Thursday, February 14, 2013

Elementary: The Deductionist Review


Holmes Field Advantage...

Due to the power outage at the Superdome during Super Bowl XLVII, The Deductionist, the Elementary episode that was suppose to highlight the hit series with a prime slot after the game, was delayed.  This forced late start caused the episode to start at least ten minutes after its scheduled beginning, which in turn caused the DVR to START recording the presentation of the Vince Lombardi trophy and the inane chatter among the commentators. 

What about it?  Well, this glitch in the schedule might make it difficult to give a complete and fair analysis to The Deductionist because I lost a few minutes of the episode.  Thinking it would record straight through, I didn't realize it would stop recording as soon as the DVR thought the program scheduled AFTER Elementary started.  Fortunately, I caught this before losing out the finale and started recording the last seven minutes.  That being the case, I will do my best to give The Deductionist a full review.  What I can say is that The Deductionist was thrilling to where I was so caught up with it that I failed to note the ending of the recording. 

I digress to start out by saying that The Deductionist was tailor-made for the predominantly male audience watching the Super Bowl.  After a heated and wild football game, what could be better than some hot lesbian goings-on? That ought to make even Colin Kaepernick sit up and take notice.  Thus begins our Elementary episode, with Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) tied up as two women dance provocatively, half-dressed, above him.  It's all a plan to rob him, as these two lovelies had been ripping men off in such a fashion.  Unbeknown to them, Holmes has a group of police with him.  This is a bust in more ways than one.

Now we get to the main story: a serial killer, Martin Ennis (Terry Kinney) has been temporarily released from prison to allow him to donate a kidney to his sister Patricia (Jessica Hecht).  However, it isn't long before Martin manages to deceive the doctors and make a daring and deadly escape.  Captain Gregson (Aidan Quinn) calls in Holmes, who has Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) coming in as well.  Martin Ennis was known as The Peeler, a serial killer who targeted women. 

Holmes isn't pleased with this American custom of giving nicknames to serial killers, sensing it elevates them when they need no such praise.  He is even LESS pleased when profiler Kathryn Drummond (Kari Matchett) has come back to 'help' recapture the serial killer who put her in the spotlight.  The Ennis case brought her fame, complete with a book deal for how she brought Ennis down (with the rather poor title of Profiles in Terror).  In her book Drummond had claimed Martin had been a victim of abuse, which was denied by the family but corroborated by a neighbor Kathryn found.

Besides the fact that Holmes has contempt for all profilers (referring to it as a pseudoscience), he has another reason to dislike Kathryn Drummond.  She had gone to London a few years back, and in that time not only had Kathryn and Sherlock engaged in, shall we say, deep interviews, but Drummond had written a profile on Holmes she titled "The Deductionist".  She never mentioned his name, but Holmes is still bitter that things said in private were still quoted in the article.  

That and the sex thing.  Holmes has only given his heart once (here's a hint, it isn't to her) and sees sex as just an outlet for pleasure, but a little part of him still carries wounds (though I figure this is more ego than anything else).  Sherlock tells Joan that Kathryn had started out as a promising protege but who had succumbed to notoriety.  With a little digging, we also find that Kathryn's article had made a few predictions about Holmes, one of them was that he would eventually fall to drug addiction, and the fact that Kathryn saw it but Sherlock didn't still gnaws at him.

Dance, Girls, Dance...
Still, no time to nurse old wounds, as Martin continues to act violently, but randomly.  It is his randomness that confounds Kathryn.  He is going against his methods, and while she can't figure it out Holmes suspects something is wrong.  It is Joan however, who puts her finger on it: Martin is erratic on purpose.  Holmes now thinks that all this is to get back at Kathryn, which is confirmed when Martin calls and says as much.  He also is able to figure out that the man with the accent is "the deductionist".   The Peeler will get his revenge for the death of his father, who committed suicide after the accusations were leveled against him.

In the midst of all this, Kathryn must relieve her soul and confesses something to Patricia: Kathryn needed Martin to fit a particular profile, so she bribed the neighbor to corroborate the story which she knew was false.  This was a bad move, especially after Holmes, Watson, and Detective Bell (Jon Michael Hill) go to Patricia's apartment and thanks to Watson's medical training and Holmes' detective work they realize that a woman with a bad kidney would not eat the food she was eating.  In short, she had put herself in that position as part of an elaborate plan to take revenge on Kathryn.  While Bell is with Kathryn, they are too late to stop Patricia from stabbing Drummond. 

With the reason for the plan exposed, Patricia now will be arrested, and it is time for Martin to be recaptured.  Holmes confronts Martin and while he does turn Martin in, he couldn't restrain himself from taking one blow at The Peeler. 

In a major subplot, Joan Watson has been subletting her apartment to Cooper (David Wilson Barnes), someone who claims to be making a documentary.  To her surprise he instead has used it to make 'alternative filmmaking', what we in the trade would call porn.  Watson is not just horrified that her flat, in particular her couch and her spatula, have been the center of a pornographic film (and a bad one according to Holmes, with inept continuity errors showing Cooper to be a lousy director).  However, due to those continuity errors, Joan puts things together.  She is being threatened with eviction because of the porn film made at her place, but Joan realizes (thanks to a consistently troublesome radiator) that the apartment's owner, Bruce (Roger Robinson) not only knew a porn film was being made there, but had witnessed it.  Thus, he was in violation of the law.  With that, Joan tells Bruce he has to pay for her things to be put in storage and $1200 for her couch, which she says ought to be shot due to the goings on that occurred upon it.

Oddly, she makes no mention of the spatula...

The Deductionist has a remarkable balance between humor and horror.  On the one hand, you've got a serial killer, one whose actions during his time on the lam are actually quite frightening.  He thinks nothing of shooting down perfect strangers just to get one person to take his photo, and the killing of the medical team there to operate on him is quick but still shocking.  Add to that Kathryn's attack: while we don't see it the surprise of seeing that Patricia was part of this plan makes thing even more horrifying.

However, Craig Sweeney and Elementary creator Robert Doherty keep things light by putting the porn film subplot.  The idea that Dr. Joan Watson, the proper, female-empowered person that she is, would find her home was the set for a dirty movie, lightens The Deductionist's dark main storyline (and as a side note, throwing in porn at a group of drunk guys...they took the Super Bowl booking seriously, didn't they).  Every time we go into the porn subplot, we use it for laughs.  Whether it involves the actual porn film (and from the looks of it, it is a rather silly film...even for a porn film), to Watson's confrontation of the 'auteur' to what exactly a spatula was used for, this part of The Deductionist is bound to make us laugh because the situation is so flat-out bizarre.

This subplot is badly needed given the rather horrifying nature of Ennis' actions.  The curious thing about The Deductionist is that it is mostly a chase episode: the focus is on recapturing Ennis and stopping him from killing again.  Once we get the 'twist', it is a genuine twist, not something that appears out of thin air.  It is also to The Deductionist's benefit that Watson's own deductive skills have so increased that she solves two mysteries: the real danger from the Ennis family and the porn storyline.  Perhaps The Deductionist is more accurate in the title than first appears. 

What I was fascinated with was the writing of a clue, "Shedir", in blood on the hospital door.  It brought to mind the writing of the word "Rache" in blood from the first Sherlock Holmes story A Study in Scarlet.  Granted it was not an exact copy but it does seem a rather curious coincidence.  Just like in A Study in Scarlet, the clue does appear to be a bit of a false lead.  Again, coincidence?  Perhaps.

You have in The Deductionist a curious counterpoint between a past and present protege.  On the one hand, you have Kathryn Drummond, a former sex partner who disappointed Holmes by using the skills he saw in her to go into profiling, a field he hates and has contempt for.  On the other, you have Joan Watson, who has no romantic inclinations towards him (and who not only has no sexual interest in him but who is displeased by his sexual behavior) but who has been using his methods at an increasingly successful rate.  I don't think the episode focused on this as well as perhaps they should have, but it is interesting to note that these two women Sherlock Holmes took under his wing so to speak have turned out so differently. 

I think Matchett's performance as Kathryn Drummond (whom I don't recall having a counterpart in The Canon) would be good enough for her to return.  It was a wise decision to leave the door open for another guest appearance: the script makes clear that Drummond might pull through, so she hasn't been flat-out killed.  It is nice to see Holmes again being less an omniscient being and one who is flawed.  More than anything, it is the fact that Drummond saw Holmes plunging into addiction and less the addiction itself that drives him to anger. 

Here, the interplay between Miller and Liu sells their relationship.  Watson basically tells him to snap out of it.  So she got that right, big deal.  It doesn't mean he's condemned to return to his addictions and there is the unspoken idea that Joan is actually something Sherlock needs but can't bring himself to say: a friend.   Miller and Liu are making for a great team, and whatever concerns there might have been about a woman playing Watson are finally laid to rest.  They now have a certain rhythm, one where Watson is no longer puzzled when she sees Holmes on a table.  She isn't a stooge to Holmes, but a capable partner in crime-solving, not quite Jude Law in brutal takedowns but nowhere near Nigel Bruce's bumbling buffoon. 

It's good to see Miller coming into his own as Sherlock Holmes, someone who will stay within certain bounds of The Canon (the ability to gather information quickly with few clues) but also throwing in a more humorous take.  It's not a spoofing or a comic take on Sherlock Holmes, just a version that allows for laughs to emerge naturally.  At the beginning of The Deductionist, when the girls stop dancing and are about to begin robbing him, he looks up and asks, "What't this?  Intermission?"  I confess to laughing out loud, and the porn subplot was also sources of smiles.

The Deductionist was trashed by a fellow critic, but after watching the episode I fail to see why it was the recipient of such anger.  I can only speculate, but I think he was more upset about what he considered 'pandering' to the post-Super Bowl audience and his distaste for it than anything else.  Yes, I can see that: lesbian strippers!  Porn films!  However, I think he is also being unfair to the Super Bowl audiences.  I know women and men who watch the Super Bowl who don't care for either and they thought well of The Deductionist.

Sorry, Scott.  I love your writing but in this case, I'd say you're wrong.  The Deductionist is not the worst Elementary episode.  It was funny at times, deadly serious at times, and as for Drummond, it wasn't her humanity that did her in, but her hubris and belated attempts to make amends.

In short, The Deductionist to my mind continues to add to a most impressive first season.  Then again, still not having seen Sherlock....        

So, who's the striker for this 'Baltimore United'?

Next Story: A Giant Gun, Filled With Drugs


  1. "This is a bust in more ways than one." - Probably the best line in the review.

    Miller is definitely putting his own stamp on the role. His sense of humor works well for the character.

    About not yet seeing Sherlock, are you referring to the first season or second season or both.


    1. I am referring to both seasons. Part of it is scheduling, but the big issue is w/Steven Moffat. I have long disliked what he's done w/Doctor Who: turning it into The River Song Show w/occassional guest appearances by The Doctor. That makes me reluctant to tackle Sherlock, but tackle it I must.


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