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Elementary: Season 1, Episode 12. M (2013)

January 12, 2013 9 comments

Elementary poster

This review contains more spoilers than usual. If you prefer to watch the episode without expectations, stop reading!

Elementary: Season 1, Episode 12. M (2013) is the best episode so far! In no small part, this is due to the fact the story sticks very closely to the canonical expectations we have of a proper Sherlock Holmes story by Arthur Conan Doyle (even bees make a physical appearance). Although this episode deliberately avoids the strict character arcs from the original “Empty House”, this is actually a particularly good use of Sebastian Moran (this episode’s M). You will recall he’s the second most dangerous man in London. As in this episode, the most dangerous is Professor Moriarty, the man who employs Moran as an assassin. For our immediate purposes, we abandon Moran’s skill as a marksman and instead see him as a rather sadistic killer who hangs his victims up on a tripod, slits their throats, drains all the blood on to the floor, and then dumps each body in the nearest river. He now moves across the Atlantic to the US. Inspector Gregson (Aidan Quinn) correctly suggests this is a criminal following Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller). M is taunting Holmes with his failure in London and offering him a second bite at the cherry.

At this point, we get a resolution of the relationship between Sherlock and Dr Joan Watson (Lucy Liu). Both have independently indicated they are happy working together and regret the approaching separation. Even the egomaniacal Sherlock has been forced to admit that Watson has pointed out key facts he has missed. Indeed, in this case, she’s almost immediately able to suggest where the latest dead body was dropped in the river because of the engine oil she can smell on the body’s hair. We now get the London backstory. When the first in the series of killings were linked together to show the work of a serial killer by a man who came to be known as M, Holmes was advising the British police. In due course, letters were sent to the police taunting them and Holmes because they could not catch M. Holmes then began a relationship with Irene Adler and, after seven months, she was killed using exactly the same methodology. It was a natural assumption this death was part of the series and, because of the letters, a personal attack on Holmes. It was this that tipped him over the edge into drug abuse. With a photograph of M now in his possession, Holmes gets the Irregulars on the job — annoyingly, not the addict we previously assumed would become an Irregular.

Sherlock (Jonny Lee Miller) wondering which tool to try first

Sherlock (Jonny Lee Miller) wondering which tool to try first

Planning revenge, Holmes works out who the next victim is likely to be, interrupts M and takes him off to one of his father’s houses in New York for a one-on-one discussion of world affairs using various household tools and implements. At this point, M played rather well by Vinnie Jones (as an aside, he was a professional footballer but did not play for Arsenal, the team he’s seen supporting in this episode) manages to convince Holmes that he did not kill Irene Adler. He admits all the other killings but identifies Moriarty as both the likely killer of Irene, and also as the man who probably gave him up. Had Moriarty not sent him to New York and given him certain key instructions, Holmes could not have caught him. He also wants revenge and sees Holmes as his best chance of getting it. At this point, Holmes makes a pact with Moran who later denies that Sherlock abducted him and was torturing him. As it were, Holmes comes back from the brink of a murder and is restored. In a genuinely touching scene at the New York police station, Sherlock and Watson admit their preference for continuing the working relationship. The following morning, it’s official. Holmes senior agrees to continue paying Watson to stay. The crime-fighting duo is now formally established.

The reason for the success of the episode is the proper focus on the characters and their emotional development. Although there’s a mystery element with a serial killer on the loose, it’s actually no more than a hook on which to hang the couple’s decision to stay together. This is a proper sense of perspective. It also shows both Jonny Lee Miller running through the range from vulnerable to intensely angry to steady and committed. Lucy Liu also does well in going through her own counselling process and in her final reaching out to Holmes. Vinnie Jones is at his malevolent best. The only sad feature is Marcus Bell (Jon Michael Hill) who has one line which puts him back into the walk-on status he had in the first episodes. All in all, Elementary: M is a triumph.

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

January 6, 2013 8 comments

Elementary poster

A simple view of the world has us living in relatively small communities. We know a group of people based on the home, and a sometimes overlapping group based at work. There may be other groups based on playing sport or a game, or the places we hang out to meet friends. We’re comfortable when the people we have to meet on a routine basis are known to us. We’re uncomfortable when something disrupts the membership of one or more groups. Hopefully this is managed in a calm way. Neighbours move away, people change their jobs. It’s more distressing when people die. NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly recently went on the record to report the homicide rate in New York had fallen 18% to the 30th September 2012. At a mere 319 killings, this is approaching a record low for the last fifty years. Yet if you watch this series and assume Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) is only called in to consult on the really difficult cases by one detective working out of one precinct, New York must be experiencing an unprecedented epidemic of death. Since the series is running down the clock on the departure of Dr Joan Watson (Lucy Liu), we must be seeing Holmes called out once or twice a week. Yet there’s no general sign of panic in the streets or in the brief glimpses we’re allowed of local television news reporting. Everything seems calm. Ah well, such is realism as captured in a television series (although it would be a relief if Holmes investigated something not involving death for a change).

Sherlock (Jonny Lee Miller), Joan (Lucy Liu) and Detective Bell (Jon Michael Hill, left) clean up after the murder

Sherlock (Jonny Lee Miller), Joan (Lucy Liu) and Detective Bell (Jon Michael Hill, left) clean up after the murder

Elementary: Season 1, Episode 11. Dirty Laundry (2013) sees us with the most unrealistic case to date except, strangely enough, it isn’t. History tells us that in 2010, a number of Russian sleeper agents were deported. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Foley parents revealed their roles to their son Tim in June 2010 and recruited him as a spy. Tim is now thought to be in Russia going through training even though his cover is blown. Interestingly, he retains his US citizenship and has not been charged with espionage. Why try to get their son involved? Because the parents did not have access to Washington (background checks might detect their fake identities), but their son would have a better chance of getting a job in government. Yes, the Russians are planning long-term, breeding a new generation of young Americans committed to the cause and prepared to report back to the Sluzhba Vneshney Razvedki (SVR) — the leading external intelligence service.

So the plot for this episode is actually ripped from the headlines and that’s a small point in its favour. What makes it unrealistic is the dead woman’s handprint. If ever there was a silly way of clinching the case, this would be it. Inspector Gregson (Aidan Quinn) and Marcus Bell (Jon Michael Hill) do their walking-around-looking-busy routine while, for once, it’s Dr Watson who doesn’t want to accept the obvious result and provokes Holmes into reviewing the evidence. So score one for Dr Watson as she counts down to the day of her departure. Her willingness to talk to the daughter as a recovering addict in this case proves the key to tying up all the loose ends. Yet again she has made a valuable contribution (and sniffed out the neighbourhood gossip as well). So it will be interesting to see how she’s persuaded to stay. When you put all this together, Elementary: Dirty Laundry is a poor episode. Although the murder starts us off, it’s quickly left behind as we get into the espionage situation. When you come down to it, there’s almost nothing about the episode to demonstrate superior reasoning powers. In this, I dismiss the thrown away assessment of the happy couple’s sleeping arrangements and Sherlock’s ability to identify a prostitute. They are too trivial to count. Within the Arthur Conan Doyle canon, it’s not unprecedented for Holmes to be mixed up in espionage cases, but there’s no immediate threat for him to deal with, e.g. a sensitive naval treaty has gone missing. It’s all rather vague and insubstantial. So apart from the Watson story arc, there’s nothing of interest to report except, of course, the SVP has lost one of its toeholds in the American establishment. We can all sleep more soundly tonight, knowing there are no Reds under the beds.

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