Episode 14: The Deductionist
By: Carlos Uribe
Elementary is about Sherlock Holmes in modern-day New York City.
“At this moment, Elementary is a fun show that is good at what it does: showing the journey of Sherlock and Joan solving weekly murder cases. The question ultimately becomes on whether Elementary will become more than just an average crime procedural or whether it will be happy being a basic detective procedural. “
It is those words that ended my review for the pilot of Elementary. I found it to be a fun show that had the potential for more. I haven't seen a single episode since then but I've heard generally good things about it. When Elementary was announced that it was going to have a post-Superbowl episode, I decided to check the show out and see what has become of it. It should be noted that my experience is contained to this episode alone. This is important to note because a show is able to have particularly strong or weak episodes that don't reflect on the quality of the show as a whole. What I can state is that based on this episode and the pilot, I can state that the answer to my ultimate question appears to be that it was content to remain a basic detective procedural. There's a possibility that I'm wrong and this episode wasn't as strong as other offerings or is actually weaker. While this means that my opinion of the show overall might not be accurate, this doesn't necessarily mean my viewpoint is worthless. I can't be the only person to have checked out the pilot, saw promise, and saw this episode. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of the viewers that tuned into this episode were first-time viewers of the show in that they haven't seen a single episode before this point. The viewpoint that I can bring to this episode is therefore of a viewer that the Tiffany network was trying to impress by giving me a sample of a show that should have figured itself out by now. What I can state is that I'm not more or less likely to watch another episode as I didn't see anything that was bad but I also didn't watch anything that made me think that this was must-watch television. It was simply too average.
The weekly case begins with a serial killer going into the hospital to give his sister a kidney disease. He predictably uses this cold open to escape so that he can start a killing spree. The twist is that he goes out of his way to break his pattern. He used to go after blond females before he got caught but now he goes out of his way to spare one. He didn't go crazy with disassociate identity disorder but rather he's seeking revenge on the profiler that worked his case. This profiler had so wanted to be right that he had been sexually abused by his father that she actually made up a source to back it up. His father couldn't take this attack on his character so he hanged himself. His mother soon followed suit. The serial killer, along with his sister, were seeking out revenge against this profiler. They didn't just want to embarrass her professionally but to take her life away. It was a decent twist but the episode made a couple of mistakes. The first is that it revealed it's true colors as a typical broadcast drama when the profiler survived her attack. It might have been too dark to have actually killed her off but it would have made for a more memorable and impactful episode. The second is that the profiler's character was completely defined by the protagonist. She never really felt human but rather acted based on what the plot needed at the time. It doesn't help that the actress wasn't particularly good. The weekly case itself was rather predictable as I was able to see the twists coming from a mile away. It was kind of obvious he was deviating from his profile and why.
The strength of the episode is supposed to lie with Sherlock. It makes sense that an episode that is supposed to introduce a whole bunch of new viewers would want to make it clear that he has self-destructive behavior. It uses this by turning the profiler as an investigator that had helped Sherlock solve a few cases, slept with him, and investigated him. She wrote an article about him that shares the title with this episode. In this report, she calls him a genius mind at deducting things but she predicted his drug abuse and stated his personality quirks would lead to him self-destructing. It would be his ultimate fate that he wouldn't be able to avoid. There is evidence presented throughout the episode that the profiler is capable of making mistakes such as when she lied about the sexual abuse or when she stated that Sherlock wouldn't be able to make a friend. The show is able to tell us his internal conflict but it also shows us in the final scene when Sherlock dares the serial killer to prove his profile wrong. It's not enough to quite convince him but at least the show isn't shying away from showing how messed up he is. On the other hand, he's the kind of character that has been shown on television hundreds of times before. It might help that he's the original that they were all inspired from but it still feels like familiar territory.
The comical relief in the episode is supposed to come from Sherlock's wit (which is decent) but also through Watson's plot. She finds out that the person subletting her apartment has been used it for pornography and that she's getting evicted for it. It's a serious topic but the show never takes it seriously enough for it to really get depressing. The show doesn't really take it lightly either but it's clear that this is meant to be the “light” side of the episode. Considering how close to the dark the weekly case gets and it's no wonder why the writers felt it was necessary. This plot is resolved accidentally by Sherlock when he notices continuity errors and Watson is able to realize her landlord was involved in an unlicensed production. This is apparently against the law so she's able to blackmail him for free storage and a new couch. Considering how this is an introductory episode to many viewers, I'm not sure this plot speaks enough about the character to really get the viewers to know this version of Watson very well. This becomes more problematic when you consider that she doesn't really play that large of a role in the actual episode as it's very focused on the serial killer, profiler, and Sherlock.
It is entirely possible that this episode might win over some viewers that were on-the-fence on whether to watch the show or not but the quality wasn't there to convince me. This is a show I could see myself watching on a marathon in the middle of the night at a hotel but not one I would watch first-run. Superbowl episodes hold the potential to win over new viewers-I'm not sure this was the episode to do it if there are better ones out there. I'm not sure why the episode didn't feature a Sherlock villain that the series is associated with it because it would have been the perfect introduction into the world of Elementary. If this is the best this show has to offer, then it wasn't a bad choice. If this isn't, then this was a major fumble by CBS.