Return of the Greatest Sherlock #3 = The Game’s afoot

holmes32Sherlock Holmes quotes are pretty famous, but Jeremy Brett as Holmes says the most famous one in this episode.  Some would argue it is a contest between “Elementary, my dear Watson” and “The Game is afoot”, the latter wins because Holmes does not actually say the former anywhere in Conan Doyle’s stories.  As such, Holmes uses it as a call to arms, as he rouses Watson from his bed and drags him off to another adventure.  


Oliver Tobias as Jack Croker

The quote “The Game’s afoot” comes from Henry V, the play by Shakespeare.  The story deals with King Henry during the Hundred Years War against the French, and the quote is only one line from a larger speech where the King tries to rally his troops before the big battle.  This is also meant to be inspirational to Watson too, which is probably why Holmes chose to quote from Shakespeare at that particular moment.  

Holmes believed Watson’s writings did not give a fair shake to the “work”, the logical deductions used by the Great Detective to get from point A to B to solve the crime.  This episode of Granada’s series shows that progression quite well.  Holmes looks over several clues, surveys rooms and lifts objects to examine them.  Unlike the Sherlock Holmes movies, there is no action or fight scenes, only dialogue and story, along with a series of supporting actors who do a good job.


Conrad Phillips as Eustace

Conrad Phillips plays the simple role of Sir Eustace, but it is really Anne-Louise Lambert who gives him his humanity.  Sir Eustace is a drunkard for the most part, and pretty abusive to his wife, smacking her around on several occasions.  When Captain Croker enters the picture expressing concern for Sir Eustace’s wife, there is a confrontation and Eustace is killed.


Anne-Louise Lambert as Mary

Once again, Holmes plays judge and jury, much to the dismay of Watson.  He quickly finds out that the whole murder was covered up, but Captain Croker was acting out of honor and love for Mary, so he lets him off the hook.  I think Oliver Tobias is probably the best of the supporting cast, and delivers a stern performance as a military man, but when his motives are questioned, he really comes through with the tense emotion.  He wants Holmes to understand what he did was to save Mary, and he doesn’t really care about the outcome, or the consequences.


A detective doing detective work?? Say what??

The Abbey Grange is a fairly small episode, and it doesn’t have the grand scale of other episodes.  It’s meant to be a dramatic piece and relies on dialogue, which I think comes through.  The crew used Adlington Hall in Northwest England to stand in for Sir Eustace’s house, and the fine details are well-done, but that’s not unusual for this production.  The energy of Jeremy Brett is a welcome addition, otherwise I would have been bored out of my mind with this one.  He darts around during most scenes and leaps up the side of a mantelpiece at one point to examine a bell rope, no stuntman in sight.  

This was the very first episode filmed by Jeremy Brett with Edward Hardwicke as the new Watson, even though it was shown later in the season.  Hardwicke has very little to do, but adds a couple of lines and reactions here and there.  He is undoubtedly my favorite Watson on screen, but there’s way better episodes for Watson.  It would take a couple episodes before Hardwicke really extended himself.  

This story has been adapted many times, and this is probably the best of them.  It was part of the recent 2014 Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishment video game, which has some elements of the original story.  The story itself has deeper commentary, as it touches on the evils of marriage and the difficulty of divorce in England.  These themes can be easily seen in the Granada production.

holmes30Overall, this is a good episode.  The performances are spot-on, and Oliver Tobias is the stand-out, delivering each line with some amount of punch and vigor, making us believe he’s both a military man and a caring individual.  Jeremy Brett does alright as Holmes, but it’s really the investigating and the story I liked, as the detective actually does some detecting.  He goes through several clues right in front of us and talks about them with Watson.  At the end, Holmes is a little uncomfortable receiving praise for not turning in Captain Croker to the police, but my praise would be for this cast and this production, which are both excellent.


Paget drawing of Holmes standing over the dead Sir Eustace


Link to the Sherlock Holmes episode guide

The Return of Sherlock Holmes Episodes
The Empty House – July 9 1986
The Abbey Grange – Aug 6 1986
The Musgrave Ritual – July 30 1986
The Second Stain – July 23 1986
The Man with the Twisted Lip
The Priory School – July 16 1986
The Six Napoleons – Aug 20 1986
The Sign of Four – Dec 29 1987
The Devil’s Foot – Apr 6 1988
Wisteria Lodge – Apr 20 1988
The Bruce Partington Plans – Apr 27 88
The Hound of the Baskervilles – Aug 31 1988
Silver Blaze – Apr 13 1988