Thursday, February 27, 2014

Elementary: Corpse De Ballet Review


Keeping Sherlock on His Tiptoes...

In this Elementary case, I was slightly disappointed.  First, I found the secondary mystery to be better than the primary one.  Second, I wondered whether Sherlock Holmes had lost some sense of logic when he literally and deliberately 'slept with the enemy'.  Corpse de Ballet I think was a bit of a lost opportunity, but one that doesn't kill the episode completely.

Nell Solange, a ballet dancer, has been murdered in a particularly gruesome way: her severed body is discovered just as a dress rehearsal for a new ballet is about to begin.  The prima ballerina, Iris Lanzer (Aleksa Palladino) is not just a diva, but a prima suspect as well, as the actual cause of death (a stabbing) was done with a dagger from her personal collection.  She of course denies this, and Holmes, for once, believes the most likely suspect.

The fact that he admires Iris' dancing doesn't influence his view. 

Now, who killed the ballerina and why?  Was it her ex-boyfriend, former ballet dancer Nicholas (David A. Gregory), or bitter paparazzo Jake Picardo (Bill Sage), who was ruined by Iris' lawsuit and who may have wanted to frame the diva?  Well, in what can be described as a strange turn Holmes figuratively pumps Iris for information, but Iris is not to nonplussed on the matter, as we discover that Iris had had an affair with Nell.  She had done this often to control rivals, but this time it was different.  Nell's death has actually affected Iris.  The diva's lawyer, Nolan (Scott Cohen) will do anything to protect his client, but how far would he go?

In the subplot, Joan agrees to help Maurice Gilroy (Curtis McClarin), a homeless man who insists that his friend Frebo was kidnapped.  No one believes that there is such a person as Frebo, but a little investigating Watson does turn up a Zeke Frebo, who was last seen by his sister, Rachel Brown (Laura Jennifer Thompson). 

Watson knows this by the odor of cigarette the non-smoking Rachel has in her home.  Holmes is at first dismissive of her "Hobo Hunt 2014", but as the episode progresses we learn why finding this homeless man is important to her.

Joan Watson's father is schizophrenic and homeless.  She reveals that her actual father succumbed to his disease shortly after her birth, and that her mother remarried.  Watson's stepfather, an author who lives in Scottsdale, provided well for his wife and her children, who took his name (hence, Joan Watson).  Joan hasn't had contact with her father, but perhaps she can find him this way.

As cases turn out, the crazy homeless guy, who has returned to his meds, provides a clue that Watson seizes on to go back to the Brown home.  With a methodology similar to Sherlock's, she brings the police and makes a shocking discovery: three homeless men, including Zeke Frebo, were being held hostage in the Brown home, where their veterans' benefits were being stolen by the Browns.

The killer is revealed in the man plot, and Iris is set free.

As I think on Corpse de Ballet, Liz Friedman's screenplay does borrow elements from Black Swan, doesn't it?  Not just that, but frankly I was more excited about the secondary crime involving the "crazy" homeless man than I was of the primary murder case.  Somehow, I could never shake the idea that I would have preferred watching this investigation, and in particular Joan using her mentor's methods, to solve this case. 

There is a certain snobbery to Holmes' casework.  I know he depends on the NYPD to give him cases on which to consult, but can it be that we could get through a case every so often that didn't involve murder?  Somehow, the secondary investigation had all the elements of what could have made a great story: a dubious witness, a missing person who may not exist, and a few more twists and turns that would be truly surprising. 

There are some good things in Corpse de Ballet.  First, it is good to see Jon Michael Hill's Detective Bell return to solving crimes with Captain Gregson (Aidan Quinn) and Holmes/Watson.  Having the 'Core Four' to coin a phrase just feels right.  We also have a great moment with Liu, where she reveals a vital part of her past.  In this quiet moment we see her own evolution as a character, and it works so well.

Oddly, this time it's Miller who is left a bit out of things.  In what was a strange and distracting element Miller's voice was particularly hoarse, sounding growly throughout.  No real explanation was provided, and while not his fault it all was a little peculiar.  Further, while Holmes sees sex as a mere physical exercise, his sleeping with Iris is a strange turn as well.

I wasn't overwhelmed with Corpse de Ballet.  If somehow the two crimes were tied together, or we just went with the actual search for Zeke, we could have had a real breakthrough.  Hopefully, Elementary will take more chances, think of this episode as a blip, to find that with a little more daring, we will gladly take a spin with Holmes.

Audience Appreciation


Next Episode: The One-Percent Solution

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