Monday, January 7, 2013

An Eye-Catching Holmes

ELEMENTARY: YOU DO IT TO YOURSELF

In You Do It To Yourself, Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) has moments of both comedy and humility.  You also have an Elementary story that to my mind, comes as close as we've seen this series gotten to come almost straight from The Canon (the actual Arthur Conan Doyle stories). In the ultimate conclusion and general structure of You Do It To Yourself, the similarity to the Sherlock Holmes story The Adventure of the Abbey Grange is strong.  While I doubt Peter Blake's script was deliberately trying to copy themes from Abbey Grange, You Do It to Yourself as a story reminded me so much of it that I seriously wonder whether the BBC Holmes update Sherlock should take a look at the CBS Holmes update Elementary episode and see if their idea of basically rewriting The Canon might actually be done better.

Holmes is feeling a little under the weather, which makes him even more cantankerous than usual.  His Sober Companion Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) wants him to take some tea but he insists work will make him better.  A chance soon comes his way when Detective Bell (Jon Michael Hill) calls him in on a murder case.  They come across a body that has had both eyes shot out.  Using the dead man's body Holmes quickly (and logically) pieces together the dead man's identity: Trent Annunzio (RIchard Topol), a professor of Asian Studies at a nearby college. 

The question is who would want the good professor dead?  Holmes and Bell soon discover that the good professor was anything but good.  Both put together that Professor Annunzio was into Chinese gambling, and it was at an underground Chinese gambling den that he was killed.  The Chinese criminals helpfully have a security system that allows them to identify the actual killer. 

However, that would all be too easy.  The killer tells them a story that is confirmed: someone had hired him to kill Annunzio.  In short, it was a hit job.  Still, who would want the professor dead, and why his eyes?  Why would the assassin insist on having the professor's eyes blown out?

A suspect is soon found: his teaching assistant Brendan O'Brien (Cameron Scoggins), who not only did not receive a letter of recommendation from Annunzio but who we discover was having an affair with the Professor's wife, Jun (Kristy Wu).  Another twist: Jun was not married to Annunzio, and she tells them that she was also brought from Thailand and had been held hostage by Annunzio as his sex slave, knowing that she couldn't go to the police without revealing her immigration status.

Holmes still is not convinced that everything fits together.  The eye thing bothers him, as does the fact that a woman might be deported who may have been a victim.  Finally, the fact that O'Brien hired a hitman who lived in the neighborhood when someone else who could have been found via sex offenders registry was closer.  Here, Watson's medical knowledge comes into play. 

She noticed that Annunzio's eyes were badly deteriorated, and that another sex offender/hired hitman WAS indeed closer to O'Brien than the one ultimately hired.  Eventually, they come to the conclusion that Trent Annunzio, plagued with an illness that would kill him, decided to strike back at the lovers with an elaborate plan to frame him for his murder (in a sense, he did it to himself), with only the hitman's greed getting in the way: rather than kill Annunzio at his car, he decided to rob the gambling den AND kill Annunzio.  With both O'Brien and Jun cleared, and with a little help from Captain Gregson (Aidan Quinn), a clerk has been arranged to marry Brendan and Jun that day.

In the subplot, a former lover of Joan's, Liam Danow (Adam Rothenberg) has been arrested for a hit-and-run.  He insists he is innocent but since he was using drugs he can't be sure.  Watson, with a bit of help from Holmes, eventually put the pieces together to find that Liam is indeed innocent but despite his promises, Liam fails to go to a rehab center.  Watson waits in vain, and Holmes joins her in her wait.

You Do It to Yourself makes me think of The Abbey Grange because in both stories it is the lover that does it, the victim is a loathsome man who abuses his loving wife, and because in the end the lovers are reunited.  Again I cannot say that You Do It to Yourself is in any way inspired by The Abbey Grange, but on the whole while watching the episode I thought that it could had similar elements in both.

What I would argue brings You Do It to Yourself down is the subplot.  While it does introduce more of Watson's backstory in how she took on the Sober Companion route the actual mystery around Liam seems almost an afterthought.  Very little screentime is devoted to the mystery and a lot is solved off-camera (such as the finding of the distinct keychain at a pawnshop near the accident scene). 

That part of You Do It to Yourself (along with the surprisingly grisly sight of Annunzio's shot-out eyes) weren't to my liking.  However, the other elements of Elementary's ninth episode made up for it.  Chief is the interplay between Miller's Holmes and Hill's Bell.  They appear to be slowly warming up to each other and Bell is shown to be someone who is a smart person.  He's not as smart as Holmes, and certainly not as egocentric as Holmes (when Bell asks Holmes to ask him how he knows the reason the marks are from a Chinese gambling den, he's met with silence and a blank stare), but the interplay between Hill and Miller is allowing for great moments of lightness.

Miller also is showing his Holmes to not only be more at ease with the group of Gregson, Bell, and Watson, he also is showing a way with comic lines.  Holmes is handed a cup by Watson which he at first thinks is coffee.  A quick taste shows he's wrong.  She informs him it's tea.  "I'm British.  This is not tea," he retorts.  Later on, when his cold appears to be cured with Watson's tea (which she made from Chinese herbs that her mother used when she was a child), Holmes' inability to thank her or acknowledge that she was right makes for light humor.

As for the guest stars, Scoggins' O'Brien and Wu's Jun played their scenes both individually and together well.  One can argue whether Wu was playing a stereotype (the frightened Thai sex slave) but her performance was well-crafted as the 'wife' with something to hide.  Scoggins' teaching assistant was also impressive and one hopes that his career continue to grow. 

The subplot appeared to be there because Elementary requires it.  However, the interplay between Miller and both Liu and Hill, along with elements that appeared drawn from The Canon (unintentional or not) lifts You Do It to Yourself as a smart episode in the premiere season.  A little part of me hopes that You Do It to Yourself WAS inspired by The Abbey Grange, because if that's the case then we can see how The Canon can be adopted (or at least take elements from) to fit an update to the Sherlock Holmes mythos.     



If it's not a variation on The Abbey Grange, it's a pretty good imitation.

8/10

Next Story: The Leviathan 

1 comment:

  1. I liked the latest episode - M.

    I believe it is one of the best episodes in the show. I caught a lot of Canonical references in M.

    ReplyDelete

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