Houdini and Doyle continues to make the rounds on social issues and this week is no different, following the mysterious death of a mentally ill woman who appeared to be possessed by a demon. Investigating the woman’s life, Stratton discovers that she was a patient of an infamous insane asylum, nicknamed “Bedlam.”
This brings Doyle, Houdini and Stratton face to face with the state of mental illness in early twentieth century England: terrible, basically. The trio visits Bedlam and the doctor there tells them that he’s been trying to reform the place a bit–they used to allow rich patrons to pay to watch the patients like animals in a zoo. The doctor still performs electroshock and lobotomies as treatment, however, which remained a common practice for many decades. At the asylum, they meet a patient who believes himself to be Doyle’s own character, Sherlock Holmes, and he hilariously has a few qualms with his depiction in Doyle’s books. They also encounter a patient who believes he is a servant of the demon Abaddon, and claims that the woman and another patient who had been nearly killed were sacrifices to Abaddon.
Doyle seems extremely uncomfortable with the visit to the asylum, and he makes a solo visit to one of the doctors who had treated the dead woman. Back home, he is clearly stressed–hitting the bottle pretty hard while he looks through a patient file that he stole from the asylum. His stress is explained when we discover the file is about his father who had had a mental break when Doyle was a child and was admitted to Bedlam. Inside the file, Doyle unearths a letter that claims his father was abused by the head doctor at the asylum, and so he returns to confront the doctor. The doctor sees that Doyle is stressed and raving, and he forcefully admits Doyle to the asylum.
The patient who believes himself to be Sherlock Holmes gets bunked with Doyle and begins to help him figure out what’s going on at the asylum, and–because Holmes never knows when to shut up–pokes at Doyle’s psyche. They adventure through the asylum, trying to uncover the mystery and then escape, but not before Doyle is nearly lobotomized by the doctor. Fortunately the delusional “Holmes” saves him and helps him realize that Doyle himself has been doped with the same fear-inducing poison that the “demon-possessed” patients had been killed with. Turns out the whole crazy asylum caper was allllll a dreaaam. Or rather, it was all a drug fueled delusion.
The poison was used in one of Doyle’s Holmes stories so Doyle knows that the only way he can stop it from killing him is to force his body into a state of euphoria: but how? His psyche lets him meet his wife, but that’s not what Doyle really wants apparently. What he really wants is what all men really want, I guess, and that’s daddy’s approval. So his psyche provides him with a delusion of his father who apologizes for never supporting Doyle’s writing career. They hug, and that is what sends Doyle into enough of a euphoria to shake the poison and wake up. Yeah, that’s literally what happened. I guess rich white man Doyle needed some kind of problem more than just his dying wife. Sigh.
This episode is chock full of Doyle’s man pain, which was a bit much. His fear of losing his mind falls pretty flat, in my opinion, because he’s never shown any signs of mental instability or even any worry about it before. One thing that is very enjoyable about this episode, though, is Doyle’s delusional Sherlock Holmes buddy. He is every bit as acerbic, hyper intelligent, and rude as Holmes ought to be, and he acts as Doyle’s magical guide through his psychotic break. If only every magical guide was so witty and helpful.
Meanwhile, Stratton and Houdini work the case without Doyle. They seek him out at home, where they have an adorable interaction with Doyle’s son–Aunty Adelaide and Uncle Harry are the cutest. Houdini and Stratton find Doyle’s body seizing on the floor of his father’s old home, and realize that he must have been poisoned at Bedlam, just like the other two victims. The duo confront the doctor that met Doyle on his own and he confesses that he was performing experiments on patients by poisoning them with ergot, a poison that induces fear, in an attempt to cure fear. Houdini gets the antidote from the doctor and runs it to the hospital where he promptly trips and smashes the vial, destroying Doyle’s only chance at life. Nice job, Harry. Fortunately, the power of resolved daddy issues saves the day.
In the midst of the investigation, Stratton opens up to Houdini about her suspicions surrounding her husband’s death: it was ruled a suicide, but she believes he was murdered. She also admits that her husband owned a ring with a symbol on it that is tied to an organization of assassins. Ooh, intrigue. After the case is solved, Stratton receives a message at the police station to stop investigating the deaths of her husband and his friend Nigel or there will be serious consequences. Death. It’s a death threat. So, we shall see what perils are in store for Stratton and, I’m sure, Houdini and Doyle, who can’t leave well enough alone.