Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Elementary: Dead Clade Walking Review


Dino Holmes...

Dead Clade Walking is a strong Elementary story in terms of the crime, full of twists and turns that work.  It does have the flaw of not knowing what to do with one of the great actresses of our day (sorry Lucy, I'm not talking about you), but it does have moments of humor and some character development that I found on the whole pleasing. 

Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) is going through the trunk of cold cases that Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) has from when he was in the grips of intense heroin addiction.  One of those cases catches Joan's eye: the unsolved murder of Doug Newberg.  With the aid of Gay (Ashlie Atkinson) a geologist, Watson notices something odd in the garden: some rocks that don't seem to fit.  Her deductions are correct, and there Gay and Joan find a rock that contains a complete dinosaur skeleton.

It is found to be a nano tyrannous, an infant which is not native to New York.  It comes from Mongolia, so Newberg was somehow caught up in international smuggling.  Newberg himself was not involved, but Watson and Holmes find that his best friend, Diego Salcedo (James Martinez), is still a smuggler (the ice cream trucks 'selling' in the dead of winter being the clue).  Salcedo, however, did not kill his friend.  Making things more complicated, the nano tyrannous has been swiped from under the precinct's nose by two fake ICE agents.

In order to find who might be involved in smuggling, Holmes turns to his mysterious 'prurient correspondent', whom he exchanges a form of erotica with.  The mysterious C. (Jane Alexander) is also an auction house director, and she tells him that there is a smuggler who would deal in the offbeat antiquities, one who calls himself The Magpie.

In order to draw The Magpie out, Holmes creates a fake copy of Martin Luther's 95 Theses, but when they call on him once they make contact, for once the door really is open, and The Magpie is dead.  Even worse, the nano tyrannous has been totally destroyed.  The mystery is why would someone deliberately destroy something worth millions, especially since it could prove the theory known as Dead Clade Walking: that dinosaurs survived the extinction brought when a meteor crashed onto Earth.

That precisely is the reason the rock was destroyed: there is a lot of controversy over Dead Clade Walking, and some have built their reputations on this being false.  If it turned out to be true, then their life's work and reputation (and expertise) would be finished.  Motive enough for a collection of experts who might stoop to murder to stop the nanotyrannous from being discovered. 

With a little help from The Magpie's records, Holmes and Watson track down the killer, one who tried to frame another expert.

In the subplot, Randy (Stephen Tyrone Williams), Holmes' sponsee, is struggling to remain sober when his ex shows up.  Holmes stumbles in trying to be a good sponsor, but in the end Randy does fall off the wagon, but recovers quickly enough to have Holmes help out. 

Odd that for a series that is building itself on going into Sherlock Holmes' private life, Dead Clade Walking could have come off without having anything to do with Randy's story.  This may be why Joan Watson took a more central role in the investigation.  She was the one who came up with the vital clue about where the nano tyrannous was, and she was the one who noticed that there was something odd about ice cream trucks going around in the middle of winter.  Perhaps I am reading too much into things, but I think Sherlock Holmes was smiling when she put this curious bit of information into a criminal context.  Either that, or he was too distracted by his cereal to really notice what she was saying. 

Even more odd was that what we did learn of Holmes was a little bit more curious.  His writing of erotica to a mysterious woman...well, it wasn't the weirdest thing he's been involved with, but I wasn't too convinced of it either.  However, it does give Joan a great chance for a quip.  "What are we suppose to be looking for here?", she asks Holmes, who has never actually met C.  "Someone carrying The Story of O?"

One of Dead Clade Walking's biggest flaw is in the subplot of Holmes' erotica writings.   Not only does it have little payoff (unless they plan to use it again, but given Elementary's track record, probably not), but it also reduces Jane Alexander's role to that of being almost a cameo.   Alexander has always been both a great and underused actress, and I hope against hope that she will return. 

As a digression, that is what is most frustrating to me about Elementary, how guest stars and guest characters are introduced, given great possibilities, and then not seen again.  Last season, we had Ms. Hudson pop in, and she has yet to return.  Alonso's returns as Holmes' sponsor have been fleeting, and now you all but squander a great actress like Jane Alexander in a bit role.   There's something to be said about how the only real returning guest star has been Sherlock's pet turtle Clyde (though he is always a welcome appearance). 

However, I thought Dead Clade Walking had great moments of humor in Jeffrey Paul King's script, starting from Holmes' startled reaction to finding Gay in his living room and their exchange ("I'm Gay."  "I'm not."  "That's my name".) and when Holmes comes up with his own 95 Theses, which he insists don't have to be too closely examined to appear real: he not only writes it in English rather than German, but throws in some lines good old Marty wouldn't have thought of.  The 42nd Thesis is "Thaddeus is the best apostle, and those who disagree shall be vigorously tickled." 

As a former Lutheran, I can't help chuckling at that one.     

I also thought highly of Watson's deductive skills, showing she is capable of solving crimes, though still a bit behind Sherlock Holmes. 

On the whole Dead Clade Walking held sense for me.  Minus the fact that the subplot, though interesting, seemed a bit tacked on I enjoyed this episode, if nothing more than for a bit of humor and a chance to go back into a cold case that suddenly became very hot. 

I have but one request of Elementary creator Robert Doherty...

Bring Back C.


Next Episode: Corpse de Ballet

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