Thursday, March 13, 2014

Holmes For the Hearing Impaired


ELEMENTARY: EARS TO YOU

Well, our time with former Scotland Yard Detective Gareth Lestrade appears to have come to an end.  Ears to You loses points for what I consider a rather outrageous (and I think, highly bizarre) resolution to the story. In terms of the majority of the story, the acting (especially that of guest star Sean Pertwee), the twists and turns of the primary and secondary cases, and even nods to the Canon, Ears to You is one of the more clever and well-performed Elementary stories.

Lestrade is appearing to wear out his welcome at the brownstone of Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) and Joan Watson (Lucy Liu).  "19 days," Holmes mutters while he practices diffusing bombs.  Neither of them are particularly thrilled by Lestrade's inability to move on, especially since he has received several offers of work from around the world but can't decide.

Fortunately, Holmes and Watson have a case.  Gordon Cushing (Jeremy Davidson), the suspect in his wife's disappearance four years prior, has received a horrifying package: a pair of severed ears.  DNA shows them to be those of his wife, Sarah, and unlike the last time Gordon was contacted for ransom (which he paid without his wife reappearing), Gordon contacts the police.  Captain Gregson (Aidan Quinn) works to help Gordon by setting up the ransom pickup, but Gordon panics and kills the man with the money.

The man, Jim Browner, is only part of a strange story where we discover that Sarah (Cara Buono) is very much alive AND who has both her ears very much attached to her body.  She has remarried a plastic surgeon and this has thrown Gordon into a strange situation.  Could those ears be those of a hooker he had been seeing when Sarah first disappeared?  Well, no...and when we find out whose ears they are (and where they came from), we get one of the wildest finishes to a main case that I've seen.



Then there is Lestrade.  He has been mugged, but Joan deduces that there is more to the story, like how he had been recently drinking when he had no money to pay for booze, coupled with the fact that there are no bars near enough the brownstone to correlate to the time period of his last drink.  Lestrade confesses that he does keep a secret stash of booze, angering Joan who wants nothing to tempt Sherlock to slip into relapsing.  Lestrade is going through an intense crisis of confidence and tells her she will be where Lestrade is now: far from Holmes once he finds his work in training or accommodating is done.

Watson, however, thinks that Holmes saw in Lestrade a good detective, drawing on how they went through many detectives during Detective Bell's absence until Holmes managed to get his favorite detective back.  She thinks getting a case will get Lestrade back into his groove, and the perfect case is of the mugging, which may be part of a pattern.  Holmes thinks this is wrong, believing it is better to let Lestrade bottom out to pick himself up.  Lestrade pulls himself together enough to successfully investigate the muggings after interviewing other victims (one who apparently hit on him to Lestrade's puzzlement/unawareness), and with a seemingly insignificant clue finds the mugger, and his wallet, and...a rooster feather. 

Lestrade confronts Holmes and Watson, convinced Holmes impersonated the victims and fed him the necessary clues.  Holmes denies this, and we are left with implausible denials from him, and a strange future for Joan, who genuinely was unaware of what role Sherlock Holmes might have played in all this.


Ears to You draws its inspiration from The Adventure of the Cardboard Box, where an innocent received two severed ears by mistake (they were intended for someone else).  We even get a further touch by having the character of Jim Browner, who in Ears to You is the blackmailer to Sarah (who herself is a character in Cardboard Box) pop up in the story.   In this respect, I liked how Lauren Mackenzie and Andrew Gettens' screenplay used the original story and worked their own version from it.  I also liked how they managed to work Lestrade into all this.  In fact, the Lestrade subplot worked quite well, and I think a great deal of credit belongs to Pertwee, who makes Lestrade into a complex figure: self-pitying, insecure, but also able to rise to the occasion and solve a case to rebuild his confidence.

Here though is where one part of the story failed, and failed badly.  By noting Miller's abilities with American accents in the pre-story clips signals to us that Holmes did indeed provide the clues Lestrade needed.  If we weren't reminded of this, this could have been a great mystery: did Holmes show a softer, more human side by helping Lestrade surreptitiously, or was all this part of Lestrade's imagining?  We could have been left with some wonderful guessing, but with that little clip it's all but certain Holmes did indeed do all the legwork.

There were other parts of Ears to You that elevated the episode.  There was the subtle acknowledgment that Joan Watson has turned into a fine detective (her deduction of Lestrade's condition is worthy of Holmes) and some bits of humor (when Joan, surprised at a turn in the investigation, says to Holmes, "You're kidding?!", he wryly replies, "That's me, Watson.  Joke machine").   We also see that Joan is quite perceptive when it comes to Sherlock Holmes.  When telling Lestrade to basically pull himself together and stop the pity party, she sees that Holmes stuck with Lestrade the same way he stuck with Detective Bell.  It is because Joan sees what Holmes won't acknowledge to them (or perhaps himself): that he sees in Lestrade and Bell abilities that he can respect and mold. 

Ears to You has a lot of cleverness and twists (though the actual ear-growing thing seems both far-fetched and really, really weird).  The interplay between Miller, Liu, and Pertwee is excellent, and in this respect, it is almost a shame Gareth Lestrade is moving on. 

They would make for a great trio.  For more stories like these, and more great turns by the caliber of the guest stars, I'm all ears...    

9/10

Next Episode: The Hound of the Cancer Cells

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