Home > TV and anime > Elementary: Season 2, Episode 20. No Lack of Void (2014)

Elementary: Season 2, Episode 20. No Lack of Void (2014)

Elementary poster

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

Elementary: Season 2, Episode 20. No Lack of Void (2014) demonstrates the value of building a strong narrative arc for each of its characters. In a way, this highlights the slightly deceptive nature of the show’s structure. Ostensibly, we’re supposed to push each episode into the mental pigeonhole of a mystery show. In reality, this is a show about a recovering addict who shares his house with a professional sober companion. To pay the bills, they solve crimes as consultants to the NYPD. This means the real test for Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) is to be able to rise every morning and not do drugs. There are times when it’s hard for him not to relapse. This is one of those times.

We start with Sherlock looking to add another accent to his repertoire — this time the Derry accent from Northern Ireland (just in case he ever has to blend in with IRA or Provo terrorists) — while Dr Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) goes to drop off files with the NYPD. It later appears that the actor and informal accent coach, Alistair Moore (Roger Rees), has died of a heart attack. While at NYPD, Captain Tobias Gregson (Aidan Quinn) asks Watson to look at a prisoner called Apollo Mercer, a known pickpocket. Surprisingly, he’s lying dead on the floor. This is more serious than expected. Surely one of the officers should have noticed he was dying? Anyway, Joan looks at the “stuff” coming out of his mouth and suggests this is a case of anthrax poisoning. Really? No-one in the custody suite even thought of turning over the body of the man to see if he needed medical assistance? Perhaps they held a sweep to decide who should call Gregson and ask him what to do.

Our four principles negotiate to buy the farm

Our four principles negotiate to buy the farm

Anyway, all this excitement brings Holmes to the hospital where the police are being tested for possible infection. So far, no-one else seems to have been exposed — thank God no-one turned over the body and touched the “stuff” coming out of his mouth. Detective Marcus Bell (Jon Michael Hill) gives Holmes Mercer’s file. It seems he ingested the anthrax. Ergo, he lifted a packet from a mark in Union Square, thought it was cocaine, and decided to get high (which rhymes with die). Our duo reviews all the footage from Union Square (impressive it can all be collected together so quickly), and identifies a man who used his mobile to pay for a cup of coffee. This gives us our first suspect. When the police arrive at his address, the landlord confirms he used to go out for regular walks. Holmes is busy calculating how many footsteps in a ten minute walk, while Watson opens his mail and finds he was renting a storage locker ten minutes away. It’s always good when things come together. Wearing suitable protective clothing, NYPD enter the storage locker and find a body plus many empty trays where the anthrax would have been cultured (40 pounds is the estimate of quantity). Could be we have a bioterrorism episode on our hands. A fingerprint shows a known member of the Sovereign Army was present at some time! They are dangerous homegrown terrorists!

So Bell and Watson go upstate to talk to the new suspect’s brother, while Holmes goes to talk with Alistair’s partner. This all leads to Sherlock arriving at an address in Queens before the police units where he sees a van being loaded. Such are the decisions out of which drama is constructed. Except it’s not the anthrax. That’s a relief. I thought the series was going to end with Sherlock’s funeral (not). Meanwhile Alistair’s son comes round to the brownstone. It now appears his father overdosed. He’d been clean for some thirty years. Holmes has only been clean for two. The death disturbs Holmes on multiple levels. This is a close friend but, as one addict to another, it distresses Holmes that a man can relapse after being clean for so long. It’s a betrayal of all that effort. Holmes knows he’s overreacting a little (well, a lot if truth be told) — it’s upsetting him he’s so upset over his friend’s death. Then the dead body of the suspect turns up. He visited his brother’s farm. They fought. Exit one brother.

As mysteries go, this is serviceable. It’s one of these “but for” crimes where fate intervenes to disrupt an elegant plan and forces those involved to take evasive action. The problem comes with the dilution of any tension. If this was considered a real terrorist threat to New York, there would be a major incident approach with multiple federal agencies involved and political oversight. Yet all we see is a few precinct officers coming in for a briefing by Gregson. It’s not a sufficiently serious response to engage our interest even though there’s a news report of people disposing of their milk and dairy products. I suppose this is intentional to allow a proper focus on Holmes and the resolution of his pain caused by the loss of his friend — he has so few, the loss of one is significant. I’m always somewhat disconcerted when scripts call for the “ghost” of a recently deceased to interact with one of the living. Such a cliché smacks of a little desperation. In this case, however, it does introduce a certain poignancy and is a convenient visual mechanism for allowing Holmes to say goodbye. This makes Elementary: No Lack of Void (2014) a slightly better than average episode.

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 18. The Hound of the Cancer Cells (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 19. The Many Mouths of Andrew Colville (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. April 12, 2014 at 12:23 am

    Not a bad episode, especially on Holmes’ long character arc. Like you, I thought that the government reaction to the existence of 40lbs of weaponized anthrax a little underwhelming. Writing the story, I’d have dropped a huge multi-department federal taskforce on top of it. This would have pushed Holmes and Watson out of it, leaving them to communicate with Gregson and Bell and follow up unconsidered leads on their own. I also thought the “homegrown terrorist organization” too unreal to be credible. But I have to admit, using a terrorist weapon to commit insurance fraud was an elegant twist.

    • April 12, 2014 at 12:46 am

      I remember a terrorist plot exactly along these lines set in Dallas in the Chuck Norris series Texas Ranger, where our bone-headed hero single-handedly tracks down the bomb on top of a skyscraper and defuses it just as the countdown reaches 01. At least that elevated silliness to a point where it was mildly entertaining. I have the sense the scriptwriters had no idea what to put against Holmes and his lost friend, so they faked a homicide twist on the death by accidental overdose, and pushed in a terrorist fake because it would not make a good episode on its own. It’s a shame because Holmes dealing with his feelings about Alistair’s loss would have worked very well on its own.

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