Saturday, November 3, 2012

In-Class Movie: "Lesser Evils" (S01E05)

“‘I am ashamed of you Holmes,’ said Lestrade with dignity after a few minutes silence. ‘Why should you raise up hopes which you are bound to disappoint? I am not over-tender of heart, but I call it cruel.'"
--Arthur Conan Doyle, “The Boscombe Valley Mystery”

Austin: Time to talk a little inside baseball. I showed some frustration last entry with Elementary and even more so with my texts to Leigh. I was just about done with the show. The show had turned into such an unambitious piece of nothingness where it's truly too boring to review. I was begging it to be better or worse just so there's something else beyond a pulse-less program. 

This episode had to show something or else we were about to call it quits and limit the episode review to a mini-review filled only with comedy. But as you can probably guess from my introduction....

I liked this episode.

I did! It's not perfect; I wish it had more of the comedy from Episode 3 ("Child Predator") but it actually handled the structure really well. Finally we have a new way of Sherlock received a case, there is forward moment with every scene, the mystery is twisting and a bit clever, Watson's subplot isn't embarrassing, and it concluded in a satisfying way.

The only major problem I had wasn't with the writers, but with the casting director. Easily my favorite episode, but I solved it before the opening credits. [SPOILERS FROM HERE ON OUT. DUH.] When the janitor walked out of the room, he said one line. I said aloud, "Wait was that David Costable of The Wire, Breaking Bad, Damages and Flight of the Conchords?" The opening credits confirmed it and I knew it had to be the killer. No idea how, but way too obvious of a face (and one of my favorite character actors working today) made it a no-brainer.

"Don't bother looking at me. I'm just a janitor.....and a newspaper editor, meth cook, hitman and husband to Kristen Schaal. Definitely not the killer...."

Yet there's so many good things to talk about with this episode. What surprised you the most? What was it that made you sit up in your chair and start to take note of this episode? And why was this the only episode The AV Club didn't like? Why can't we ever get along?

Leigh: ...
That was NOT what I was expecting. I sat down to watch this week's episode with the expectation that it was going to be on par with the rest of the episodes so far. Cliche plot with cliche twist with cliche cops. This was none of those things. This, I will gladly say, is by far the best episode of Elementary. Of all of our complaints, everything seemed to be addressed. Watson was useful and not just a blob on the screen, Holmes was smart and did smart things, the mystery wasn't a crime procedural "How to" guide and the cops, when they were there actually seemed to have a brain. It's like everyone visited the Wizard of Oz and got what they wanted. It's a Primetime miracle!

Your complaint of using a well-known actor didn't bother me because I didn't recognize the guy. I could see this being a problem but I didn't catch it so I can't complain.
If I had to find something to complain about with this episode, it would be back to something that I had problems with when they announced the pilot synopsis. Watson, traditionally, is a former doctor. Sometimes he has an active practice and other times he doesn't. In this adaptation, she is a disgraced former doctor? Hold up. She was suspended for some reason as this episode alluded to, probably for killing a patient which has also been mentioned. To me this smacks of a woman not being good enough to be a doctor. I could be reading the situation wrong but that's how I feel. She isn't good enough to be a doctor so instead they put her in a more traditional female role of caretaker. Caretakers are awfully parental, aren't they. Motherly almost. -eyes narrow- Again, I could be overly suspicious and picky at this point.
So finally at episode 5 we get everything we've been asking for; plot, character development, character traits, intelligence. Why did they wait so long to air this episode? Why didn't they make this the pilot or make the pilot more like this episode if this was the direction they wanted to go? And should we expect this level every week or was this a fluke?

Austin: This is strange, but I think we need to focus on the positives for this episode. Let's really prove to the world we liked this episode. I really liked Watson in the opening scene. I like it when people are less than impressed by Sherlock's antics and her being bored as he strangles corpses just for kicks was fun. Also when she identified the blue dot on the body she tried to keep walking instead of standing openly to announce that she was clever. She noticed something and wanted to keep going.

I also really liked some of the smaller things they did with Sherlock. When Watson comes home with news of her plotline, Sherlock's only way to ask how it went was saying "Victory?" He continues to see the world as a series of victories and defeats, detectives and criminals, the super intelligent and the rest of the world. He's a detective that serves under his own judgment. In this episode he caught the Angel, but he still had more people he felt were responsible for these crimes.

In particular, that structure was compelling. The bad guy is caught earlier than usual. They still left a great final confrontation with the chief of surgery--equipped with a rather cool zoom in of Sherlock across the table. That's where the emotional core of the story was because this was a case that Sherlock hired himself for. The police didn't bring him in, nobody came to his sitting room. He saw a crime and this upset him. So if you caused pain towards someone, he was going to bring you down.

Ultimately this episode really saw what the show could be. Make it Sherlock and Watson. Make Watson good at her job and keep it medical oriented for her. Give her that struggle between her old life and the weird life she has constructed for herself. I really hope this episode wasn't a fluke. This was a new writer. Thank you Liz Friedman! I don't see you on the roster again for the next couple of episodes so I hope that other writers take your lead. Who knows, maybe it's a girl thing. Next week's episode by Corinne Brinkerhoff could also be a good one! As long as they don't have Terry O'Quinn in a guest spot...

Liz Friedman! MVP of the Week!

So let's hear it Montano. I want a response only of positive things about this episode. We may not get this again.

Leigh: Of all the improvements from this episode, I will say that Watson wins for most improved. She had a point other than filler or saying dialog that Holmes really should be saying. I knew something was different about this episode in the first three minutes. Watson was intelligent and contibuted to conversation and plot. She was telling the audience things they (probably) wouldn't have figured out for themselves. I know nothing about chemotherapy so the blue dot was an odd blue dot to me. She did what I think Watson should do. She helped Holmes and helped the audience without being condescending to either one.
I'm so glad the structure was different and not just A-B-C-D... Holmes isn't contacted by the police to help them solve a murder, he finds the problem and takes it to them. And it wasn't your typical "find a dead guy" murder case. Holmes seemed to stumble upon the case and it gave the audience a glimpse at the true Holmes character that we've talked about. He finds the mystery or puzzle in everything. It's almost like this episode was written by someone who had actually picked up a Sherlock Holmes book and didn't just skim the Wikipedia page!
I have hope again for this show. Some have said that we wanted this show to fail and while we sorta did, I at least wanted it to attempt to be a good show. To pretend like it wanted to be something other than another crime procedural. I finally feel like it's trying. I don't want to say it's officially a good show yet but it seems like it's getting there. These next few episodes will be important for you, me, this blog and anyone else who has put a bit of faith in this show now. I want it to be a great show but I am a realist and have been disappointed a lot. So here's fingers crossed.
Next time we deal with fruit and I will try not to make Eddie Izzard references (but will ultimately fail.)
And now Austin Lugar with the last word.

Austin: Gail!


  1. Thank the powers someone up there heard you. I won't need to sacrifice a thousand bulls to make sure you don't slog through miles of boredom anymore.

    Nothing else pithy to say today.

  2. Great review!

    I too loved Lucy Liu's performance in this episode. I am not familiar with David Costable's work and hence was able to retain at least some interest in the mystery component.