Unlucky in Love: the Veiled Lodger and The Missing Three-Quarter

Yes, there are brief, mostly spoiler-free thoughts on last night’s “Sherlock” episode below.  But first, I need to blather on a bit about “The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger” and “The Missing Three-Quarter.”  Because that’s what I do.


What could a vaguely suspicious accidental death and the disappearance of a rugby player have in common?  Yes, they’re both mysteries solved by Sherlock Holmes, but that’s just the start.  What they also have in common is something deeper and a little more poignant – the repercussions (potential or actual) of unfortunate love, something that lies at the center of both “The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger” and “The Missing Three-Quarter.”

How can love be unfortunate, you might ask?  (In which case, my first response is “Have you ever read any Shakespeare?”)  Love is definitely rife with the potential for complication and those – and it – are rarely if ever within our direct control.  It’s a subject that writers, poets, and lyricists frequently acquaint with madness or pain; it’s also been called blind.  The disastrous turns love can take spell doom for Romeo and Juliet, Othello and Desdemona, and Hamlet and Ophelia, to name a few.  (Also, Jack and Rose, Jack and Ianto, Glen and Maggie…that last one might be too soon, actually.). Love bites; it also bleeds, dies, wounds, scars, and never, ever, runs smooth.  (Yes, I did just quote/paraphrase Def Leppard, Nazareth, and Shakespeare, shamelessly, in one sentence.  Sue me.)

Love definitely hurt and scarred Eugenia Ronder, the eponymous lodger with the veil, and she meets Holmes and Watson when she’s ready to finally tell the story of how.  First, it led her into the arms of a cruel, beastly man who she married with questionable consent; she described it the “evil moment I became his wife.”  Her husband tortured and tormented her for his own sick amusement or whenever she committed some perceived sin that earned her punishment, which usually included being tied down to their bed and beaten with a whip.  In the midst of this hell, Eugenia found a bright spot in Leonardo, the strongman that worked at her husband’s circus.  Briefly, this seemingly angelic creature showed her what love was supposed to be like, which only put her torment at the hands of her husband in sharper contrast.

At that point, Leonardo and Eugenia hatched a plan to kill Mr. Ronder.  It was a simple and elegant plan, intended to stop her torment and free her from a situation she had few other avenues out of.  If you remember from an earlier post, the law made it ridiculously difficult for a woman to get a divorce in those days.  Their plan even worked, except for one little hiccup – the lion that was to take the fall for Leonardo’s brutal murder of Ronder reacted like a lion would to the smell of fresh blood and turned on Eugenia.  Leonardo, instead of attempting to save his love, ran screaming from the scene.  Love managed to fail Eugenia twice.

The story of Godfrery Stauton, Oxford’s missing three-quarter (it’s apparently a rugby position.  Anything beyond baseball is Greek to me, though) is less violent, but no less grim.  Staunton was a swell kid and a hell of a rugby player, but he had a rich but cheap uncle whose penny-pinching ways kept his nephew perpetually in the poorhouse (figuratively, since those actually existed back then).  This cheapness wasn’t an instrument to teach Staunton humility or out of any disapproval of his lifestyle, but because Lord Mount-James was just a cheap son of a bitch.  At least Staunton could look forward to inheriting all that money his uncle refused to spend when he finally meandered off this mortal coil, right?  Well, that was apparently in question, since Staunton managed to go and fall in love with a girl his uncle would never, ever approve of, then further doomed himself by marrying her.  But he kept all this a secret in the hopes of preserving his claim on the family fortune and ensuring a better life for him and his wife one day.

And that’s exactly how it all would have gone down, if Mrs. Staunton hadn’t gotten sick. She fell victim to an illness that plagued the era, and the underprivileged in particular – tuberculosis.  There was no cure for consumption in 1897, when the story takes place; the medical community had only recently begun to understand TB and wouldn’t have a firm grasp on it or proper treatment until the early 20th Century.  Staunton knew the diagnosis was a death sentence, and he carried this knowledge and the associated burden mostly on his own.  Sure, her father and physician knew, but he couldn’t confide in a single friend, his family, or even a stranger on the street.  He had to suffer through his impending widowhood entirely on his own because of one cheap, prejudiced old man.  When the end finally loomed imminent, he had to disappear (which is how Holmes and Watson become involved) so that he can be with the woman he loves as she dies.  That sounds like a living hell for anyone, especially a young man.

There’s another similarity: how Holmes handled both cases.  Due to their individual sensitive nature in both circumstances, Holmes refrained from involving the police.  Per his usual judgement that sometimes a broader form of justice is more fitting, he let the matter of Ronder’s murder settle with the recent death of Leonardo and Eugenia’s disfigurement.  In young Mister Staunton’s case, there was no actual crime to report.  Exposing the events would have been criminal – in a moral sense – however, and neither Holmes nor Watson felt the need to put the widower through more than he had already suffered.  I mostly agree with one of those decisions, and only slightly disagree with the other.


In other news, I have so many thoughts about last night’s Sherlock season four premier, “The Six Thatchers,”and they are all so full of spoilers, which is why I’m not sharing them here.  Needless to say, I was blown away.  I also kind of want to punch John Watson in the nose, for a few reasons.  And hug Sherlock as well.  Martin Freeman’s performance in that scene was exceptional in its heartbreak.  Mark Gatiss, the bad bad man responsible for writing it, is both a genius and a bastard.  Which trait is dominant, by my reckoning, switches from minute to minute.

I can’t wait for next week.  I’m also terrified by how they might be planning to break us, too.

As a distraction, I plan on posting about an era-appropriate set of unsolved mysteries that caught my attention thanks to (yes, again) a podcast I listened to last week.  I think I plan on finishing up the canon by working my way through the remaining stories in batches based on which collection they were published in as well. So, the four remaining stories from The Return of Sherlock Holmes next week, then what’s left of His Last Bow the next, and maybe break The Casebook up over the two remaining weeks in order to finish up by February 1st.  I am not throwing in the towel.  I can do this!

(And then, maybe after that’s done, I’ll go back and fill in the fiction blanks.  Because otherwise I have all these useless notes mini-outlines and nothing to show for them.)

“Can We Get Back to Politics Now?”

No, we’re not getting into politics.  If you’re not familiar with the musical “Hamilton,” the title comes from a line by Thomas Jefferson after some very unhappy and dark things happen in the second act.  It seemed appropriate to borrow it for this post for two reasons – the post this morning, and the content of this one.

I’ve mentioned a passing interest in the musical before, right?  Well, I may have spent part of my day filking part of it.  Filking, for the unaware, is the act of taking an existing song and rewriting it to make it about something else, usually a science fiction or fantasy property.  That’s where filking got its start, anyway.  I first played around with filking in my previously mentioned Highlander fandom days.  I may have tried to filk the entire “A Kind of Magic” album.  I made it three songs in, I think.  Thankfully, those efforts are well-hidden in a defunct forum and a more defunct Tripod-hosted website.

Given the theme of this blog,you can guess what the subject matter of my parody is, right?

Continue reading

For Christ’s sake, Sherlock, it’s not a game!

I interrupt your regularly scheduled Sunday, and push back the two posts that are otherwise going up today, to bring you this wonderful tidbit: The Sherlock Season Four trailer!

I have so many questions –

  • What/who is the demon?
  • Who died, because the look on Sherlock’s face 00:43 is definitely a “they just wheeled *blank* into the morgue on a slab” one.
  • What is Mary up to?
  • What the *bleep* did Mycroft do to piss off Mrs. Hudson?

Oh, and then there’s the obvious question: when in 2017 are we getting this??

TV Break – The Unaired “Sherlock” Pilot

We’re going to take a slight detour for a moment. I know the purpose of this blog is supposed to be the Holmes stories, but my enjoyment (and fervent consumption) of televised Holmesian pursuits, particularly of the BBC variety, isn’t exactly a secret. Sure, I have a story I should be reading (and a blog post on it I should be writing), a first draft I’m in the middle of editing, two Star Trek movies I should be watching, and a short story I should be writing (unrelated to Holmes entirely – because I don’t think Sherlock Holmes in an alternate history Kansas is what the Community Novel project planners had in mind this year), but I have zero motivation for anything directly productive right now. Unlike Holmes, I’m seeking out a little boredom. Or at least a little lack of activity.

Maybe I’m embracing my inner Mycroft.

Tonight, I decided to test out the blu-ray portion of my blu-ray player – it’s mostly existed as a means to watching Hulu, Netflix, and Youtube since I got it – by watching the unaired pilot of BBC’s Sherlock. While I’ve seen the aired “A Study in Pink” a few hundred times, which may be an underestimate, I’ve never taken the time to watch the unaired version. I’ve owned it. I’ve just fallen into that lazy trap where, if I can’t pull it up on Netflix or Hulu, if I have to resort to the act of getting up, grabbing a DVD, and popping it into a machine, it’s almost too much work. This is also why I haven’t watched Doctor Who since February 1st. I own the entire series digitally and through season seven on DVD, but I’d have to actually put in some effort to get to either source.

Definitely embracing my inner Mycroft, when I look at it that way.

So much of this version of “A Study in Pink” is different, even if it’s just in small ways and remains more or less the same story. There’s the final confrontation, which takes place in the sitting room of 221B and not an empty cafeteria and ends with Watson shooting the cabbie from a building across the street. There’s no “Find My Phone” moment, no drugs bust, no chasing a cab through the streets of London, no creepy Mycroft playing up the anonymous and suspicious arch-nemesis. We still get the awkward “I’m married to my work” misunderstanding, the “Come if convenient; come even if inconvenient” text exchange, and Mrs. Hudson insisting she’s definitely not the housekeeper. Donovan’s still a witch, even if she’s just a uniform sergeant, and apparently still “cleaning [Anderson’s] floors.” But Anderson never gets to call Sherlock a psychopath and we never get to hear Sherlock quotably correct him with “I’m a high functioning sociopath. Do your research.”

Oh, the shock blanket is still there, of course, because the officers still need to take pictures.

New things we never got to see in the original televised version (and I wish we had) include Sherlock’s epic drunk-acting and watching him momentarily outsmarted by the killer, drugged Sherlock flopping around on the floor of the hideously salmon pink 221B sitting room, and Batlock – a pair of shots of Sherlock, perched on a roof, backlit by a bright and nearly full moon, with his coattails flapping like some image taken directly from a Batman comic book panel. 


A screengrab of Sherlock Holmes standing on a roof, in the rain, wirh a mostly full moon behind him.

Seriously, just missing the bat signal…

We also meet a much less trusting Watson. He’s still awed by Sherlock’s skill, but there’s a suspicion under the surface that would have been interesting to see played out over the course of a series. For all of that, he still shoots a man dead when he thinks his new friend is in danger, and delivers a much better (not funnier, but more heartfelt, maybe) response to having done so:

Sherlock: “Are you all right?”

Watson: “Of course I’m all right.”

Sherlock: “You have just killed a man.”

Watson: “I’ve seen men die before, and good men, friends of mine. I thought I’d never sleep again. I’ll sleep fine tonight.”

Not as quippy as “Well, he wasn’t a very nice man,” but it gives us a definite peek at the heart of John Watson.

It’s a shorter episode, just under an hour long, and that’s probably why subplots like Mycroft’s mysterious introduction and the filler bits of the drugs bust and the cab chase aren’t there. The final confrontation focuses less on the cabbie pushing the buttons of Sherlock’s ego as well, the existence of it hinted at by Lestrade’s asking Sherlock if he picked the right pill and Watson still calling him an idiot for planning to take it. This is, after all, what was created to whet the BBC’s appetite and thus likely just a bit shy of Moffat and Gatiss’ full vision for what the story should be. Or maybe, when they filmed, they had a longer season in mind, with shorter episodes, and planned to unravel some of those plot and character bits, including the shadow of Moriarty, later on. There’d be time yet for Moriarty and Mycroft, car chases and disagreements with Scotland Yard, Watson’s constant disapproval and Sherlock’s careless ego.

There’s something endearing about the final shot in this episode, whether it’s the aired or unaired version. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Lestrade or Mycroft delivering the final “Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson” line (Lestrade to Donovan in the unaired, Mycroft to his assistant in the aired); it’s that shot of Sherlock and Watson, strolling off, grinning like fools as their names are tucked just as neatly together for the first time. It’s the absolute perfect way not just to wrap the episode, but to really begin their adventures to come. That’s the compelling essence of Holmes and Watson, isn’t it? The mysteries and the adventures and the deductions are all well and good, but it’s the stories of two men, two good friends, that make us keep reading and watching.