he goes—grabbing a bun here, an eyepatch there. Irene turns around at one point, as if she suspects she’s being followed, and Holmes hides behind the eyepatch. Frowning, she continues on her way. Holmes has now acquired a battered stovepipe hat. He finally emerges just in time to intercept Mystery Man’s carriage, and the rest we know.
We return to Baker Street, where Holmes tells Watson he’s intrigued by Mystery Man, because the guy’s got Adler on edge, and we already know this isn’t a girl who scares easily. Watson advises Holmes to leave this case alone. Holmes passive aggressively observes that he has no choice, really, since he may be paying the rent on his own soon. They start to bicker like kids again, but are interrupted by the arrival of Clark, one of Lestrade’s men, who asks Holmes to come to come with him, Lestrade needs the great mind of Sherlock Holmes. Watson tries to beg off, but Clark tells them this is about Blackwood. It seems he’s risen from the grave. Now that Holmes finds intriguing.
Holmes asks what the facts are, and Clark tells him the groundskeeper saw Blackwood walking through the graveyard that morning. Watson once again tries to beg off, saying he has an appointment with Mary, but Holmes points out that it’s not his reputation that’s at stake, here. After all, Holmes wasn’t the one who pronounced the man dead. Holmes asks if the newspapers know what’s going on, and they don’t, yet, which is good, because there’s some worry about zombie panic, it seems. Holmes informs Watson that no girl wants to marry a doctor who can’t even tell if a man’s dead or not, and I guess that helps Watson make up his mind, because we next catch up with the boys in the graveyard.
The place is teeming with policemen. As they approach the grave, Watson points out that the policemen have tramped all over the place, probably obliterating quite a lot of evidence. They reach the tomb, and the heavy slab over it has been busted like it was hit with TNT. From inside, Lestrade scolds Holmes for taking so long to show up, as he comes up the stairs out of the tomb. Lestrade tells him that the sandstone slabs over the tomb are half a ton each and have been smashed open from the inside. A group of policemen are sent to bring up the coffin, so until that comes up, Holmes asks after their witness, who’s off being catatonic from shock. Just in case we weren’t sure that this was our obligatory bumbling policeman, Lestrade stumbles over a few attempts to say catatonic until Clark steps in to save him. Sigh. I really don’t like this odd cliché of the dumb policeman in charge, with a far more competent second in command, but then again, I’ve never read the Sherlock Holmes stories, so maybe Lestrade’s actually like this in the books too.
Watson goes to talk to the groundskeeper, checking him out and reassuring him that he’s a doctor, as Holmes checks out some of the chunks of stone scattered around the grave even licking one. Whatever gets the job done, I guess.
Watson gives the poor groundskeeper some room, and Lestrade reiterates that the man says he saw Blackwood rise from the grave. How could that be if Watson pronounced him dead? Watson tells him Blackwood had no damn pulse, so of course he pronounced him dead. The policemen finally bring the coffin topside. Watson and Lestrade wrench it open, and inside is a lot of dirt and Irene Adler’s ginger midget.
Holmes pulls out his nifty little detective’s toolkit and gets to work, asking Watson when the guy died. Watson estimates between 10 and 12 hours ago. Holmes takes off his hat and rakes his hand through his hair as he thinks. As he does so, he notices a pockewatch just barely peeking out of the dead man’s jacket, and he tosses the hat on top of it so he can more easily grab the thing later.
The groundskeeper finally comes to and joins them, saying he knows what he saw, and it was Blackwood, wandering around, enjoying the lovely weather. Or whatever one does when they’ve risen from the dead. The man fatalistically observes that when the dead walk, the living start to fill up the coffins. While Lestrade is distracted listening to the man, Holmes nabs the pocketwatch and picks up his hat. He and Watson head back to their carriage, and Watson asks if Holmes really believes Blackwood was resurrected. Holmes says that the question is not if, but how. They recite a line from Henry V, which must be their typical rallying cry, since they do it cutely in unison: “Follow your spirit, and upon this charge, cry: God for Harry, England, and St. George.”
Before they can start any proper detective-ing, Holmes needs to stop off for a snack at one particular fish and chips shop that appears to be in a pretty low income end of town. As they stroll down the crowded street, Watson muses that he’s seen plenty of strange things in his time, so a supernatural explanation for a guy rising from the dead is, theoretically, possible. What medical school did this guy go to? Come on, Watson! Holmes agrees that there is a tiny, tiny possibility that there’s some greater being at work, but he’d like to look into it a little more closely before coming to a decision. And one thing he wants to learn more about is Adler’s midget, whom he believes is the key to this whole matter. He pulls out the watch he stole from the midget’s corpse and notices scratches around the keyhole where the watch was wound, indicating the man was likely a drunk whose hand slipped whenever he wound the watch. There are also a number of pawnbrokers’ marks on the watch, including a recent one that reads M.H. The men look up and, what do you know, they’re right in front of a pawnbrokers’ shop called Maddison and Haig. Convenient! Holmes got his snack and a clue!
Watson smiles fondly and follows Holmes into an alleyway near the shop, telling him he needs to hightail it back uptown to have tea with Mary and her parents. A gypsy woman offers to read their palms and, when they blow her off, she tells Watson she senses something to do with Mary. That stops him, and she grabs his palm. She sees an M for Mary and marriage, and suddenly begins seeing horrible things, like china patterns and lace doilies. The horror! Watson immediately sees Holmes’s hand in this, but the gypsy woman keeps going, seeing Mary running to fat and sprouting warts somewhere down the road. Watson tells everyone to just shut up already, but Holmes tells Watson that he’s clearly too freaked about the idea of marriage to actually go through with it, which is why he hasn’t found a ring yet. Watson asks Holmes if he has his winnings from the fight and insists on Holmes handing the money over, because he’s suddenly realized they’ve stopped in front of a shop that advertises a wide selection of engagement and wedding rings for sale in the window.
A little while later, Watson has a ring, and Holmes has his address for the ginger midget. Watson reminds Holmes he needs to go see Mary, and Holmes continues on without him, calling back for Watson to give her and her parents his best.
Holmes enters a dark, shabby building and knocks on a door. Getting no answer, he pulls out his detective’s toolkit and starts picking the lock, but before he gets far, Watson shows up and just kicks the door down. Clearly a man who likes the direct route. Watson tells Holmes he can stay for 10 minutes.
Watson notices a bear trap set up on the floor, so clearly the guy was expecting someone to come after him, and Holmes smells Irene’s perfume in the air. How much of that stuff does she wear? It must have been a lot, for it to still be lingering on the air. Holmes takes a nice deep breath and recognizes some pretty gross smells, such as phosphorus and ammonium sulfate. He and Watson make their way into a sort of lab, where flies are gathering around rotting food and dead animals. Watson finds some plans etched on a window and on a piece of paper on the workbench and says it seems the man was trying to combine sorcery and some sort of scientific formula. Holmes notices what appears to be a picture of a griffon on the wall and imagines the ginger midget sitting down next to it to burn some papers. The papers didn’t burn well—they’re still on the bench, blackened but whole. Holmes has Watson mix up an acid that’ll bring the iron out of the ink so they can read what was on the papers. Holmes smells a few bottles and notices a rhododendron leaf suspended on some sort of contraption and honeycomb in a bowl, as well as a copper pot full of dead frogs in some kind of liquid. This place is a treasure trove of the macabre.
Watson applies his mixture to the paper and manages to get something off of it: Blackwood’s crest. Holmes isn’t at all surprised to hear that Reordan was working with Blackwood, the question is, what was he working on? Whatever it was, he clearly succeeded, which is why he’s now dead.
They wander out of the lab and into the main room, where Holmes keeps poking around and smells something he can’t identify—something sugary, for sure. Watson turns around and identifies it as a toffee apple, which is being held by one of two guys who, judging from the can of gas and matches they’re wielding, have come to burn the place down. The non-toffee-apple eating henchman calls for someone named Dredger, and an absolutely HUGE French guy comes into the room. Holmes asks if he’d rather go for the big guy (meat) or the two henchmen (potatoes).
Watson goes for potatoes while Holmes calmly waits for Dredger to approach him. He does ok against a man at least three feet taller than him for a little while, but the guy’s sheer size gets the better of him and sends him flying across the room. Meanwhile, Watson’s giving the two henchmen quite the beatdown (and getting one in return), and at one point the ring flies out of his pocket and lands in the rubbish on the floor.
Dredger grabs Holmes and throws him across a table, and at the end of it, Holmes desperately grabs the nearest thing he can use as a weapon. The thing he grabs looks like a giant tuning fork, and when he accidentally touches it to Dredger, it gives the giant an electric shock so powerful, it fires him through a nearby door. Holmes quickly recharges the thing, and when Dredger reemerges, looking pretty looped out, Holmes gives him another shock which, conveniently, fires Dredger across the room, taking out the henchman who was just about to get the better of Watson.
Dredger recovers enough to slide down a rope near a window, dropping onto a cart on the street below, and Holmes follows, still holding the electrified fork. Watson tries in vain to find the ring, which was quite lovely. Too bad.
Dredger’s throwing people aside as he runs from Holmes, and he finally arrives at a slipway where a ship’s being built. Holmes shocks him again and asks who sent him. Dredger tells Holmes he already knows, as he scrambles to his feet. Holmes says (in French) that it’s strange Dredger should still be doing a dead man’s dirty work, and it would be strange, if it wasn’t for the fact that Blackwood’s back from the dead, as Dredger says. The workers in the slip are watching this little tableau in confusion, as one would imagine they would.
Holmes asks Dredger where he can find Blackwood, but Dredger says there are greater things to be afraid of than Holmes and his little toy. Then, Dredger grabs the fork and sucks the electricity out of it. Now weaponless, Holmes turns and runs, knocking over ladders and barrels to slow Dredger down, not that it does any good. He grabs a chain and swings it at Dredger, who grabs it, wraps it around his arm, and quickly renders that useless too. Dredger grabs a giant, heavy hammer and starts swinging it at Holmes, not even noticing or caring that he’s taking out the supports holding the ship in place. Holmes manages to get his hands on a hammer of his own, but it’s pathetically small, and when he throws it at Dredger, it just bounces harmlessly off his chest. He gets an A for effort, at least. Dredger takes out yet another support and the ship starts to lurch precariously. The workers, knowing what’s going to happen, get the hell out of there as Watson arrives to provide backup in the form of a small pistol. Dredger dodges the bullets as Holmes takes cover in the hollow underneath the track the ship’s on. Dredger assesses his options, and finally uses his hammer to knock the lever that starts moving the ship down the slipway. The giant, unfinished ship takes out all the supports and scaffolding before rushing into the river, and the winch holding the chain the ship’s attached to can’t take the pressure anymore. It rips free and careens towards Holmes, who sits up from his hiding place at the worst possible moment. Watson dives in after him, pulling him down before he can be decapitated. The winch causes all sorts of mayhem and destruction throughout the building before flying into the river, and the ship only makes it a few yards before sinking. This is really going to be a tough one to explain to the insurance company.
Since Dredger managed to escape during the fracas, Holmes and Watson are the only two people who can be arrested for all the destruction, so they soon find themselves sitting in a filthy prison yard, Holmes leaning on Watson, asleep, while Watson reads a little notebook. As soon as Holmes wakes up, Watson starts nagging him, saying he should have known his tea with Mary and her parents would be ruined if he went with Holmes. Yeah, Watson, you should have. You know what happens when this guy gets on a case. He’s been reviewing his notes from their exploits over the past seven months and has concluded that he’s psychologically disturbed, because why else would he keep letting himself get led into situations where Holmes deliberately withholds his plans and keeps putting them in the way of danger? I would guess it’s more because Watson’s an adrenaline junkie who likes the thrill he hasn’t gotten since he was in battle, but that’s just me.
Holmes says Watson’s never complained about his methods before, and Watson says he’s never complained…until now, that is. He immediately starts bitching about Holmes practicing violin in the morning and making a mess and stealing his clothes and experimenting on the dog. He finishes up by telling Holmes to stop trying to sabotage his relationship with Mary. Holmes hears him out, and suggests Watson take a long weekend somewhere, perhaps at Holmes’s brother’s little place out in Chichester? Watson tells him that’s not happening if Holmes is going to be there, and just as they start bickering again, the guard calls Watson’s name. His bail’s been paid, by Mary, of course, who’s smiling at him through the bars. I think if I had to go bail my fiancé out of jail, I wouldn’t be all smiley.
Holmes is left behind, and as he turns back to the courtyard, a tough looking customer with two slightly less tough looking customers nearby says he hopes Holmes makes bail by breakfast, because his boys are getting hungry. I’m not really sure what that means, but by the time Lestrade shows up, Holmes has a big crowd of fellow prisoners gathered around him as he tells amusing anecdotes. Victorian thugs were apparently an easy crowd. Lestrade pulls him out of there, telling Holmes that in another life he’d have made a great criminal. Homes slings back that in another life Lestrade would have made a good policeman. Ba dum bump. Lestrade ignores the jibe and hands over a copy of the Police Gazette, which I guess was the National Enquirer of its day, because its two front page headlines are ‘London in Terror’ and ‘Blackwood Lives and the Devil Walks With Him.’ What a totally shitty paper. He asks Holmes if he has any answers, but Holmes doesn’t just yet. Lestrade threatens to throw him back in jail if he doesn’t give him something soon, and then leads Holmes over to a nearby carriage, which has been sent by some friends in high places who bailed him out. Holmes steps into the carriage, where a terribly polite man apologizes before putting a hood over Sherlock’s head.
It’s pulled off in a large, ornate room where Holmes is sitting across from an older gentleman who apologizes for all the mystery, and says he’s pretty sure Holmes must be wondering where he is and who the guy is. Holmes says he knows where he is—he was able to get his bearings throughout London by, among other things, recognizing the smell of a glaze used at a bakeshop on Saffron Hill, and feeling the bump over the Fleet Conduit. As to whom the man is, well, the letters on his desk are all addressed to Sir Thomas Rotherham (way to hide your identity, Tom), who’s the Lord Chief Justice. He’s also, Sherlock realizes, after seeing the sacred ox ring Sir Thomas is sporting, the head of The Temple of the Four Orders, in whose headquarters they now sit, on the northwest corner of St. James’s Square. Wow, was Holmes the original Google? He’s go the maps and everything!
Sir Thomas looks embarrassed to have been caught out, and they’re joined by two other men: one middle aged, with an American accent, who’s introduced as Ambassador Standish from the U.S., and a younger man with black hair and an eager look who has the unfortunate name of Lord Coward. He’s the home secretary. Coward guesses Holmes already knows a bit about their order’s practices, and Holmes says he does. Sir Thomas recognizes the skepticism in Holmes’s voice and tells them their secret systems have steered the world toward the greater good for centuries. Until now, I guess. Unfortunately, those same systems can be used for more nefarious purposes. That’s always the way, isn’t it?
Standish says they don’t expect Holmes to subscribe to their beliefs, just to understand their fears, and Holmes muses that in this case the fears are many, and include fear of one’s own child. Sir Thomas’s face is enough to let Sherlock know he’s hit the nail on the head. Blackwood’s his son. Holmes realized it because they have the same irises, a rare dark green color, as well as identical outer ears, a trait that’s only passed down through bloodline, so they’re either brothers or father and son, which is more likely, in this case, considering the ages. Sir Thomas fesses up, admitting that Blackwood’s mother was not Sir Thomas’s wife, and that he was conceived during one of their rituals. So, I’m guessing Lord Blackwood is a Lord the same way Lord Voldemort is, because where did that title come from? Did he somehow inherit it through his mother’s family? Or the family who raised him (Sir Thomas says the woman died in childbirth)? Sir Thomas goes on to say that Blackwood’s killed more than just those five girls, and he used the deaths to enhance his powers. The only reason he got away with it was because nothing could ever be proven. As he speaks, he unlocks a cupboard, pulls out a book, and hands it to Sherlock. Coward warns Holmes that Blackwood’s next move will be devastating, and Holmes is told that Blackwood’s secret lies in the book of spells, which is apparently the book Holmes is now holding. The three men want Holmes to put a stop to Blackwood, and they offer him any assistance he might need. Coward, as home secretary, could be particularly useful. Coward asks Holmes to name his price, and while Holmes says he’ll take the case, he’s not doing it for them, and certainly not for a price. He hands the book back to Sir Thomas and goes to leave. As he heads out of the room, Holmes rhetorically asks Sir Thomas how long he expects to survive, seeing as the rest of Blackwood’s family’s dead. Sir Thomas looks like he hadn’t considered that.
Holmes takes himself to The Grand on Piccadilly where, in a particularly, well, grand room, Irene’s hanging out in a towel with a bottle of wine. She goes to the door and listens to the telltale sounds of someone picking the lock before just opening it with a smile. Sherlock, of course, is out in the hall, and she hands him the bottle, saying she hopes he’ll have more luck opening it. He compliments the vintage, but she wants to discuss his case. She goes behind a screen to put on a robe as Sherlock tells her the midget was found dead. She closes her eyes in horror for a moment but keeps her tone light as she says she hopes her client doesn’t come looking for a refund. Holmes correctly deduces that said client is a professor, judging from the chalk on his lapels. Irene immediately realizes that Holmes was the beggar at the carriage.
As he pulls the cork out of the bottle, Holmes warns Irene that she’s in over her head here, because whoever killed Reordan was covering his tracks, which means it’s only a matter of time before they come after her as well. She tells him to let the wine breathe and says she’s never been in over her head before. Holmes suggests she either disappear or volunteer for protective custody. He pours out the wine and she emerges from behind the screen, telling him that if she’s in danger, he probably is too, so why shouldn’t they escape together? Holmes informs her that he’s taking her to either the railway station or the police station. Then, he foolishly downs the whole glass of wine in one gulp, which is interesting, considering he didn’t even want to drink her tea earlier. Irene puts her own glass down, and within seconds, Holmes clearly starts seeing double. She helps him lie down safely and we get a quick rewind view of her using a needle to put a sedative in the wine, and then reburning the wax at the top of the bottle to hide the hole. She kisses him, and he passes out.
Later that night, a carriage pulls up in front of a large house and simply parks outside. Inside, Sir Thomas is settling into a nice, relaxing bath in a large copper bathtub. He starts hearing an indistinct, creepy voice whispering, and the candles on the washstand are suddenly blown out. He sits up, turning off the water, but sees nothing amiss, so he turns the water back on, and suddenly the water in the bath starts to bubble horribly. He tries to turn off the tap, but Blackwood suddenly appears beside him and removes his ox ring as Sir Thomas sinks deeper into the boiling water. Blackwood puts the ring on his hand and sits back to watch his own father die.
The following morning, an unsuspecting maid enters Irene’s room at The Grand, where she sees Holmes handcuffed to the bed, with nothing but a pillow hiding his, um, little detective. She shrieks, and he calmly tells her that the key to his release is under the pillow. Heh. Offended, she runs out.
And apparently calls the police, because we rejoin Holmes in a carriage with Clark, who’s getting Holmes’s side of the story. Clark seems amused by the whole adventure, but when Holmes says that chambermaids used to be so easy, Clark seriously says that his wife’s a chambermaid. Holmes tries desperately to remove his foot from his mouth as Clark goes on to say that Lestrade’s been looking all over for him. Oh, and by the way, he was joking about the wife. Ha!
They arrive at Sir Thomas’s house, where once again policemen are causing mayhem around the crime scene. There was no sign of a break in, the body was found in the bathtub (where it still is, although the water’s been drained), and the only thing missing was the ring. As Clark runs down the details, Holmes is knocking on walls and poking around, as he does. He runs a finger around the edge of the tub, where there appears to be some sort of residue. He asks why they drained the water and is told it was out of common decency. What? How is removing bathwater decent? And how is bathwater itself indecent? Victorians were a strange bunch. Holmes begins spraying some sort of powder into the air and sniffing. He sits down in a chair for a moment, then starts chuckling. He points to a jar of bath salts and says that it probably comes from a large container in the pantry or in a linen cupboard. Holmes sends the policemen to find the container and to check for footprints outside the window.
As soon as they’re gone, Holmes sprays his powder into the nearest wall, and it’s immediately sucked into a hidden crack. He finds a hidden lever that opens a panel and leads into a secret room that’s been set up as a shrine to the Order. There’s a small alter-like table where Holmes finds some bones and a large tooth, as well as a book, a feather, and some hair. He pockets all of these items as Clark returns with the bath salts. Holmes leaves them to contemplate the strange room.
At night, Standish strides through the pouring rain to a door, where he knocks and is admitted. He enters a large room where Coward is waiting, along with a bunch of other men who are, presumably, all members of the Order. They’re all wearing the same gold-trimmed purple sash slung over their shoulders. Standish asks why Coward called the meeting, and Coward breaks the news that Sir Thomas is dead, and he’s nominating Lord Blackwood as head of the order. Standish asks Coward if he’s lost his damn mind, considering what Blackwood is capable of, and the man himself appears. Curiously, not a single other person seems disturbed by the fact that a guy who’s supposed to be dead and is apparently really, really dangerous has just wandered into the room. Seriously—the two guys whose chairs he leans on look bored. I don’t know if this means they were all prepped ahead of time, or if this was a moment of really poor directing.
Blackwood tells the room that his power and assets were given to him for one purpose: to create a new future ruled by the Order. The following day at noon, they’ll take the first step toward that future, using magic to spread fear throughout the country. He thinks that once the people of England see what the Order’s capable of, they’ll bow right down in fear. I think that’s seriously underestimating the stubbornness, stoicism, and skepticism of the British people, Blackwood. They do not like the idea of someone saying that their little island is his for the taking.
Blackwood mentions that there’s a country across the Atlantic that used to be England’s, and it will be again. The Civil War has made them weak, the government is corrupt, so they should be easy pickings. Standish does not look happy about this. Blackwood tells him everyone else is on his side and asks if Standish will stand with him. Standish says h won’t, and that Blackwood’s playing with powers that no man can control, and that someone has to stop him if nobody else will. He whips out a pistol, and Blackwood tells him he should really rethink that plan. Standish ignores him, fires, and is immediately engulfed in flames. He somehow manages to stumble out to the hall and bursts through a window, falling through the roof of a carriage below. Back in the room, Blackwood tells his followers that they’ll be protected. He invites them to take a drink from the gold chalice he’s passing around the room, and he tells Coward to put the police he controls to use.
Watson’s packing over on Baker Street when Holmes comes in and asks if he can use the room Watson’s vacating. Watson says sure, so Holmes has a few policemen cart in a body, which they lay on a table before departing. Watson asks who the guy is, and Holmes says it’s the man who tried to kill Watson at Reordan’s. He ended up getting killed himself when Dredger landed on him. Holmes examines the body and notes that the man’s elbows and arms are stained with blood, none of it human. How could he tell that? He cuts a bit of the man’s hair and holds it over a candle. It burns with a yellow flame with green bursts, indicating an industrial worker. Under the man’s nails Holmes finds coal and river silt, and all of that put together means the man worked in Nine Elms, an answer supplied by Watson, who’s been feigning disinterest this whole time. Holmes pulls out a book that details how every member of the House of Lords makes his money, and discovers that Blackwood had interests in a number of pretty awful enterprises, including a slaughterhouse in Nine Elms. Holmes says that this should lead them right to Blackwood, and Watson corrects him to say it’ll lead Holmes, not them, to Blackwood. Holmes says it was just a figure of speech and leaves. As soon as the door closes, Watson notices that Holmes has left his gun on the table. He tells Gladstone that Holmes left it there on purpose, and he grabs it and follows Holmes.
We catch up with the boys that night, on a boat on the river, where the boatman and Holmes are having a merry old time while Watson shovels coal. How’d he get stuck with that crappy job? He finally abandons the task and asks Holmes if there isn’t a better means of getting to Nine Elms than this drunken idiot of a boatman. Holmes reassures him that nobody knows London’s waterways better than this guy, Tanner, who’s practically a fish himself. Watson observes that the guy definitely drinks like one.
Tanner retakes the wheel and lands the boys at Nine Elms. They pose as workmen just long enough to get past some real employees and into the slaughterhouse, where there’s a lab set up very similar to Reordan’s. Holmes sees some spots on the floor, as well as drag marks, and says that something mechanical was cleared from the room not long ago. Watson spots a dead rat underneath one of the lab tables, and Holmes snips off the unfortunate vermin’s tail for further study.
They enter the slaughterhouse proper, where pig carcasses are strung up like Christmas lights. They spot the roman numerals I XVIII, and Holmes believes they correspond to a chapter and verse in Revelations: I am he that liveth, and was dead. From some unseen hiding place, Blackwood continues “And behold, I’m alive for evermore.” He continues, as the boys try to locate him, that he warned Holmes that this would be more than he could handle, and now he wants Holmes to witness Blackwood’s triumph. Blackwood shows his hand a little too much and says that the following day, at noon, the world as Holmes knows it will end. Watson growls for Blackwood to show his face and his world will end right then, but Holmes is the more rational one, for once, and tells Watson to save his bullets. Blackwood’s face suddenly appears in a large crack between the two men, and he says “A gift for you” before disappearing. Holmes and Watson open fire on that crack, Holmes emptying his gun completely. So much for saving bullets.
A few gears start to creak, and the works start up, and this really is the most Dante-esque setup I’ve ever seen. Carcasses on an overhead conveyor belt pass between flamethrowers before making their way towards an upright saw that splits them in half. As soon as it starts up, we see that Irene has been strung up amongst the carcasses. She’s gagged, and held up with a pair of handcuffs, so that’s a little bit of poetic justice there, although it’s also a little harsh. Blackwood, from some unseen place again, tells Holmes that Irene followed him there, and that he’s led his lamb to slaughter.
Watson tosses Homes some sort of protective covering and unnecessarily tells him that this game’s designed to hurt. I think he understood that from the jets of flame and saws, but thanks, Watson. Irene’s being carted right towards some of the flamethrowers, so Holmes grabs the hook she’s attached to and covers them both with the tarp Watson tossed him. Somehow, it protects them from the flames. Watson, meanwhile, tries turning the gas off. It seems he turns the wheel the wrong way, because instead of turning the gas off, he turns it up. Watson finally finds the right lever and turns the gas jets down. The conveyor belts grind to a halt and Holmes hops down as Watson rips the smoldering tarp off Holmes and Irene. Watson takes her on her shoulders, so she’s not dislocating her arm or anything anymore, and Holmes also climbs up on poor Watson like he’s a stepladder to try and undo Irene’s handcuffs.
The threesome only get a few seconds’ reprieve before the conveyor belt starts up again and they start getting dragged toward a wicked looking bandsaw that’s sawing the carcasses in half. Holmes reassures Irene that they have plenty of time, and he tries hacking at her handcuffs with a butcher knife. No good. Holmes finally spots a grate in the floor covering some gears, so he tosses some extra pig bones lying around into the grate. The bones jam up the gears, stopping the conveyor and buying them a little more time. Holmes tells Watson to turn off a nearby valve, which starts overloading the pressure on some overhead pipes that the conveyor belt’s somehow attached to. Holmes tosses a belt over the conveyor belt and hangs his full weight on it, increasing the pressure on the pipes. Watson joins them and they all bounce just enough to bust the pipe out of the ceiling, which drops the conveyor belt. Irene only avoids falling face-first into the band saw because Watson grabs her by the belt and holds her back. She stands and thanks him as Holmes pulls a hairpin out of her mussed hairdo and uses it to unlock the handcuffs. Watson, meanwhile, tries running Blackwood down.
He gets outside and spots Blackwood making his escape on a boat. Watson foolishly runs after him, pulling a pin on a grenade buried amidst a large stack of barrels. Holmes comes running out of the building, and Watson yells for him to stop just as the barrels explode, engulfing Watson, and sending Holmes and Irene flying. Holmes manages to get up, grabs a crate to shield himself with, grabs Irene, and runs from the conflagration, but another series of explosions lays them both flat.
Holmes comes to, ears ringing, to find Clark standing over him, urging him to wake up and get the hell out of there, because there’s a warrant out for his arrest. He tells Holmes that Watson’s alive and sends him on his way just as Lestrade arrives on the scene. He and Clark exchange a significant look.
Irene has finally taken Holmes’s advice and is getting out of town. Her eyes dart nervously as she makes her way through the train station, and she asks the conductor if the train’ll be leaving on time. Turns out, it’s been delayed a bit. Irene nonetheless climbs into the train carriage to wait.
She’s not alone. Professor Mystery Man is in there with her, reading the paper. He folds the paper up and tells her that the train will depart when he tells it to, and she’ll leave his employment when he tells her she can. Man, tenure has really gone to this guy’s head. Irene looks scared and sad but nonetheless tells the man that she did what he hired her to do; she found Reordan, so she’s done. But apparently Prof. MM has different ideas: he hired her to manipulate Holmes’s feelings for her and to get what Reordan was making for Blackwood. See, this is why you should get all contracts in writing, that way there’s no way to dispute things later on. I guess sometimes you have to learn these lessons the hard way. Prof. MM tells Irene to finish the job, or Sherlock dies.
Watson’s in the hospital, unconscious and being attended by a physician when Mary arrives to see him. She checks out the lacerations all over Watson’s back and neck, and the doctor, whose back is to her, tells her that the surgeon should be along shortly. She looks up at the man suspiciously as he goes to leave, and she calls for him to stop. He tries to escape, using his other patients as an excuse, but she stops him (he’s clearly Sherlock, although it’s a fairly decent disguise. He’s walking in a manner we’ve seen him use before). She approaches him and says she knows that Holmes cares for Watson as much as she does. She delivers this with a bizarre seductive look, so it almost appears that Mary’s coming on to Sherlock, which I’m pretty sure nobody was actually going for here, so I’m not sure what happened. Sherlock finally manages to get away from her, and she dips back into The Guide to Classic Movie Clichés to look up “Parting Words” and goes with: “Solve this. Whatever it takes.” How I wish this character had been less pointless.
Holmes goes to his shabby safehouse (remember where he was experimenting with the flies?) and considers everything he knows. Like Blackwood, he’s covered the walls in writing. Hmmm. He tries strumming his violin and puffs his pipe, looking for inspiration, and finally remembers Sir Thomas saying that Blackwood’s power lies in the book of spells.
Holmes grabs the book he took from Sir Thomas’s secret room, along with the bones and feather, and he begins to recreate the ritual in the book, which seems to involve drawing a five-pointed star inside two larger circles on the floor and decorating it with drops of blood. Charming. He flashes through a series of earlier scenes from the movie, and finally comes to and finds Watson sitting in a chair with his arm in a sling and Irene standing over him.
Watson comments on the familiar artwork and tells Holmes he looks gorgeous. Holmes looks pleased to see the pair of them. Irene holds up a copy of the Police Gazette, which has the headline ‘Sherlock Holmes Wanted’ and tells him he made the front page. Yeah, probably along with a story like ‘Aliens Seduced My Daughter’ or ‘Prince Albert Impregnates Victoria From Beyond the Grave.’ Anyway, this means Sherlock will have to work outside the law, which is Irene’s area of expertise. Sherlock observes that Watson’s making a nice recovery. Watson says he took the shrapnel out himself (he removed shrapnel from his own back? Is he a closet contortionist? You know what? I don’t want to know) because Mary said he had a lousy doctor. Heh. They sit awkwardly next to each other on the bed and Holmes hesitantly starts to say that he’s very glad Watson’s going to be all right. You know, I kind of wonder if this movie was trying to suggest that Holmes had a bit of a thing for Watson. He certainly acts like it, what with the jealousy and acting out and the couples-like bickering. I guess they jammed Mary into this movie to make it clear that Watson didn’t swing that way (since she’s an utterly pointless character with really no bearing on the plot), although that doesn’t explain the whole Irene thing. Maybe both the women were put in here to counteract that suggestion, but if so, why was Sherlock written this way? So much of his dialogue and his actions are so suggestive, I find it hard to believe it wasn’t intentional.
Holmes pulls himself together and sits Irene and Watson down to have a chat. He goes all the way back to his visit with Blackwood in prison, when Blackwood told Holmes to widen his gaze. Holmes has, and he’s found that Blackwood’s beliefs are based on a ritualistic mystical system that the Order has employed for centuries. Holmes reenacted the ceremony he and Watson interrupted at the crypt, way back in the beginning of the movie, in order to better understand it.
The Order believes that the sphinx represents a door to another dimension, which provides immeasurable power. The sphinx is made of four parts: the foot of a lion, the tail of an ox, the wings of an eagle, and the head of a man. From Sir Thomas’s secret room, Holmes took the bone of an ox, the tooth of a lion, the feather of an eagle, and the hair of a man. Homes asks Watson for a map, and he lays it out over his star, saying that the points of the star represent the five murdered girls. There’s a cross running through the star as well, which I didn’t notice before, and Holmes comments that it’s a widely held belief that within the architecture of great cities are coded references to this system. Since rising from the grave, Blackwood has killed three men, and each murder was committed at a place with a direct connection to the temple: Reordan, representing man, was found in the graveyard, which is at the right hand side of the cross; Sir Thomas, who wore the ox ring and therefore represents the ox, died at his home on the far left-hand side of the cross; Standish, ambassador to America, whose symbol is the eagle, died at the Order’s headquarters, at the top of the cross. Only the lion remains, and the lion’s a symbol of Britain, so Holmes deduces the final murder will take place at Parliament, which is the final point on the cross.
Just as they all figure this out, Lestrade arrives downstairs with a passel of policemen. Holmes hears them coming and leads Irene and Watson to a secret exit. Irene goes first, followed by Watson, whom Holmes hands a note to, asking him to follow these instructions. As Watson disappears, Lestrade comes into the room and arrests Holmes, who goes quietly.
Holmes is taken to Parliament, conveniently enough, and led to Coward’s spacious office. Lestrade apologizes for the unorthodox move, but says that Holmes has been making some very serious accusations about Coward and the order. As he says this, he flashes a pin that looks like the order’s insignia, which he wears hidden behind his lapel. Homes is looking around curiously, and notices some muddy shoes and a dirty coat hanging up.
Holmes comments that at least now he knows how Lestrade became an inspector in the first place, and Lestrade hauls off and punches Holmes hard in the stomach. Coward says he has a few minutes to spare, and invites Holmes to regale him with his conspiracy theories. Lestrade withdraws, leaving the two men alone.
Holmes asks Coward if he assisted in all Blackwood’s murders, or just the attempted one in the crypt, which Holmes interrupted. Coward frowns a little, and Holmes tells him the handmade shoes Coward wears are pretty distinctive, and he recognizes them as being worn by one of the hooded figures down in the crypt that night. Holmes wanders over to the blazing fireplace as he speaks, and surreptitiously closes the flue, unnoticed by Coward, who’s gone to his desk to find a weapon. Homes then asks how many members of parliament Coward intends to murder that day. Coward has apparently not read the Evil Overlord List and starts monologuing, saying it’s not murder, but mercy. I have a feeling more than a few members of parliament aren’t going to agree with him on that one. He says they’re giving the weak masses a strong shepherd. He turns and levels the loaded gun in Holmes’s direction, but that whole end of the room is now enveloped in smoke, and Holmes is nowhere to be seen. He takes a page out of Blackwood’s book, though, and talks in a disembodied voice, telling Coward the Idiot that he just wanted to know the location of that day’s attack, and now Coward’s given it to him.
Coward insists he’s told Holmes nothing, but Holmes begs to differ: Coward’s clothes tell the whole story. There’s mud on his boots from where he’s been walking (obviously a dirty, damp area), red brick dust on his knee from where he’s been kneeling (we flash briefly to an image of Coward kneeling in an underground crypt), a small bandage on Coward’s thumb from his blood sacrifices, and finally, a faint aroma of excrement, from where he’s been standing. Ew. Seems Coward and Blackwood put the finishing touches on their ceremony down in the sewers. This Order has all the money and power in the world and they’re hanging out in the sewers? Gross.
Holmes realizes that both house of parliament meet that day, which means the whole government will be present, and vulnerable. Coward desperately tries to find Holmes in the smoky room, but all he discovers are some empty handcuffs, which side towards him. Coward locks the door and tells Holmes it’s a shame he made an enemy out of Blackwood, because he would have made a valuable ally. Coward continues to scan the smoky end of the room, not realizing that Holmes has taken up a seat behind him, and is calmly puffing away on his pipe. Coward shouts that they’ll be taking power at noon, and Holmes comments that he doesn’t have much time, then. Before Coward can react, Holmes dashes across the room and dives out the open window, landing in the Thames below. Watson and Irene are waiting for him in Tanner’s boat and pull him in.
Watson and Tanner bicker about the window Holmes came out of, because bickering is the unnamed extra character in this movie, it seems, and Holmes interrupts to say that Lestrade performed his role perfectly. Does that mean you’ll actually stop acting like such a dick to him? My guess would be no. It seems Lestrade was in on Holmes’s plan the whole time, and gave him the key to the cuffs before they got to Westminster. Holmes tells Tanner to take them under the bridge to a tunnel that leads to the sewers. As they pass under the bridge, we see that the Big Ben clock reads ten to noon.
Outside Westminster, a man’s preaching to a noisy crowd that the end is nigh, since Blackwood’s come back from the grave. Inside, the more stoic members of parliament flow into the chamber, as Holmes, Watson and Irene arrive at the sewer tunnel and make their way through it. They arrive at the room right underneath the man chamber, where there are several henchmen and a pretty cool steampunk-y looking machine. Irene asks what it is, and Holmes tells her it’s a chemical weapon. How did he figure that out? Remember the tail he snipped off the dead rodent at the slaughterhouse? It’s still in his pocket, and it’s turned slightly blue and now has the aroma of bitter almonds, indicating the presence of cyanide.
Holmes pulls out a little spyglass to check out the machine, remarking that the ginger midget’s invention will revolutionize warfare. Yeah, by making it deadlier and more horrifying than every before. Yay! Watson reminds everyone that it’s seven minutes to noon and asks Holmes what the plan is? Holmes tries to come up with one, but Irene takes the direct route, shooting all the henchmen in sight. Holmes and Watson launch themselves into the fray as, above, the parliament chamber fills and Coward stands and looks around, smiling in satisfaction.
A few henchmen have managed to take cover and are now in a firefight with our intrepid trio. Combat turns to hand-to-hand at one point, and Irene subdues the henchmen closest to the machine so she can get a better look at it. She can’t seem to make head nor tails of the thing, so she takes a break to shoot a henchman giving Holmes problems.
In the chamber overhead, members of the Order chain the door shut and form a human chain in front of it, preventing anyone from escaping. Coward calls everyone to attention, and once the room is quiet, he tells them that the time has come for only those who believe to remain. He introduces Lord Blackwood, who appears on a balcony above, and the other members seem surprised to see their supposedly dead colleague. Blackwood informs them that he’s returned from beyond the grave to fulfill England’s destiny and extend the empire. He urges them to listen to the fearful rabble outside; he’ll use that fear as a weapon to control them, and then the world.
Below, the beatdown continues for Watson, while Holmes and Irene check out the machine. She tells Holmes that she’s never seen anything like it. Apparently the thing even has some sort of force field around it, because when she puts a penny near it, it gets fired across the room so hard it embeds itself in a boiler. So, the machine’s been designed to prevent anyone from disarming it. Holmes observes some rounded antennae on the top of the machine, guessing the thing’s designed to receive some sort of signal. When it’s triggered, the electrodes will send a charge through the machine which’ll convert the chemical into gas, which will travel up the shaft and filter through the ventilation system that leads into parliament. After that, it’ll only take a few seconds for everyone in the room to succumb. Holmes says Blackwood must have some transmitter that’ll allow him to activate the machine remotely. They now have three minutes and ten seconds.
Upstairs, Blackwood’s still monologuing, saying he’ll create an empire that will endure for millennia and will prove to be indestructible.
Downstairs, Watson’s got the henchmen under control, and Irene’s figured out that they don’t have to actually disarm the device, they just need to remove the cylinders, which are, unfortunately, welded in. A controlled explosion should take care of that, though, so they start MacGuyvering one up using Holmes’s clay pipe. Before they can get too far, though, Watson suddenly goes flying through the air in the background, and our good friend Dredger makes his triumphant return. Irene tries shooting him a few times, which does nothing. Meanwhile, the clock starts to chime noon, and Blackwood tells his crowd that on the twelfth chime, he’ll summon the dark powers, and those who are with him will be spared, while everyone else will die. Naturally, this starts a rush towards the locked doors. We now see that Blackwood’s holding some sort of trigger device behind his back, which he presses. The machine downstairs starts to hum and create cyanide gas.
Irene asks Holmes for his pipe and gets to work, while Watson grabs Dredger’s arms from behind and yells for Holmes to “nut him”. It turns out that doesn’t mean what I thought it did, because Holmes rushes the guy and headbutts him. Dredger manages to shake off Watson and starts tussling with Holmes, while Irene grabs a discarded pistol and removes some bullets. While the boys fight and the parliamentarians protest, Irene removes the gunpowder from the bullets, fills the pipe, and uses it to blow out the welding holding the canisters to the machine.
The clock finishes striking, just as Irene grabs the canisters and runs away. Holmes calls for her to come back, but she ignores him, so Watson takes over with Dredger and tells Holmes to chase her down. Meanwhile, up above, Blackwood and Coward look a little confused, and Blackwood drops the trigger and flees. Someone calls for Coward to be apprehended.
Irene leads Holmes on a merry chase through the sewers, while Watson finally manages to strangle Dredger into unconsciousness. Coward tries to escape his angry fellow parliamentarians, but they’re not having it. Irene makes it out of the sewers and finds a staircase and, for some bizarre reason, decides the best plan when trying to escape from someone is to climb as high as possible. Holmes isn’t a bear, Irene, he can manage stairs and come after you up there, you know.
Irene finally makes it to the top of the staircase and emerges onto the unfinished Tower Bridge. Smart! She runs to the edge of the scaffold and realizes she has nowhere to go but hundreds of feet down, into the water. Holmes catches up to her and asks if she took a wrong turn. She says that they’re safe now, which he proclaims an interesting way to look at things, but he sends her on her way, saying he won’t be chasing her anymore. Sure, he just chased her through the sewers and up several flights of stairs for fun.
Irene tells him she doesn’t want to run anymore, and that she’ll tell him everything, but before she can, Blackwood drops out of nowhere, grabs the canisters out of her hands, and pushes her over the edge of the bridge. He then turns his attention to Holmes, and both men put up quite a fight, and it’s all very exciting, if a bit cliché, right down to the storm brewing in the sky. At one point, Holmes manages to look down just long enough to confirm that Irene is not dead, merely unconscious on a lower scaffolding.
Blackwood finally seems to have Holmes at a disadvantage—he has both the canisters and a gun, which he uses to start shooting at Sherlock. Holmes, ever the observer, notices that Blackwood’s standing in the middle of a coiled piece of rope, which is attached to some heavy metal pipe that’s just lying next to Holmes’s foot. Ok, not sure what the practical purpose of that would be, other than to trap a bad guy, but ok, we’ll go with it. Holmes kicks the pipe off the edge of the bridge, the rope wraps tightly around Blackwood’s leg, and he goes sliding towards the edge, Holmes neatly plucking the canisters out of his hand as he goes. Blackwood just manages to catch himself, but he won’t be able to hold on for long.
Sherlock now gets to have his monologue. He says there was never any magic involved at all; it was all just conjuring tricks. Blackwood paid off the guard who pretended to be possessed outside his cell; that was the simplest trick. The sandstone slab over his tomb was a little harder; Blackwood had it broken before he was buried and then put back together with a mild adhesive made with egg and honey (remember how Sherlock noticed honeycomb in Reordan’s lab and licked the edge of the sandstone at the gravesite?) The adhesive was washed away by the rain, making it easy for Blackwood to bust out.
The piece of wood Blackwood’s clinging to gives way, and he slides several more feet towards the edge. He cries for Holmes to help him, but Sherlock’s on a roll. He deduces that Reordan discovered a paralytic that was activated by the combination of copper and water, which is how Sir Thomas drowned in his own bathtub. Reordan tested it on some frogs in his lab, and left them floating in the water. That doesn’t explain how the water started to boil, though, does it? Also, what the hell kind of a crazy-ass genius was Reordan? How did Blackwood find this guy, and if he was this smart, why was he living in that crappy hovel? So many questions.
Standish’s death was baffling to Sherlock, until Blackwood used the same compound to blow up the wharf by the slaughterhouse. It’s an odorless, tasteless flammable liquid that burned with an unusual pink color. Blackwood sprayed it like rain as Standish walked into the Temple, which I think is a continuity error, because we saw that it actually was raining when Standish arrived—we panned down from over the rooftops which clearly showed a lot of pouring rain. Wouldn’t that have washed the stuff off or at least made the guy slightly less flammable? I guess not. Anyway, all it took was a spark from Standish’s gun to set him alight.
Finally, of course, we have the cyanide machine, which would have destroyed every parliamentarian not on Blackwood’s side. Blackwood gave his followers the antidote (in the chalice they all drank from the night Standish died). They would have been just fine, and would have thought they were protected by magic and that Blackwood had harnessed the ultimate power.
Blackwood begs Holmes to cut him loose as, above, for absolutely no reason at all, a beam suspended by a chain starts to teeter precariously. I guess the same construction company that did Tower Bridge is also responsible for building in New York City. Holmes finally cuts the heavy pipe of Blackwood’s leg, just before he’s about to get pulled into the river below, but then carelessly turns his back on the bad guy, who grabs the little axe Holmes threw to cut the rope. Holmes says he wants the world to see Blackwood for what he is: a fraud, and then he’ll be hanged. Blackwood says it’s a long journey to the rope, but before he can make good on any threats, the beam above slides and falls, crashing through the scaffolding, and even more absurdly, pulling down the top of the crane it was dangling from. Blackwood falls into a tangle of chains below the scaffolding that’s there for no reason, and then the anchor holding the chain to a beam bends and then snaps (how heavy is this guy?) and some other piece of the crane falls, snapping all but one of the chains Blackwood’s nested in, and he plummets, somehow getting the last chain wrapped around his neck. I’m not sure how that all happens, but the point is: Blackwood’s dead. For real this time.
Satisfied, Sherlock goes to retrieve Irene from the scaffolding below. She comes to as he snaps handcuffs on her. She tells him that the man she works for is named Moriarty, and that he managed to find and exploit her weak spot. She urges Holmes not to underestimate the professor, who’s as clever as Holmes and much more devious. Holmes drops the key to the cuffs down her shirt, and then helps himself to the giant diamond she’s wearing around her neck. Talk about your give and take. As he starts to go, she calls after him that he’ll miss her, and he says he knows. We get one last shot of Blackwood dangling from the bridge before heading back to Baker Street…
…where Watson’s finally, officially moving out. A man loading boxes onto the carriage tells Watson that he’s packed up all his notebooks. Mary asks what the notebooks refer to, and correctly guesses that they’re all Watson’s and Holmes’s adventures. Nice nod to the way most of the books are written—as if they were, in fact, Watson’s memoirs.
They go into the house and Mary asks if Holmes has really come to terms with Watson leaving. Watson points out that Holmes gave them quite a ring—and we see that it’s the giant diamond Holmes pilfered from Irene. I’m surprised Mary could even lift her hand, wearing that thing, let alone get away with walking down the street without being robbed in a second.
Watson and Mary head up to Holmes’s room, where they’re treated to the grisly sight of Holmes hanging from a noose suspended from the ceiling. Watson recovers from his surprise and says that Holmes isn’t the suicide type, and he shakes him awake. Holmes comes to and says he was trying to figure out how Blackwood survived the execution. There was a hook concealed in the hangman’s knot which attached to a harness and distributed the weight around Blackwood’s torso and left his neck intact. Holmes managed to create a similar contraption for his little experiment. As far as the lack of pulse: there’s a toxin refined from rhododendrons which can induce an apparently mortal paralysis. This was yet another Reordan contribution, of course. It’s effective enough to fool even the best doctors, it seems.
Mary suddenly notices that poor Gladstone’s laid out again, apparently having been Holmes’s guinea pig with the rhododendron concoction. Watson tells Mary not to worry about the dog, who’s seen worse. I would think most reasonable people would be concerned about animal cruelty, Watson. Before Mary can say so, Clark arrives to summon Holmes to a case. It seems one of their sergeants went missing in the sewers the day Holmes stopped Blackwood. The body was found just that morning; he’d been shot in the head with a small caliber bullet. Just like the one Moriarty has in that nifty little gun of his. Holmes and Watson both realize this must be Moriarty’s doing, and Watson asks where Blackwood’s device is. Clark tells them secret service has it, since they’ve taken over the case. Holmes wagers there’s a piece missing; it was the piece Moriarty was after, not the poison or even the entire machine. Holmes realizes that the wire-free invention was what Moriarty wanted all along; Irene was just a distraction. Moriarty knew Holmes would chase after Irene, leaving the machine accessible. That sort of technology would be worth a fortune to the right buyer.
Their reverie is interrupted by the arrival of the man loading up Watson’s boxes, to tell him that he’s all finished, and Watson’s ready to go. Gladstone, who came to just in time to keep animal welfare agencies off this movie’s back, gets up and hauls ass out of the room. Heh. Watson chases after him and Holmes grabs his hat and tells Clark that he’s on the case. I hear a sequel coming!
So there we have it, another fairly successful reboot. As I mentioned, I liked this take on the character and thought the movie was fun; my only real quibble was how totally useless all the female characters were. I know this is supposed to be about the boys and all, but why include Irene Adler and then barely use her? She seemed so completely superfluous, which is a shame, because I like Rachel McAdams, and Irene’s a pretty interesting character. As Watson says, she’s the only one who managed to outwit Sherlock, and for that reason, he admires her quite a bit. The movie seems to have invented some kind of romantic history between her and Holmes, as well as a history of double dealing and double crossing. All the hints of their past were so tantalizing I found myself wishing that that backstory had been the first movie, and this one had been the second of the (surely inevitable) franchise. I really want to know more about that past, honestly. As for Mary—the less I see of her, the happier I am. Talk about a pointless character.
Otherwise, though, the movie’s a good time, despite some odd moments during the final battle. I hear a sequel’s in the works and may start shooting in October of this year, so here’s hoping we get to have more fun in the near future!
Photos courtesy of Warner Brothers