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

April 12, 2014 2 comments

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 19. The Many Mouths of Andrew Colville (2014)

April 5, 2014 2 comments

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 19. The Many Mouths of Andrew Colville (2014) starts off with one of these stagey set-ups in which Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) views the scene of the latest crime, and solves it on the spot. This time, the high mortician, stripped to the waist, climbs up on to the gurney (these drugs are really wicked, man) and then falls on to the body of the woman he’s preparing (he was standing over her with his shirt off so the nature of these preparations remains obscure to me). When his shoulder hits her head, her jaws close giving him a bite (vampires eat your hearts out, not bite your shoulder) and, just in case you were one of the many doubters, our hero retreats into the cold room where he persuades the thief to announce his presence (what, you didn’t know there was a thief?). I’m glad we got that out of the way quickly. Now to the episode proper. Many moons ago when Dr Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) was still in hospital practice, Aaron Colville was brought into the hospital seriously injured with four stab wounds received while he was in prison awaiting trial. He had pleaded to committing some murders where he bit the victims. When he died, the case was closed. Now a similar crime has been committed and it raises the question whether the original suspicion surrounding the accused was justified.

Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes pays the price demanded by Anonymous

Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes pays the price demanded by Anonymous

So, for once, we have a flashback with Watson wearing a wig to make her look younger. The dying man whispers something to Dr Fleming (Bruce Altman) as he’s being prepared for surgery. The attending surgeon then fails to save him on the operating table. Because the patient is registered as an organ donor, this is good news for some on the waiting list. When Watson goes back to the hospital, she’s still concerned the surgeon failed to administer an epinephrin injection on a timely basis, preferring heart massage that failed. The surgeon then and now is indignant that his methods are apparently in question. So Sherlock turns down the chance to go treasure hunting with Mycroft in Australia to investigate the latest murders which have bite marks (see the linking coincidence with the opening scene). But to find the owners of the teeth administering the bites then and now is going to require the skills of hackers. This means contacting Anonymous again. They provide copies of x-rays and, in turn, this produces one of the nicest television moments of the week. You see, when Colville was in jail, the prison dentist took an impression of his teeth and issued inmates with standard issue dental plates based on that impression. There are eight men with false teeth giving the bite mark of a killer. But only four of them are on the loose, walking around New York. Of those four, one had shingles and the other a file which he had used to cut down the size of his teeth so they would fit in a box. The odds just keep getting better. When the third shows his denture is broken and so could not have reproduced the bite on the body, that brings it down to the man they can’t find at the address registered with the parole officer. Except he was out on the road with the zombies pretending to be the grateful dead, or something.

Back to the drawing board in search of suspects and, after some ducking and diving, we have a ninth suspect. . . Well, now we need a tenth. So does it all work? In one sense, it does. There’s a certain logic as to the motive. The problem lies in the means. It all relies on the prison dentist telling someone what he’d done. Now I don’t know about you, but if the original of the body was in the ground and you lacked the means of digging it up to take an impression of the teeth, you might not be able to get another dentist to reproduce the additional set of teeth. Unless, of course, the prison dentist had thoughtfully provided a detailed set of impressions. The rest of the episode is taken up with Watson trying to second-guess herself over the failure to save Colville’s life ten years earlier. Guilt does not have to be rational, but I’m not at all sure this self-indulgence is realistic. Having been a professional, I inevitably made mistakes both when I was training and later when I had the responsibility. We can all look back at things we could have done better. I’m not at all sure Watson would have such a problem with this particular case even though she recognises the temptation she felt not to resuscitate the man so his organs could go on to save lives. Since it wasn’t her hands on the patient’s heart, it wasn’t her call to make. More to the point, I don’t think she would go after Fleming with such enthusiasm. It makes her look somewhat out of control and vindictive. Is she hoping to find evidence of major malpractice with a previous colleague acting as a serial killer to collect organs? That’s not in character. Detective Marcus Bell (Jon Michael Hill) and Captain Tobias Gregson (Aidan Quinn) get to bobble along in the wake of our pair as they run through suspects faster than they can find them, making the Many Mouths of Andrew Colville a particularly pleasing title for an 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 20. No Lack of Void (2014).

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

March 15, 2014 3 comments

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 17. Ears to You (2014)

March 8, 2014 4 comments

Elementary poster

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

The pun in the title is almost excruciating and beneath contempt, but here we go with Elementary: Season 2, episode 17. Ears to You (2014). I suppose we should be grateful the producers didn’t go with “Ear Today, Gone Tomorrow”. Worse we’re pursuing the overdone metaphor of reformed cocks inhabiting the same house as Gareth Lestrade (Sean Pertwee) is still in the brownstone after nineteen days and incapable of going quietly into the night (or anywhere else for that matter). The only good thing about the presence of the cocks is that, in the end, they (or their feathers) are responsible for the satisfactory resolution of the difficulty between Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) and Lestrade. While we wait, you can see why Holmes might be working on the construction (and disarming) of bombs. Of course Lestrade is overflowing with job offers, but speaking only a curious version of British English, he’s disinclined to take off for Brazil or any other foreign parts.

Meanwhile, in another part of the city, a man called Gordon Cushing (Jeremy Davidson) opens a package and finds two severed ears which does rather recall The Adventure of the Cardboard Box. This man is somewhat notorious because, four years ago, he was suspected of doing away with Sarah Cushing (Cara Buono), his wife, but there was not enough evidence to go to trial. Along with the hearing aids there’s a ransom note offering whatever remains of his wife for a cash sum. This is allegedly the second time he’s been asked for money. One year after his wife disappeared, he left $1 million under a tree, but the good tooth fairy failed to leave any part of his wife under a convenient pillow. When Captain Tobias Gregson (Aidan Quinn) and the NYPD organises the transfer of the latest demand ($4 million for the best bits) it all goes wrong when the man jumps off the subway platform and walks down the tunnel. Gordon thinks this is a bad idea and, when the police track them down, Gordon is standing over the body of the man with an iron bar. This presents an interesting problem. DNA confirms the ears do belong to his wife so she was alive “yesterday”. Gordon has no real motive to stage any of this just to prove his wife is still alive — he’s pleading self-defence to killing to ransom collector.

Gareth Lestrade (Sean Pertwee) and Watson (Lucy Liu)

Gareth Lestrade (Sean Pertwee) and Watson (Lucy Liu)

Meanwhile, Lestrade is having an anxiety attack. For years he traded on Sherlock’s good name. Now he’s forced to look for work again, he’s aware he’s not really competent enough to do many of the jobs on offer. He advises Dr Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) to enjoy her life basking in the shadow of the great man because, once her mentor moves on, she’ll be yesterday’s news (again). This leads Watson to begin a course of therapy. Since Lestrade lacks self-confidence, she gets two files on recent muggings in the vicinity of the brownstone and tells him to find the guy responsible. She asks him to remember that Holmes identified him as competent when they worked together in London. She invites him to remember he’s a detective and stop wallowing in self-pity.

The analysis of the dead body with Detective Marcus Bell (Jon Michael Hill) allowed a moment of screen time is interesting as we discover this is a man of little education, possibly a recent immigrant, and not a man who, three years ago, collected a $1 million in ransom. He’s just a messenger boy but with Alcoholics Anonymous tattoos. This leads them to AA meetings in an area matching a keyring in his possession where, surprisingly, they meet Sarah. We then get into the fringes of science fiction. When it comes to tissue engineering, we’re approaching the time when it might be possible to grow human ears or a nose in a laboratory, but scientists are still some years away from being able to run clinical trials. For the pair which appeared in this version of the cardboard box to have been grown in this less than a clinically secure environment is literally impossible today. Although I’m not averse to scriptwriters getting creative when it comes to elements in a murder mystery, this seems to be going rather beyond acceptable limits. Just because it’s an ingenious solution to the initial problem does not make it appropriate.

As to the resolution of the Lestrade case, he shows why he’s a good detective and a terrible judge of character. Although he tracks down the mugger, his complete inability to understand how the feather came to be in the man’s apartment defies belief. But that’s the quality of the man and it’s a quite remarkable act of humility for Holmes to fall in with the delusion. Although it’s self-interested and does get the man out of the brownstone, it shows Holmes able to think quickly on his feet and make good decisions under pressure. Between them, Holmes and Watson have given the man enough self-confidence to leave America in search of a better future. No doubt they devoutly hope never to see him again. Although the plot element featuring Lestrade was quite interesting, the mystery portion was less so, leaving Elementary: Ears to You slightly below average.

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 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 16. One Percent Solution (2014)

March 2, 2014 5 comments

Elementary poster

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

Sometimes the use of symbolism gets a little out of hand as the scriptwriters try to find the best metaphors for capturing the essence of their latest episode. Elementary: Season 2, episode 16. One Percent Solution begins with Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) “rescuing” two cocks from the evil clutches of the animal welfare people — the birds had been in line to make sushi of each other at a fight. He has this theory that two bird trained by their genes and several months, if not years of practice, can be induced to give up their fighting ways and live in peaceful coexistence. All it takes is Sherlock’s gentle voice and the threat of bees stinging them to death if they fail to co-operate. In parallel, Holmes and Dr Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) are called to the scene of a bomb explosion. Several bankers and senior officers at the Treasury and Department of Labor have been exterminated. No loss, you may think but the Captain Tobias Gregson (Aidan Quinn) must be seen to go through the motions. Unfortunately, there’s already a consultant on the scene. Yes, it’s the ever-lovable Gareth Lestrade (Sean Pertwee) (as in Step Nine, the opening episode for this season) who’s moved from the London Metropolitan Police force to private consultancy. Years of taking the credit for Sherlock’s brilliance have landed him a top job with the boss of the now deceased banker. This brings the two cocks together again and the eyeballs are soon rolling in the heads of Holmes and Watson as Lestrade proceeds to make a fool of himself in the hospital with one of the survivors. Then someone, possibly a bomber with a known record calling himself Aurelius, claims responsibility for the bomb. Holmes is sceptical. In previous notes, Aurelius has never directly quoted from the Greek philosophers, but demonstrated a reasonable understanding of their work. This note is mostly quoted content and therefore suspicious.

Lestrade then further endears himself by having the dynamic duo thrown out of his boss’s office when they try to explore whether the banker at the table might have been the target, and then asking Joan if she would like to come and work for him. So Holmes is forced into treating Lestrade as a potential conspirator in the bombing. Yes, there was a young server at the restaurant who could have placed the bomb and then went into hiding, but Holmes is unconvinced. In due course, Holmes uncovers evidence that Lestrade’s boss has an unorthodox approach to sexual gratification. This forces Lestrade to confess he’s been acting as the man’s pimp. This line of inquiry having proved a dead end, Holmes is then forced to go back to the other victims sitting around the table. Fortunately, the arrival of a blackmail letter discloses the motive and the identity of the bomber.

Gareth Lestrade (Sean Pertwee)

Gareth Lestrade (Sean Pertwee)

This type of episode is somewhat annoying because it assumes the killer will be unduly afraid of detection and so impatient to cash in. The killer has decided to “blame” Aurelius, a bomber with a track record of setting off anti-establishment bombs. The involvement of an angry member of the Occupy Movement who worked in the restaurant further muddies the waters. Whereas the server is intended to be visible, the FBI has had a task force looking for Aurelius for years. The chances of the scapegoat being found are minimal and the chances of getting away the the crime good. It’s therefore premature to use the threat of blackmail. Waiting until the next opportunity for profit would have been the safest and most profitable bet. Yet the killer is required to give him/herself away in the final section of the show. That way, we can have sight of the two retired cocks fraternising while Lestrade intrudes, looking to stay in the brownstone until he can find another job.

I suppose this episode is interesting both because of what it says about the lives of those in subordinate positions, and because of the greater degree of flexibility in Sherlock’s interpersonal skills. Throughout the episode, we’re shown how awful life is as a second-in-command. The banker who died was plotting a coup to depose his boss, Lestrade’s assistant is well-paid but treated like dirt, Lestrade is regarded as nothing better than a pimp by his boss, and Detective Marcus Bell (Jon Michael Hill) is almost invisible. Only Watson is given a free pass because she’s treated as more of an equal. Then there’s Sherlock’s willingness not to assume the worst of Lestrade. Holmes could have gone to Gregson with his evidence but waits to hear Lestrade’s explanation. He’s plainly exasperated by the man but still not prepared to drive him away. I’m not sure if this is a step forward but it’s certainly an interesting development. On balance, this leaves me thinking Elementary: One Percent Solution is slightly above average.

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 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).

Sherlock: Season 3, Episode 3. His Last Vow (2014)

February 16, 2014 Leave a comment

Sherlock DVD

The perennial question when coming to view any piece of drama, whether on the screen or stage, is what we expect to see. For those with visual imaginations, printed words are signals we internalise and use to create “pictures” in our minds. If the writer and director are doing their jobs properly, the images they display will approximate what we expect to see. For some this will mean the selection of props, the work of the costume designer, the set-dressing and the lighting combine to give us credible mis-en-scène. Such viewers can be outraged when anachronisms appear. That make and model of car did not roll off the assembly lines until six months after this action is supposed to be set, they rage. Others have a more flexible view so long as the emotional bones of the story are strong enough to carry the flesh of the action through to the end. That’s why, for example, we can accept stage productions of Shakespeare that relocate plays in time and country, or play with format, even converting a play into a musical that stays faithful to the original. In other words, reinterpreting classics gives us a chance to reappraise the worth of the original. If the story can be universalised, it can be just as good whether it’s acted by same-sex casts, or transferred from Rome to a more contemporary dictatorship, or played for laughs when the original might be thought a tragedy.

So we all know about Sherlock Holmes. He’s one of the most universalised of all characters. Indeed, so valuable are the intellectual property rights to the source stories that litigation still rumbles on in America to decide whether royalties continue payable using plot elements and character traits from later published stories. It’s a remarkable tribute to the creativity of Arthur Conan Doyle that people can still be fighting over commercial exploitation rights. Taking this three-episode season as a single story gives us a chance to reconsider who this Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) is, how he relates to his parents and brother Mycroft (Mark Gatiss), and what would happen to his relationship with John Watson (Martin Freeman) when he marries and disappears into a life of domestic bliss. Pivotal characters must exist in a context. If there’s no explicit history, one must be invented. We tend to feel more comfortable if there’s some kind of explanation for the development of such traits and skills. So this season has seen us resurrect our hero, watch him reconstitute the bond with Watson, and act as best man in the wedding with Mary Morstan (Amanda Abbington). Although that’s actually putting the cart before the horse. Watson was devastated and found consolation in a relationship. This is not a woman seeking out Watson as a means of contacting Sherlock, then thought dead. This is a couple in which each decides to marry other as they are. Watson has returned from the war and lived a life of adventure with Sherlock. What kind of woman would he choose to marry? What kind of man would appeal to Mary and why?

Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman and Lars Mikkelsen explore

Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman and Lars Mikkelsen explore

It was interesting we got to meet Sherlock’s parents early on, and Sherlock: Season 3, Episode 3. His Last Vow (2014) not only gives us the chance to see in Christmas chez Holmes, but also to visit scenes from his childhood with pet dog and older brother. It’s a comprehensive package deal to explain both why Watson should be a “pressure point”, a vulnerability a blackmailer or extortionist might be able to exploit, and why Sherlock’s response to the threat should be so clinical.

Lady Elizabeth Smallwood (Lindsay Duncan) is running a formal government inquiry into the influence of the press and we begin with our first look at Charles Augustus Magnussen (Lars Mikkelsen), media mogul and blackmailer. Later when they meet in private, he indicates he has letters and photographs implicating her husband in an underage sex scandal. His implied demand to be exonerated in the inquiry is obvious. Unwilling to give into such threats, she goes to see Sherlock.

Mary (Amanda Abbington) showing off nifty headware

Mary (Amanda Abbington) showing off nifty headware

Watson’s life of domestic bliss is rather nicely caught by Billy Wiggins (Tom Brooke). Despite his sprained arm, he’s able to see Watson folds his shirts in a way suggesting he’s always ready to leave on an adventure at the drop of the proverbial hat and he cycles to work to keep in shape. Sherlock is apparently working undercover or, at least, that’s his excuse for being under the influence of drugs in a squat — the outrage shown by Molly Hooper (Louise Brealey) is nicely played. Back at 221B, a young lady called Janine (Yasmine Akram) (there should be a limerick in there somewhere) is ready to help Sherlock wash those parts that are hard to reach (so much for the gay rumours). If there had been a fire in the flat, Magnussen would have extinguished it by the judicious application of a liquid.

Now here comes the plot. Magnussen is the Napoleon of blackmailers. A stop must be put to him but, without some guarantee that the information he has collected will be kept secret, direct action cannot be taken. So Sherlock has cultivated a relationship with Janine, the crook’s PA who can open doors and let him search her boss’s office. Fortunately, she’s as manipulative as he is so, when she discovers the proposal of marriage is a sham, she sells her kiss-and-tell stories of nightly sex romps to the newspapers and buys a cottage on the Sussex Downs. “There’s beehives but I’m getting rid of those!” shows she and Sherlock would be well matched in a slightly non-canonical way should Molly not be available.

As to the resolution of the story, I’m not sure it makes sense. If there really are source documents, photographs and other physical evidence, it’s unlikely they would be destroyed once memorised. The fact Magnussen might not keep it all in one place does not mean it could not be recovered from storage as and when required. So even though there might not be actual evidence affecting Lady Smallwood and Mary, this would not deny the possibility of hundreds of other people finding evidence exposing their criminal or immoral activities suddenly emerging into the public domain. Perhaps that’s an acceptable price to pay to protect the two clients. And I’m still not absolutely sure why Mary has to shoot Sherlock. Despite these problems, this episode is something of a triumph. There’s genuine emotion on display in the performances from Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman and Amanda Abbington with more than adequate support from the usual cast plus the parents. Lars Mikkelsen is suitably creepy as the villain. Assuming Moriarty (Andrew Scott) is still dead, the video resurrection is intriguing and sets up the next season well. With Sherlock: His Last Vow now broadcast, let’s hope we don’t have to wait quite so long for the next slice of action.

For reviews of the earlier episodes, see:
Sherlock. Season 1, Episode 1. A Study in Pink (2010)
Sherlock. Season 1, Episode 2. The Blind Banker (2010)
Sherlock: Season 1, Episode 3. The Great Game (2010)
Sherlock: Season 2, Episode 1. A Scandal in Belgravia (2012)
Sherlock: Season 2, Episode 2. The Hounds of Baskerville (2012)
Sherlock: Season 2, Episode 3. The Reichenbach Fall (2012)
Sherlock: Season 3, Episode 1. The Empty Hearse (2014)
Sherlock: Season 3, Episode 2. The Sign of Three (2014)

Elementary: Season 2, Episode 15. Corps de Ballet (2014)

February 8, 2014 2 comments

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 15. Corps de Ballet (2014) confirms an emerging pattern of separate but shared lifestyles in the brownstone. Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) can entertain “friends” in the front room so long as there’s a suitable warning notice on the door (obviously the couple are completely silent in their activity making the notice necessary), and Dr Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) supplies the postcoital coffee. The platonic partners confirm his busy sexual schedule with teacher, mortician (not to be confused with the magician), and pastor being the most recent visitors. We should be grateful he’s not becoming a sex addict otherwise things might get out of hand or whatever part of the anatomy is involved. Anyway, we’re now back into classic episode mode with a murder in the introduction. This time, a corpse is literally cut in two in the flies gallery above stage with the bits dropping down on to the dancers below as they rehearse. It has a certain melodramatic quality. Captain Tobias Gregson (Aidan Quinn) is waiting for them on stage and Watson is able to meet and greet Detective Marcus Bell (Jon Michael Hill) who, despite not being allowed to carry a gun, is nevertheless back on duty in the field. Ever the eager beaver, he’s found a box cutter marked with an iris which shows the ownership of one of the dancers (that’s Iris Lanzer (Aleksa Palladino), one of the stars of the ballet).

So now the story forks. Watson goes off to see a homeless man who’s been arrested for creating a disturbance in the streets because he can’t find his friend. Holmes and Bell go off to interview the ex-boyfriend of the murder victim. He’s got an alibi so, in the hope of getting co-operation from Iris the difficult diva, Gregson and Bell call her in for interview. When she’s divaish and tells them she’s going off to Montreal, they arrest her — it was her box cutter and she has no alibi. Holmes registers his scepticism as to her guilt. Meanwhile Watson has verified that a man may actually be missing and so justifies the homeless one’s distress. She goes to see Bell about it.

Jon Michael Hill, Lucy Liu, Jonny Lee Miller and Aidan Quinn

Jon Michael Hill, Lucy Liu, Jonny Lee Miller and Aidan Quinn

The following day, the door to the front room opens and out comes Iris. Sherlock’s collection of professions is proceeding according to plan and he’s now convinced she’s innocent because she has an injury to her right shoulder which would have prevented her from lifting the body up into the flies above the stage. This leaves him looking at her attorney, the stalking paparazzi photographer, and anyone else who might have had the motive. Meanwhile Watson has found the missing man’s sister and evidence emerges that Iris was “seeing” the deceased. Yes, she not only swings both ways when she dances.

This would have been a fairly routine episode but for a surprising moment of sharing between Holmes and Watson in which she explained that her birth father is schizophrenic and lives on the streets. The family we’ve already met is a stepfather and stepsister (season 1, episode 10). In a way that not only explains her current volunteering at a homeless charity, but also her involvement in helping deadbeat addicts like Holmes. As a piece of acting, her “confession” worked well — it also gave Holmes a chance to “empathise” and that’s where I’m less certain the script rings wholly true. We’ve been watching Holmes become less self-absorbed and more aware of other people’s feelings as this season has progressed. It forms an ironic counterpoint to the sequence of women he apparently beds without getting in any way involved, that he can be influenced by and involved with the one woman he’s not sleeping with. If this had remained purely theoretical, I would have been seriously impressed. But I’m not convinced Holmes would modify his behaviour to physically go out into the park in winter to distribute some of his own clothes to the homeless. Despite this, Elementary; Corps de Ballet showed a determined Watson crack her case (albeit with some inadvertent help from Holmes with the identification of the cigarettes), the scriptwriters refused the coincidence of both cases being linked, and Holmes was able to acquire proof of the killer’s guilt (I confess to being slightly sceptical a judge would have given a blanket search warrant on mere suspicion but, hey, this is fiction). So this was another 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 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 14. Dead Clade Walking (2014)

February 1, 2014 4 comments

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 14. Dead Clade Walking (2014) starts us off with Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) considering the possibility of a trepanning by electric drill to release his evil humours. If it were not for these annoying messages from Randy (Stephen Tyrone Williams), the new addict for whom he’s accepted some responsibility, he would no doubt get right down to it just behind the right ear. But he’s decided to take his duty seriously. On his way out, he meets Gay, who is, and Dr Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) tells him she’s continuing to work through his cold cases file. She has a clue on an old murder, but duty calls Holmes away when Randy messages. So then we’re into the “do as I say, not what I do” part of the advice from one addict to another. When the implied question of Sherlock’s relationship with Moriarty is raised, this forces Sherlock to admit his own performance leaves much to be desired. Randy continues his campaign of distraction. Holmes, of course, has a solution to Randy’s problem. Since the return of Randy’s girlfriend is the threat to him staying clean, all Holmes has to do is engineer her arrest and return to Chicago. Except when it comes to the crunch, he can’t be that coldblooded. Even he can see it would be too destructive to Randy to unilaterally whisk his girlfriend away. But since Randy won’t stop pestering him, Holmes is uncertain what to do.

The result is interesting on two levels. First, Holmes has enough self-knowledge to know he can’t make Randy do anything he doesn’t want to do. The action to solve the problem has to come from Randy. He therefore bluntly tells Randy what to do and leaves it to him. Second, when Randy walks out of their meeting and then cuts off communication, Holmes has sufficient investment in the man to worry about him. Indeed, we can say Holmes fails to sparkle in this investigation. He’s merely efficient. When Randy eventually comes to the brownstone and confesses he fell off the wagon, there’s no condemnation. Only acceptance of what was inevitable and then, without comment, Holmes takes Randy off to a meeting. This is a well-managed intervention in Randy’s case and, with the girlfriend told to leave, Randy can now start a new count of the days clean. It’s good to see Holmes willing and able to take the role of sponsor seriously. Even though his empathy may be at vestigial levels, he’s still able to get the right results by mining his own experiences as an addict for the best strategy.

Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) offering DIY trepanning

Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) offering DIY trepanning

As to the cold case, Watson and Gay find the rock in the yard where the three-year-old murder occurred and, after it’s x-rayed, the dinosaur rears its ugly head (not trepanned). The continuing point for us to consider is the effect of addiction. Holmes took money from the victim’s parents but obviously failed to give the case his best efforts. At times, he was a high-functioning addict and the heroin enhanced his investigative skills. He finds it emotionally distressing to confront the times when he failed and he’s less than engaged in the case now. With Randy continuing his campaign of distraction, Watson is allowed time undisturbed to develop an elegant theory of who might have given the dinosaur to the victim and what this smuggler might be doing now. This is sufficiently impressive to get Captain Tobias Gregson (Aidan Quinn) out of his chair and into surveillance mode. However, the man they arrest seems genuinely not to have been aware of the value of the rock and, more importantly, not to have had a motive to kill the best man at his wedding. While the interrogation proceeds (including Detective Marcus Bell (Jon Michael Hill) for a token line of dialog), a fake ICE man appears and calmly acquires the dinosaur. This is impressive because anticipating the real ICE agent’s arrival implies inside information. Sherlock has his own sources including the erotically minded C who has heard whispers about The Magpie (presumably with some, but not all, his clothes on). Yet when this man is lured into communicating with Watson, he’s found dead when the duo arrive at his home.

As murder cases go, this has an elegant simplicity about it. Once we know the motive is suppressing evidence as to when the dinosaur died, there are only a limited number of experts whose reputation would be damaged if their theory of a mass extinction event was disproved. That the revelation is delayed by further bone purchases on the black market and the unlikely transfer of DNA material is padding. Yes, for once, the scriptwriters obviously thought the murder strand was sufficiently thin to need an extra few minutes adding. Again I’m forced to disagree with this scripting decision. There was more than enough scope in the Randy situation to give it proper time to develop. It would have been far more interesting to make Randy into a more substantial character and to allow Watson a better chance not to advise Holmes on what to do. So Elementary: Dead Clade Walking was one of the better episodes but not as good as it could have been.

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 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).

Sherlock: Season 3, Episode 2. The Sign of Three (2014)

January 29, 2014 3 comments

SS3

Sherlock: Season 3, Episode 2. The Sign of Three (2014) is full of potential significance. If we take the first episode in the season as confirming Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) intentionally betrayed the friendship he had with John Watson (Martin Freeman), then this episode must be seen as an attempt to repair the damage. Agreeing to act as the best man at the wedding is both sides going above and beyond the call of duty. Like Mrs Hudson (Una Stubbs), I can’t imagine anyone less appropriate to take the best man role. That Watson should ask him has two implications. First it shows some degree of exclusivity in the relationship they share. You would think, after a life spent in the army and then in civilian life, Watson would have made one or two friends. Yet that seems not to be the case. I remind myself he was going through counselling in the first season which suggests a difficulty in making and keeping friends. Trading on this relationship with Sherlock is therefore a cruel and unusual punishment for all involved. That Holmes agrees ought to suggest he also feels he should do something about the loneliness and isolation he experiences — but that would never happen.

Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman and Amanda Abbington

Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman and Amanda Abbington

The deductive interlude with Mycroft (Mark Gatiss) and the hat in the last episode was really a parable about loneliness. On that occasion, Holmes presumed to offer advice to Mycroft about the need for the latter to take some action to remedy the absence of social contacts. One interpretation of his decision to act as best man would perhaps be that he’s also evaluating the need to reconstitute the friendship with Watson and not completely alienate everyone else. No matter how maladroit he is, failing to relate to people around him eventually becomes a barrier to getting paid work through networking and word-of-mouth recommendation. Yet Mycroft is adamant in his advice that Sherlock should never get involved with other people. Indeed, this episode sees Mycroft repaying his brother’s advice, asserting that friendship makes Sherlock vulnerable, i.e. opens him to the risk of emotional pain when colleagues desert him to get married. This does leave us wondering what, if anything will happen on the Molly Hooper (Louise Brealey) front. We’ve seen Sherlock give her a sample of what life with him would be like and we then have the rather curious physical similarity between her boyfriend and Sherlock. It’s obvious she still has feelings for Sherlock, but is currently expressing them through this replicant. Perhaps both in this series and all the other screen and literary incarnations, Holmes is forever doomed to be on his own — a kind of victim of his own genius — particularly when he shows his frustration at having no current puzzles to occupy his mind.

Una Stubbs, Rupert Graves and Louise Brealey

Una Stubbs, Rupert Graves and Louise Brealey

So we start off with Lestrade (Rupert Graves) deeply frustrated that the bank robbing Waters family yet again avoided conviction — this proves simply a time-wasting device to show the potential for Sherlock to produce chaos inadvertently. Having agreed to act as best man and as a high-functioning sociopath, Sherlock takes it on himself to police the people around Mary Morstan (Amanda Abbington), seeking to filter out those who may still have dreams of a relationship with her or otherwise be a threat. This does not include Major Sholto (Alistair Petrie). Unlike Mycroft who refuses to take the part of the spectre at the feast, preferring solitary running on a machine in his country house, Sholto appears at the wedding with interesting consequences. The best man speech is, of course, embarrassingly hilarious. Yet the whole exercise is mandated because Watson asserted that Sherlock is his best friend. He wanted just two people to be beside him at the wedding feast (no matter what the cost). The pub crawl only lasting two hours should have sounded a warning bell. The nurse with the ghost client is an interesting diversion because it nicely continues the loneliness theme. The five women dated by the invisible man are romanced and left alone. Fortunately, no matter how lonely Major Sholto my be, he’s far too much the gentleman. He would never commit suicide at John’s wedding. So that leaves Holmes standing alone with the chance to be the first to go home after admitting to John and Mary that they have had significant experience in parenting through having to deal with his apparent childishness.

All of which leaves me somewhat frustrated. I think there’s a very good episode buried in there somewhere but, probably because it has to last 90 (or so) minutes, Sherlock: The Sign of Three is overextended and ends up being too knowingly clever for its own good.

For reviews of the earlier episodes, see:
Sherlock. Season 1, Episode 1. A Study in Pink (2010)
Sherlock. Season 1, Episode 2. The Blind Banker (2010)
Sherlock: Season 1, Episode 3. The Great Game (2010)
Sherlock: Season 2, Episode 1. A Scandal in Belgravia (2012)
Sherlock: Season 2, Episode 2. The Hounds of Baskerville (2012)
Sherlock: Season 2, Episode 3. The Reichenbach Fall (2012)
Sherlock: Season 3, Episode 1. The Empty Hearse (2014)
Sherlock: Season 3, Episode 3. His Last Vow (2014)

Sherlock: Season 3, Episode 1. The Empty Hearse (2014)

January 26, 2014 2 comments

Sherlock Season 3, Episode 1. The Empty Hearse (2014)

Sherlock: Season 3, episode 1. The Empty Hearse (2014) is the resolution of one of television’s greatest cliffhangers — how did Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) avoid death when he jumped off St Barts hospital roof? There are only a limited number of ways in which this could have been arranged. Endless hard copy and online articles, comments,and forum posts have speculated. So now we come to the big reveal as Mark Gatiss, the clever scriptwriter, explains how his version of the magic trick was performed. The opening minutes replay several of the possibilities: that someone took the body of Moriarty (Andrew Scott) and dressed it as Sherlock, while Sherlock did a bungee jump and crashed through a window where the testosterone rush could be channelled into constructive activity. The hypnotist arriving to implant suggestions in the mind of John Watson (Martin Freeman) has a fanciful air about it, but it’s all part-and-parcel of the enthusiasm with which fans have taken up the challenge of second-guessing the script and everyone is entitled to see some of the theories tested out on the small screen. Meanwhile, Sherlock remains “dead”, using the time to track down and dismantle Moriarty’s network.

Two years later, the news media are abuzz. The police have confirmed the nature of the set-up to destroy Sherlock’s reputation. This rehabilitation of the Sherlock name empowers Mycroft who, for once, goes undercover to track down his brother. They meet up in Serbia where Sherlock’s somehow having a bad hair day. It seems there’s a need for his skills back in London. You can tell how desperate the times have become because Watson has grown a mustache. Even Mrs Hudson (Una Stubbs) finds this exuberance of hair distressing. She thinks it makes him look old enough to be a Hobbit. So there’s this chatter: a terrorist cell is planning something spectacular. Only Sherlock can save the day. It’s time for the resurrection. Although I’m not at all clear why he has to come back to life to catch these dangerous people. Surely he could sneak up on them without them noticing?

John Watson (Martin Freeman)  is guided on his choice of wine by  Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch)

John Watson (Martin Freeman) is guided on his choice of wine by Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch)

There’s a nice piece of byplay over whether Watson is proposing to marry a woman. It’s so soon after Sherlock died, etc. The whole question of a gay relationship between our dynamic duo has been grist to the mill for fannish speculators, but coming from Mrs Hudson, it seems slightly unsavory. And, to complete the surprise of his return to the land of the living, Sherlock bursts into the restaurant where the oblivious Watson is waiting to propose to Mary Morstan (Amanda Abbington), his intended (and Martin Freeman’s partner in the real world — it keeps all the plum roles in the family, as it were). The face-to-face discussion of why Sherlock never let even a hint of his survival come Watson’s way is meant to be entertaining. Lestrade (Rupert Graves) and Mrs Hudson are less confrontational. To get the investigation underway, the Irregulars are triggered — they never really thought he was dead anyway. As is required for a Sherlock Homes episode, we then have a deduction session. It’s padding out a few minutes as Sherlock and Mycroft consider a hat but it ends up revealing in that Sherlock uses the “game” to suggest Mycroft is lonely and should do something about it. Who knew he cared? As a reward for helping him fake his death, Molly Hooper (Louise Brealey) is drafted in to replace John. Boring clients are intercut with boring patients as John stubbornly refuses to leave the practice.

The introduction of the man who disappears from the last car on the underground train is the first sign of possible terrorist action. The episode then catches fire with John’s elevation to the status of guy-about-town. It’s a nice touch but the date should have been better trailed. The only thing left to fill out a few more minutes is the arrival of Sherlock’s disgustingly normal parents. This is amusing for five seconds and then we’re looking for afoot to get the game in motion.

The task for this episode is to balance three completely different elements. We have to be led over the resurrection hump so Sherlock can get back on to the immediate case. It doesn’t really matter whether any of the explanations tendered are convincing. All they have to do is be vaguely appropriate, make us smile, and give Holmes and Watson a chance to reach some kind of accommodation so they can work together again. Then there’s the terrorism case. This is not so original, rerunning the Guy Fawkes trope through V for Vendetta. But I suspect the intention was to produce a climax to give our two heroes a chance to clear the air even though the bomb is turned into a kind of joke at Watson’s expense.

Amanda Abbington accepts Watson's proposal

Amanda Abbington accepts Watson’s proposal

Although the first element starts well in the restaurant and the A&E department, I think the joke is milked just a little too much. Indeed, the script seeks to draw humour from Watson’s distress and grief during the two year period he believed Holmes to be dead. The current anger is entirely justified since Holmes offers absolutely no explanation of why Watson could not have been trusted with the truth. Indeed, I would go one step further. This seems to be the explanation of the fall. The whole street has to be closed off and the team of well-rehearsed people swing into action with Operation Lazarus (so none of Moriarty’s snipers could possibly have noticed this disruption to traffic in central London). It’s all to do with sight lines and what key people can see from where they are standing. In a way, I suppose, it doesn’t really matter whether this elaborately stage-managed trick could ever have been pulled off in the real world — evacuating all the buildings around the square and inside the hospital so no-one else could have seen it done through a window, stretches credibility. The whole point as a piece of television is to entertain. So does it succeed?

Well, here’s the problem. The only sight lines the script seems to care about are those from Watson’s point of view. This is reinforced by the arrival of the cyclist. Taking one step back, there would seem to be two key people here. We have Watson who should be trusted to keep the secret and the sniper who is about to shoot Watson. The sniper is the one who matters and, no matter how brilliant the mind planning the trick, it would not be possible to predict exactly where the sniper would take up position. If the sniper could see the trick performed from his high vantage point, he would shoot Watson (and Holmes). We’re therefore left with the paradox that Holmes primarily aimed the trick at Watson while Mycroft’s merry men may have intercepted one or more of the assassins.

Then there’s the third strand which is to provide the broader narrative drive for this three episode season. Watson is smitten by Mary but she’s obviously not what she seems, instantly recognising the code used in the SMS. The end of the episode is setting up a new villain who attacks Holmes through Watson (or attacks Mary through Watson). Which only leaves us with the curious incident of the body in the room. This seems to have been staged by Anderson (Jonathan Aris), one of the forensic team at New Scotland Yard, and it doesn’t really fit into the story at all. Or perhaps I misunderstood. . .

Putting all this together, I think the team of Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat always had built up expectations to a point when they would disappoint more than they pleased when this episode aired. That said, with worries about the way Holmes and Watson are now relating to each other, I think The Empty Hearse was as entertaining as it could have been or we had any right to expect.

For reviews of the earlier episodes, see:
Sherlock. Season 1, Episode 1. A Study in Pink (2010)
Sherlock. Season 1, Episode 2. The Blind Banker (2010)
Sherlock: Season 1, Episode 3. The Great Game (2010)
Sherlock: Season 2, Episode 1. A Scandal in Belgravia (2012)
Sherlock: Season 2, Episode 2. The Hounds of Baskerville (2012)
Sherlock: Season 2, Episode 3. The Reichenbach Fall (2012)
Sherlock: Season 3, Episode 2. The Sign of Three (2014)
Sherlock: Season 3, Episode 3. His Last Vow (2014)

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