Home > TV and anime > Elementary: Season 2, Episode 21. The Man With the Twisted Lip (2014)

Elementary: Season 2, Episode 21. The Man With the Twisted Lip (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 21. The Man With the Twisted Lip (2014) demonstrates the strength and weakness of the formula adopted by the series producers. The early decision was made to present this show as essentially a series of standalone episodes with only the occasional linkage and minimal character development. Past experience usually means this condemns the show to death by formula. There just aren’t enough interesting plots to maintain the series over a season. More to the point, there are a number of canonical expectations the fans will have so, with common sense prevailing, the show has slowly been developing the character arcs and introducing a metanarrative. When the two elements collide as in this episode, something has to give. In this case, the balance between the murder mystery and the metanarrative left neither very satisfactory.

We start off in an AA meeting which is, to put it mildly, a very heavy-handed way of establishing the theme for this end-run of episodes. When asked to identify the greatest threat to his continued sobriety, Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) tells the room his uniqueness as an individual is likely to be his downfall. With characteristic arrogance, he perceives himself as literally without peer. In practical terms, he feels he’s lowering himself to relate to others (this sounds really bad so we’ll pass quickly on). He wonders how he should react to other people when he sees no value in relationships. At what point should he stop trying to maintain them? I suppose we’re to take this as an overflow from the loss of his friend Alistair in the previous episode. Having just lost one of his few friends, he’s naturally foreseeing a life of increasing loneliness. Many lie to themselves when they claim not to need others. Holmes has enough realism to see loss of human contact would leave him seeking alternative approaches to filling in the emptiness. Meanwhile, Dr Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) hears someone crying on the stairs outside the room where the AA meeting is being held. It’s one of the early regulars who’s concerned she hasn’t heard from her sister. This gives us the lead into the murder mystery which is solved but without any reference back to the sister fighting addiction. So she’s just left to deal with the grief of her sister’s loss without Watson (or Holmes) offering any kind of support. Sadly there just isn’t enough time to follow through with plot elements that don’t fit the metanarrative theme.

Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) and Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) enjoying the great weather for drones

Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) and Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) enjoying the great weather for drones

In the other part of the episode, we begin with a moment of madness. Yes, we get to see Mrs Hudson (Candis Cayne) and Mycroft Holmes (Rhys Ifans) again. Our devious brother has made the trip back across the Atlantic to try to break up Holmes and Watson so, to make Holmes jealous, Mycroft not only asks Watson to visit his restaurant, but also then proposes they resume their relationship. So this stays with the initial theme of the episode set in the AA meeting as we now wait to see how far Holmes will go to keep the relationship with Watson. At first, his reaction to being told of Mycroft’s proposal is to say nothing. For once, he’s showing maturity, giving her space while she crafts a reply to Mycroft. While she’s thinking, the search for the missing sister turns up two dead bodies. It seems the sister was collateral damage in a hit on the “unknown” male. When they check his wallet, they find he was working at a start-up developing drones for the military. So Holmes is implicitly respecting Watson’s privacy while dealing with a case giving surveillance capacity to the government. Except, of course, he doesn’t respect her privacy and goes to see Mycroft at the restaurant where, just by chance, he sees someone who was there the last time he visited. A photograph shows this regular customer to have an interesting provenance.

Mycroft Holmes (Rhys Ifans)

Mycroft Holmes (Rhys Ifans)

As to the murder mystery, this is another of these vaguely SFnal, near future technology episodes where we’re supposed to accept the faintly absurd notion of a microminiaturized murder weapon. I was just about onboard for the surveillance aspect (although the machine really does have the most powerful batteries since the energizer bunny first hopped into view). The use we see here is ridiculous. The larger drone version is far more credible although it would be very visible and, if actually fitted with a shotgun usually only firing two bullets, less practical. A machine gun would be more sensible. Anyway, Watson able to infiltrate the office of the suspect and open his superduper safe with a hairpin were equally silly plot devices to bring this part of the episode juddering to a halt before they had rounded up all the technicians to equip and fly these drones. This is another of these major government scandal stories that fails to spark any political intervention from any of the federal bodies. As to the metanarrative, it’s all left in a nicely balanced way with Watson kidnapped, but the build-up to it is far too cursory. This is a potentially far more interesting development and, for once, it could mean the next episode is entirely devoted to the metanarrative and has no murder for Holmes to investigate. This might also give more screen time to Captain Tobias Gregson (Aidan Quinn) and Detective Marcus Bell (Jon Michael Hill) who have been less visible recently. We can only live in hope. As it stands, Elementary: The Man With the Twisted Lip is a below average episode despite the cliffhanger ending.

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 20. No Lack of Void (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 26, 2014 at 11:10 am

    I actually thought this one stank on ice. 1.) Watson never reached out to the dead girl’s sister–on screen at least. 2.) The murdered tech was hunted and killed IN PUBLIC in one of the most startlingly strange ways possible. He works for a drone developer and he was killed by one? This shows real stupidity on the part of a supposedly smart business-owner, especially when… 3.) The psychiatrist is killed IN THE MIDDLE OF THE POLICE STATION with a poison-packing insect drone. If the evil corporate dude was dumb enough to use his own company’s tech, why didn’t he use the insect-assassin to begin with.

    I was so disgusted with his stupidity that I barely had room to the whole Mycroft/Watson thing.

    • April 26, 2014 at 11:27 am

      Thank you for expanding my range of idiomatic usages: “stank on ice” is wonderful, conjuring up the desperate fishmonger’s attempt to conceal week-old stock by displaying it on ice. The episode certainly does demonstrate the dangers of whistle-blowing when a government subcontractor is involved and explains why Snowden is now paranoid if anyone approaches him carrying an umbrella. So yes, the entire murder plot was absurd. Shame really.

      I’m not sure the kidnapping plot is any more sensible but I’m reserving judgement on Watson’s behaviour until I see next week’s episode.

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