Airtime: Mondays at 8PM on Fox
Episode: Season 1, Episode 4 (S01E04)
Tweetable Takeaway: Constable Stratton is out of the picture as #HoudiniAndDoyle fumbles through an investigation without her
There’s something amiss with Constable Stratton, and she misses much of the investigation in another lackluster installment of HOUDINI AND DOYLE.
We’re deep into paranormal mystery of the week territory when it comes to Houdini and Doyle, which would be mildly entertaining if it weren’t for the almost complete lack of Constable Stratton in the episode. She’s the anchor that keeps the show grounded, and without her to push and pull at either Houdini or Doyle, the show makes for very meager entertainment. In her absence, our two men are merely a couple of buffoons trying to one up each other. The amusement of their characters drains out, and the convoluted plots seem even more convoluted. Before weak plot could almost be forgivable, but now they stick out like entertainment warning signs: “Stay away, boredom ahead.” I really don’t understand what the show makers are going for. They have two fascinating historical figures ripe with great story possibilities, and instead they stick them in the most trite and ridiculous settings. It’s a pitiful waste of what could have been an interesting show.
Stratton’s off on her own, and the reason she’s away adds more mystery for both Houdini and Doyle. They want to get to the bottom of what’s going on with her almost as much as they want to solve this week’s murder case. Stratton receives a telegram at the beginning of the show and tells the boys she’s feeling under the weather and needs to get some medicine she’s been waiting for from her pharmacist. Something else is going on though, and it involves a mysterious man.
The murder aspect of the show takes its cues from the myth of Spring Heel’d Jack. London thinks he’s back and has murdered a motorcar company owner, knocking him out of his seventh story window to his death. Of course Doyle believes it’s the work of the supernatural, and possibly a demon escaped from hell. Houdini on the other hand, thinks it’s either a mere accident or a murder. The only clue is a poison pen letter the man received right before his death.
With Houdini and Doyle left to their own devices, they head to the place where the motorization of London would hit hardest … the largest livery stable in the entire city. The owner is rude to them both, and doesn’t take their supposed authority to be real. He basically kicks them out of his business, but not before Houdini can pilfer a sample of the man’s handwriting, which matches the poison pen letter.
Without Stratton significantly involved in the case, the boys fumble in the dark a bit, highlighting the glaring weakness of the series as a whole, as well as the individual plot of this episode. To try and get her back into the fold, Houdini breaks into Stratton’s apartment to see if she’s ok. They learn she’s lied to them about being sick, she catches them in the act and kicks them out, and they’re left alone to figure out the mystery of the bat like creature with claws who can jump tall buildings, has eyes that glow in the dark, and spits blue flames.
The press is all over this night terror, and Houdini and Doyle run into Briggs, a newspaperman and friend of Houdini’s. He’s interested in the Spring Heel’d Jack angle, and uses the weirdness of it to write sensational stories to sell papers and terrify London. Meanwhile, a woman is attacked, but she survives with the help of her maid, and our detectives discover a link between the livery owner and the woman. Once Houdini follows the man though, he soon realizes he was visiting a brothel during both attacks and could not be their culprit. Though he did write the poison pen letter.
After there’s a third attack on a slumlord, Stratton pops into the picture just long enough to give them a list of his tenants, which draws them back to the woman from the first attack. She has had interactions with one of the men on the list, a Vladimir Palinov, who just happens to be a gymnast at a local circus. When they visit him, it’s clear he’s the culprit even though he denies it. Houdini is able to dress the part of Spring Heel’d Jack and trick Briggs into making a confession to him. Briggs hired Palinov to continue the attacks to sell newspapers, but he didn’t have anything to do with the first one.
In what amounts to a silly reveal, the whole Stratton debacle boils down to the fact she’s married and estranged from her husband. Why does she hide it from her two friends? I guess we’ll find out as the show goes on, but the dumbest twist is left for the end. As Houdini and Doyle wander off, the real creature watches them from a rooftop above leaving the case open for another time. I suggest you just hit Netflix up and rewatch Sherlock for actual deduction and entertainment, since you’ll find none on Houdini and Doyle.
For six months out of the year Jeff is holed up in his home with nothing to do but shovel snow, watch television, write, and dream of warmer climates. Twitter: @OfSoundnVision
Jeff Iblings | Contributor