Thursday, April 25, 2013

How I've missed you, Mr. Elementary!

 Ah, it's Thursday night and a new Elementary is on the old TV. After a controversial week, it's a lovely thing to relax and sit back for something we can all agree upon.

An interesting take on a Canonical tale on Elementary tonight, which you may have heard about already: They're actually doing a sort-of "after Charles Augustus Milverton." Yes, after nineteen episodes, they're finally using the actual Canon to base a tale upon. Bravo! (Yes, Sebastian Moran didn't count, as his episode had nothing to do with "The Adventure of the Empty House.")

Mr. Elementary, hiding behind a curtain, watching Milverton being shot . . . at the start of the episode. Milverton's choice of blackmail material in this little scenario is especially repulsive -- threatening to release videos of rapes on the internet unless the victims' families pay. As with so many evil contrivances of modern television, one has to wonder if such an evil idea is something we should call "entertainment," but they did certainly find a way to create a Milverton who makes one's skin crawl.

As with the "Snow Angels" episode, Elementary is now keeping Mr. Elementary and Joan Watson working together on one case as partners, which was definitely missing from the earlier parts of the season, when he seemed to just want to ditch her. Outgrowing that "sober companion" nonsense was an important step in the show's development, to be sure, getting them closer to the ground of the original Holmes and Watson.

Mr. Elementary is reminding me more of Sheldon from Big Bang Theory than Sherlock Holmes, but the conversion of "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton" into an actual detective tale is just too smart to deny. It's probably the smartest thing this show has done. Well, they also brought Alfredo back for a substantial part that doesn't involve car theft, so that's not the only smart thing going on this episode.

The conversations in Joan's bedroom as she's waking up have become a standard of the show, and gives it a cozy-cute thing that somehow fills the absence-of-romance gap just a little bit. He's in her bedroom, she's all snuggled up with bed hair, but there's not the least bit of sexual tension.

Of course, because it's a major network crime drama, they have to follow that sweet little scene with a corpse scene as repulsive as something form the movie Seven. I truly could have spent a lovely evening without the sight of a week-old obese corpse in a bathtub. Of course, the network follows it soon after with one of those PSAs displaying the ravages of cigarette-induced cancer on a person, so the network seems determined to leave one's brain with some unpleasant visual or another. Given all of the smoking in the original Holmes tales, it's especially ironic paired with Elementary.

This episode also wanders heavily into the addiction storyline, humanizing Mr. Elementary, making for a better show, but somehow making him all the less Holmes-like, to my mind. My theory of Mr. Elementary as a fan of the London Sherlock Holmes who took that identity in New York is still serving me well for digesting this namesake of the master detective, tattoos and all.

Overall, I'm not sure if I liked this latest episode of Elementary. I like the idea of it, but the execution seemed somehow lacking just a bit of something. Maybe it was the yuck factor of Milverton's scheme and his obese corpse of a partner. Maybe it was the sobriety chip plot and scenes of Mr. Elementary tattooing himself. I'm not sure.

Next episode, however, they say we're getting strands of Moriarty's web as we head toward the season finale. The penultimate episode is also titled "The Woman," so Milverton's Canonical-based plot this week gives some small hope of something interesting for the Sherlockian viewer in weeks ahead.

And in one final note: I'm dedicating this week's kindler, gentler review of Elementary to the young lady who portrayed Joan Watson for the 221B Con costume contest. It's very hard to be mean to the show knowing she's out there somewhere.


  1. You are becoming a fan of Elementary. It just took a little while. Welcome to my world.

  2. I wasn't sure I liked the episode, either. I thought, as you did, that the way they turned "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton" into something resembling an actual case was reasonably clever, so it took me a while to figure out what was actually bothering me. I realized eventually that it was the way Elementary executed the murder itself.

    In the original story, Milverton, who was despicable enough back then, was killed by a victim seeking revenge, and his death held a sort of higher moral significance - at least, Holmes thought so (which provided an interesting insight into his character and brand of justice as well). This Milverton, far more repulsive than his canon counterpart, was killed by someone just as bad as him, if not worse. (Profiting, even indirectly, from your stepdaughter's rape? I mean, come on now.) In this adaptation, all Milverton's death serves is, not justice, but the continuation of the circle of misery and violence and fear.

    There was so much dramatic potential wasted, too. Imagine a world in which Joan and Mr. Elementary chase around the failsafe for most of the episode, and catch him - and then one of two things happen. Maybe Mr. Elementary deduces the identity of the murderer (or murderess, as I would have loved it to have been, say, the teenage girl at the beginning after she realized her father was being blackmailed) but holds his tongue. Or, maybe the NYPD catches the murderess on their own, and brings her in - a teenage girl, acting out of self-defense and panic. Our protagonists' reactions to that scenario would interest me far more than any drug-related B story.

    Sorry for the essay. On a final note, I tend to watch Elementary while thinking of its Holmes as an ersatz brother of the BBC's version who, like your deranged fan, assumed his brother's identity after his "death." I know that Sherrinford Holmes was intended to be the oldest - smartest! - Holmes brother when Baring-Gould first proposed him, but to me that awkward moniker suits Mr. Elementary just fine, and on with the show! c:

  3. Milverton's choice of blackmail material reminds one of Baron Gruner's 'hobby' “I tell you, Mr. Holmes, this man collects women, and takes a pride in his collection, as some men collect moths or butterflies. He had it all in that book. Snapshot photographs, names, details, everything about them. It was a beastly book–a book no man, even if he had come from the gutter, could have put together."

  4. I thought this was the best episode of "Elementary" to date. And a good, innovative utilization of the Milverton tale.

    There's been much bitching, moaning, whining and complaining (and not all of it from this blog) about the need to use the Canon for storylines, so I am glad to see some grudging acknowledgement of it for this episode.

    Anonymous makes a good point about Gruner from ILLU. Overall, I am comfortable with the female Watson, the urban adult Wiggins, the unusual Miss Hudson, the tattooed and quirky (but at least human) Holmes. Innovation, creativity, modernization. And, so far, none of the undue, overdone obsession with Moriarty that seems to permeate pastiche and video incarnations of the Holmes saga.

    I remain a fan of "Elementary," and I am glad to see that America's number one network has renewed it for another season. No small measure of success.