Monday, February 24, 2014

Elementary: The Diabolical Kind Review


A Child in Moriarty Danger...

Fair Warning: those who haven't seen Elementary Season One will get a great many spoilers in the review for The Diabolical Kind.  If you haven't seen all of Season One, you will be getting a great deal of information you may not want to know now. 

For those who know the story of Irene Adler, a minor character in the Sherlock Holmes Canon who has gone on to become a Holmes Icon, what became of her in Elementary has been the most divisive decision involving The Woman. 

SPOILER ALERT: having Irene Adler, the one woman who vexed and could outwit Sherlock Holmes, also be Moriarty, Holmes' greatest enemy, has split the Canon faithful.  Some have expressed to me that it is a work of genius, a genuinely shocking twist no one expected.  Some have expressed apoplectic rage at the mixing of these two figures into one.  I fall mostly in the former category, for Adler's revelation was one of the few times I was genuinely taken by surprise.  I can see the anti-Adler/Moriarty League's view, but on the whole I think Elementary did make it work.  END OF SPOILER.

The Diabolical Kind brings back Adler/Moriarty for another go-round with her favorite rival/boy-toy.  We get some twists and turns, some predictable, some not, and we also get another astonishing performance by Natalie Dormer, who is proving to be one of the best actresses working today.

Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) and Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) are brought in to consult on a kidnapping and murder case.  Kayden Fuller (Delphina Bell) has been abducted and her father murdered.  To Holmes' surprise, the voice of the kidnapper is the same one used by Moriarty to disguise her identity.  Holmes, Watson, and Captain Gregson (Aidan Quinn) suspect that Moriarty is involved in this affair, so they go and see her.

Unbeknown to Watson, Holmes has been keeping a correspondence with Adler.  Still, when this is revealed, that does not disturb her as much as the giant portrait of Joan that Adler has made of her in the Brooklyn Navy Yard where Moriarty is a 'guest' of the U.S. government.  Moriarty's guard, Agent Matoo (Faran Tahir) is a rare man who is immune to Moriarty's charms.  Despite his conflicted feelings for Irene, Holmes is not pleased to see her. 

We soon learn that Devon Gaspar (Andrew Howard), one of Moriarty's minions, is the abductor.  Moriarty is willing to help, but in exchange for some favors.  The big favor is that she join the investigation.  Gregson and Watson are both thoroughly opposed to this, but Holmes is ambivalent: he does not believe she is directly involved.  Still, it is a strange coincidence that her henchmen are involved in all this.  Sketches of her foot-soldiers are sent to all police, but Gaspar is on to them, killing two officers to get at them. 

It's here that Moriarty finally gets her way, and the kidnappers leave a cryptic message for Mrs. Fuller: give them what they want or the child dies.  At least, everyone thinks it's for Mrs. Fuller.  However, we should pay attention: the message is for Kayden's mother.

We then get the somewhat shocking twist: Kayden is Moriarty's daughter, and her henchmen want clues to a fortune she knows the whereabouts of.  As Holmes puts it together, Moriarty makes a bold and daring escape.  In saving her daughter Moriarty loses a lot of blood, and is barely saved by Sherlock who has tracked down Kayden's location.  Moriarty is rescued and recaptured, but not before making some cryptic statements of her own.  She tells Holmes that her mentor kept a dossier of interesting facts, and that this dossier has come in handy.  Moriarty is taken away, Kayden is safe and unaware of the truth, and now we get a nice little teaser for future reference.

Oh, how this little tidbit in Craig Sweeney and Elementary creator Robert Doherty's screenplay just dropped so naturally, so deliciously.  Who could Moriarty's mentor have been?  Is he/she still around?  What and where is this dossier?  We already have one teaser for future stories with Mycroft's cryptic message that he couldn't bring Sherlock back to London and would have to find another way to get him back in Blood is Thicker.  Now, Adler/Moriarty drops something else on us.  For whatever flaws Elementary has, it certainly loves teasing the Elementarians with potentially shocking twists.

Yes, Elementarians: fans of Elementary, echoing Sherlockians, those obsessed with Sherlock.  Once both seasons are over I will tackle this war between Sherlockians and Elementarians, but for now, let us return to The Diabolical Kind.

I was not entirely surprised that the child turned out to be Moriarty's. What did surprise me was her escape.  It was handled beautifully in so many ways.  First and foremost is Dormer's performance.  Of all the guest stars, I think Dormer has been consistently excellent, far above any other interpretation of these complicated characters.  She is in turns vulnerable and fierce, shrewd, manipulative, but also conflicted.  The old Moriarty would have killed law enforcement officials without a thought, but now she leaves them within an inch of their lives.

Dormer's scene where she and Watson discuss their own relationship is a master class of two actors devouring the screenplay to bring something wonderful to see.  Liu more than holds as someone who is something Adler will never be: his friend.  Adler, similarly, will be something Watson will never be: his lover (and I hope they never 'go there'). 

Miller is still doing his best work as Sherlock, who brings vulnerability to his own conflicted emotions regarding Moriarty.  He handles the serious parts and investigation well, but also has strong moments of comedy (such as when he calls the voice on the other line 'Faux-riarty').  He also is left pretty speechless when Watson confronts him on why he felt it was necessary to write Moriarty about Watson's dating life.  It's both strong character development and humorous, when in voice-over Sherlock refers to Watson's "curated mating rituals" when she goes on yet another date courtesy of True Romantix website.

Still, it is good to see she is still working to have a life outside of work, which Holmes hasn't, perhaps due to his inability to let his idea of Irene Adler go when it is Jamie Moriarty who is real. 

Miller has great lines to help him too.  "You look a bit tired," Moriarty tells him when they finally set eyes on each other.  "You look a bit evil," he retorts.  Only Sherlock Holmes could get away with lines like that, and Miller delivers it excellently.

Larry Teng's direction also does a great job in handling voice-overs (something I'm not fond of) and of montages (we see early on how Watson, Gregson, and Bell are still working through their lives). 

I was highly impressed by The Diabolical Kind in terms of story, of performances (especially Dormer, who I hope will be able to sneak in a few more guest turns as her schedule grows), and of character development.  This I think is the first brilliant episode in Elementary's sophomore season. It's a sad but true fact that people are drawn to evil, and in this case, it is thoroughly justified to fall for The Diabolical Kind.


Next Episode: All in the Family


  1. I rewatched the episode again XD! I'm thinking that this "mentor" might be the original Moriarty, the Professor James Moriarty. If that's true, her role is a nod to BBC's and the 2009 movie's Irene Adler, who was working on behalf of or in league with him.

    My head-canon has her being used as a somewhat-unwitting pawn in his plans, or she was before and now is someone who is trying to overthrow him or become powerful enough to protect herself from him.

    In any case, I see her more as an Irene Adler than a Moriarty. I think she can be redeemable but still will never show her complete hand or will always keep an ace, like the original book version.

    1. Your idea about her mentor being the 'original' Moriarty has been mentioned to me, and I think it's plausible. Hard to say given that Dormer is so busy w/Hunger Games we may have to wait a while to see if we hear about this again.

      I think the conflict between "Irene" and "Moriarty" is something no other version of Canon ever faced, and hope things shape well if we ever pick up this thread again.


Views are always welcome, but I would ask that no vulgarity be used. Any posts that contain foul language or are bigoted in any way will not be posted.
Thank you.