Friday, January 17, 2014

Elementary: The Marchioness Review


This is a Work of Mycroft...

There is a lot to be said about Rhys Ifans' return as Sherlock Holmes' older brother Mycroft.  It shows Ifans to be a.) a strong actor (though I might never forgive him for that 'Shakespeare was a fake' movie), and b.) he brings more levity to the proceedings.  This Mycroft also appears to be determined to mend fences with his little brother Sherlock, but again, appearances are deceiving.  The Marchioness, the first of two stories with Ifans' guest character, does a good job on the character-building Elementary is strong at, but stumbles in terms of the actual case, and the fact that it draws from Canon shows that The Marchioness was in some respects, a wasted opportunity. 

Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) is at a sobriety meeting and shares rather intimate feelings, so having his brother Mycroft pop up infuriates him.  Apparently Sherlock's maid (how I hope it was Ms. Hudson, who sadly doesn't appear) told Mycroft where his brother was.  Mycroft has come to New York to ask Sherlock's help in a case.  This case involves Nigella Mason, Marchioness of Suffolk (Olivia D'Abo).  This is the same Nigella Mason who had been engaged to Mycroft until Sherlock slept with her to prove she was a golddigger.  Sherlock is convinced the Marchioness (who held on to her noble title after divorcing the Marquis), is up to no good.

The Marchioness had a retired racing horse, Silver Blaze, who she puts out to stud.  At the stables where Silver Blaze is housed, her boyfriend Dalton has been murdered.  At the crime scene Sherlock finds fingerprints on a tree and deduces that they belong to the killer, and that he is missing a finger on his left hand.  The fingerprints have been traced to unsolved crimes believed to be committed by a notorious hitman named El Mecanico (The Mechanic), who works for a drug cartel.  El Mecanico now has targeted the Marchioness for extermination.

The investigation turns its sights on Aguilar, a racing enthusiast who recently had a colt sired by Silver Blaze.  Watson and the Holmes Brothers go see Nutmeg, the new colt birthed by Twice for No, but despite having a colt bred from a champion Aguilar sold Nutmeg rather quickly.  Sherlock now puts the final piece together and confronts the marchioness.  He exposes her as a fraud, she had sold the breeding services not of Silver Blaze himself (who had died) but of Silver Blaze's brother, holding on to Silver Blaze's hair and blood samples to provide DNA proof. 

That still doesn't give us the killer El Mecanico.  Reviewing video tapes of one of El Mecanico's crimes, among the witnesses is a man with a missing finger.  The witness, Keith Newell (Andrew Samonsky) looks good, but the fingerprints don't match.  Sherlock, however, won't give up on the witness/killer.  As it stood, Sherlock finds a case where fingerprints were lifted that do match.  It involves a missing homeless man and a park built up thanks to stimulus money.  The case and El Mecanico are caught.  While Nigella, Marchioness of Suffolk's role in all this is kept out of the newspapers, the Holmes Brothers let her know she has to leave the horse-breeding business.  With that, Mycroft and Sherlock Holmes are left together, attempting to start a working relationship.

Oh yes, there is that little matter of Joan and Mycroft's tryst when they were in London. 

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

The mention of Silver Blaze is a good nod to the original Canon, and on the whole I thought it worked.  It isn't to say it couldn't have been better, for the actual story Silver Blaze is better, but then again Elementary has a habit of taking elements from Canon and using them as springboards for its one stories.  Christopher Hollier and Craig Sweeny's screenplay also does well in showing the parallel stories of brothers (Silver Blaze and the Holmes Brothers).  When Nigella says that Silver Blaze's brother 'didn't amount to much', she might just as well have been speaking in regards of how Sherlock and Mycroft see each other.  It might not have been as well explored as perhaps it could have been, but at least it is there, so it is a sign of how good Elementary has become. 

In regards to the actual mystery, I think that it was a bit too convoluted with all this fingerprint business.  However, in this case I really think the actual mystery was not as important as the interplay between Joan, Sherlock, Mycroft, and Nigella.  Each performance is top-notch.  Seeing Sherlock in a vulnerable position when he talks about how perhaps he should have been born in another time (technically, he was) was so well-done.  Ifans' Mycroft has that wonderful British understatement (he describes his illness, of which Sherlock knew nothing about until that point) as having 'a spot of leukemia'.  D'Abo makes Marchioness Suffolk both a terrible snob (Best line: Of course I don't know anyone in the Robles Cartel.  I'm in the peerage) and a rather dim-witted woman.  Liu does equally well in keeping Watson as a sensible person, with perhaps one curious decision.

It is revealed that Joan and Mycroft did indeed have sex in the events of Step Nine.  At first, I thought this was all in Sherlock's imagination but find that indeed it is true.  Is this a good thing?  Well, I know some people who are highly angered by this, others who think its a great thing.  I think it is out-of-character for Joan to just leap into bed with someone like Mycroft, so I think this really is just a way to give Joan some kind of action.  We are however, left to wonder what Mycroft's motivation is for sleeping with Joan.  Joan is too smart a woman to be so easily misled, so my thinking is that she was just a woman who succumbed to loneliness.  Still, the actual performances in all three of the characters in the tense dinner scene worked well.

On the whole the actual case brings down The Marchioness, but the performances from Miller, Liu, D'Abo and Ifans lift the story and make it worth watching.  It could have been better, but the acting and the exploration of the characters' lives do it justice.



Next Episode: Blood Is Thicker

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