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Elementary: Season 1, Episode 19. Snow Angel. (2013)

April 10, 2013 10 comments

Elementary poster

Many moons ago when CSI: Miami was only three seasons old, we had an episode called Crime Wave. In this, our robbers were playing the long game by waiting for a hurricane but, when a convenient tsunami came along earlier, it was just too good a disaster to pass up as the means of stealing a large weight in gold. In the real world, disasters are quite commonly exploited by thieves except, of course, we call them looters after the citizenry has been cleared from the area in anticipation of the approaching storm, flood, volcanic eruption, etc. When policing become an arm for FEMA or some other federal or state agencies, this leaves a big window of opportunity for well-prepared criminals. In this episode, New York is being shut down as a major storm approaches. With the temperature dropping and the snow starting to fall, power is cut off and the city is at its most vulnerable.

So with Elementary: Season 1, Episode 19. Snow Angel. (2013) here we go with a hackneyed plot to steal millions of dollars in old bills from the federal agency responsible for shredding currency past its sell-by date. On paper, it’s a neat idea. If you can take the money on the way to the shredder and substitute bundles of shredded paper sitting beside the shredders, you have the perfect crime. No-one will notice the bundles do not contain currency. They will be taken off to the dump site with no-one any the wiser — this assumes the shredders work without power and the electronic records could be hacked to show the machines had been run. However, these criminals are out to demonstrate how not to organise a robbery. Rational thieves work months if not years in advance. They look at all possible targets around the USA so that, no matter where the next big storm hits, they have a potential place to rob. Then they quietly acquire blueprints, floor plans and any other source materials that will help them identify the vulnerabilities of the buildings and their various occupants’ responses to emergencies. They need to know how many staff are retained on each site, how they are deployed when the power goes out, and so on. Assuming they are proposing to steal heavy weights of money or precious metals, they also need a way of moving their loot through the buildings unobserved and then out of the city. This is not something you can work out last minute.

Lucy Liu and Jonny Lee Miller wrapped up warm for winter

Lucy Liu and Jonny Lee Miller wrapped up warm for winter

Yet here we have a crew that breaks into a firm of architects to steal old blueprints without any guarantee no changes have since been made to the building — these architects have these plans because, some years ago, they bid on work to upgrade the premises. And when do our thieves do this? It’s the night the storm is due to hit. So they have come to New York with all their equipment but without knowing how they are going to break into their target building. These are not professional thieves. Worse, they advertise their presence by shooting the guard to the building where the architects are based and, instead of disarming him, leave him with a loaded gun so he can shoot one of the robbers. Continuing their amateur performance, they leave the body of the guard to be discovered. They could at least slow down the response by hiding the body. When I look back at the episode of CSI: Miami (not a series renown for its sophisticated plots), the gold thieves were real professionals!

As to the rest of the episode, Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) grows irritating while Marcus Bell (Jon Michael Hill) is actually allowed to show powers of observation. That he just happens to be in the right hospital out of all the hospitals in New York is just one of these felicitous coincidences scriptwriters love. Other than this, we get to see Clyde is still alive. I’m relieved. Or perhaps members of PETA threatened CBS and forced this brief proof of life appearance. Inspector Gregson (Aidan Quinn) also makes an appearance to justify his pay cheque. And finally, we have a Miss Hudson appear on the scene. Well, I use the words cautiously. Just as we have changed the sex of Dr Joan Watson (Lucy Liu), we’ve now gone even further out on a limb with a post-op transsexual. Of all the people to play the Hudson role, the producers selected Candis Cayne. One way of looking at this casting is to see it as a magnificent gesture to normalise society’s view of the LGBT community. Too often, they are the victims of prejudice and discrimination. So a role like this in a high-profile television show is a good first step to confront the phobic response. Except I fear this will be a one-off. Rather in the same way that Marcus Bell’s role is marginalised, I suspect we will rarely get to see this Miss Hudson. Why? Because Candis Cayne is too beautiful and successful in the transition. It’s unlikely we will see her in the background cleaning up after Holmes. She’s not a background person. I would have had faith in this gesture to gender equality if the person chosen to play the role was less successful and Holmes was, in effect, offering a sanctuary for someone who might be finding it difficult to survive in a hostile world. This woman is pursued by her lover. She doesn’t really need the help. I may be wrong but I’m prepared to bet we never see her again which is a shame. The LBGT community needs sensitive exposure on mainstream television. It’s an affirmation of their normality and the actors can become positive role models for people considering their own gender identity. I think CBS has blown a good chance to make a positive statement. So for all the reasons given, Elementary: Snow Angel is a very poor 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 20. Dead Man’s Switch. (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 21. A Landmark Story. (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 22. Risk Management. (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episodes 23 & 24. The Woman and Heroine. (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 1. Step Nine. (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 2. Solve For X (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 3. We Are Everyone (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 4. Poison Pen (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 5. Ancient History (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 6. An Unnatural Arrangement (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 7. The Marchioness (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 8. Blood Is Thicker (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 9. On the Line (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 10. Tremors (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 11. Internal Audit (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 12. The Diabolical Kind (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 13. All in the Family (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 14. Dead Clade Walking (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 15. Corps de Ballet (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 16. One Percent Solution (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 17. Ears to You (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 18. The Hound of the Cancer Cells (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 19. The Many Mouths of Andrew Colville (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 20. No Lack of Void (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 21. The Man With the Twisted Lip (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 22. Paint It Black (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 23. Art in the Blood (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 24. The Great Experiment (2014).

Elementary: Season 1, Episode 18. Déjà Vu All Over Again. (2013)

March 16, 2013 12 comments

Elementary poster

Well, after another of these breaks in the transmission schedule, we have a lone episode poke its head above the barricade. Elementary: Season 1, Episode 18. Déjà Vu All Over Again. (2013) is supposed to keep us interested and excited as another two week gap looms. It’s most curious the schedulers are not trying to maintain momentum and continuity. No matter what the quality of the individual episodes, this is not helpful to retain audience support. I suppose we now have an insight into the minds of the scriptwriters on how they propose to develop this series. Up to this point, we’ve had Dr Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) as a medical doctor who, more by luck than good judgement, has been able to assist Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) in solving cases. Well, perhaps she’d already given up on the practice of medicine as such. If you’d looked on LinkedIn or some other social networking site, you might have found her describing herself as a Sobriety Companion. Think of this as a kind of intermediate step. It’s related to medicine in that addiction and its consequences are inevitably a part of a doctor’s remit although some might see this as more a mental than physical health problem. So she’s abandoned the specific role as a surgeon but remains under the umbrella of medicine. Now she’s taking a further step away from the practice of medicine and trying out as a consulting detective. This is a step of some psychological significance so this episode makes Dr Watson the focus of attention and watches her challenged by the past and begin to look forward to a different future.

The structure is one of a six-month flashback. She’s meeting with friends for a drink when the call comes in inviting her to work with Sherlock. Broadly speaking, her friends are supportive. They see a steady future for Watson whether she chooses to stay in counselling or to return to full medical practice. Back in current time, she’s learning carjacking skills from Alfredo (Ato Essandoh) and observing Sherlock at work to get a better grip on the processes of detection. Inconveniently for Sherlock, his father refers him to one of his US attorneys to take on a case. The fact the problem is an associate’s missing sister does not modify his opinion of the case’s merit. He delegates it to Watson and decides to investigate a homicide on the New York Subway mentioned in a video made by the missing sister. We therefore have the first chance to see Watson take the initiative.

Lucy Liu getting her first sight of the "clue"

Lucy Liu getting her first sight of the “clue”

After reviewing the files, she goes to talk with the sister’s husband and is immediately suspicious when he repeats his original statement to the police almost verbatim. It looks rehearsed. Sherlock listens and suggests the Gaslight (1944) approach, i.e. sending messages to a suspect to see how he or she reacts. This requires her to follow the husband. Perhaps he will act suspiciously. Taking an hour out, she meets up again with those “old” friends who complain she’s abandoned them over the last six months, not only becoming “involved” with the addict, but now apparently giving up on her medical practice. They are worried about her and so put her under emotional pressure to justify her decisions. This upsets her and she leaves only to misjudge the situation with the husband. A misjudgment that lands her in jail, accused of breaking into his car (you see how immediately useful those skills proved to be).

Meanwhile Holmes is making progress on the subway murder. For once, this is done well even though it’s very much a skeleton plot element as he identifies first a stalker of the murdered woman and then a musician working on the platform who saw the killer. The upshot of this is a critical plot element that Watson is able to link to her investigation. When they compare notes, they come up with a theory of what must have happened. A search warrant elicits the evidence and they jointly get the result. The point of all this is to enable Watson to see she can actually make a success of being a consulting detective. This is not to say she will become Sherlock’s equal. She doesn’t think in the right way for that. But it’s made obvious that she does have appropriate intellectual skills and the determination to pursue her beliefs even though this may force her to spend some hours in a jail cell or lose her friends. Ah, now there’s the rub. As an individual, it’s not so difficult to change careers, but it can be painful to give up friends.

As to the case itself, I was initially thinking this was likely to be a Strangers on a Train (1951) scenario but it proved to be a much less complicated albeit elegant plot once you accept the coincidence of the two cases being connected. Overall, Elementary: Déjà Vu All Over Again is moderately satisfying as a mystery to be solved, but I remain worried about the decision to make Watson an increasingly valuable “partner” in the detective business. Arthur Conan Doyle has the original Watson as the back-up with the gun but not in any sense an effective investigator. Even the Baker Street Irregulars have more savvy than Watson. But this is definitely moving towards a Sherlock and Watson Investigate format which potentially distracts us from simply enjoying the mental skills of the great Sherlock Holmes. Just imagine this series becoming another Remington Steele. Indeed, the title of this episode might more properly have been Dr Watson Investigates with Holmes very much pushed into the background. I think I did catch sight of Inspector Gregson (Aidan Quinn) and Marcus Bell (Jon Michael Hill). As core cast members, they probably draw their salary no matter how little screen time they are given.

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 19. Snow Angel. (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 20. Dead Man’s Switch. (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 21. A Landmark Story. (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 22. Risk Management. (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episodes 23 & 24. The Woman and Heroine. (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 1. Step Nine. (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 2. Solve For X (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 3. We Are Everyone (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 4. Poison Pen (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 5. Ancient History (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 6. An Unnatural Arrangement (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 7. The Marchioness (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 8. Blood Is Thicker (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 9. On the Line (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 10. Tremors (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 11. Internal Audit (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 12. The Diabolical Kind (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 13. All in the Family (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 14. Dead Clade Walking (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 15. Corps de Ballet (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 16. One Percent Solution (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 17. Ears to You (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 18. The Hound of the Cancer Cells (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 19. The Many Mouths of Andrew Colville (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 20. No Lack of Void (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 21. The Man With the Twisted Lip (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 22. Paint It Black (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 23. Art in the Blood (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 24. The Great Experiment (2014).

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