Home > TV and anime > Elementary: Season 1, Episode 15. A Giant Gun, Filled With Drugs (2013)

Elementary: Season 1, Episode 15. A Giant Gun, Filled With Drugs (2013)

Elementary poster

There are slightly more spoilers than usual in this review. You may prefer to watch the episode before reading this review.

Elementary: Season 1, Episode 15. A Giant Gun, Filled With Drugs (2013) is easily the most interesting of the episodes to date. That does not, of course, mean it’s the best. Far from it. But the scriptwriters are at least making an effort to produce something slightly more intelligent. Let’s start with the absence of a murder. At last, we have the chance to see the Great Detective’s skills used in pursuit of more general criminal behaviour. It’s too easy to characterise the Arthur Conan Doyle canon as being murder-obsessed. One of these days, I suppose I’ll do a count of the original fifty-six stories but, for now, I’ll content myself by asserting that even if more stories feature murders, the focus is always on Sherlock and his ability as a detective. The nature of the crime to be investigated is secondary, even in the more melodramatic stories. In this instance, the modern scriptwriters are taking us into territory occupied by The Adventure of the Cardboard Box albeit with a different body part so that this version of Sherlock can use his giant magnifying glass to better effect. I’m ignoring the reference to mongooses as in The Crooked Man. One word of throwaway association with the original stories could be random and doesn’t count.

So why is this episode interesting? The first part of the answer comes in the way Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) tells a story. Most people build a narrative, setting the scene, showing intermediate steps to introduce key plot points, and rising to a climax at the end. In seeking to entertain the audience at the addiction circle, Sherlock recounts a past case but does so in a way that few would be able to follow or understand. Ironically this even defeats his own purpose which is allegedly to lift the pervasive sense of gloom. Telling them jokes in a style they could understand would have been more likely to succeed. Yet as a window into his cognitive processes, it was revealing. He doesn’t think in linear terms and so would not be able to arrange information in the standard narrative framework to tell a story.

For a moment I was also confused because it was not immediately obvious whether the kidnapping we were watching, was the kidnapping he was describing. I thought this coincidence completely unnecessary. As threatened, Holmes could have recounted the story of the Blue Carbuncle, leaving us to follow the sequence of events at the actual kidnapping with more concentration. It was also sad to see no further use made of the delivery man. Introducing gratuitous characters is filling out the episode with redundant information and denying the chance to give Marcus Bell two lines instead of one.

What a pleasure to see John Hannah again. He’s a gifted actor and it was rather a shame he was not allowed to show any real nuance in his performance. This is not to say we do not see a “callous drug pusher”. But the chances for desperation, frustration and despair were all passed over. Hannah could have shown us the humanity in the father rather than the somewhat manipulative thief in the gambling addict who thinks he has an ace in the hole.

John Hannah, Lucy Liu and Jonny Lee Miller

John Hannah, Lucy Liu and Jonny Lee Miller with no deerstalker for Holmes

So into the plot proper. A girl has been kidnapped. In canonical style at the scene of the crime, Holmes identifies the cigarette ash and then, as a result of a somewhat bizarre sequence of events (water spilled, back of hand wet, hand strikes wall at head height transferring the image), the stamp of a club (not Klub, you understand). When they go to the club, there’s an even more outrageous coincidence as, out of all the people in this bustling entertainment venue, Holmes meets the undercover DEA officer. The reasoning is quite interesting but not wholly convincing. Would none of the other gang members have noticed? The secondary line of investigation is also interesting. Though it may be boring to plough through all the text messages, it does throw up another possible suspect. I like the realism that detection is not always flamboyant gestures. It can also rely on grindingly boring and repetitive work which starts with one or two potentially relevant “clues” and then tries to add new information so that the field of search can be narrowed. In his angry defence of his methods, Holmes lists some of the things he might find by watching and rewatching the video. The scriptwriters should do more of this self-reflection to illuminate the methodology followed by this version of Holmes and more generally on the deductive process (even distinguishing it from inductive would be a good start).

The temptation of Holmes represents a high point in the season, completely derailing the slow deductive process and forcing a desperate manoeuvre. Two points arise from this. In the original stories, Holmes was mainly a recreational user but did occasionally resort to cocaine as a thinking aid (hence, the original references to the “seven percent solution”). It’s therefore appropriate that Holmes should have to confront the question whether he’s a better detective if he’s high. Second, I’m not convinced he would be desperate enough to call his father to “borrow” $2.2 million. It’s just about credible he might view this “client” as worth spending time with given their past relationship. But going cap-in-hand to his father to save the kidnap victim is straining credibility.

Dr Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) is getting very active in defending Holmes who later repays the solicitude by holding out her coat and helping her put it on. This is all looking dangerously like the slippery slope taking us to romantic entanglement. Of course, having now spoken to his father, Holmes presumably knows Watson is no longer employed by him. Like the original, this Watson is also prepared to fight. She could have run away so, even though she breaks Angus, this is a positive sign. Like the original Dr Watson, she also disapproves of the use of drugs. We should remember Arthur Conan Doyle through Watson considers the cocaine a weakness preventing the detective from fully realising the potential of his mind.

In the end, the kidnapping and the drug cartel with its undercover DEA officer were just window-dressing for the development of the broader narrative arc (although I begin to worry about the fate of the turtle — have we seen the increasingly happy couple eating soup?). Inspector Gregson (Aidan Quinn) and Marcus Bell (Jon Michael Hill) were given a token scene at the end just to prove Moriarty hasn’t killed them off. So overall, Elementary: A Giant Gun, Filled With Drugs moves us forward and remains reasonably constructive.

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 13. The Red Team (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 14. The Deductionist (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).

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