Friday, March 1, 2013

TV Review: Elementary Episode # 17 - Possibility Two

Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes in CBS Elementary Episode 17 Possibility Two
Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes
Gerald Lydon (Dennis Boutsikaris) is the victim of a medical condition that is genetic in nature. He does not have that in the family and believes that he has been the victim of a deliberate infliction. He tries to hire Holmes to figure out the guilty party.

Holmes refuses to take his case and is bribed with a rare species of bee. Shortly, Lydon is taken into custody for the murder of his driver, Crabtree (Steven Hauck).

The plot thickens with the death of a scientist, Natasha Kademan (Jennifer Lim). Natasha is killed soon after she arranges to meet Holmes to share sensitive information that might help solve the mystery.

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In the customary subplot, Holmes has started mentoring Joan in the skills of detection. He lets her do the deductions on crime scenes and advises her to carry evidence bags all the time.

He also assigns the laundry work to her and keeps the fridge cleaning duties to himself. This is another tactic to hone her observation skills.

In the Canon, Holmes never teaches Watson the methods of deduction. This aspect is unique to Elementary. Unfortunately, this development does not seem to be a good omen for the show. As good it is to see Holmes and Watson in a mentor-student relationship, things seem to be headed in an altogether different direction. Holmes seems jealous of Joan’s intimacy with her college professor.

Lucy Liu as Joan Watson in CBS Elementary Episode 17 Possibility Two
Lucy Liu as Joan Watson
The mystery itself was quite convoluted.

I did enjoy the scenes at the dry cleaning service. They were genuinely funny.

The scene where Holmes texted Gregson and Bell while they were interrogating a suspect, instantly reminded me of the press briefing scene in BBC Sherlock’s “A Study in Scarlet”, where Cumberbatch’s Holmes texts Lestrade and everyone else in the room.

The scene did have one redeeming feature - Holmes quotes Benjamin Franklin: “You may delay, but time will not”.

Jennifer Lim as Natasha Kademan in CBS Elementary Episode 17 Possibility Two
Jennifer Lim as Natasha Kademan

Canonical references

  1. Someone named Musgrave has recommended Gerald Lydon to contact Holmes – Reference to Holmes’ college mate from The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual: “Reginald Musgrave had been in the same college as myself, and I had some slight acquaintance with him.”
  2. Holmes receives a bee as a bribe from a prospective client - In the story His Last Bow, Sherlock mentions he is writing a book on Bee Keeping entitled “Practical Handbook of Bee Culture, with some Observations upon the Segregation of the Queen”.
  3. Holmes teaching Single stick fighting to Joan - Watson mentions about Holmes in A Study in Scarlet: “Is an expert singlestick player, boxer, and swordsman.” Holmes himself states in The Adventure of the Illustrious Client:  “I’m a bit of a single-stick expert, as you know.”
  4. Holmes is seen speaking Norwegian language – Reference to this line spoken by Holmes in The Adventure of the Empty House: “You may have read of the remarkable explorations of a Norwegian named Sigerson, but I am sure that it never occurred to you that you were receiving news of your friend.”
  5. Holmes is seen listening to a French song (“La Vieille Chanteuse” by Claire Diterzi) – Reference to this line stated by Holmes in The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter: “But, none the less, my turn that way is in my veins, and may have come with my grandmother, who was the sister of Vernet, the French artist.”
Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes smiling in CBS Elementary Episode 17 Possibility Two
Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes
Elementary is proving to be a very average adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes stories. I do not find anything outstanding in this show.

The show seems more like a character-driven drama than a show based on Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories. I am guessing that the show will score very well with audience who are yet to familiarize themselves with the Sherlock Holmes Canon.

I do give credit to the show for the Canonical nods that pop up now and then. Even this aspect of the show is becoming stagnant. The Bee Canonical Nod has been used in a number of episodes and the Single stick has also made a couple of appearances.

It is becoming increasingly tedious to sit through the episodes. That is something that rarely happens with an adaptation of Sherlock Holmes stories.

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  1. I agree this episode was not the best, but it was hilarious at times. If Sherlock and Joan do have a romantic relationship, it would be disastrous.
    From a completely un-bias standpoint not comparing Elementary to the original literature, I would say that it is a great series. Maybe its not a good adaptation, but as a TV series it is one of my favorite shows on TV right now.


  2. I agree with you. Elementary feels more like a character-based adaption than a story-based one. Though I'm only really attached to one of the characters...

  3. I have to agree with most of the points made by James C.
    The way I am looking at it at the moment is the fun we are having exploring present or missing bits of Sherlockiana in 'Elementary'.

    Look how much it is putting our knowledge or lack of knowledge to the test.
    Not Brett by any means, but fun non-the-less.

    1. Thanks John for stopping by.

      Please check out my reply to James C.

      I do not find Elementary to be much of fun. I think it is just a halfhearted attempt (motivated by purely financial motives) to cash in on the current pop culture fame of Sherlock Holmes. If I remember correctly, CBS' initial attempt was to remake the BBC Series. When they failed to do so, they came up with some changes to Watson's character, shifted the characters to NY and bang! We have a Sherlock Holmes based show up and running.

      But again, these are my personal views and I definitely do not expect anyone else to share the same thoughts.

      To each his own.


  4. I look forward to your posts on the show, and love the Canonical references you provide.

  5. James - an interesting point that you could blame Moffet for the changes to watson - I'd never considered that but I always thought any legal battle was doomed - Holmes does not belong to Moffat nor the BBC. That said I think Watson being female changes the dynamic of the team and that Elementary is Holmes in name only. I love Miller's performance but I stopped watching Elementary after six or seven episodes - it is much too lightweight for me, much too mid-afternoon slot generic detective show for me, and I saw it as a Moonlighting derivative after it's first few episodes and commented somewhere that - "the sleuthing will become seducing."

    To my mind Elementary was hoping to cash in on Sherlock's success but it contains none of the charm, wit or style. Whilst Sherlock is also a modern day retelling it feels like period despite all the tech gadgets used in the series. The world around him may be ultra modern but Sherlock is very much a man out of time. Watson is also excellent in this series but Elementary's Watson is just boring and, dare I say it, the wrong sex.

    Of course I've only watched the first six episodes, or maybe seven and none of them were particularly memorable so the show could have improved since I stopped watching, but I wouldn't wager on it. Such a pity because I prefer Miller as Holmes to Cumberbatch but the show is just not up to standard. That said Elementary did have possibilities but it seems to have squandered them.

    1. Great comment, Gary.

      I too think that Elementary writers/producers made the changes to Watson in a desperate attempt to differentiate their show from the BBC series and not from fear of legal repercussions. After all, the character of Holmes has been in the public domain for quite some time.

      "the sleuthing will become seducing" - things do seem to be headed in that direction.

      I completely agree with your opinion that Elementary was made with the intentions of riding on BBC Sherlock's coattails, but lacks the charisma and wit of the far superior British series. You once again nailed it with your comment about how Cumberbatch's version strongly echoes the creation of Arthur Conan Doyle, but has his own distinct style and personality.

      Yes, Elementary had the potential of becoming an unique take on the legendary detective, but has unfortunately squandered them.


  6. One reference to canon might be missing: When talking about the Norwegian professor in his house, Sherlock states that he has bought a home near the Geiranger fjord - which surprises Holmes given the fact that he is publicly paid. To me, this seems to be a direct reference to Holmes's analysis of the expensive painting hanging in Moriarty's office.

    1. Thanks Maximilian for pointing that out.


  7. IMO (and in agreement with many of you), this show isn't meant to be about the original Sherlock Holmes. It's simply a crime drama (with comedy) about the former best detective of Scotland Yard. As it happens, he now has a companion/trainee/paramour named Dr. Joan Watson. It is a TV show, the point you are making, and nothing more.

    But what a show! It's fun, entertaining, well acted and interesting.

    No one watching should walk away from it mind-numbed or less intelligent...with the possible exception of Sheldon, from The Big Bang Theory.

    1. Thanks for the thoughtful comment.

      Unfortunately, I do not find the show as entertaining as you do. Still, I respect your opinions. As the saying goes: "To each his own"....