Saturday, December 13, 2014

E3: 7. The acid-thrower and the teenage daughter.

I was merrily moving through the end of my week today when a news story about one of those countries on the other side of the world where acid-throwing is a crime their culture seems to find appropriate. It's as horrific a crime as I can imagine, as it does damage at so many levels, so cold and cruel that I cannot even imagine the mindset it would take to perform the act. Even murder itself seems to pale in comparison, in so many ways.

So when it seems acceptable, in the Sherlock Holmes story "The Adventure of the Illustrious Client," that Kitty Winter commits some serious acid-tossing on Baron Gruner, we know his unspecified crimes must have been pretty horrific. Kitty was a good British sort brought low, and not, as far as we know, from a culture that did such things when they got crazy.

And then, after having all these thoughts, I went, "Oh, yeah . . . there's that show with that cuddlier version of Kitty Winter . . . I totally forgot it this week."

Life must be good.

But let's talk about the episode of Elementary in question. Sherlockians know the basic patterns of a Sherlock Holmes story, which tend to center around 221B Baker Street. Except, of course, for those times after Watson has moved out, resumed his medical practice and taken up married life. Elementary, of course, has developed its own patterns. Where Sherlock Holmes was a welcome surprise in John H. Watson's life, Mr. Elementary seems to constantly barge in like a sort of consulting curse.

This week's case starts with Joan Watson taking a client in her kitchen. A sexist nod to the sort of thinking that even female detectives should stay in the kitchen? Whatever the motive, Joan's client is coming to her over an old missing-person's case where a woman went missing and "a serial criminal" was suspected because of the smell of nutmeg at the scene where six different women disappeared. An interesting thought, as missing persons don't typically have a crime scene, since no one knows if a crime was truly committed.

Kitty Winter shows up to announce that Mr. Elementary wants to stick his nose into Joan's case, since he doesn't have one. (Curious business model, but nothing on this show has ever made economic sense.) Joan finds this acceptable, and off all three go to barge into the local FBI office . . . who also don't seem to have a problem with these silly people barging in.

Mr. Elementary's typical consulting detective style is in full form this week, as he does a pretend smart thing then tells Joan and Kitty he did it. This week it's speeed-reading at a rate faster than Mr. Data from the old Star Trek: The Next Generation. Mr. Elementary tells Joan it was a part of her training he didn't get to, so apparently she's not as finished a consulting detective as we thought, by his standards.

Without a cast of characters involved in this crime, the show brings in additional help on the case to fill out its story. Miss Hudson makes her annual appearance at last, this time assigned to use her considerable intellect to listen to the police scanner for mentions of the smell of pumpkin pie. Really. This show is not really about how superior Mr. Elementary's skills are, but how all these women submit to this one man's dominance for no other apparent reason than he's the star of their world.

Should I write of how quickly Mr. Elementary gets to discussing Joan's love life after he shows up in the episode? Or how Joan's ex-boyfriend shows because his work ID badge went missing and he thinks that's appropriate work for a detective? (No discussion of hourly rates, of course.) But it gives Mr. Elementary more fodder for discussing her relationships later and using the term "inflated genitals."

But here's the thing: this week Elementary's random mix of colorful nonsense is actually watchably written and directed this week. There's a fun old Irregular character who is really good at smelling things -- and Mr. Elementary only knows him as "the Nose," yet somehow has contact information. NYPD makes a quick cameo, and by limiting the duration of the stone-faced cops, it may bring the show's dullness level down. Kitty lies on the floor as a fetching fake murder victim. It's all as ridiculous as ever, but like one of those goofy bad movies that it's still fun to watch, it seems to hold up more as an entertainment than it used to . . . relatively speaking. Somebody is doing a better job amidst all the usual schlock and nonsensical behaviors.

"You three are cops," a suspect states upon meeting the detection three-way that serves as the show's leads.

"To varying degrees," Mr. Elementary replies.

Or "no," an answer that also would have worked had the fellow stated, "You three have something to do with the Sherlock Holmes stories." Elementary has become its own thing, apart from anything Conan Doyle ever came up with, and it seems to be getting better at whatever that thing is. And now, in that time of year when most of the fall shows have had their mid-season climax and are taking Christmas off, Elementary's ratings are creeping back up up toward its season premiere level. Will that be enough to keep it going for a fourth season? That question will be more suspenseful than anything else the show has to offer.

And the Kitty Winter in this strange alternate universe? She's nothing so disturbing as an acid-thrower. At the episode's end we see her portrayed a Mr. Elementary's teenage daughter who likes playing her rock and roll music too loud up in her bedroom, but she's the perfect "teenager," as a few words from "dad" and she quietly switches to classical.

Conan Doyle should really have given Sherlock Holmes a cute teenage daughter to live in the spare room at 221B Baker Street. Wait . . . did I just say that? Oh, Elementary, what are you doing to our little Sherlocki-fan world?


  1. I was also entertained by the show. Mrs. Hudson's cameo, further unfolding back stories for both Watson and Winter and a new irregular (does that make four?). But the pace seem a bit schizophrenic and there are a lot of very loose ends. I like your characterization of alternate universe Sherlock Holmes. I cannot stop watching.

  2. Alternate Universe Sherlock Holmes for sure, Jonny Lee Miller is to Sherlock Holmes as Bizzaro Superman is to Superman, and Lucy Liu is to Dr. Watson as Bizzaro Supergirl was to Supergirl.

  3. I still can't work up much more than a 'meh'; although good for you for finding a way to watch it! I've always taken all these iterations as AU, and watched them quite happily. Still can't work up much enthusiasm for Mr. Elementary.