Once again, the "game is afoot!" The quote from Shakespeare's Henry V appears in many Sherlock Holmes adaptations, but it only appears in the canon in "The Adventure of the Abbey Grange." The adventure is a dramatic tale, one in which an abused woman lies to protect the man she loves, and in which Holmes ends up taking the law into his own hands, with Watson's full compliance. Nevertheless, justice is done, and right prevails. The Granada adaptation is fairly faithful to the story, although there are certainly a few sequences added to flesh it out a bit, including an unusual plot point about the Lady Brackenstall's pet dog, Fudge. The ending is slightly different (no spoilers!), and Holmes and Watson have a brief discussion as to the ethical consequences of the detective's decision to operate outside the precise confines of the law.
Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwicke are excellent, as always, and Brett displays quite a bit of agility in a scene in which he climbs on top of a huge mantelpiece, to examine a torn bell-pull. Although I don't know the order in which episodes of this season were filmed, I get the feeling that Hardwicke was feeling more comfortable in the role of Watson than he was in "The Empty House." (But I acknowledge I could be reading more into the performance than is actually there.)
Although the writing of the episode is quite good, I do have to say a few words about the unusual cinematography on display. I'm afraid the director relied far too much on odd camera angles and reflections. The latter is particularly noticeable: I lost count of how many times one character or another was reflected in a mirror, or a metal sign, or a window. Regarding odd camera angles, there were several shots from extremely high angles, or through partially obscured windows, or even a few from the point of view of a cab driver. I found all of these bizarre visual choices quite distracting, as there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to them, and they made the visual aspect of the storytelling confusing and unsettling.
Still, the story was extremely engaging, and I particularly enjoyed a scene where Holmes visits the shipping manager, who turns out to have read many of Watson's published adventures, and has applied some of Holmes's methods of deduction. The scene, which is only a simple paragraph in the original story, was tremendously entertaining, even though it featured another odd directing choice, as Holmes continually focuses on a chess set (caught mid-game). I really expected him to move one of the pieces, but was surprised when the camera abruptly cut away to the next scene.
So overall, "Abbey Grange" was an enjoyable installment in the series, despite its weird visual style. Maybe not one of my favorite episodes so far, but not a waste of time, either. Enjoy watching the YouTube video below, and feel free to share your own thoughts on the episode in the comments. (WARNING: there is some fairly explicit violence in the episode, including a bloody murder, so if you are easily triggered, be aware.)
I'm a stay-at-home dad, and Director of Music Ministries at a United Methodist Church in Mt. Juliet, TN, and a longtime fan of Mr. Sherlock Holmes.