More tweaks to the formula are present in this week’s episode of Elementary as we get a glimpse into Joan Watson’s (Lucy Liu) past as a surgeon. But is it enough to save us from the predicable case of the week?
Let’s bitch it out.
I can’t say I was necessarily intrigued by Watson’s temporary return to the medical world. I suppose we’re meant to see the symmetry in Watson’s unorthodox methods in potentially saving a patient from death to Holmes’ (Jonny Lee Miller) “out of the box” investigation techniques. But ultimately the entire exercise feels laboured because it’s just so darn predictable. From the moment we get a close-up of the young female patient’s toenails intercut with Watson’s look of puzzlement, we can immediately tell Watson is going to diagnose something that her friend – a practicing doctor – Carrie (Anika Noni Rose) is somehow oblivious to. The whole business about Watson trusting her gut and (of course) being right is one of those played out tropes that we’ve seen (and will likely continue to see) on every hospital drama. There’s no originality in it and the results feel like the show is simply going through the motions in a (forced) effort to provide Joan with some character.
I will, however, commend Liu and Noni Rose giving us an effective confrontation scene when Carrie refuses to run an invasive test based on a hunch. Carrie spouts out a serious burn in this exchange:
WATSON: My gut is telling me that if you operate on her, she could die.
CARRIE: She’ll be fine Joan. I’m operating on her, not you.
Ouch. That’s a spicy meatball. The short scene borders on catty, but manages to avoid the cliché of bitchy female colleagues due to the talents of the actresses. Carrie is understandably p*ssed, but the friendship between these two and the professional respect for each other as doctors is maintained in their exchange. Noni Rose delivers the potentially bitchy line quite calmly with the interest of ending the conversation rather than maliciously trying to hurt Watson. Even later on when Carrie is proven wrong after Watson goes behind her back, Noni Rose manages to convey respect, bitterness and friendship all at the same time. In a lesser actor’s hands, it could have easily come across in a one-dimensional and forgettable way. Instead it’s quite impressive. Here’s hoping Noni Rose will return sometime soon.
Although the Watson/Carrie storyline was predictable, that term truly applies to the central mystery which was so completely obvious that it hardly even deserves to be called a mystery. Truly, this case was the most tedious we’ve seen on the show to date, and it’s primarily the fault of actor David Costabile who played the janitor aka “The Angel of Death”. Not due to his acting talents, which of course were stellar, but because of his recognizable face. Breaking Bad fans know Constabile as brilliant scientist Gale, and from the moment I saw him in the cold open (literally two minutes into the episode) I knew he had to be the killer. The following 40 minutes or so were simply a painful exercise in waiting. There’s no way a talent like Constabile would be relegated to a stand-in role as janitor, hence, we have our killer!
Myles McNutt over at the AV Club noted that last week’s secretary killer was given away immediately due to well known actress’ Molly Price’s prominence and also picked up on Constabile’s inevitable guilt-by-casting this week. Of course, if you aren’t familiar with Constabile or Price, this might be a moot point. For individuals who watch a moderate to significant amount of television, however, these character actors/well known utility players stand out like a sore thumb. It’s extremely tiresome to go through the requisite steps until our protagonists figure out what the rest of us television-savvy consumers knew from the get-go. Last week, I maintained that the best part of the episode was the growth exhibited by Holmes in his personal connections with Watson and Gregson (Aidan Quinn) so the “whodunit” aspect figured very low on the radar. Since there was no comparable character progression in this episode (no, Watson’s B-story does not count), the failings of the case-of-the-week take centre stage and results in the weakest episode of the series’ run thus far.
- Throwing in another prominent guest star this week by way of David Harbour as Dr. Baldwin potentially derails the predictably of the case-of-the-week. But the way in which Baldwin’s guilt is exposed is exactly how we’ve seen it in every other episode: Holmes and Gregson already know everything and smugly narrate it to the guilty party, thereby bringing the audience into the fold. This lack of originality sinks any points gained by the red herring that the janitor was the only “killer.”
- Can anyone tell me if practicing your golf swing in your office is an actual thing that happens in reality? Or is it destined to be hackneyed cliché that denotes a smug a**hole in a swanky office?
- Am I the only one who found it incredibly awkward when Joan stated, “This is my friend, Sherlock Holmes,” to Carrie? I have yet to feel like we’re actually in a Holmes inspired world. It’s the equivalent to saying: “This is my friend, Sam Spade.”
- Detective Bell (Jon Michael Hill) needs something interesting to do STAT. He’s becoming increasingly one-dimensional each episode. I fear he’ll literally be a cardboard cutout if he isn’t given something that breaks his stock character archetype ASAP.
- Sherlock’s one-liners were one of the only bright spots in this episode. Keep ’em coming.
What did you think Elementary fans? Did you enjoy this episode? Was the mystery intriguing for you? Do you feel Elementary deserves its place as a Holmes’ adaptation? Do you think Watson will ever go back to her career as a surgeon even after she deleted all of her candid doctor-like shots from her iPad? Hit up the comments and let us know your thoughts.
Elementary airs at 10pm EST, Thursdays on CBS.