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Elementary: Season 1, Episode 17. Possibility Two. (2013)

February 25, 2013 16 comments

Elementary poster

There are slightly more spoilers than usual in this review. You may prefer to watch the episode before reading this review.

Well it seems we now have a new game to play and, to be honest, I’m not entirely convinced it’s a positive development. To understand the scriptwriters’ problem, we need to go back to the beginning. Arthur Conan Doyle prescribed that, for most of the series, there be a single household containing Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) and Dr John Watson (although he did get married and find other reasons not to be around all the time). Hence, in strict canonical conformity, we’ve now arrived at a point in our subversive modern version with Dr Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) formally enrolled as a member of the team. The only feature we’re missing in this New York brownstone is a Mrs Hudson (although presumably we have a turtle named Clyde lurking comfortably somewhere in a drawer — see The Red Team). So the first sixteen episodes have played with our expectations as to how this unlikely pairing will seal the deal. Now that’s all behind us, the scriptwriters must decide how to fill the time gap. They could produce more interesting and complicated crimes for Holmes to solve with Watson’s help. That would be a major statement of intent and reassure us that, in the final analysis, the program makers are interested in a Rolls Royce series of high-class investigations. The second possibility (sic) would be to keep on with modest mysteries and find something else which which to distract us — a much less desirable option.

In Elementary: Season 1, Episode 17. Possibility Two. (2013) we have a client referred by [Reginald] Musgrave (he of Ritual fame in the Memoirs). He’s been diagnosed with an hereditary condition except there’s no history of the condition in his family. Perhaps surprisingly, one of his delusions is that, “someone has done this to him”. OK so this is the science fiction episode. We’ve moved into a new technological age where scientists can design molecules that, when ingested by humans, give them [the symptoms of] an incredibly rare genetic disorder. There’s another marginally more likely scientific development thrown in later, but the damage has already been done. If you remember the famous quote, “When you have eliminated the impossible. . .” Sadly, the scriptwriters decided to introduce the impossible and let Holmes deduce the existence of stuff that doesn’t exist. Worse, the entire murder plot is actually complicated. Perhaps I lost concentration but I’m still not sure who killed the chauffeur. I suppose it must have been the demented client who just didn’t remember. I think it would have made for a better ending if the dynamic duo had been to see him, even if only to hold his hand while telling his uncomprehending body they had worked out who killed his mind. Then there was the whistle-blowing geneticist. We cracked that case. What happened to the Norwegian who had bought the royal estate he could not afford? And all this stuff about the family of the client came to nothing. I could go on but you should get the message that there was enough in there for at least two episodes but it all flashed by with such speed, we were not supposed to see how weak it was in the telling. There are red herrings and clues that go nowhere with everything stitched up at the end.

Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) and Dr Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) now formally a partnership

Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) and Dr Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) now formally a partnership

The rest of the time, we had Holmes encouraging Watson to develop her own deductive skills. In strict terms, this is anti-canonical. Every attempt the original Watson made to think his way out of a paper bag ended in misunderstandings and confusion. The only thing he could do efficiently was accurately report what people said to him. Holmes would then interpret this in his unique way. We have to remember that this Watson is presented as a highly professional surgeon with an above-average level of technical skill. Yet to encourage her to compete with Holmes is a little daring. Indeed, in this episode, she does conduct her own investigation and gets a result. Perhaps this series will have to be retitled Holmes and Watson Investigate. Personally I’m not sure I want to see Watson endlessly humiliated, i.e. every time she gives an incorrect or only half-right analysis, Holmes publicly explains what she’s missed and where she’s gone wrong. In the earlier episodes, part of the fun was Watson inadvertently helping either by a casual remark based on her specialised knowledge or by being herself. Frankly I can’t think of anyone less well suited to be a teacher than this Holmes. He’s a deeply sexist, patronising, intellectual bully. The only virtue is that his inability to relate successfully with those around him gives him a position of isolated objectivity from which to assess the world. Trying to force this Watson into a new worldview threatens to be painful to watch as she will almost certainly fail to measure up to his high standards. The test case was faintly ludicrous as two men lay dead with a gun between them. The answer featured some tortured thinking in the style that reminds me of the old riddles, e.g. a man is found hanging from the ceiling in a room locked from the inside with no furniture, etc.

In the usual slightly jokey way, we have Holmes seduced by a solitary bee and Watson struggling with the need to hit the dummy with a big stick. As a final thought, there was absolutely no reference to addiction or meetings in this episode. Now that Holmes has his Watson, is he cured? Worse, there was little or no emotional development in the relationship between the new partners. They seemed exactly the same as in previous episodes. I was hoping they might be more comfortable together. Inspector Gregson (Aidan Quinn) and Marcus Bell (Jon Michael Hill) put in their usual token appearances. Put all this together and Elementary: Possibility Two was a 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 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).