Tuesday, October 1, 2013

In-Class Movie: Elementary - "Step Nine" (2013)

“No, the murderer has escaped.”
Sherlock Holmes smiled demurely.
“Your Grace can hardly have heard of any small reputation which I possess, or you would not imagine that it is so easy to escape me.”

--Arthur Conan Doyle, “The Adventure of the Priory School”

Austin: Now I'm the one feeling like the addict.

We've quit this show. Then I tweeted the Super Bowl episode. Then we reviewed the last four of the season. Now we're back for the premiere and once again.....I just want to quit the show. I know it's the name of our blog and our initial premise, but we need to stop this.

The last four episodes gave me some hope. I really liked one of them and it did some interesting things. Now we have this big premiere that was filmed in London where we get to meet Lestrade and Mycroft and see 221B and.....all of them felt worthless.

If you didn't know the show, could you tell which one was Sherlock and which one was Mycroft?

The mystery that drives Sherlock back to the most emotional place on the Earth is flimsy and forgettable. There is no drama about him returning. Mycroft has no personality. Lestrade, I actually liked quite a bit thanks to Sean Pertwee. (Yes, he is the son of the Third Doctor because--everyone together--there are only 15 British actors.) Pertwee brought this extra energy and friction that I've been craving on this show. And yet once the mystery started, that all faded away to the point where I forgot he was in the room. There was this really poor attempt at character study by saying that he craves attention, but that was only done because Sherlock kept repeating it over and over again. (Just like how Mycroft is lazy. No evidence of it; just Sherlock repeating it.)

I have more positives and negatives about this episode but let's hear what you think first. What did you like about the episode? Do you wish the show would stay permanently on this side of the pond or should it stay in New York with Gregson?

Leigh: This episode felt to me like someone giving me a pony and then in the last half of the episode, slaughtering that pony in front of me. Bear with me here. 

We have Watson, who I've complained about being worthless and weak, who beat the crap out of a fleeing suspect. Awesome. BUT, 11 minutes into the episode once Watson and Holmes arrive at Baker Street, SHE GIVES HOLMES HER BAG TO CARRY FOR HER. *massive eye roll* She's strong and independent but only until she has to carry a bag up some stairs. I want Watson to be a strong feminist icon and yet she gladly hands Holmes her bag like she's Scarlett O'Hara waiting for the hand of the groomsman as she steps out of her coach. As soon as they do something to make Watson an extraordinary female character, they take it away by making her weak or the blatant discussion of her sexuality the entire frikkin' episode. Why would Sherlock care if Watson slept with Mycroft, unless Sherlock wants to sleep with her. An interested party would've brought it up once, an obsessed party would bring it up multiple times and even make a wager about it. At this point, please print a plastic gun and shoot me. 

What if this man wanted to sleep with your partner in crime?

The first act of the episode, aside from the goddamn bag thing, was enough to make me think, "Well, maybe this might be good. Maybe they found their stride after last season. Maybe we won't be disappointed." And then every character seemed watered down. The introduction of Lestrade was awesome. And then he kinda fizzled and became a drunk rat in the episode. I enjoyed the introduction with Mycroft. I didn't enjoy the unfounded laziness accusations (owning multiple successful restaurants in London isn't easy and even the dumbest version of Sherlock Holmes would realize that) or the fact that the character of Mycroft lost all of his power. Mycroft is intriguing because he's better than Sherlock but doesn't care as much as Sherlock. And Elementary's version of Mycroft has him as basically a normal pleb. I would say that this is a front for something to happen later in the season but I don't have that much faith in the show.

And then the mystery that ties it all together. What did you think of the 3D printed gun?

Austin: Guns from 3D printers? It just reeked of the danger of the INTERNET in a movie like The Net. "It's technology I don't understand! It will kill us all!" I liked the imagery of Sherlock holding his signs to the camera to ask about the printer sales, but that was about it. It's not like we're living in a crazy world where nobody can find a gun that we must only use 3D printers.

"Why won't this floppy disc eject?!? It holds the secrets of the internet!"

I agree. The introduction of Lestrade was awesome. The introduction of Mycroft was not. I don't understand what it's like to be a fan of this show. They hate to use any opportunity. When you have Sherlock talking about how grand 221B is as he climbs the stairs (and Watson, forever not giving a shit) it was so obvious they were going for the cheap joke in that his room has been messed with. The real question is what that obvious joke worth the creative opportunity to show what the untethered home of Sherlock Holmes looks like? Yes, he already has an eccentric place in NY but that is also occupied by a "normal" person and he ranks that below 221B. This was the writers simply avoiding creating something new.

What was the purpose of Mycroft? They have a great actor who can do a variety of dramatic and very silly things and all they have him do is....speak nicely? Maybe hypothetically to sleep with Watson? (Once again, Watson can't even give a shit about this. SHE HAS JET LAG. GET HER A GODDAMN PILLOW.)

By the end we have Lestrade take credit for the case and who cares? This was definitely not connecting to his obsession with fame. (Also little evidence of.) Also why couldn't Sherlock just give him the credit to help out his career. Isn't that why he ultimately traveled back here? 

I know that episodic shows are different than serial ones. They both have their place. Yet if the last finale is supposed to change the landscape and finish up one story. This doesn't set up anything new to explore. London was a dead-end. I guess we'll see if Natalie Dormer's schedule opens up later in the year and then maybe we'll see another non-sensical criminal mastermind plot but as of right now: Sherlock is fine, Watson is his friend, his brother is cool with him, Lestrade is fine, Gregson probably has a pulse, Bell is agreeable, Morarity is gone, Sherlock's addition is fine. The water is so still it's sickly.

You're the Law and Order fan. What are the bare essentials an episodic show needs to have to make you come back every week?

Leigh: For me episodic mysteries are like crack because they're mentally stimulating enough to make me feel productive while starting at the TV but simple enough that they make me feel smart when I've solved the murder by the first commercial break. It's like a little guy sitting next to you saying, "Boy this sure is a hard mystery but don't worry, Leigh, you've got this." It's a confidence booster in a 45 minute TV show. There is such a formula to Law and Order that you know it isn't the first guy they talk to but he will lead you to the guy who will lead you to the murderer. There's a checklist that each episode has to adhere to: murder, suspect(s), motive, court case/evidence. It has to his all of these on the list to be a Law and Order episode. And you know what? It works. Sure, the original Law and Order isn't on air anymore (because NBC are idiots but we all knew this) but SVU is, Criminal Intent is still doing well in syndication along it's original older brother. NCIS and its various spinoffs follow the same formula and those shows are the most watch in the country. It's comforting and rhythmic and hypnotic. Many a time I have been sucked into an episode of Law and Order and then 13 hours later when the marathon ends, I remembered that I had important things to do that day like bathe or eat or go to class. People, myself included, like these types of shows because they're safe. They give the audience a bit of danger without them even leaving their living room.
We'll get to you soon.....
Now, if we look at that simple checklist I wrote earlier, we'll see that Elementary doesn't hit some of these checks, or at least the episode at hand doesn't. The audience is never given another person who could've killed that guy's wife except for an unnamed burglar who is never tracked down. The only evidence is an obscure bottle of "milk," which, I'm sorry, is one of the worst pieces of evidence ever. I'm too frustrated to list out the reasons why but long story short, it doesn't let the audience play along. No one, EVER would make the connection of "random bottle of milk in a house full of vegans -> OBVIOUSLY ACETONE." 
And then, the thing that bothers me the most: Why? Why did this guy kill his wife? We know why he killed the guy who helped him but we don't know why he killed his wife. Did she cheat? Did she steal money from him? Did she have really smelly farts? Give me something other than, "just 'cause." 
And you're absolutely right. New seasons of TV are happening all over right now and each one that is in its second+ season has something in the season premier that connects it to the previous season finale. There is no mention or Moriarty, there is no mention of how she was Sherlock's former "dead" girlfriend, the introduction doesn't tie AT ALL to the finale. It's like the finale arc didn't happen. This could've been picked out of the middle of the season and you wouldn't be able to tell. So what? He goes to London. This could easily happen as a mid season premiere and didn't need to be the season opener. 
Unless Dormer or Vinnie Jones comes back, I'm done.
Next time we talk about a story that I don't remember at all but there's a harpoon so it should be fun!
And now Austin with the final word…

Austin: Piss off…

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