Ask yourself, my loyal readers, why would you read a recap of a whodunit? It doesn’t make sense, right? You certainly don’t want a hack like me spoiling the plot of a show about the greatest detective in the history of fiction, correct? Well, you’re in luck! I don’t do spoilers (well, at least not major ones) and I’m not about to start. Read on with confidence even if you haven’t caught this week’s episode just yet!
As has become the norm with Elementary, the crime always takes center stage. Murders are never just murders on this show; they’re usually quite theatrical and often thoroughly gruesome. This week opens with the shooting of a college professor. This sounds pretty pedestrian until it’s revealed that he’s been shot twice, at point blank range, in each of his eyes. When you look back at this episode, almost every piece of info Sherlock needs to solve the murder is right there at the crime scene. But, as we’ll see, there’s a difference between catching a murderer and solving the crime.
The other fun little piece of information that’s established right out of the gate is that Sherlock is sick with the flu. I really expected this to hang heavier over the episode and, unfortunately, it didn’t. One would expect that a man who’s as aware and observant of his surroundings as Sherlock is would be affected quite profoundly when his body is attacked by a fever. I expected this to be used to greater comedic effect, but it ultimately ended up being barely a factor in how things play out. A darn shame, too. Jonny Lee Miller’s Sherlock is so amusingly irritable under the best of circumstances that it might have been fun to see him becoming unhinged while in the throes of an annoying, but ultimately harmless, illness. Anyway, back to the episode…
It doesn’t take long for Sherlock to figure out that the unfortunate professor probably had a gambling problem. But not just any gambling problem! That would be too easy! No, this man spends his time in illegal Chinese gambling parlors downtown. This sets up the rest of the episode’s spiral into seedy underworld gambling dens, illicit love affairs and a troll through the old, reliable sex offender registry. That’s right, folks! This one manages to hit all the skeevy buttons in one solid hour of network programming.
The show’s secondary plot involves Joan’s efforts to help an ex-boyfriend of hers, who may or may not have done something extraordinarily stupid during a drug-induced blackout. Throughout the episode, we cut away to Joan at Riker’s Island, trying to figure out whether this guy is guilty or not. I rather like the exploration of Joan’s deductive skills, which she’s obviously picking up from her time with Sherlock. Occasionally, she will even notice something pertinent to the case which other cast members miss. In this episode, however, I think she could have been put to better use elsewhere, as this particular subplot felt a little tacked on. Any time Sherlock and Joan aren’t together, I feel like we’re being cheated out of their banter and Lucy Liu’s trademark deadpan, withering looks which tend to follow Sherlock’s more insensitive remarks.
As expected, this episode will keep you guessing. Much to my embarrassment, about halfway through the episode I declared with absolute certainty, the solution to the mystery. Usually, I don’t even venture a guess. This time I did. I blurted out, “Well, of course [character name redacted] did it!” midway through the show’s second act. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I should have known better. The identity of the killer is never really in question, it’s more about the “why” than about the “who” or “how.” In that respect, this episode is a marked success.
As the pieces start to fall in to place, we’re treated to a myriad of plot devices such as security cameras disguised as smoke detectors, a mysterious pre-paid cell phone (which, honestly, is getting a little tiresome…I feel like these turn up in virtually every episode), herbal/medicinal tea and the musical download history of a suspect. That download history comprises a list of songs that are so universally terrible that they can’t help but cast suspicion on the poor guy. There are very few things in this world that I consider unassailable truths; truths that I hold so near and dear to my heart that it’s pointless to argue with me about them. Among these unquestionable truths is the simple, inescapable fact that Escape (The Piña Colada Song) is, without question, the worst song ever written. It’s always good when that is reinforced in other media because then I don’t feel so alone in the world.
Getting to the bottom of this gruesome murder was fun, but in the end, I couldn’t help but feel like certain aspects of the episode wrapped up a little too neatly. As usual, I never would have seen the solution to the mystery coming and I didn’t really question how the writers got us there. Things just got a little too “nice” for my liking for a few minutes. Nothing terrible and not quite enough to ruin the mood, but just enough to reinforce that this wasn’t exactly the best episode of the season. Oh, well. If this is Elementary on an off night, I’ll still take it over just about anything else on television.
Best Sherlock-is-a-dick Moment: “No. I am British. This is not tea.”