Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Hound, Chapter Twelve: No face like Holmes.

What was I saying in the last chapter about Watson getting a little girl-crazy with the lack of female populace on the moor? If you think that's bad, consider how long he's been away from Sherlock Holmes?

Drink the man in, ladies, because here, amid the wild moors, the booming bitterns, and Flintstone architecture, we're getting treated to the sexiest Sherlock Holmes you're ever going to see. Bronzed by the sun, dancing grey eyes, not a hair out of place . . . Watson's even talking about how athletic his build is!

And you want relationship moments? We've got those, too! Watson, all hurt and upset because Holmes didn't let him know he was here all along, voice trembling because Holmes probably didn't get his letters. And then Holmes, pulling said letters from his pockets, and telling Watson how intelligent he is, touching Watson's heart to get him over his anger. Holmes sees "the shadow rising from [Watson's] face." Maybe I've spent too much time listening to the young ladies of fandom this year, but after a close-up view of that scene, I found myself practically wanting to shout, "God dammit, just kiss him!"

It's a scene straight out of a romantic comedy, I swear.

But then Holmes shocks Watson back to the case by telling him somebody has a wife. (Luckily, it's not Holmes.) We're not just getting super-sexy Holmes here, we're getting a Holmes with answers!

And after being knocked out of the relationship scene with that revelation, we're knocked out of the revelation scene by . . . well, was there ever another case where Holmes says, "It is murder, Watson -- refined, cold-blooded, deliberate murder," and almost immediately somebody starts screaming like they're about to be killed.

And then the Hound of the Baskervilles starts howling.

This is the part where you discover if you're the person who runs from the fire, or toward it. Holmes and Watson, of course, run toward it, and we can't help but follow.

This part of the novel alone is what makes it such a treat for movie-makers to adapt. After all this time talking about a mythological demon hound, somebody is actually getting killed by the thing. And, sadly, it looks like Sir Henry. But now comes the moment where I actually wish Robert Downey Jr. and company would do a Hound. Could any other Holmes prior laugh and dance over a fresh corpse the way Downey surely could?

Man, I love this story. It has such moments. Holmes dancing, laughing, and squeezing Watson's hand in excitement. Where do people get the idea this guy is a no-fun sociopath or disconnected autistic savant? Party over the dead guy with a beard!

Well, he wasn't anybody we liked, right?

As much as I like to give Watson a little poke about his own emotional state, though, we're about to see him show a little more of what he's made of out here. Holmes has already remarked on what a zealous and intelligent investigator he is, and now we get to see Watson display discipline, control, and guile unlike most movies ever show. He and Holmes are about to face a murderer, who at this point they know is a murderer, and pretend they don't know a thing.

Which is funny, because the murderer himself is putting on a big act in the last part of this chapter. It isn't a good act . . . "But, dear me, is somebody hurt? Not -- don't tell me that it is our friend Sir Henry!" Sheesh. And there's Watson, watching this bull-crap act and resisting the urge you know he had to be feeling, to just call the guy out.

For unlike the typical, short story case, this is a novel, so Sherlock Holmes is going to have to take the time to prove that which he's already figured out. And it's going to help if the bad guy doesn't know that's what he's working on. So let the fun begin!

P.S. Something we don't often think about -- since the novel was published just before "Empty House," this chapter is really a dress rehearsal for Holmes's return from the dead. If Watson wasn't happy Holmes didn't tell him he was on the moor, consider how he felt when Holmes didn't tell him he was on the Earth. But, alas, "Empty House" was a short story, so Watson didn't get into it quite as much as he could have.

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