After nearly two seasons and more than forty episodes, for the first time ever, I was thoroughly creeped out by a murder on Elementary this week. Helium death not only sounds creepy, it is remarkably simple to pull off. And while I found myself comparing the hallucinogenic effects described and seen in BBC’s Sherlock and its ability to create near-death experiences or the perception of such an event, the simplicity of the chemical murder in this particular adaptation was far more skin-crawling.
We start where most medical mysteries should start: in the lab. When a Doctor and researcher named Barry Granger is found dead from a supposed suicide by helium poisoning, Lestrade and Holmes figure out immediately that he’s been murdered. In fact, he was targeted because of his recently published research on a cancer detection breathalyzer called The Hound. When an internet personality named Adam Peer challenges the research, it seems as though the new device may not be as effective as Barry’s research had initially portrayed, stalling the future of this potentially life-saving device.
For someone who loves science and the scientific process, this episode really worked. The creation of Adam Peer, the internet alter-ego of two PhDs intent on revealing bad science, made the Hound concept feel fresh, modern and like a true modern mystery. In a way, any scientist willing to come forward and whistle blow bad science could be Peer, which is why his existence is so important.
This basis in science and making The Hound a physical object worth millions, perhaps billions, also made the conclusion of this episode impressively tight to the point where you don’t totally know what’s going to happen until the final moments. When it’s revealed that Barry was one half of the “true” Adam Peer identity, the idea that he would denounce his own work makes it obvious that someone else is trying to distort the research for their own purposes. And while a competitor or an ex-lover might be a tidy approach, the writers go in a more twisted direction.
No spoilers this time, because it’s worth checking out for yourself. Truly. I kind of love this adaptation and you should experience it for yourself.
Some may say this interpretation of The Hound of the Baskervilles is too far from anything in the original stories to be relevant, but I would disagree. The sense of paranoia it creates and the twisted whodunnit web all harkens to the mood and feeling in those original chapters. Strangely, there’s another parallel here to the history of Holmes, which the writers could not have intended. This episode felt like the first in a very long time which successfully embraced the ethos of Sherlock while still modernizing it and making it even more compelling for current audiences. Truthfully, The Hound of the Cancer Cells revived my interest in the series and I’m hopeful the last 6 weeks will come to an exciting conclusion. Similarly, many historians credit The Hound with reviving the original stories at a time when sales were at a record low for Doyle. It’s definitely not a direct comparison, but one worth considering as we approach the last fourth of the season.
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