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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 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 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)
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).

Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Dead Man’s Folly (2013)

December 1, 2013 Leave a comment

Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Dead Man’s Folly (2013) (Season 13, episode 3) starts with a car driving through a storm to a country house deep in the heart of Devon. Thunder, lightning and torrential rain cannot prevent the arrival of Sir George Stubbs (Sean Pertwee) and Lady Hattie Stubbs (Stephanie Leonidas) even though the lights do go out as they arrive. A year later, Ariadne Oliver (Zoë Wanamaker) has been tasked with arranging a murder, rather than the traditional treasure, hunt for the local fête at the same Devon country house. Alarmed by what her instincts tell her, she sends an urgent telegram to Hercule Poirot (David Suchet). It seems the Warburtons thought up the idea of this murder hunt, but no matter who’s responsible, she fears she’s being manipulated and that there will be a real murder. She gives Poirot a whistlestop tour of the grounds and introduces the players from central casting. The erratic Lady Hattie, Captain Warburton (Martin Jarvis) the downtrodden MP, the organising Mrs Warburton (Rosalind Ayres), Mrs Folliat (Sinéad Cusack) the lady forced to sell her home to Sir George when her husband died, and Alec Legge (Daniel Weyman), the chemist who wants to put eugenics into practice by killing all the stupid people, much to the despair of his wife, Sally Legge (Emma Hamilton) who not surprisingly runs off with another of the men at this unhappy event. Then there’s the loyal servant to Sir George, Miss Brewis (Rebecca Front), who always appears thoughtful in her service but is privately contemptuous of Lady Hattie and somewhat in love with Sir George. And don’t forget the drunken ferryman waiting to carry someone down the Styx, and the creepy folly in the woods, built where the tree fell in the great storm heralding the arrival of the Stubbs to their new home.

Poirot (David Suchet) and Ariadne Oliver (Zoë Wanamaker)

Poirot (David Suchet) and Ariadne Oliver (Zoë Wanamaker)

Come the day, comes the fête and, with a few jokes at the expense of local revellers, we duly find the dead body. It’s the young girl whom Ariadne Oliver had cast in the role of the murder victim. A nicely ironic twist from the murderer(s) that the right person died in the right place and with the murder weapon selected by Ms Oliver. D.I. Bland (Tom Ellis) appears and begins interviewing everyone he can find which does not include the lady of the house. Lady Hattie is nowhere to be found. The police search everywhere but she’s soon presumed dead. Her cousin, Etienne de Sousa (Elliot Barnes-Worrell) is arrested. The theory is that he killed his cousin and the girl in the boathouse saw him disposing of the body in the river.

One of the strengths and weaknesses of this episode is the decision to shoot mainly at Agatha Christie’s holiday home, Greenway Estate (now owned by the National Trust). It’s undoubtedly a beautiful place and it was the inspiration for this particular book. We’re therefore treated to a guided tour of the estate. Poirot stands on the manicured lawns. Cut to Poiot walking through the woods to the riverside. Back into the woods to see the folly. Back to the lawns for the planning of the fête. Then the tents are erected and we see the gardens full of people. Later we can revisit the empty lawns and see the magnificent rhododendrons. Then it’s time for more trips into and through the woods. It’s all beautifully shot and wastes a considerable amount of screen time since very little of what we see contributes to the solution of the murder(s). The quality of the show would have been enhanced had this time been devoted to building up the characters of the “people” who matter. This should have included the family of the deceased, particularly because her grandfather is also going to have a fatal accident later on. It’s a serious omission for Poirot not to find out more about the victim. How else is he going to establish the probable motive and so identify the killer(s)? As it is, we have one dimensional figures on the lawn, in the house and then wandering about the landscape. Perhaps intentionally, no-one really stands out. In particular, poor Zoë Wanamaker is given almost nothing to do as Ariadne Oliver except demonstrate the power of her intuition to raise the alarm.

Greenway House, Galmpton, near Brixham, Devon, holiday home of Agatha Christie

Greenway House, Galmpton, near Brixham, Devon, holiday home of Agatha Christie

This is not to deny the ingenuity of the plot. It’s fairly obvious how the thread featuring Hattie Stubbs is being driven. This includes her disappearance which is transparent. Nevertheless, the overall mechanism in play is quite pleasing, particularly when we’re reminded how people phrased their remarks which, when he engaged his brain, Poirot was able to connect to produce the right answer. The fact this would all have been even more obvious much earlier if only Poirot had visited the victim’s home is something we must perforce ignore. The episode must last eighty-nine minutes so Nick Dear spreads out the screenplay to fill time available (more shots of people in the woods are required). If this had been an hour-long episode, I would have been cheering loudly. As it is, Dead Man’s Folly gives us too much time to see all the padding and judge the material thin and unsatisfying.

For reviews of other Agatha Christie stories and novels, see:

Agatha Christie’s Marple (2004) — the first three episodes
Agatha Christie’s Marple (2005) — the second set of three episodes
Agatha Christie’s Marple (2006) — the third set of three episodes
Agatha Christie’s Marple (2007) — the final set of three episodes
Agatha Christie’s Marple: The Blue Geranium (2010)
Agatha Christie’s Marple: A Caribbean Mystery (2013)
Agatha Christie’s Marple: Endless Night (2013)
Agatha Christie’s Marple: Greenshaw’s Folly (2013)
Agatha Christie’s Marple: The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side (2010)
Agatha Christie’s Marple: Murder is Easy (2009)
Agatha Christie’s Marple: The Pale Horse (2010)
Agatha Christie’s Marple: A Pocket Full of Rye (2008)
Agatha Christie’s Marple: The Secret of Chimneys (2010)
Agatha Christie’s Marple: They Do It with Mirrors (2009)
Agatha Christie’s Marple: Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? (2009)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb (1993)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Adventure of the Italian Nobleman (1993)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Big Four (2013)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Case of the Missing Will (1993)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Chocolate Box (1993)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Clocks (2009)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Curtain. Poirot’s Last Case (2013)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Dead Man’s Mirror (1993)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Elephants Can Remember (2013)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Hallowe’en Party (2010)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan (1993)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Labours of Hercules (2013)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Murder on the Orient Express (2010)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Three Act Tragedy (2011)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Underdog (1993)
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: The Yellow Iris (1993)

Elementary: Season 2, Episode 1. Step Nine (2013)

September 28, 2013 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.

When a series is going to return (Elementary: Season 2, episode 1. Step Nine), there’s a moment when you wonder whether you should start watching again. Although the last season was less than perfect (indeed, at times, it was awful), there’s still some curiosity to see where the scriptwriters will take the characters this time around. For all the faults of the show, the emerging partnership between Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) and Dr Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) was interesting. This time, the billing is we’re going to spare no expense and film on location in London. Sherlock is going “home” as it were.

So the prologue in what’s supposed to be Highgate Cemetery is an appalling piece of melodrama and populated by English actors speaking in a way only achieved for American consumption. This is the ultimate in unnatural accents. Meanwhile, Sherlock and Watson are tracking down a criminal who’s communicating with his minions using pinions, i.e. by using pigeons of the carrying variety. What better way is there to hide the messenger in plain sight and how clever of Holmes to be able to follow the flight of a bird across a city to just the right stretch of pedestrianised area within a park to which, even more remarkably, this stupid pigeon feels it must fly to return home. This is not what I wanted to see as an opening. Two incredibly absurd scenes in quick succession. Anyway, having arrested the pigeon wrangler, Holmes receives a telephone summons to London where his ex-police buddy — it’s Gareth Lestrade (Sean Pertwee) of the Yard from the Arthur Conan Doyle canon — needs an ‘elping ‘and with his accent from a British actor able to speak more proper on the small screen.

So the backstory is that Holmes was working anonymously and Lestrade’s reputation got puffed up beyond the limits of his ability. Then, without Holmes to guide him, he’s come unstuck. To show we’ve arrived in London, we have Oasis blasting out of the taxi’s sound system as we do a whistle-stop tour of tourist highlights like the Houses of Parliament, i.e. it’s one cliché after another to the music of a band from Manchester. Amazingly, DCI Hopkins (Tim McMullan) has nothing better to do than stand outside New Scotland Yard waiting for Holmes and Watson to arrive. Formalities of the welcome over, we come to the case itself. It seems Lawrence Pendry (Rufus Wright) called the police claiming he’d fought with someone who’d broken into his home and killed his wife. He only had five minutes or so until the police responded (even though he seems to have been in a country estate some distance from civilisation). The police searched diligently but found no gun. Ergo the husband was innocent and Lestrade was falsely accusing the innocent son of a media mogul who owned enough newspapers to shred the detective’s reputation and get him suspended.

Jonny Lee Miller and Rhys Ifans

Jonny Lee Miller and Rhys Ifans

At what’s presented as 221B Baker Street (not the real address which does exist), the Holmes boys get together again with Mycroft (Rhys Ifans) who got to redecorate the “apartment” in his brother’s absence. While Watson sleeps off the jet lag, Holmes walks straight to Lestrade who’s drowning what’s left of his sorrows in a Greenwich pub and is persuaded to look into the case. So now we veer off into near-future science fiction with a plastic gun from a 3D printer which was dissolved and hidden as a pint of milk in the fridge. At least we’re on the frontier of the possible. It’s possible to download the CAD file called Liberator and, with the right hardware, use it to manufacture a gun for just a few dollars. Except the resulting guns are dangerous both to the person aimed at and to the person holding the weapon, i.e. they can kill or, if they explode, maim the hand of the person holding it.

The title of this episode is Step Nine. Following the road to recovery from addiction, Holmes is supposed to apologise to those he has wronged. In this case, put simply, that means rescuing Lestrade and not killing Mycroft who blows up the furniture and accumulated stuff from 221B which he had lovingly stored. After the brothers have bonded, Holmes and Watson get into a train to go back to America — it’s the new trans-Atlantic tunnel (following on from the novel by Harry Harrison). I think Step Nine is a step too far into absurdity. I don’t mind less than credible elements so long as the underlying mystery to be solved is interesting. In this episode, everything was subordinated to the “London experience” and the rest followed along limply behind with Captain Tobias Gregson (Aidan Quinn) and Detective Marcus Bell (Jon Michael Hill) getting all of ten seconds screen time to show they had not been terminated from the cast. Had he seen this, Arthur Conan Doyle would have turned in his grave.

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 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).

Luther: Season 1, episode 2 (2010)

July 20, 2013 3 comments

Luther 2010 Idris Elba

So here’s the brief for the production team. What’s required is a dark police procedural, i.e. we get an emotionally disturbing crime in each episode for the officers to investigate, and the key characters are in a perpetual state of turmoil. That way, we flirt with the horror genre where the humanity of the characters is under threat from what they experience and how everyone reacts. Key to all this is that both DCI John Luther (Idris Elba) and Zoe Luther (Indira Varna), his wife, feel a terrible sense of guilt (albeit for different reasons). Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson), of course, is a sociopath and feels no guilt for anything she does, including emotionally torturing the Luthers. The problem with this structure is that it can become monotonous. Although the more minor characters are relatively normal, their contribution is not enough to leaven the overall frenetic tone. It’s all hyper by virtue of the individual crimes and the interaction between Zoe and Mark North (Paul McGann), Luther and Alice. So in the first episode, we have a crime which is considered particularly terrible. A daughter kills both her parents. If Luther is seeking justice for the dead, he should be implacable in his pursuit of Alice. So far, it looks as if she’s bright enough to avoid giving him enough evidence to secure a conviction. The irony, of course, is that in their different ways, both Luther and Alice are monsters so they understand each other and, to some extent, are attracted to each other.

OK so here we go with Luther: Season 1, episode 2 (2010) and, yet again, high-intensity music blares out as two police officers are shot to death under a railway bridge. It’s another of these melodramatic starts to an episode, set in darkness with long shadows and exaggerated camera angles. . . until we’re back to Luther standing on top of a roof as if he might be going to jump. Well no such luck! Mark North comes into the police station and admits he threw the first punch which began the fight the arresting officers saw. This lets Luther off the hook, and Mark is in Zoe’s good books for setting the record straight. This leaves Luther to talk with DCI Ian Reed (Steve Mackintosh) until he’s sent off to examine the scene of the police shooting. It all looks staged as an execution. Further investigation shows the shooter took out the video cameras in the area except for the one capturing our man walking into the area. The body language on display enables Luther to identify the man as a soldier. Alice telephones to say she’s investigating how Henry Madson (Anton Saunders) comes to be in a coma. She says she’ll take the results of her investigation to Zoe. That really puts Luther in a good mood. Terry Lynch (Sean Pertwee) comes into the frame as the executioner, but he’s in jail. So that leaves his son Owen (Sam Spruell) who might be taking revenge on the police for locking up his father. So to prove the point, we see Owen shooting a police woman responding to a prank call. This brings multiple officers to the scene and he then shoots six dead as a sniper. DSU Rose Teller (Saskia Reeves) gives a pep talk and sends out the beleaguered troops to find the bad guy.

Sam Spruell as the cop killer

Sam Spruell as the cop killer

To help the police, Owen posts a video to YouTube attacking the British government and demanding the release of his father. He claims his father should not be locked up for attacking a police officer. It was post-traumatic stress wot made him done it. Ever thoughtful, Alice offers to help in the investigation, but ends up threatening Luther. Alarmed, our husband manqué asks Zoe to leave London. This leads to a big argument between Zoe and Mark who doesn’t believe the threat is credible. He thinks Luther is playing mind games, looking to control his wife.

Meanwhile Luther goes to visit Terry Lynch in prison. They reminisce. Luther had a father in the army, but when he was old enough to defy his father, gave up trying to please him. But Luther opines that young Master Lynch has been sent out to do a job. Papa says he won’t call his son back unless he gets his sentence reduced. Reed searches the old man’s cell and finds a sim card. He suspects a trap, but with no other lead, they triangulate where the phone can be found. The SWAT team go into the empty house and find a bomb. Four die and six are injured. This bumps the case up to the anti-terrorism unit. Luther’s off the case. As if. So Luther goes back to Daddy and they exchange threats.

To keep the melodrama going, Alice breaks into Zoe’s home with Mark, and they discuss Luther. Zoe says she proud of Luther but doesn’t want to stay married him. Alice asks Zoe whether she believes Luther tried to kill Madson on behalf of the dead. Zoe says she doesn’t think Madson deserved to live.

Meanwhile, using the medium of television, Luther has made a target of himself. He goes into a council estate, broadcasting his presence on a police radio knowing the son can overhear. We then have a ludicrous Russian Roulette sequence until, having distracted the nutty lad by allowing the trigger to be pulled five times without it going “bang”, Luther overpowers the boy and slaps the handcuffs on his wrists. Another case solved by the man with the magic head (it’s magic because he can prevent the gun from going off). This is patently absurd. We’re supposed to think Luther has been suicidal because he was standing on the edge of the roof. That’s why he’s willing to die himself but not willing to let the idiotic soldier to kill himself. Except he allowed number one son to put the gun to his head twice and pull the trigger. He only acted when he knew it was a sure thing. What’s worse is all the cod psychology of the son failing to live up to his father’s high expectations. I don’t believe tough Daddy would have caved into the threats and given Luther all this dirt on his son.

Luther then calls up Alice and, when they meet on the bridge, says he’ll kill her unless she agrees to leave Zoe alone. Alice claims she’s now his friend. She thinks Zoe is admirable and she gives her word she will not contact Zoe again, well Brownie’s honour (as if chocolate cake has any honour). Satisfied by this peace accord, they go for a cup of coffee, not as friends, of course. I’m still on the fence. I’m finding it difficult to adjust to Idris Elba as Luther. The performance seems to lack consistency. Ruth Wilson as Alice, however, is rather endearing in a macabre kind of way. She’s the one factor keeping my interest. Hopefully, her role will be maintained and provide Luther’s character with a little more ballast to avoid being swamped by his inner demons. For now, I’ll persist.

For a review of the prequel novel, see Luther: The Calling by Neil Cross.

Reviews of the television episodes can be found at:
Luther: Season 1, episode 1 (2010)
Luther: Season 1, episode 3 (2010)
Luther: Season 1, episode 4 (2010)
Luther: Season 1, episode 5 (2010)
Luther: Season 1, episode 6 (2010)
Luther: Season 2, episode 1 (2011)
Luther: Season 2, episode 2 (2011).

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