Friday, October 5, 2012

In-Class Movie: "While You Were Sleeping" (S01E02)

“My mind,” he said, “rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram, or the most intricate analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere. I can dispense then with artificial stimulants. But I abhor the dull routine of existence. I crave for mental exaltation.”
--Sherlock Holmes, The Sign of Four

Austin: For a moment, Elementary got me. I rolled my eyes at Holmes interrupting the meeting and his dumb visual of water in the glass, but before the credits they introduced a case I actually found to be compelling. We got to see Sherlock recognizing things that are a little bit closer to extraordinary and then a few scenes later, things were even more interesting with the introduction of the coma.

Then everything fell apart.

This story doesn't make an ounce of sense. In all regards, this is an episode that wants to look like a mystery without any of the steps to make it an effective one. Why in the world would a doctor agree to do this? How would you find a doctor to agree to do this? Why wouldn't the doctor just do the deed himself, especially since she won't be well enough to do it properly?

We can break down how idiotic the police are. ("WHAT? Scrapes on the floor mean nothing!", "Your sketch matched this woman who is in a coma. Sure we could see if she has a twin or another sibling but that would require reading the entire computer screen. We'll just do that during commercial." "Hi, I'm the new minority detective who replaced the last minority detective who literally does nothing but disagree with Holmes.")

This story was easily better suited for Sherlock Holmes than The Case of the Missing Woman, but by the end I was way more aggravated because this proved to be a much more incompetent episode. Their tie-in with the addicts group was irrelevant, I'm still not entirely sure why Gregson's friend tied into anything and Watson's ex-boyfriend never fit in with any of the themes or goals they were even pretending to accomplish this episode.

What did you think of the story this time around? Am I just being a nitpicker in hoping that A actually connects to B? Was this an improvement upon last week? Most importantly, did you like them directly addressing one of your major complaints with dialog that was almost verbatim to what you wrote?

Leigh: I would like to announce at this moment that I am psychic. I know that the world of fortune telling and reading the future is a bit misunderstood but with two of my recent predictions coming true, I figure I might as well try to make some money off of it. So starting now, please refer to me only as The Great Beulah the All-Knowing, thank you.
Here is what I wrote down as my prediction as the “twist” at the commercial break, roughly 14 minutes in:

These are my predictions for explanation of why the murderer was the murderer. I would like you to notice the first bullet point.
VERY VERY FEW Holmes stories can I predict from the beginning. This isn’t because I am dumb or can’t connect dots but because they are purposefully written to be a mystery and hard to figure out. This one wasn’t. Okay, the doctor was an odd one but everything you said was a valid point. He could’ve done it himself or he could’ve continued making big doctor money instead of killing people with the promise of MAYBE getting some of that inheritance but as Holmes points out at the end, she was willing to kill her twin sister. Why wouldn’t she kill the doctor who had been helping her?
Was the mystery more of a mystery? Yes. Was it a Sherlock Holmes worthy mystery? HELL NO.
I had always thought that the NYPD were some of the best cops in the world. Law and Order showed me they could solve any murder, no matter how sick and depraved, in 42 minutes. Why then are we seeing the dumbest of the force in Elementary? The dust on the wall from the missing armoire? And then they don’t believe Holmes until Watson finds a picture. It feels like I’m following a bunch of bumbling idiots who happen to know a non-idiot but refuse to listen to any of his reasoning.
I will say that Lucy Liu did a better job, a much better job, this week. Unfortunately her character is written like an annoying girlfriend.

“Gee Holmes, I know you’re busy working on a murder case and trying to figure it out…Whatcha thinkin’ about? You wanna talk about your feeeeeeelings?”
And then later in the episode when she says that the murder victims are related through the father, Captain Gregson says that his guys already told him that. She has this alleged knowledge that is supposed to be helpful but she can’t use it because the writers give the opportunity to other, off-screen, NPCs. Yeah, she does the funny arm smacking face thing but Holmes should’ve known that. Correction: a properly written Holmes should’ve known to do that. My Holmes is smart enough to be a doctor but doesn’t want to because it’s boring and mind-numbing and repetitive. My Holmes has elements of House (because House is also based off of Holmes. House…Home…Get it? I see what they did there.) in that he knows all of the odd, weird, extremely rare diseases and conditions because it isn’t boring. He should’ve known to drop a hand on a face.
What do you think of Watson’s improved skills? Does the ex boyfriend prove the throngs right that Holmes and Watson won’t have a relationship or does it strengthen our theory? And bigger question: Why didn’t the nurses notice the missing coma-patient every night for a few hours?

Austin: I'm mean; I felt Lucy Liu was about the same this week. In fact I even though Jonny Lee Miller was off because for a few scenes he played Sherlock as if he was autistic, or at least "TV autistic" with the quirky finger twitching.

Why is Watson even on this show? Two episodes in and this is a major problem. In the Doyle stories we've read so far, Watson serves the role as a biographer, a source of humanity and a functional sidekick to the adventures. In this, Watson supplies.....nothing. She's not helping with the mysteries in any meaningful way--and yet she still is given half of the dialog in the reveal. She's not pushing anything new out of Sherlock, no matter what the show says she is. Even her part in the con didn't make any sense because why wouldn't Gregson be the one in the room instead of Bell. (Oh right because the con was on the audience, not on the characters. We've seen Bell disagree with Sherlock more than the doctor has, even though Gregson's authority would make everything more believable. Lazy and cheap.) 

You can easily edit her out of the show and it's the exact same show. I don't even know if Watson is interested in the mysteries. I don’t even think she’s interested in Sherlock Holmes. Her subplot this episode with her ex-boyfriend was very dull. Honestly, it backs up all of my fears about Sherlock and Watson getting together. That fear is no longer about it being beloved characters who are traditionally male; it's about how these two show no attraction on a romantic or even platonic level and I want to see female characters be more than be "will they or won't they" participants. Anywho, back to the episode. This is a typical plotline to start off the romantic interests. In this episode, Sherlock emasculates her love interest, a man with no discernible character traits. We'll probably never see him again; he was just a one-off. Sherlock is making Watson only be with him. That was an act of jealously, not a friend looking out for a friend.

This is a show that's very bad at showing characters being good at their job. Watson has yet to prove herself as anything. Sherlock is only clever when the audience can't play along: he determines smells, he sees scratches on the floor that weren't on camera, he can feel the pulse of character. This wasn't a moment of the audience saw the clues but he was the only one to solve them; he solved clues we weren't allowed to see. The ones we can see are embarrassing like Gregson's friend blinking like a thousand bugs were under his eyelids.

I'm frustrated. Can you tell I'm frustrated? This episode had the slimmer of promise and even a few small things I liked. Him relaxing by picking a bucket of keys was awesome! I just think it's a mess with character and plot which are things I tend to like on a TV show. What is this show doing, Leigh?

Leigh: I agree about Watson being a terrible sober companion. She says she’s good at her job. We’ve seen that she isn’t. She let a drug addict have her keys after knowing him for only a day or two. She is terrible at being any sort of counselor because at this point in the time line (approximately two weeks into the relationship, a strictly platonic one, of course) she should at least know why he left London other than the assumption of “drugs.” Also her patient should respect her more and trust her opinion more. Sure, Holmes is a tough cookie but that doesn’t mean she wouldn’t be able to make any progress. She is better because Lucy Liu acted like she actually cared and not like she was phoning it in the entire time. The character itself is a waste of screen time but Lucy Liu did a better job.

I thought the bucket of locks was a FANTASTIC way to show Holmes’ character without being super blunt about it. That is what I think this show is lacking, besides intelligence. All of my creative writing classes have told me to show rather than tell. Show us why the character is upset, not tell us. Show us how the character is coping with being a recovering addict, not tell us. Show us that Watson’s parents are upset with her being a sober companion, don’t tell us.
The writers at this point need to do one of two things:
1. Write Watson as a more interesting, fuller, more fleshed out, 3D character that she deserves to be or,
2. Cut her completely.
Watson should be interesting and not there as eye-candy or some sort of attempt at equal opportunity employment. This show thinks it knows what it wants to do but is failing at even coming close to it. It’s trying to be a smart, new twist on a classic story but it’s trying too hard to be too smart and too different and too new and so it’s just becoming muddled mess of poor writing. It’s easy to see why anyone would be frustrated with this show so far.
Next Tuesday we visit another one of my favorites, possibly my absolute favorite. We meet “the Woman” and find out how a female character should be written and that sometimes women can be smart AND pretty!
And now Austin with the final word!

Austin: Beulah?


  1. From what you two have said, Watson in this show is essentially a superfluous appendage and should be dropped; she really only is there as eye candy to attempt to draw in viewership. The writers should abandon all attempts to tie this in to any kind of Holmsian world, too.

    Frankly, I don't have much hope that the Woman is going to be anything more than one of "Holmes" dealers from out of town. I have no faith that she's going to be presented as a decent character, and I really can't fathom how you two are going to be able to survive the rest of the season. Bless you both for having a go at it.

  2. Austin: The "quirky finger twitching" - are you referring to what he was doing at the meeting? He was playing a tiny violin.

    1. Hey! Sorry for the delay, Austin has been super busy. I think the finger twitching he meant was earlier in the episode when he was explaining things. I have to agree, it did seem a bit of an implied autistic characteristic. It's a little subtle but it is there.