[Apologies that this review is just over a day late. I had some technical difficulties that prohibited me from posting the review on the regular Saturday. Next week's should be on time, God willing!]
I am very happy to report, the Granada adaptation of "The Adventure of the Norwood Builder," a story from The Return of Sherlock Holmes, is my favorite episode thus far! The writers took an enjoyable enough story, remained very faithful to the plot, and tweaked it just enough, resulting in a beautifully paced and gripping piece of storytelling. In the original, much of the story is Holmes telling Watson what he's been up to. It works fine for me as a reader, but would be exceptionally dull as a television program. By giving Watson more to do, and showing much more of the action onscreen, the pacing and flow of the story are improved tenfold. I found myself glued to the screen for the entire 50+ minutes of the episode.
Jeremy Brett is in absolutely top form, showing us Holmes at his lowest of lows, wallowing in despair that he may fail his client, as well as showing us Holmes at his most delightful level of playful deduction once the pieces fall into place. There's no shortage of interplay here between Holmes and Scotland Yard's Inspector Lestrade (played perfectly by Colin Jeavons). Matthew Solon is very well cast as the nervous, excitable Mr. John Hector McFarlane. He seems a bit younger than the character is described in the story; I would say he's in his early twenties, rather than his late twenties, as Watson describes him. Honestly, all the casting is perfect, but I was particularly struck by the excellent writing mentioned above. I felt like there was not a single minute of screen time wasted. There were some brilliant moments with no dialogue here and there that did a tremendous job of conveying the state of mind of the characters: Holmes's melancholy when he can't figure things out, Watson's concern for his friend, and Mr. McFarlane's despair when it looks like he may be hanged for murder.
I honestly can't say enough good about this episode. I have really enjoyed watching the Granada adaptations so far, but this one was a noticeable step above many of the other episodes. One gets the distinct feeling that the production team and the regular cast had really hit their stride by this point in the series. "Norwood Builder" is HIGHLY recommended!
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.