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Elementary

Elementary – Command: Delete (7×06)

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The sprawling storylines are starting to imply a larger picture on this final season of Elementary. I’ve been waiting for the different threads to connect plot-wise, but instead of connecting to each other, it seems as though they are all going to stay separate but connect to Sherlock himself.

Sherlock’s past behavior and less than amicable acquaintances are all coming back to haunt him and directly threaten the person most important to him – Watson. FBI Agent Egan and now McNally and Reichenbach have threatened to bring harm upon Watson if Sherlock doesn’t play by their rules. While those two plots have little to do with each other, they both directly threaten the partnership that has anchored this series for seven years. These will be the personal stakes moving forward with this season, and I’m glad they are clear now.

I fretted slightly about the lack of personal stakes with Gregson’s case, but it seems as though his shooting was only a smaller cog in the larger picture. Now that the picture has come into better focus, I’m more forgiving of how standard the investigation into his shooting turned out. And yet I’m lessforgiving about the Captain not being more involved at this point! Bring back Captain Gregson! We need the whole team together to bring these corrupt organizations down. With less focus on his injury we will be able to put more focus on Gregson himself and his relationship with our duo, so let’s get to it! Thankfully, it looks as though he is back in the captain’s chair in next week’s episode.

The case this week involved inheritance, health conditions that make your body rad, and coffee. At first I thought it would parallel the whole “stopping crimes before they happen,” (where have I heard that before???)*** but it wasn’t meant to be. I loved the small touches of detecting, like Joan finding the password due to too many security changes and Sherlock immediately calling the hotel our would-be-fake-sniper was targeting. The writers could just have the boss give them the password or have Sherlock wait until after the interrogation to make his call, but this is the best detecting duo in the world! Seeing them perform such basic detecting tasks and putting in that slightly extra effort to get things done now only makes it easier for us to believe that they will be able to take down Reichenbach/the entire NSA (and an FBI agent). Gotta have the basics down before you can do the advanced stuff.

Speaking of Reichenbach, he wants to save the world by murdering people. What a good Samaritan***. Sherlock finds his approach unreliable and deplorable, but seems to have quite a battle ahead of him. Reichenbach has conviction; he believes he is doing right. Conviction always makes your villains more interesting and more powerful, but I wish we had more to go off of. I find it difficult to criticize Reichenbach’s lack of characterization due to the fact that season seven is a bonus season of a half order, and I understand that behind the scenes hoopla sometimes affects the on screen possibilities. I hope we get to spend more time with him and get a better sense of his character, we do have seven episodes left after all, but after Michael last year Reichenbach is feeling a bit plain.

McNally’s reveal scene was one of my favorite scenes, not just of the episode but of the series. McNally reading off all of the ties Sherlock has made was one of those “just the right amount of cheese” moments that emphasizes that this is the final season. The performance was intense and I felt the threats were real. Apparently so did Sherlock, as he wasn’t quite as steely eyed as usual, though you could still see the anger flaming behind his eyes once Watson’s name passed through McNally’s lips. But the most wonderful aspect of this scene was the score, which essentially contradicted what was being shown on screen. Normally during the villain’s big threatening monologue, the music will become dissonant, slow, and low (often with a nice cello if we are going with the classic timbre). But when McNally mentions Watson, the music increases in tempo and becomes pulse-pounding and rhythmic, almost like we are about to enter battle. This subtly tells us that despite McNally having all the control, he basically just signed up for his demise. Sherlock may not know what his next move is, but he is ready to surge away at these people to protect Watson at all costs. All parties involved underestimate his abilities, but more importantly they underestimate his love and anger. The score pushes this idea to the forefront despite Sherlock currently being in a place of powerlessness. I hope that pulse-pounding score makes a return when he sets his plans in motion.

Alas, I do have a complaint: Not enough Watson!

She is so sidelined right now. I hope Sherlock clues her in on what’s going on so they can work together. I want to see them be partners. With so much going on, she doesn’t have much of her own storyline, and because Sherlock doesn’t want to tell her about the threats, she isn’t even part of the storylines that are directly threatening her. Fix this soon, Elementary! Watson deserves just as epic a sendoff as her partner.

Other Deductions:

  • Sherlock stating he would be dead by Reichenbach’s methods since he planned murders previously was sort of funny.
  • Sherlock and Watson are so separated right now. Maybe that’s what they are going for to prove how much better they are as a team in the back half of the season.

***

Person of Interest. It’s about predicting and stopping crimes before they happen, except they aren’t executioners. Everyone should watch it. It was ahead of its time and under appreciated. I would have loved to see Elementary take on this idea while POI and it were still airing together. It could have presented another viewpoint, and possibly a contradictory viewpoint, on the subject of surveillance back to back on the same station. POI rules.

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Elementary

Elementary – Miss Understood (7×08)

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Elementary has been airing for seven years now, which is quite remarkable when you think back to the original musings around the series and the negative approach that many took to towards the CBS Sherlock Holmes adaptation, as some only mentioned it with groans as a “Sherlock ripoff with a female Watson.” 

Many series grow tiresome or redundant after so many years, running out of places for their characters to go. In a way this is a bit odd, since our real lives provide us with ever unique challenges as we age, so why is it that television tends to grow dull after such time? I suspect part of the reason the repetitiveness sets in is because series try to find new situations that their protagonists can fit in, instead of allowing the protagonists to grow into new situations.

All of this is a very long way of saying that this episode of Elementary could not have happened in the early or mid-stages of the series. Whether Sherlock Holmes is really “Cassie’s” father is irrelevant, because the true revelation of the episode is that Sherlock has grown to be a man that could be an affective father to someone. That sort of growth only comes with the years of experience we have been able to witness. Of all the episodes so far this season, this one is the piece that has made me most grateful for the final season renewal.

I really enjoyed Cassie’s previous appearance and am glad to see her return tonight. While the mystery itself was pretty standard Elementary, having the episode change up the way the mystery comes about is a nice way to mix it up. Cassie just chose a random unsolved case that best suited her needs, but the episode followed through on it and solved it anyway. Baby formula is a huge market that apparently requires fixers, murder, and inside men to investigate. I had no idea, but I’m afraid if I look it up online Sherlock Holmes will check out my browsing history and then investigate me.

The real meat of the episode lies with Sherlock’s relationship to Cassie, though, and her reappearance gives up the perfect look into the original Sherlock and the new age Watsonified version. His refusal to believe anything Cassie says on any level is classic Sherlock. He knows a liar when he sees one and therefore takes all the proper precautions. He has no qualms about throwing a young girl right back into a prison like setting so he can keep tabs on her. He also still admires, to a possible fault, those singular minds.

And yet the change in Sherlock over the seven years we’ve known him allows him to also spot someone looking for a connection and see a deeper meaning behind the lies and deception. He doesn’t just care for Cassie’s mind, but for who she is and what desires she has. Watson was able to catch Moriarty at the end of season one because she could see into her heart, and Watson makes a similar observation in this episode when Cassie is watching the interrogation. At first, I thought the show was using Watson as the emotional detective again, but Sherlock figures the same thing out on his own. In fact, Watson wasn’t much more than a steady support to Sherlock from the outside.

My complaints about the lack of Watson this season have to be sidelined this episode because, if anything, this episode proves to us that Sherlock doesn’t need Watson in the same way anymore. He has learned enough from her to navigate humans and desire on his own. Watson made a fine detective without Sherlock by season three but chose to stay with him, and since then Sherlock’s investment in the partnership has outweighed hers. Watson didn’t need Sherlock the way he still needed her, but now he may finally be able to stand on his own. Watson’s dialogue supports this idea when she tells Sherlock he and Cassie make a great team (not that she’s jealous) and is genuinely happy with the connection he has made. Watson’s support and love will never leave Sherlock, but for the first time in the series, I feel he could be successful – and happy – outside of their partnership.

Sherlock’s support of Cassie mirrors the sort of support Watson has shown him throughout the years. His speech to her about finding her own place in the world is poignant because we witnessed that journey from him. Sitting down to help her choose who she will be is affective because Watson helped Sherlock choose who he wanted to be. He mentions his gratitude to the unit of Watson, Gregson, and Bell and all they have done for him, and it’s time for Sherlock to give back a little and help someone else become a better person.

In regards to Reichenbach preventing crime, Sherlock put it perfectly when he told Watson that this is a different type of prevention. Yes Sherlock, understanding, caring for, and supporting other people can make a difference and prevent us from becoming the worst of ourselves. He didn’t know this seven years ago. We watched him slowly transform into a better, more caring version of himself, but he wasn’t ready to put this side of him into action (outside of Watson and that core group) until now. Sherlock Holmes has grown as a character, and that growth has allowed him to gracefully approach this new situation.

If this were the final episode of the show, I can’t say I’d be satisfied with how they wrapped up the Reichenbach plot and all the threats on Joan, cause obviously that wasn’t the focus here. But I would be very comfortable with the place that they have left Sherlock. What an admirable arc he has had.

Thankfully, though, we still have five episodes left! So I’ll get to have all of that.

Other Deductions:

  • If there was any previous character I’d have wanted to be related to Sherlock, it’s Cassie. I really enjoyed her first appearance on the show, and I felt she was a great presence tonight as well.
  • I will admit I was fooled and thought Cassie blackmailed Leehoven. I never thought she would get away with it, but I did think she would try. Yet it didn’t seem out of character that she didn’t. (Though really she was so hard to read almost nothing would seem out of character for her.)
  • Sherlock spending time to help Cassie come up with a name for herself is excellent because I know he will take that task extremely seriously. I hope they never reveal what name she chooses because, frankly, not even the writers of the show will be able to come up with as perfect a name as Sherlock will.
  • Seriously though more Joan in the last five episodes!
  • Elementary has aired over one hundred episodes. The show and its characters, particularly Sherlock himself, have aged very gracefully, and episodes like “Miss Understood” prove it. I think Elementary is looking very good for any future debates on which adaptations rank at the top of the list.

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Elementary

Elementary – From Russia With Drugs (7×07)

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Elementary took a step away from its series ending storyline tonight and delivered a back-to-basics old school episode. Final seasons can often get caught up with wrapping all the flowing stories up that they often forget to take a moment to also reflect on the series as a whole. As an episode with almost no ties to the Reichenbach plot, “From Russia With Drugs” is a perfect example of the procedural style storytelling that has provided this version of Sherlock Holmes with so many cases to solve.

The first scene reinstates Gregson as captain of the precinct and I initially felt like it was a sweet and funny scene. It was simple but touching, complete with the giant badge and a silly story told by Captain Dwyer. Upon learning that Dwyer is a horrible man who does horrible things, though, the scene it becomes less sweet in retrospect.

And that’s great. Too often during these sorts of episodes (the #metoo episodes) the harasser or assaulter is painted as broadly evil. Make no mistake, these are NOT good people and the actions they are committing are evil, but because they aren’t doing horrible things 100% of the time, it can be difficult to spot these horrible people, to the point that even the great Sherlock Holmes didn’t realize that something was wrong.

This is an important lesson we all need to learn. The episode immediately biases the audience to, at the very least, appreciate Dwyer’s friendship with Gregson (as Dwyer tells it). This immediate bias in no way exonerates his behavior, though, and we need to look past the bias to see the man for who he really is (a harassing sexist jerk).

The episode takes the subject matter seriously, dives into the complexities of the topic, but at no point did I feel the show was patting itself on the back for tackling the matter, which is something I have felt other shows have done while exploring the topic. Novacek’s decision was hers to make, she doesn’t feel she was wrong for not wanting to do anything about it, and yet she decides to go through with it anyway. It was direct, to the point, and covered multiple thought processes.

I have a criticism and a half on the storyline, though. The first is that we really don’t know Novacek at all. Elementary has introduced one off cops and characters and irregulars before, so that’s not out of place, but the storyline would have had more weight if Novacek was more developed as a character. As it stands her character was more of a plot device to do this sort of story.

The half criticism is that the entire plot line was viewed from Gregson’s perspective. I believe it is beneficial to get a perspective from the victim of the crime and not just the people surrounding them. This is only a half criticism, though, because on the other hand we get to see a good example of how a friend/bystander should act to combat these problems. Don’t be a bystander. Address the issue, confront the perpetrator, offer support and assistance if needed. It’s important to see this side of these events, and it was an effective way to show that Gregson is a great captain and a good man. We need him in that precinct, and this is why!

Outside of that storyline, though, we have a classic Elementarycase. It was a lot of fun to watch Sherlock, Watson, and Bell work together on a single case again. There was no lingering tension between the characters, solid detective work, witty banter, and even an explosion. Elementary has a knack for taking a seemingly standard murder case and cranking the dial up to “Possible Foreign Government Coverup.” But those are the only cases suitable for the great Sherlock and Watson!  

I was particularly invested in this case because it felt more like a web than a trail of clues to follow. Watson even states as such when she suggests that they are investigating a closed loop. I find these sorts of mysteries more engaging because I can consider the information we already have in a new light instead of just using one piece of info to get to the next. These pieces of information also make me realize how much smarter Sherlock and Watson are than me because I’m not putting the information in the proper light as quickly as they are.

In the end, as much as I love the larger storylines and the character driven moments that the show can provide, an episode like tonight’s reminds of another reason I will miss this show when it comes off the air. I know it’s July right now, but in previous years when the show aired over the winter, Elementary was such an easy show to dive into after coming in from the cold and turning on the fire. It’s just fun watching Sherlock and Watson work.

Other Deductions:

  • I watched tonight’s episode with a friend who had never seen Elementary until now. He wasn’t lost at all and was able to enjoy the hour the same as me, someone who has watched all seven seasons live. This is one of the true strengths of Elementary and procedural television.
  • Sherlock didn’t know who Scrooge McDuck was and I laughed at that.
  • Why weren’t Sherlock and Joan at Captain Gregson’s return party? I thought this would be explored more.
  • The explosion looked pretty good! It had a real weight to it; I actually jumped like Sherlock did. Love a little spice with the mystery like that!
  • In today’s TV landscape, it doesn’t seem as though procedurals are as highly praised as serial television shows. I love serial shows, so I get why this has happened; serial shows have many strengths compared to procedural TV. But procedurals have strengths over serialized shows as well, and this should not be forgotten. Self-contained stories provide a completeness that feels good at the end of an hour, they allow for experimentation, and they are easy for new viewers to join in at any moment, creating a more inclusive series. Elementary has had some great serialized arcs, but it has also been an excellent procedural series throughout its run. It deserves to be recognized for its success as a procedural.

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Elementary

Elementary – Into the Woods (7×05)

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Elementary has a lot on its mind recently. Not only does this final season have to wrap up Sherlock and Watson’s story, it has to provide an overarching crime story AND continue having cases of the week. With a short order season, this is quite a task. There are a lot of plot lines in the air right now, and I hope none of them get lost, such as the FBI Agent Egan’s threat to blame Joan for Michael’s murder. That’s gone two weeks without a follow up, which is fine, so long as it isn’t totally forgotten about in the long run.

In regards to the cases of the week, I’ve been happy with the cases we’ve been given recently. Tonight’s case was another solid one but the locales in the episode added an extra flair to the mystery. The wine cellar scene was suitably pulse pounding and the gala was suitably elaborate, with plenty of extras and tons of table dressing. On top of the interesting locations, season seven is also upping the tension of many scenes. Creating tension is a great way to keep a viewers interest in a case. The classic “the killer is in the room with us” is an oldie but a goodie, but the bottles being switched without anyone noticing was even better. It was such a simple act but really delivered that extra bit of tension and suspense.

Owen Reichenbach needs to be a large part of next week’s episode. We didn’t even get to see Sherlock and Joan’s reactions to meeting him here, and his presence was mostly just a tease. Since we didn’t know his true motives until the end of the episode, we really just met him in the last moment. I like how this plot tied in with Meers marking Joan as “trouble,” and it makes more sense as to why Reichenbach would donate to the charity specifically to meet Joan. I’m not quite following this terrorist plot with ease (I’ll admit I rewound Reichenbach’s discussion with our duo to watch it twice). I won’t consider this a problem until we are a few episodes in without any more clarity than we have now.

And last, in regards to Joan and Sherlock’s story, I’m still waiting for it to reveal itself. There was a bit of bite to Joan when she called Reichenbach out for Gregon’s almost-murder, so the personal stakes are definitely there, but they aren’t quite as reflective of the journey these two have taken as I would like them to be. Last season was effective largely due to Sherlock’s personal health issues affecting his detecting skills. The mix of the personal with the impersonal kept us and the characters invested. Michael was a good villain because he had a complex relationship with Sherlock, and Sherlock had a personal investment in him.

I’m hoping that next week sheds some light on Reichenbach and provides us with that personal investment. 

Other Deductions:

  • Whenever someone says an aspect of a case will be difficult, I know Sherlock is two seconds away from announcing he’s already done it. I am waiting for this to get old but somehow it never seems to.
  • The park with the target for Reichenbach’s archery practice was another interesting location. The target could also have been symbolic.
  • Watson would love it if she could get 8 hours of sleep a night.
  • This season has really made an effort to make scenes interesting. Harris’s questioning in the hospital would have been fine if he could talk, but it was more interesting watching him type and listening to the computer talk for him. (Or maybe CBS just didn’t want to pay for another speaking role. Still more interesting, though).
  • “I haven’t decided if we are going to be friends.”

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