Home > TV and anime > Elementary: Season 2, Episode 18. The Hound of the Cancer Cells (2014)

Elementary: Season 2, Episode 18. The Hound of the Cancer Cells (2014)

Elementary poster

This review discusses the plot so, if you have not already watched this episode, you may wish to delay reading this.

Well Elementary: Season 2, Episode 18. The Hound of the Cancer Cells (2014) starts off with the good news. The rehabilitation therapy has done its work. Detective Marcus Bell (Jon Michael Hill) has finally passed his firearms test and is now allowed to carry a gun in the line of duty. To celebrate, he calls in Dr Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) both to invite the pair to a celebration, and to ask them to look into the disappearance of a material witness in a murder investigation. This girl can identify a notorious killer but, as is always required in stories like this, she’s obviously been threatened and has decided discretion is the better part of valour.

Meanwhile, a researcher comes in hot, takes a shower and dies a high-pitched death due to the administration of helium. The body is then removed from the shower, dried, dressed, and staged to make it look like suicide. A note says, “It’s all true!” A member of the research team says a recently published article was attacked as a fake. Obviously the note is intended as an admission. When Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) and Watson talk with the deceased’s employer, we’re back in the land of future science with a breathalyser that can detect cancer. The deceased was supposed to be running a clinical trial, blind-testing to see if the device, nicknamed the Hound, could tell which of two groups has lung cancer. An anonymous nitpicker, “Adam Peer”, who has a reasonable track record in spotting mistakes in the science, posted an online review which has seriously damaged the credibility of the device. The inventor is devastated as his backers desert the sinking ship. Meanwhile Watson tracks down the missing witness who no longer wants to give evidence because she’s now pregnant and would prefer to live long enough to give birth.

Ron Canada

Ron Canada

When this series gets the structure and pacing of an episode right, it delivers very high quality entertainment. Allowing for the unnecessary coincidence that the deceased should have had a Mossad connection — it could have been any competent hacker — this is a very clever mystery plot. It genuinely does work on the canonical principle that when you have eliminated. . . In this instance, the way the plot is put together deftly deflects suspicion and, even when we get to the rival medical device corporation, uses that meeting to extract information taking us in what was, for me, an unexpected direction. Accepting the broad narrative Holmes and Watson seemed to be following at face value, the reveal was a delight. Yes, there was some melodrama in the production of the dusty screen during the interview to explain why there were two photographs taped to empty chairs, but that just added to the fun of it all. Captain Tobias Gregson (Aidan Quinn) should be well-satisfied with this arrest on his resume.

However, balanced against this rather fine mystery element was the story of the missing witness and her decision whether to testify. That the resolution was telegraphed early in the episode did not change the fine ensemble cast effort to capture an essential truth about Bell and to facilitate a more complete resolution between Holmes and Bell. By this time in the series, we’re used to Lucy Liu giving fine support to all the other regular cast members. She’s been something of a revelation as a more serious actor, often prepared to underplay which is a virtue in this type of show. However, the true strength of this episode comes from the casting of Ron Canada as Marty Rose. This is a beautifully judged cameo performance of what could have been a terrible cliché: the retired high school teacher who now feels somewhat inadequate when he sees what’s going on round his neighbourhood. The scenes with Watson and, later, Bell are strong. More importantly, they give the viewers a chance to see a significantly more sophisticated side to Bell.

In theory, Bell is the punk kid from the wrong side of town who barely escaped the clutches of the gang culture and has a brother with a criminal record. At a simplistic level, he’s still fighting for recognition and acceptance in the police force. While perhaps not the most intuitive of detectives, he gets results through his diligence and hard work. It has been tough for him to feel he fits in. However, that view of the character has necessarily been incomplete. In many episodes, the character flashes across the screen and is gone before we have a proper chance to see and hear him. This season, the role has been through a mixed bag of circumstances which have, in total, given him the chance to decide what he thinks is important in his life and whether he actually wants to make a long-term career for himself in the police force. For better or worse, this episode is the culmination of that narrative arc. The scriptwriters have decided to give him a moment in the sun to say something about his new view of the world. He’s now more patient and confident in his ability to succeed over time. But because people he knows are prone to doing the wrong thing or the right thing for the wrong reason, he constantly comes up against his inability to change the world. It’s humbling and humiliating and, for once, it’s something Holmes knows everything about. Holmes is constantly under attack from his own potential for addictive behaviour, and is only too aware of his own capacity to fail in so many different aspects of his life. Both men are rebuilding their lives after a disaster. They could have given up but, for different reasons, they chose to persist.

I’m slightly uncertain this view of Bell is entirely consistent with the character we saw in Season 1, but it’s certainly an elegant way of giving him enough emotional heft to be able to relate to Holmes on a less unequal basis. This makes Elementary: The Hound of the Cancer Cells one of the best episodes of the season so far.

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 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 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. March 15, 2014 at 11:38 am

    Comments Monday.

  2. March 18, 2014 at 12:43 pm

    Finally got to see it, and agree; I enjoyed the show immensely. One spot-on comment of Holmes’: “It was easier being a misanthrope.” Interesting bit of revealed self-knowledge that shows that Bell’s character arc has changed more than just him–events have conspired to give Holmes a new awareness that his actions effect the people around him.

    • March 18, 2014 at 9:51 pm

      The “misanthrope” comment rang out like a “Bell” to signal the continuing evolution in the character of Holmes and meant this was a top-class episode. I’m still not convinced this new version of Bell is a natural evolution of the old. Perhaps it’s just my imagination but he even seems to be speaking rather better these days.

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