Thursday, May 14, 2015

E3:24. The third time's the . . . charm?

Tonight came the final episode for season three of CBS's Elementary.

Tonight is the night that show catches up to BBC Sherlock. Three whole seasons done, hit Moriarty, Milverton, and Mycroft, as well as Irene. Watson has had issues and gotten over them. Tonight, as many an Elementary fan has tried to tell me over the last three years, they are equals. The same.

But of course, they aren't.

Elementary had seventy-two episodes. Sherlock had nine.

Elementary was Emmy-nominated for titles and theme music. Sherlock was nominated for Emmys four times the first season, for writing, editing, effects, and music, then thirteen times the second season, for acting, directing, writing, casting, editing, cinematography, music, sound-mixing, costumes, and just being outstanding, then a mere twelve times in its third season, though it took home seven Emmy awards at long last.

One could make a real "quantity versus quality" statement based on the above facts, but that's hardly something one wants to say about siblings. The modern television industry gave birth to Sherlock, and then went, "What a cute baby! Let's have another!" And along came the little brother who would always have to live in his glorious predecessor's shadow. Sure, he'd be able to hang with his own crowd most of the time, a good many of whom never even heard of his brother and be liked for who he was, but he himself would always know his brother was out there . . . just being soooo damned popular among the cool kids.

Tonight's season-ending episode of Elementary featured that ultra-rare script entirely by the show's creator, Rob Dougherty, who has only performed said task maybe three times now. Various internet spots noted that he would be live-tweeting during the season finale, which seemed a slight distracting for finale night, but the network probably wanted to make sure it got every viewer it could. And when Dougherty gets involved with Elementary, one knows there might actually be some development of interest on the show, so . . . .

Joan Watson makes popcorn in the microwave in the opening moments of this turning point episode. Now, I hate to be judgmental, as regular readers of this blog know, so I'll just let that fact lay there for your consideration.

Microwave popcorn. So during the credits and opening bout of commercials, I attempted you rectify this situation by getting out a pot and some corn and popping up my own batch, just to send the good popcorn karma her way.

I think it worked, because at some point, Joan looks at an old napkin and observes, "The grease is still fresh." The level of skill it takes to detect freshness in a grease blot on a paper napkin based entirely upon visual examination is incredible. Bravo, Joan. And nice detective coat!

This week's mystery is, happily, one consistent narrative. A kidnapping of Mr. Elementary's good addict friend, Alfredo, by Mr. Elementary's bad addict friend, Oscar. The ransom? Oscar wants addict detective Mr. Elementary to find Oscar's addict sister.

Occasionally we get a bit of non-addict action from the three other series stars, Captain Gregson, Joan, and Detective Bell, actually trying to find Alfredo while Mr. Elementary goes on a sort of "ghost of Christmas past" tour of addict-related sites. Addictementary continues, and we wait for that moment when Mr. Elementary actually gets some heroin and has his make-or-break addiction season climax.

Remember how Sherlock Holmes does those things where he amazes and surprises people with his observations or case-solving revelations? That was always great, wasn't it? With just that right bit of dramatic flair added? Magnifique! Sorry, nothing to do with tonight's Elementary,  just reminiscing about the good old days.

Addicts, addicts, dead addict, missing addict. Not sure what the message is on this very serious condition that plagues so many, or it's just a coat of addict-paint on a run-around while Jonny Lee Miller makes an Emily Litella face. Seriously, he makes this pinched-up Emily Litella face.

SPOILERS AHEAD! Don't know why I really need to say that. It's not like there was a shocking twist in all of this. After being dragged around by Oscar through all sort of heroin addict hangouts, after the sister turns up dead, and Oscar reveals he did all this just to get Mr. Elementary to give in to heroin again, he throws some heroin on the ground in front of Mr. E.

Mr. Elementary finds out that kidnapped addict Alfredo was rescued by the detective team of Thomas, Joan, and Marcus, then kicks the crap out of Oscar in a fit of rage. And then, apparently as a result of that rage, he picks up the heroin kit.

Our final scene for this third season is of Joan Watson going to tell Mr. Elementary that his father has called. One knew the father would come up, as he and Joan's original "hired to watch addicted son" relationship was flashed back in the "previously on" bits pre-show. Father Elementary has somehow heard "what happened" and is coming to get Mr. Elementary.

What happened?

Well, the final shot is of Jonny Lee Miller doing what is either serious-brain-damage face or "Oh, no, he's on the heroin again!" face.  A very depressing image and the one Elementary fans are left with for the summer, I guess to look forward to Joan either attempt to re-connect with him after rehab next season, or trying to get him off the drugs herself.

As this episode played out, I found myself going, "Oscar is the arch-enemy they decided to put up against Mr. Elementary for the season finale?" and then quickly answering my own question with, "No, heroin is Mr. Elementary's true arch-foe and has been all along." Not like that took any brain power at all. It's been the running background theme for the past three seasons, as characters kept talking about his addiction, even though it didn't really seem to affect the story, the character, or anything else. He was always fine, week after week, even if he was carrying around a little packet of heroin in a book.

But at the end of last season, when he got that little packet, obviously no one gave him a needle, a lighter, and a spoon, too, then pissed him off. Not that we know about the paraphernalia involved when he did the heroin this time, as there was no dramatic injection scene. Just that brain-damage face. Didn't it take his beloved Irene Moriarty's death to get him on drugs the last time? Wouldn't it have been a better tale if he thought Joan Watson had died (in a great reverse twist on what happened on Sherlock) and turned to heroin to deal with the pain?  That might have made sense. But this? One more deus ex machina character development for no well-developed reason?

Sigh. Good mystery, good story-telling delights by throwing you a surprise even after you've seen all the clues that lead up to that conclusion. With Elementary, as with this episode, we get a slow, drum-beat march to an inevitable finish, with the only true surprise being something that really didn't come out of the writing: in this case, how yuck-o Jonny Lee Miller's addict-face is. I was wondering how they would show the addiction, and his mug was truly disturbing in its own right. I had to actually start Googling whether or not Elementary was renewed for season four, just to see if I had to live with that image as the last thing of Mr. Elementary I'd ever see. (Four days ago, CBS did announce that it will indeed return.)

Every season finale so far has teased Mr. Elementary turning back to the drugs, and now, after two fake-outs, we finally get the real thing . . .

. . . . yay?


  1. I, for one, am rooting for Mr. Elemetary to OD during the summer hiatus. That way we can have Joan marry Tobias, and he quits the force. Together they open a private detective agency, and CBS starts a new spin off show called "Gregson to Gregson". They could purchase the old "Hart to Hart" scripts from the ABC archives. It would be a hell of an improvement over "Elementary".

  2. Too dark and sad. But I'm willing to wait until the next season to see what happens. Did anyone list to the Baker Street Babes podcast interview of Rob Doherty?
    I can't wait to see Mr. Holmes on the big screen in July.

    1. I love the Baker Street Babes, but if there was a Sherlockian activity I'd care less to do than watch "Elementary", it would be listening to Rob Doherty. That is unless it was a Point - Counterpoint discussion between Rob Doherty and Brad Keefauver. :-)

  3. Well, at least Michael Weston as Oscar was pretty good with what he was given.

    Otherwise, I'm with Howard. I want "Gregson to Gregson".


  4. "I, for one, am rooting for Mr. Elemetary to OD during the summer hiatus."

    KREISCH! :-D)))