Saturday, April 27, 2013

TV Review: Elementary Episode # 20 - Dead Man's Switch

Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes, Lucy Liu as Joan Watson and Ato Essandoh as Alfredo Llamosa in CBS Elementary Episode # 20 Dead Man's Switch

For the first time, we have a modern update to one of the original stories - The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton.

This week's case is courtesy of Holmes' sponsor Alfredo (Ato Essandoh). Alfredo's own sponsor Ken Whitman (Thomas Jay Ryan), is one of Milverton's blackmail victims. Ken's daughter Eva (Portia Reiners) has been drugged and raped by one Brent Garvey (Tom Guiry).

Milverton (David Mogentale) gets his materials by buying old storage units. In the original story, Milverton paid housemaids/valets to obtain sensitive information.

Holmes breaks into Milverton's house to recover the material(s). Holmes unwittingly becomes a witness to Milverton's murder by an unknown assailant.

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Holmes reports the murder to Captain Gregson and convinces him to keep the murder a secret for the sake of other blackmail victims. Holmes wants to find out the identity of Milverton's associate, who might leak the remaining videos to the world.

One of the other victim's father, Anthony Pistone (Joseph Siravo) has been arrested for trying to bury Milverton's body.

I will leave it to the readers to find out more details for themselves.

Canonical References
  1. The character of Charles Augustus Milverton is the antagonist in the story The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton.
  2. Miller's Holmes refers to Milverton as being "more despicable than even murderers" - Reference to this Iine spoken by Holmes about Milverton in the story, The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton: "....I would ask you how could one compare the ruffian, who in hot blood bludgeons his mate, with this man, who methodically and at his leisure tortures the soul and wrings the nerves in order to add to his already swollen money-bags?"
  3. Miller's Holmes breaks into Milverton's house to recover some materials and becomes an unwitting witness to his murder - In the story, The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton, the same thing happens except that Holmes is accompanied by Watson.
  4. Holmes compliments Eva Whitman on her violin playing skills - Reference to Holmes being a good violin player as mentioned in A Study in Scarlet
  5. Holmes wakes Joan from her sleep to discuss about the case - In the Canon, it has happened in many cases – either due to the sudden visit by a client (The Adventure of the Speckled Band) or after Holmes has had a sudden brainwave (The Man with the Twisted Lip)
  6. Joan mentions beehives in a discussion about pets with Holmes - Watson mentions that Holmes has taken to bee-farming in The Adventure of the Second StainIn His Last Bow, Sherlock Holmes has written a book: “Practical Handbook of Bee Culture, with Some Observations upon the Segregation of the Queen.”
  7. Holmes is seen listening to a police transmissions scanner- The Canonical Holmes read the agony columns in the papers for potential cases.
  8. Holmes makes some deductions based on the paper quality - Holmes makes deductions about paper quality in several stories inclucing A Scandal in Bohemia.
  9. Holmes uses handwriting analysis as part of his investigation - The Canonical Holmes used handwriting analysis to solve crimes in A Case of Identity and The Reigate Puzzle
  10. Miller's Holmes states that he has "no interest in in public celebrations, speeches, encouragements or the bestowing of chips" - Watson mentions in The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot: "...I have continually been faced by difficulties caused by his own aversion to publicity. To his sombre and cynical spirit all popular applause was always abhorrent,..."
  11. Holmes recognizes the scent of cat litter at Milverton's house - Holmes mentions in The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier: "I have, as my friend Watson may have remarked, an abnormally acute set of senses, and a faint but incisive scent was apparent."
  12. Holmes refers to his tattoo needle as the "only needle these arms see anymore" - Reference to the Canonical Holmes' use of cocaine injection using needles

Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes in CBS Elementary Episode # 20 Dead Man's Switch

I felt that more emphasis was laid on Holmes' drug addiction than on the mystery element. Despite having a number of references to the original stories, the episode was not very interesting.

We learn that Miller's Holmes is
  • ambidextrous
  • an accomplished tattoo artist

Miller's Holmes describes himself as being as "stealthy as a shadow". The Canonical Holmes has often shown that he has acute senses of sight, hearing and smell. This would be a logical extension of his skill sets.

Miller's Holmes also shows his knowledge of British history. He uses the metric unit "kgs"  - another reference to his British nature. 

Joan Watson does her own detective work by listening to scanners. She makes a deduction about the shoe size of the killer from the boot prints on a corpse. Holmes also refers to both of them as being consultants for the NYPD and even refers to her "former" career as a sober companion.

Alfredo too does some surveillance work.

Ato Essandoh as Alfredo Llamosa in CBS Elementary Episode # 20 Dead Man's Switch

Gregson and Bell do not have much to do in this episode. We do learn that Captain Gregson has daughters, a fact that Holmes utilizes to his advantage.


  • The song "Cello Suite No.1 Prelude" by Johann Sebastian Bach is played by the character of Eva Whitman when Holmes interrupts her.
  • Joan gifts Holmes lines from the poem "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost
  • The song "Two Trains" by Yo La Tengo is played in the aforementioned gifting scene

If this episode is any indication, I think it would be best for the writers to stick to writing original stories. Some of the best episodes so far (Child Predator, M and The Deductionist) are examples to support this theory.

Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes and Aidan Quinn as Captain Gregson in CBS Elementary Episode # 20 Dead Man's Switch

Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat and Steve Thompson are doing a great job at giving us modern updates of the classic stories by Arthur Conan Doyle.

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Image Source: CBS

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  1. Yeah, I wasn't sure what to make of their attempt at actually adapting a canon story... Maybe this is why they went the direction they did with the show... ;)

  2. ok I'm a little slow on the pause button - what does the 'note' say at the end od episode 20 4/25/13

    1. Joan's gift to Holmes contains the following lines from the poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost:

      The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
      But I have promises to keep,
      And miles to go before I sleep,
      And miles to go before I sleep.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  3. To be honest I've long given up on this show. Haven't watched any since I think ep 8 - mind you I am following your reviews and so far they have not enticed me back to the series. Such a shame as I think MIller is great.

    1. Thanks Gary for reading my reviews.

      Trust me! You are not missing out much. The show is pretty dull for a Sherlock Holmes adaptation. It is watchable as a generic crime show on CBS.

      The only tenuous connection to Arthur Conan Doyle's stories are the character names and the nods to the original stories. If the writers were to replace the names and drop the Canonical references, the show would be so much better.

      Miller would definitely have made a far better Holmes with better writing.

      Benedict Cumberbatch is an amazing actor and he is fantastic in his role as a modern day Holmes. He has the added advantage of some excellent scripting by Gatiss, Moffat and Thompson. Sherlock writers know the Canon very well and this shows in the end product.

      Unfortunately, that is not the case with Elementary. The writers seem to have read a Cliff's Notes version of the Canon. That is probably the reason, why they keep repeating the same Canonical references in almost all the episodes: Bee keeping, waking up Watson early, Holmes' acute sense of smell. They used the Single stick in a couple of episodes and then (wisely) dropped it.


  4. A nice review. Thanks!

    Not a very interesting episode. And why on earth would anybody "celebrate" a person's one-year-sober anniversary by pointing out so brutally that he dare not take a little time now to just enjoy the loveliness because he has miles and miles to go yet. I hope there was some other point to it, but found myself wondering if the writers used that because it was the only bit of famous poetry they could think of on short notice.

    The show really would have more promise if the whole Sherlock Holmes bit were just let go of. All it really accomplishes is to irritate people who find themselves muttering, "That's nothing like the original character." For example, a detective with all the tattoos could have been interesting - why does he have that? what does it say about his character? But call the detective Sherlock Holmes, and I find myself being repeatedly distracted with the thought that Sherlock Holmes studied other people's tattoos as a way of identifying and analyzing them, while he frequently disguised himself by taking on a conventional appearance no one would look at closely. He would never have marked himself, especially not in such a flamboyant fashion.

    1. You are welcome, MyrtleMartha.

      Agree with you about Miller's Holmes being excessively tattooed. That defeats the purpose or at least makes the act of disguising oneself considerably harder. Especially, when the character in question is Sherlock Holmes himself, the master of disguise.

      The show writers definitely have not made an impression with the quality of the scripts and the characterizations.

      Hard not to think of the show as a blatant attempt to cash in on the current hot streak enjoyed by Sherlock Holmes. The Downey Jr movies and BBC Sherlock were trendsetters and brought something different to the table. Elementary is a purely mercenary show, right from the way it has been conceived all the way down to its execution.


  5. Why didn't I soon this on my dashboard sooner? Anyway, blogger is a pain sometimes. For the series I would say this episode middle of the road, but they did give enough clues for the audience to solve the mystery, unlike a few other episodes. Also I am glad that the series is finally back from the sporadic release of episodes of late.


    1. Thanks James. It is indeed a good thing to have the series back after the break.


  6. Very good review, thanks.
    I do however think you like the show more than you are willing to admit.
    If not, why and how could you come up with such great Canonical references.
    Again, Thanks.

    1. You are welcome, John.

      Being a fan of Arthur Conan Doyle's text, I cannot resist looking out for Canonical nods!

      I do wish the show did a better job with the scripting.

      Thanks for stopping by.


  7. Good reading from your blog. I am a big fan of Arthur Conan Dolye. Good author even he was a doctor.
    Hidden talents that many people should discover in themselves.
    Have a good day.
    Rahim Maarof

    1. Thanks for stopping by. Glad that you enjoyed the post so much.