Home > TV and anime > Elementary: Season 1, Episode 4. The Rat Race (2012)

Elementary: Season 1, Episode 4. The Rat Race (2012)

Elementary poster

Personally, I blame the consumers. If they weren’t so easily manipulated by advertising, there would be no need for TV ads and we could have one-hour episodes in a series format. As it is, the prime-time shows command big dollars from corporations anxious to keep their brand names in front of the public, so they shell out mucho dinero for 30 second slots. So what you see notionally entered into the schedules as a 60 minute episode is more usually about 50 minutes (or less). In a simple linear narrative type of show, this is not a problem. The story can be cut into separate bits that, when assembled into an episode, will occupy the time available. Hence something like Lost can slowly progress a story over years with just a few narrative innovations placed at strategic points. But if you have a potentially complicated story to tell as a self-contained episode, the big issue for the scriptwriters is what to leave out because, as sure as eggs is eggs, it’s very difficult do both real character development and a puzzle murder mystery at the same time.

So my complaint about the first three episodes is that they were Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) heavy. I suppose featuring the hero is reasonable. He’s the intellectual superhero who will fly faster than a speeding bullet to the solution and have the murderer locked in jail before it’s time for ads showing tea and scones. He’s the marquee name to draw in top-paying customers (the advertisers, of course) so focusing on him is logical. Except, of course, that makes all the other regular characters mere cyphers. In the case of Watson, this is a major problem because, when all is said and done, Arthur Conan Doyle intended to create a not wholly unequal partnership. For all Watson is a bit of a duffer, he’s a brave soldier and can always be relied on in a crisis. Up to this point, Dr Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) has been nothing more than white noise: hardly a claim to fame

Elementary: Season 1, Episode 4. The Rat Race sees a distinct shift in emphasis and, taken overall, that makes this the best episode so far. Let’s take one step back so you can understand what’s improved. Up to now, very little has been made of Watson’s background as a surgeon. All we knew was that she was no longer practising because one of her patients died. It now appears that just as Sherlock has been going through withdrawal symptoms and may now be rehabilitated, Watson has been in an emotional desert, missing her profession but fearing to return. In part this explains why she’s moved over to help recovering addicts. Her own experience makes her uniquely qualified to understand what the substance addicts are going through. As we get into this episode, an “old” friend ambushes her with an available man. Unfortunately, she’s been around Sherlock long enough to have picked up his habit of weighing people up on first meeting. She’s fairly immediately suspicious at his assertion that he’s unmarried. When she returns to the house she now platonically shares with Sherlock, he looks the potential mate up on the internet and confirms he has a wife. She finds herself angry and calls him to complain. This leads to the first sensible exchange of opinion between Sherlock and Watson. Although it turns out this man has a reasonable explanation for his situation, he’s backing away from her because he dislikes being analysed. Sherlock explains how addictive the habit of analysis can become. Further, once hooked, it usually means you sacrifice friends. Looking back over his life, he’s become a virtual hermit having only taxi drivers and other random people to talk with. This means choice for this Watson because, if she follows Sherlock down the path of deductive reasoning, she could confirm her loneliness as the new normal state of being.

Sandwiched in the middle of this, Captain Gregson (Aidan Quinn) recommends Sherlock to a firm of investment managers. Their COO has gone missing. After some fancy dancing at the expense of the hated bankers, our duo track down the “second home” where they find the missing man dead with a syringe of heroin sticking out of a vein. Not surprisingly, the presence of the drug triggers Holmes’ senses and, for the rest of the episode, we’re meant to worry about the risk of a relapse. For a number of reasons, Holmes has this death pegged as a murder and, under his prodding, Gregson and the young detective (Jon Michael Hill) analyse the salad. Not surprisingly, Holmes is right about the murder method and now gets into top gear, telling his employers they have a serial killer in their midst who’s murdering his/her way to the top position. The good news is only one person fits and he has one of these unshakeable alibis for one of the deaths. This forces Holmes to re-evaluate the evidence and identify the real killer.

The final piece of good news is that Gregson is also allowed his few minutes in the sun and the scriptwriters give him the chance to demonstrate he’s no dummy. Indeed, it would be fair to say that, independently, Watson and Gregson, and Holmes and Gregson manage to be honest with each other for the first time during the series. Clearing the air in this way should help things get along more smoothly in the remaining episodes. Still nothing for Jon Michael Hill to do other than stand around looking lost and nibble on salad leaves to dull the tedium of life. So The Rat Race gets a big thumbs up. This may turn out to be a good series to watch.

For the reviews of other episodes, see:
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 1. Pilot (2012)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 2. While You Were Sleeping
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 3. Child Predator (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 13. The Red Team (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)
Elementary: Season 1, Episodes 23 & 24. The Woman and Heroine. (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 1. Step Nine. (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 2. Solve For X (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 3. We Are Everyone (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 4. Poison Pen (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 5. Ancient History (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 6. An Unnatural Arrangement (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 7. The Marchioness (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 8. Blood Is Thicker (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 9. On the Line (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 10. Tremors (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 11. Internal Audit (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 12. The Diabolical Kind (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 13. All in the Family (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 14. Dead Clade Walking (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 15. Corps de Ballet (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 16. One Percent Solution (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 17. Ears to You (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 18. The Hound of the Cancer Cells (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 19. The Many Mouths of Andrew Colville (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 20. No Lack of Void (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 21. The Man With the Twisted Lip (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 22. Paint It Black (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 23. Art in the Blood (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 24. The Great Experiment (2014).

  1. November 5, 2012 at 5:25 am

    Must say, it was seeing this episode that gives me hope for the series. It also tells me they need to give more screen time to Aidan Quinn.

    • November 5, 2012 at 11:41 am

      The only thing keeping me going is that we have had the best episode at 4 and a reasonable follow-up at 5. I was worried the better episodes might be sprinkled thinly through the series which would make it too frustrating to watch. However, the real test is going to come when the next episodes lack an obvious medical element, apart from cause of death, of course. Will Watson be relegated to offering advice on how to stay awake? The few moments given to Aidan Quinn were a delight and, as you say, absolutely necessary for the show’s survival. It’s a shame about the “other” police officer. I don’t think he’s ever going to be allowed to say anything useful.

  2. JJ Goode
    November 5, 2012 at 10:40 am

    I’ve been a Holmes fan for quite awhile, but I was a little skeptical of Elementary at first. A few buddies that work at DISH with me weren’t sure that the attempt to reshape Watson entirely would go over well, but after catching up on all of the episodes on my DISH Hopper, Miller and Liu are fitting enough. I’ve even watched some of the stronger scenes multiple times. It’s nice to have a DVR with enough recording space to let me save everything I want to for those nights I feel nostalgic. Cheers to a show that’s off to a good start.

    • November 5, 2012 at 11:44 am

      I’m still on the fence on Elementary, but one word more general word of advice. Don’t leave any spoons near your DISH. There might be an elopement,

  1. April 5, 2014 at 12:37 am
  2. April 12, 2014 at 12:04 am
  3. April 26, 2014 at 1:48 am
  4. May 3, 2014 at 1:38 am
  5. May 10, 2014 at 12:09 am
  6. May 17, 2014 at 1:17 am

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