Thursday, July 9, 2015
ELEMENTARY: TERRA PERICOLOSA
I think an inherit flaw in Elementary is that the killer (it's almost always a killer) is that the actual killer is pretty easy to peg. Terra Pericolosa is such an episode. About halfway through I figured out who the killer was. Normally, I'd say that is a bit of a downer, but I found I thought highly of Terra Pericolosa for two reasons. One, the actual case took a lot of turns to get to the inevitable conclusion and I enjoyed the ride. Two, we still got enough to focus on characters, which is one of Elementary's inherit virtues.
Oh, yes, we also saw CLYDE! (I always have to capitalize his name. Sorry).
Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) is brought in to consult quietly on a robbery of rare maps. He sends his protégé Kitty (Ophelia Lovibond) to investigate, and she finds that the robbery now has gone to murder. Sherlock's former associate, Joan Watson (Lucy Liu), along with Captain Gregson (Aidan Quinn) and Detective Bell (Jon Michael Hill) now come to participate in the investigation of both the robbery and the murder. Holmes deduces that the theft was a bit of a cover-up: rather than a random theft of rare maps, the thief targeted one particular map and took others to make it look like a random grab.
That map in question is the County of King James, Virginia 1794. It had been on permanent loan to the archive from the Bray family, wealthy philanthropists. The granddaughter of the map's owner, Margaret Bray (Mamie Gummer) is surprised to learn of the map's disappearance but is rather nonplussed on the subject.
At first, Holmes suspects that the theft involves collectors trading outside official channels, and tracks down a likely suspect in the trade. Said dealer happens to be found dead, and with the map still with him, or at least it looks that way. The map in question is a forgery.
Holmes then suspects that someone is attempting to reconstruct the rare book from which the map (one of many) was part of, with this particular map a missing piece. Holmes and Watson go to William Hull (Skipp Sudduth), real estate magnet who has the rare book but now wants to hire them to find the missing piece. Holmes refuses and now focuses not on the map, but on the information on the map. He notices that there is a slight discrepancy between the 1794 map and current maps, a slight bend in a river. A trivial fact, perhaps, but one that involves a future Indian casino worth billions. Reason enough for murder.
In between all this, is Holmes and Watson's struggle in how to help Kitty. Holmes believes giving her endless work to keep her from a social life is best. Watson thinks Kitty should continue socializing, including exploring a possible relationship with someone she's met.
What I enjoyed about Terra Pericolosa was more the journey than the destination. I had pegged the killer by the halfway point (and that was me just taking an educated guess, if by educated this particular character kept popping up). That being said, I was curious as to how it would all tie in together, and Terra Pericolosa did so quite well.
I enjoyed that there was a lot of logic into how Holmes went down point by point to his conclusions. How he tracked down the thief was excellent (the nom de guerre, the name of his shop/front). This is what makes Sherlock Holmes a fascinating figure no matter what medium he's in. An added plus is how both Kitty and Watson show that they themselves, under Holmes' tutelage, have learned to deduce as well. Kitty, for example, shows the archive's director how it wasn't a series of random thefts (the lock to the particular map was not tampered with while the others were) and Watson finds the actual killer by observing the model for the Indian nation's future casino.
We even get moments of comedy. David Atkins as Austin Cornblatt, who has been 'catfished' by Holmes, appears quite nervous in his confusion about "Amber1776" being in the form of Detective Bell, and it provides a bit of levity while also giving information.
I think we have in Terra Pericolosa some wonderful moments of acting and writing. Jonny Lee Miller has made Sherlock Holmes into a fascinating, even amusing figure that I can actually almost relate to. His acting allows us to see things without them being overt. For example, when Kitty is explaining how she came about to the security guard's body, Holmes is barely suppressing a gigantic grin, like a proud father. Bell wryly comments to Sherlock, "Her first corpse. You must be so proud," but while he may try to show he isn't, Holmes really is proud of his new protégé. Miller allows Holmes to be the smartest person in the room, but he still allows his natural gifts to be the source of some ridicule by others.
When Watson and Holmes are waiting for Hull, Holmes comments that he can hear the helicopter coming in. Watson does one better, commenting on how one of the motors is slightly off. He isn't amused but the audience clearly is. "You mock what you do not understand," he retorts, but whether Holmes says so out of hurt pride or as a snappy comeback is up to the audience.
Lovibond continues to grow as Kitty, not just a rape victim or Holmes' lackey, but as someone who is coming into her own. Liu is one of my favorite Watsons (after Jude Law, I think my favorite), for she is bright and can hold her own against the great detective. She even shares her own moment of humor early on with Lovibond, when we first see CLYDE! Kitty's brought him to her now that she's returned from what Holmes called her "Danish sabbatical/sexcapade". When Watson asks if she had any trouble with him, Kitty replies, "You mean the frowny one with the hard shell...or with Clyde?"
Miller and Liu as Holmes and Watson have this great working relationship, and their arguments about Kitty's social life do make it look like they're two parents arguing about the future of their child despite their mutual reluctance to have a father-daughter/mother-daughter type vibe. Holmes admission that he has been keeping Kitty busy is a wonderful moment for both Miller and Lovibond, and it shows just how well the acting, the directing, and the script are.
In terms of actual mystery, while the killer was easy to figure out (I bet Meryl Streep watched on in pride, and that's my only hint). In terms of how we got to the resolution, the character development, and the performances all around, I still marvel as to how Elementary isn't as embraced by Holmesians as its rival, which I find the weaker of the two. Terra Pericolosa was amusing, insightful into the characters, and a fun journey...even if by the midpoint I knew whodunit.
Next Episode: The Adventure of the Nutmeg Concoction