Sunday, March 3, 2013

Make Sure It's Sherlock For Your Own Protection

ELEMENTARY: DETAILS

Details attempts to put more focus on a secondary character while still having the main character of Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) be part of a strange case.  It isn't a bad story or a bad episode per se, but it does have moments where the mystery is almost pretty obvious and I'd argue even slips into cliches.

Detective Marcus Bell (Jon Michael Hill), protege to Captain Tobias Gregson (Aidan Quinn) is attacked in an attempted drive-by shooting.  Detective Bell suspects he's been targeted by one Curtis Bradshaw (Anwar Glover), whom Bell had put away some years back and now is out.  However, Bell's brother Andre (Malcolm Goodwin), who was recently out on parole himself, tells him he doesn't think this is so.  This doesn't sit well with Detective Bell, who knows Andre talking to criminals is a violation of his parole.

In short order, Bradshaw ends up dead and both Bell brothers become suspects.  Holmes doesn't believe either of them are criminals, but he hasn't put together why Detective Bell would be targeted for murder or why he is now being framed.  Eventually, Holmes realizes that Bradshaw and Bell are connected, but not in the way others think.  The near-murder of Andre puts it together for Sherlock.

In the subplot, Holmes has now grown accustomed to Watson's face.  Having decided that Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) will make a good apprentice, he torments her with various attack scenarios where she inevitably gets something thrown at her, much to her displeasure.  At first the subterfuge of  Watson being merely his Sober Companion is maintained by her, but Holmes reveals that he's known since the events of A Giant Gun, Filled With Drugs that her contract was not renewed.  At first he is appreciative that she stayed with him through a particularly rough patch, but now he sees that she is actually enjoying this work.  Moreover, he finds that his skills are sharper and more focused with her around, so he offers to pay for her from his own funds to stay on as his partner in crime-solving. 

At the end, she lays her conditions: payment on Thursdays, remain at the brownstone they've been at, and continuing group therapy.

Oh and one more thing: she lobs a basketball at him, informing him that 'it might have been a knife'.

I find it interesting that Details decided to bring the truth out all in the open so soon rather than stretching it out.  I think this was a brilliant decision because now we basically can get that out of the way rather than use this 'Joan's been lying to Sherlock' business as some sort of big reveal for the season finale.  I also found that Jeffrey Paul King and Jason Tracey's screenplay (from a story by Elementary creator Robert Doherty) had what is becoming a hallmark of the show: moments of humor to compliment the crime story.

The subplot involves Holmes' concerns for Watson's personal safety.  After she was held at gunpoint by the killer from the previous episode he begins to think she needs more defensive training.  In a certain way, this is a remarkably human, even endearing thing: he genuinely cares for someone's well-being.  However, in typical Sherlock Holmes behavior, he never bothers to ask Watson if she'd care to take defensive training or what kind she'd like.  Rather than make his case, Holmes begins putting her through all these tests that anyone would fail. 

What I'm liking about Miller's interpretation of Sherlock Holmes is that he isn't afraid to be funny.  It never is the type where Holmes is held up for ridicule or made to look ridiculous.  Instead, the humor flows naturally from Holmes' manner of being.  Certainly Miller can be deadly serious as he was in M. (a frightening and intense episode), but Miller has a certain lightness in his Sherlock Holmes that allows us to see him as someone who is working on a different level, almost a culture clash.

We certainly see this when Holmes, Watson, and Gregson confront Bradshaw on the basketball court.  Holmes has said he can make a near-impossible shot and if he makes it, Bradshaw will tell him what he wants to know.  Bradshaw and his crew laugh at this "British Globetrotter" (as they call him, which makes me wonder if he can be now called Sherlock Homie) telling them he can do something they can't.  In the end, while he does miss he tells them all it wouldn't have mattered since they weren't going to tell them anything anyway.

Details also allows us to see Detective Marcus Bell take center stage, which I think was the whole point of the episode.  We've had Captain Gregson be the focus of One Way to Get Off and The Deductionist, so it seems only fair that the last part of this foursome get his moment to shine. As such, Hill did an excellent job, especially with his scenes with his brother Andre.  He showed that he was not a dimwitted policeman but a competent officer who like his mentor Gregson was an honest and capable officer.

In terms of the story, it is the actual mystery that leaves one not exactly frustrated but disappointed.  The actual killer in Details is the most obvious suspect, and one that almost appears out of nowhere.  There was not any real buildup to when we see the killer unmasked, even though we should know who the person behind the crime is. 

Like in One Way to Get Off, the crime is both pretty easy to solve and almost secondary to the story.  I don't think it's a terrible thing to have character-focused stories.  On the contrary, I rather enjoy them.  It's just that there is little to no mystery in the mystery itself.

I also found the 'brother is an ex-con' business a bit easy.  One doesn't want to bring race into things, but why is the black guy the one with the ex-con in the family?  It would be nice to see an African-American and/or Hispanic character not have some kind of criminal activity running either in his past or family.  The fact that Detective Bell is such a straight arrow is good, showing we can have characters we like and care for.  The fact that the minority is saddled with a convict and almost comes from the hood rather than the suburbs, well...

This might be me bringing my own situations into play.  I'm Hispanic, and I'm as suburban as one can get.  I'm almost WASP...at least the Protestant part, so seeing minorities involved in some way with crime sets my teeth on edge.

Still, on the whole that is a minor point.  Details is well-acted with moments of humor (almost always coming at Watson's expense, although she gets her own in the end much to the audience's delight) that is more an exploration of the connections between the characters (Holmes & Watson, Holmes & Bell) than about the mystery.  That being said, I think the mystery isn't all that mysterious, but given how good Elementary has been I can't fault it for turning to the characters in this episode.

Therefore, in this case I won't get lost in the Details.

You had me at 'sobriety'... 
6/10

Next Story: Possibility Two 

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