Elementary: Season 1, Episode 13. The Red Team (2013)
After a short hiatus over the Christmas and New Year holidays, Elementary: Season 1, Episode 13. The Red Team (2013) gets us back in the saddle. It reminds us that everything in life depends on cause and effect. Animals evolve and produce sufficient survival genes to identify and respond to threats in their environment. As a bonus to mere survival, humans have developed what we choose to call intelligence and, as a distinction between us and the animals, we understand our environment rather better. Blessed with foresight, we plan against future contingencies, put defensive measures in place, and generally try to keep ourselves safe. So this episode is a single metaphor, albeit divided into a number of different strands.
Dr Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) has lied to Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) and is now living in his home on her own time. No more money is coming in from a “concerned” father. She’s constructing a trap for herself and her (ex)client. Ironically, Sherlock collapsed into drug abuse because the single person most important to him was murdered. Watson is now allowing herself to become emotionally important to Holmes and therefore making him vulnerable again. This is foolish, selfish and all the worse because she’s doing it with her eyes open. As a specialist in the nature of addiction, she sees the risk her client will become dependent on her. Or, indeed, that he has already become dependent on her.
By kidnapping Moran with the intention of killing him, Holmes betrayed Inspector Gregson (Aidan Quinn) and the NYPD. It’s unrealistic of him to expect them not to care. He would have killed Moran and willingly gone to jail. That he did not kill was down to the accident he did not have the right man. Watson can open lines of communication with Gregson but it must always come down to the not-quite friends reaching an accommodation. Both of them are essentially pragmatists. All it will take is for Gregson to acknowledge he does not have to like Holmes in order to take the benefit of his brains. Perhaps he might like to add a little pay-back for that feeling of betrayal.
As a society, we also like to look ahead and with international terrorism having come to mainland America, the US government uses simulations and “war games” to explore the nature of credible threats and develop appropriate countermeasures. Let’s say it puts together two teams in an annual contest to test America’s preparedness. The Blue Team is the home team. The Red Team is the foreign devils (although, of course, they are all properly vetted US experts). Then something strange happens. In 2009, the US government breaks with convention and wraps the annual event in a web of secrecy. The conspiracy theorists go wild. They speculate the Red Team came up with an attack strategy and the Blue Team was unable to defend against it. Two years later, one of the Red Team dies in a mugging. Then a second is hospitalised with what’s diagnosed as early-onset Alzheimer’s. Perhaps foreign agents are involved. But why would they kill members of the team that might pass over the unbeatable strategy? Perhaps to frighten the others into revealing it?
People have to live with who they are. Dr Watson is lying to Holmes. Holmes has the capacity and willingness to kill. Gregson is an honest cop who justifiably feels betrayed. The remaining members of the Red Team are in fear. Their intelligence has placed them in danger, has perhaps placed all America in danger. What a shame that something that has been thought cannot be unthought, that decisions once communicated cannot be denied. There are always consequences even if the thoughts and decisions are not acted on.
Judging this solely on the development of the narrative arc, this episode is strong. Everyone, including Marcus Bell (Jon Michael Hill), gets to have an opinion. That we are moving on with Holmes and Watson together is plausible for now. Holmes also more clearly understands Gregson’s feelings. As to the rest of the episode, it’s unfortunate the precise mechanism whereby Holmes talks down the killer and secures the release of the police officer held as hostage is somewhat absurd. This solution was unnecessarily grandiose and breaks the Arthur Conan Doyle requirement of reasonable plot plausibility. That said, Elementary: The Red Team is one of the better episodes to date.
For the reviews of other episodes, see:
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 1. Pilot (2012)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 2. While You Were Sleeping (2012)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 3. Child Predator (2012)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 4. The Rat Race (2012)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 5. Lesser Evils (2012)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 6. Flight Risk (2012)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 7. One Way to Get Off (2012)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 8. The Long Fuse (2012)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 9. You Do It To Yourself (2012)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 10. The Leviathan (2012)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 11. Dirty Laundry (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 12. M (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 14. The Deductionist (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 15. A Giant Gun, Filled With Drugs (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 16. Details (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 17. Possibility Two (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 18. Déjà Vu All Over Again. (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 19. Snow Angel. (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 20. Dead Man’s Switch. (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 21. A Landmark Story. (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 22. Risk Management. (2013).