Elementary returns from few weeks of re-runs with another case-of-the-week and the ‘celebration’ of Sherlock’s (Jonny Lee Miller) one-year sober anniversary. As we approach the end of this first season, how did this episode fare?
Let’s bitch it out.
I’m not sure if it’s because Elementary has taken so many short little breaks during its first season, but I actually found myself enjoying ‘Dead Man’s Switch’ despite being a (largely) straightforward, case-of-the-week episode. Normally I would focus on the serial elements as the only noteworthy points and totally disregard the (usually) yawn-worthy case that comprises the A-storyline. This week I surprised myself, as I discovered that I was more interested in how the blackmailing case would pan out rather than wondering why the show simply can’t embrace its serialized roots.
“Dead Man’s Switch’ goes back to Elementary‘s roots, encapsulating all of the show’s best touch points:
- Excellent detective work by Holmes supplemented by Watson (Lucy Liu) who chimes in with a good observation here and there
- Gregson (Aidan Quinn) serves as the ‘inside man’ on the force, advising Holmes while being genuinely concerned for his personal well-being, without being redundant or tedious
- Bell (Jon Michael Hill) doing actual detective work and aiding Holmes in the case instead of looking slack-jawed and bewildered
- A well paced case-of-the-week that unfolds to us as Holmes figures out the puzzle pieces, without being muddled by overly complicated exposition
Although formulaic (we still get the old bait-and-switch when it comes to the whodunit reveal) the blackmailing case doesn’t unfold predictably, doing more showing than telling, which definitely works in its favour. The discovery of the first accomplice dead in his tub, the stench concealed by cat litter, is a particularly effective moment. I can’t say I was on ‘the edge of my seat’ as the case unfolded, but I found the plot points to be somewhat believable, which kept me engaged.
Of course, the strongest moments of the episode still lie in the developments we’ve seen across the series. This week, it’s primarily Holmes’ character development as we continue to get more information regarding his fall to addiction and rise into sobriety. Holmes struggles with the arrival of his one-year anniversary, and initially we’re left wondering if he’s just being his arrogant self when denying the significance of his one-year sober chip ‘ceremony’. Later it’s revealed that Holmes doesn’t want the achievement because he’s only 364 days sober. After committing to walking away from substance abuse a year ago, Holmes relapsed for a single day, pushing his one-year to a day later. He reveals this to Watson in a very effective scene, reminding us that Johnny Lee Miller is indeed the glue that holds this whole operation together. The acting is simply superb in this scene.
I’ll admit, I was apprehensive when we learned the substance abuse stuff was rearing its ugly head again, but in ‘Dead Man’s Switch’, it’s dealt with a deft hand and reminds us that Holmes’ drug past is an integral part of these characters’ relationships. It’s necessary that it pops up again and again as the implications and consequences of it continue to reverberate throughout the characters’ lives. It gives a much needed depth to the show that has had its ups and down throughout this first season.
- The return of Holmes’ drug past means that we get to see more Alfredo (Ato Essandoh) and that’s always a good thing.
- Does anyone else find it interesting that we get a clear shot of the Windows 8 tablet, yet almost all the characters communicate via Apple iPhones? We’re always getting the trademark Apple text and email sound alerts (although in this episode they seem to have been erroneously swapped), so I find it funny that we have direct competitors featured as product placement in the same episode. Is this an indication that bigwig corporations can play nice in the sandbox together?
- Apparently owning a cat makes you a bad person. Holmes goes down a notch in my books with that one.
- As much as I like the episode, the episode’s final shot of the gifted Robert Frost poem is a little too on the nose for my liking. Subtle it is not.
What did you think Elementary fans? Was this one of your favourite episodes? Will we ever see the return of Moriarty? Has Joan adequately inhabited the role of partner-in-crime or do you think she’s still in apprentice mode? Sound off in our comments section below.
Elementary airs at 10pm EST, Thursdays on CBS.