A House Community
FOX (ended 2012)
Well, hey, here's the end of the season on Houdini & Doyle. Or five weeks or so into the future if you're sticking with US TV.

The season finale is a bit odd because only half of it is really dedicated to the mysterious "pall" over the town of LaPier. The rest is wrapping up the subplots with Adelaide, Harry, and Arthur. So onto the mystery part first.

Forty-seven people in the small town of LaPier, Ontario mysteriously drop dead. (Various press summaries aside, it's the people in a village in Ontario, not all of Ontario, who die. Whew!)

Our team are already in the U.S. for whatever reason. Yes, Harry traveled across the Atlantic to drop off his dead mom at the cemetery, but I'm not entirely clear why Arthur and Adelaide are investigating Canadian mysteries. Other than since the show is a joint US/UK/Canada production, they had to set a couple of episodes in Canada. Remember the good old days when the French/Canada joint-produced Highlander would arbitrarily have Duncan hop over from "Seacouver" to Paris mid-season, and then back again near the beginning of the next season?

Anyway, our trio get called in to investigate the deaths at LaPier. There are two survivors: a priest who dozed off while cleaning the bell in the belfry tower, and a young girl who was sick. It sucked to be dealing with contagious disease in 1901, apparently, since the only protection our heroes have are white cotton gloves. Compare that to shows like Containment or The Strain, or even the recent outbreak episode of Person of Interest, and it's amusing to see how primitive containment procedures were back then.

Anyway, there's no immediate explanation for why the people dropped dead or why the two people survived. There's a nearby village inhabited by Indians, and a Wise Indian Shaman (tm) who not only speaks enigmatically about how Mother Nature avenged the Indians because the white men drove them out of the area of LaPier. But also provides psychological counseling to Harry and Arthur. Since Harry is still (not) dealing with the death of his mother, and Arthur is still unable to write about non-Sherlock Holmes stuff.

Anyhoo, eventually a few more people drop dead, and the trio discover that carbon dioxide is leaking out of a nearby copper mine. The priest survived because he was high up in the belfry above the gas line, and the girl because she had a high level of acid in her blood or some-such due to her illness (shades of The Andromeda Strain!). The white men have to evacuate the area, but the Indian village doesn't for some reason. Handy placement away from the mines, I guess. The Indians have their land back, and once again the day is saved by our heroes.

But it's only halfway through the episode! So the producers have to wrap up our trio's individual subplots. Adelaide is the biggy: it turns out her husband was an anarchist after all, and he's planning to kill President McKinley. She susses it all out and they head to NYC to save McKinley and watch Benjamin die.

Arthur takes a bullet and has a near-death experience when "Sherlock Holmes" (the same actor who played Arthur's hallucinatory Holmes in "Bedlam") shows up to point out that Arthur should really go back to writing Holmes books because that was when he was happiest. On the way back across the ocean, Arthur sees a steward named Baskerville and starts writing The Hound of the Baskervilles. Which was the first Holmes story written since his "death," and was published in late 1901. So I suppose it's all historically accurate.

(The real-life Doyle wrote the story after returning from South Africa, not the U.S., and had the help of Bertram Fletcher Robinson. But half a cup of historical accuracy is better than none, I suppose.)

Meanwhile, Harry is still being haunted by the mysterious young woman he first saw at his mother's funeral. Since you can't read things in a dream, he writes down a note so that he can whip it out to test if he's dreaming or not. Cecelia turns out to be hanging out on a deck chair on the liner when Harry comes back, he can read his note, and... she's a real ghost? Harry's dream self has taken reading lessons? I'm not sure. That's where the episode, the season, and the series (??) ends.

Of the two parts of the story, I liked the first part more. It wasn't incredibly baffling, but it was interesting seeing how 1901 types dealt with suspected viral outbreaks. The clues were there, the writers played fair, and it was amusing seeing how something that we would recognize today baffled ye olde doctors and scientists. I could have lived without the politicization of the Indians subplot, but oh well, it comes with the territory.

The Adelaide/Benjamin/anarchist subplot was kinda eh all along. The fact that we never really saw the anarchists or had any involvement with them meant it was a kind of a distant subplot. Benjamin was such a bland character that it was hard to get any feeling for him when they dropped him in late in the game. He worked better as an unseen presumably deceased husband than an on-screen presence.

The Arthur plot was okay. Again, they gave us hints throughout that Arthur was having trouble writing non-Holmes stuff and Holmes was still on his mind. But the guy has had so many other issues throughout--alcoholic insane deceased father, being committed, troubled kids, comatose wife--that the whole writer's block thing was never that prominent until this episode. So it was fully introduced just to wrap it up.

The Harry subplot with his dead mother is just weird. We still don't know who the mysterious young woman is, for starters. Is she a reincarnated Cecelia 2.0? A ghost? I... guess she doesn't look like a young Cecelia, because we never saw a photo or anything establish that. And then Old Cecelia comes back as a ghost just chilling out on a liner deck chair. Which seems pretty silly.

So we've reached the end of the series. How was it as a whole? It... ended as it started. It was a pleasant hour of TV to watch every week, Magnan, Weston & Liddiard were likeable enough. Weston as an egotistical stand-in "smartest guy in the room" for House was good. The historical accuracy was all over the map, but I guess that's not supposed to matter because it's "fictionalized." It had the heavy House touch, particularly in the finale where you could imagine a 1901 Gregory House investigating the mysterious death of a village's population.

It wasn't great TV, but it was entertaining TV. I'd watch it if it came back for a second season. Where they go from here, I'm not sure. Arthur is back to writing Holmes, Adelaide doesn't have her angst anymore, and Harry has the ghost (??) of his mother hanging around smiling at him. The last episode had a very series finale-ish feel to it, so I could see it either quietly disappearing. Or the writers scrambling to come up with a story arc if it comes back.

But that's just my opinion, I could be wrong. What do you think?
1 Comment
Comments (1)
May 27, 2016
CO2 leak from a mine isn't going to kill someone outside the mine.
that's just silly. To influence the atmosphere outside the mine so that it becomes toxic, the mine must be ginormous.
Normally air only contains about 0.03% CO2. In order to become annoying for humans this percentage has to rise to about 5%. At that point you start to breath heavily (stimulated respiration). If the levels continue to rise to 7% to 10%, unconsciousness will occur after few minutes of exposure.

You won't be dropping dead immediately. It's true that the due to poorly ventilated shafts inside mines breathing problems can occur. Mining personnel call this blackdamp. This is an asphyxiant, decreasing the available oxygen content of air to a level incapable of sustaining human or animal life. It's not only CO2 but a mixture of nitrogen, CO2 and water vapor.

The explanation that the guy was saved because he was at higher altitude is also bogus.
It's true that CO2 is heavier than O2. If you ever filled a balloon with pure CO2 you will notice it will start to fall to the ground immediately So why doesn't the CO2 in the air sink and suffocate us? This is somewhat harder to explain. A visual might help:

Due to kinetic energy, there will be no significant "unmixing"
of the gasses. Even if the air were completely and perfectly still, the carbon dioxide would not form a pool on the surface. There is a dynamic equilibrium set up between gravitation, the tendency for the denser material to go down and diffusion the tendency for a material not to concentrate in one place, but to spread itself out. Nature is great.

They got the science wrong. TV producers don't have time for proper research. What a surprise.
Other than that those "annoying" inaccuracies the episode was entertaining. Gislef described it aptly: "It wasn't great TV, but it was entertaining TV." Thank you for providing us with the reviews.
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