Review: Elementary 01×20 – Dead Man’s Switch

Elementary 01×20- Dead Man’s Switch
Reviewed by Liz Giorgi
Being Geek Chic For The Baker Street Babes

 

You know what I really wish they would try on Elementary? Sherlock Holmes being happy. Sure, he has these momentary (and by momentary, I mean two seconds) instances of pleasure whilst solving a case, but the fact is that Elementary’s Sherlock Holmes is a giant grumpy pants.

It’s part of the whole recovering drug addict shtick, but it adds a severity to the show that starts to make it all seem very blase. After 20 episodes, all I want to see is Holmes and Watson engaging in a big freaking laugh.

If you haven’t seen episode 20 of Elementary, stop reading, because spoilers.

This week’s episode is an extortionist plot. Holmes’s sober companion Alfredo introduces our favorite investigators to his sober companion who is the victim of a blackmail plot. His daughter was rufied and raped a few years earlier and while she and her family got justice then, they didn’t realize the rape had been videotaped and now someone is using the tapes as a means to extort money out of the family. And sadly, several other families and their daughters are experiencing the same fate. Sherlock steps in and vows to put an end to it.

While investigating his prime suspect, he witnesses his murder and immediately realizes this isn’t a simple matter of catching a blackmailer, no, it’s equally important to prevent his “fail safe” from realizing that the head honcho is dead.

This cat and mouse chase leads to several false starts. The original rapist is beat to a pulp and afraid of the extortionist too. The blackmailers lawyer is a total wimp who hands over files and files on his client after Holmes breaks one measly frame. And that’s what leads him to Stuart Bloom: the fail safe. Turns out this guy is useless though too, because his whole world is cat litter, but more on that later.

The bright spot in a very somber episode? Alfredo. What a guy. Sure, he’s not a laugh a minute. But he questions Sherlock’s seriousness and even encourages him to celebrate his one-year sober-versary. Of course, moody Holmes doesn’t celebrate anything. There’s hope, though, because it’s not just genetic douchiness that’s causing Holmes to turn down the chance to collect his “one year sobriety chip” – it’s the fact that he used drugs one day after he initially quit. He is indeed a stickler for details.

And those details are how he and Watson solve the case again. After observing the extortionist’s autopsy, they notice that his vengeful murderer made a strategic face smashing choice. One that might conceal any previous scarring on his victim’s face. An investigation of a home and a few questions later and it seems that vengeance was not the motive for one dad to murder his daughter’s extortionist – but rather – the desire to get in on the scheme. What a shitty dad. (Ahem, sorry, stepdad. Either say, what a dick.)

But that’s not all, because the fail safe is dead too. Before killing the blackmailer, daddy dearest (AKA, the murderer) had convinced the original extortionist to kill his own fail safe: Stuart. And his method for keeping the police from finding his dead colleague? Loads and loads of kitty litter. What an idiot.

You know what else is getting kind of idiotic? For weeks (WEEKS!) I’ve praised Elementary  for all these tender Holmes-Watson moments in each episode. But tonight’s soft spot was just too soft. Watson decides to give Holmes a different kind of “sober anniversary” gift: A Robert Frost poem. I don’t know why this made my cynical heart so hard, but it was just overkill. Why can’t these two ever just high five and get an overpriced cupcake after they catch the bad guy? This is where the writers of this show could quite literally take a page out of Doyle’s books. Holmes, despite all his severity and eccentricity, was at heart truly joyous about his life as a consulting detective. And even more joyous to be able to do this work with his best friend. I hope we see some of that joy soon.

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lizgiorgiLiz Giorgi is the Baker Street Babes’ Elementary Guru and runs the fantastic nerdy blog Being Geek Chic. You can find her former reviews of Elementary here on her site.

She’s a social media and web strategist who currently works for a communications consulting firm in Minneapolis. She’s also a contributor for Apartment Therapy and The Mary Sue.

You can contact her at elizabeth@beinggeekchic.com and follow her on Twitter @lizgiorgi

14 Responses to “Review: Elementary 01×20 – Dead Man’s Switch”

  1. Nakiya says:

    It’s interesting that you talk about how miserable Sherlock is in dealing with his history with drug addition and how you wished it could be more joyful and light.

    Newsflash: drug addition does not lead to a happy story.

    Sure, there have been happy and funny moments between him and Joan and I want more of those, but this episode was not meant to be lighthearted and the pair going off for cupcakes at the end would have done complete disservice to the struggles of individuals dealing with their sobriety.

    The timing of this post is rather hilarious to me because the Entertainment Industries Council, a nonprofit organization dedicated to celebrating the realistic portrayal of public health issues such as addition in media, awarded Elementary a special honor for being a “breakthrough series that takes the next logical step beyond ‘Intervention’ to interweave stories of addiction and recovery in subtle ways into the ongoing fabric of the series and its characters.” The show ‘Intervention’ received this award in 2005 and that was the last time it was given.

    It might not be what you want, but it’s an amazingly wonderful thing for us to be seeing on television today.

    • EHO says:

      Excuse me, last I checked the character’s name was Sherlock Holmes. The point being the character doesn’t resemble Sherlock Holmes. If I tune in expecting a Sherlock Holmes adventure (and Arthur Conan Doyle called them adventures, not mysteries) of course I’m going to be disappointed with this “giant grumpy pants”. If you wish to watch addiction and recovery stories change the name the character to Dr. House (whoops already been taken). A 7% solution of cocaine received just a very small mention in the Canon (and don’t forget is was not illegal them either.) I feel ‘Elementary’ is pretty much riding the wave of popularity the Downey Jr. Holmes’ films and the BBC “Sherlock” Series by using the name Sherlock Holmes & Dr. Watson for characters who hardly resemble them. Let’s throw in all the other most familiar names too, Adler, Hudson, Moriarty, Moran, while we are at it for guest shots. Change the names of the characters and I believe the show would have already been cancelled.

      • JM says:

        I don’t know how many of the original stories you’ve read, but Sign of the Four must not have been one of them. In it Watson goes on at length about how Holmes’s drug use has been getting out of control, specifically stating that he had been shooting up every day for months. Cocaine was legal back then, but abuse was abuse. The same way alcohol can cause damage to people’s lives today. Both the previous adaptations you mention take liberties with the source material. It’s a bit confusing that Elementary is the only one whose changes seem to actively offend you.

  2. JM says:

    I wouldn’t hold out too much hope for lighter episodes in the near future. The big arc for the rest of the season involves Moriarty, the man who supposedly murdered Sherlock’s girlfriend and caused his drug problem to spiral out of control.

    • Liz says:

      I really do enjoy this interpretation of the series and I’m looking forward to learning more about Moriarty and Adler. My primary concern is that if you are going to take on the very serous issue of drug addiction, it’s important to show the light with the dark. No journey to recovery is sunshine, but there are moments of clarity, beauty, forgiveness and yes, happiness. I have been hopeful that Joan’s transition from companion to friend and colleague would help to bring out some of those characteristics from Sherlock and I still hold out hope for that.

  3. Annie says:

    While I wouldn’t refer to drug addiction as a “schtick” and it’s excellent that Elementary is trying to portray it realistically, it’s execution that is falling flat now.

    Elementary has right on the line between realistic and CBS-drama cliches and it’s been veering more toward the latter lately. It’s part of the reason why I stopped watching Criminal Minds, another CBS drama, years ago. There’s been quite a few ‘emotional’ moments that really fell flat for me because the support wasn’t there in the narrative.

    It is only the first season and has already been renewed — thankfully, since the ratings are falling and it just hit a series low this week — so I am hoping it will improve.

  4. Daiya says:

    dude look, i’ve been in a psych hospital with people who have chemical dependencies and other things and lemme tell ya: while some of them are pretty hopeful towards recovery, it is NOT a joyous cheery mood there. addiction is serious, and if you’re gonna be a big baby and complain that this crime drama is not a crime dramedy when it never claimed to be, then you are hopelessly misguided.

    sherlock holmes had an addiction. this is true forever and a day. but seldom do we see it taken seriously in popular media.

    so let us have that and don’t call it a schtick. way to make light of something serious. have all the backseats.

    • Liz says:

      I hope you’ll real my reply below. I do regret the use of the word “shtick,” as it was an unfairly simplistic choice that doesn’t encompass the whole issue. Thanks.

  5. BSB says:

    Thank you all for your comments, I’m sure Liz will respond once she’s able. Just remember to play nice ;)

  6. Liz says:

    Hi all,

    Let me start by saying I appreciate your insights and first hand experiences. Every review comes from the perspective of one person and so we must all tap our own lives to extract meaning and reactions.

    I regret the use of the word “schtick,” it’s unfairly simplistic. But for this particular reflection of Sherlock, I do think it’s important to remember context: Sherlock as a recovering drug addict. Watson as his sober companion turned his colleague and friend. This dynamic will, of course, lead to a darker portrayal of their relationship. She is no longer a person that brings out the best in him (although she often does), but she’s also a physical reminder of one of the difficult challenges in his life.

    I’ve unwisely chosen to bring up this issue and their dynamic in a review about an episode about Sherlock’s sobriety anniversary, but to be honest, much like you I thought of my friends who are going through similar phases in life. Just last month, I attended a party for a friend who was celebrating his second year of sobriety and the truth be told, there was cake. A colleague who struggled with chemical dependency once shared that one of the hardest things is that people walk on eggshells around you and that sometimes, it’s better to have someone who will act naive, normal and share in a laugh.

    The reason I share these stories is because it’s not lost on me that every single person’s walk to recovery is going to be different. It will undoubtedly be difficult and full of emotional turmoil and seem nearly impossible at times, but this does not mean the journey will be devoid of any light. And that’s my concern. It’s a heavy, heavy thing to take on and it’s an honest portrayal of MUCH of the experience. But it would be just as honest to see two friends smile about their victories every once in a while.

    Thank you for sharing your insights. It’s important that this issue doesn’t just stay in the context of a television show, but expands to a real dialogue.

  7. James says:

    Too often on cop shows and mysteries the ending is the main characters getting together and sharing a hearty laugh at some lame joke: “Look, everything’s alright with the world.” High fives and cupcakes? I know that’s hyperbole, but it’s also not Sherlock Holmes. It is not often in the stories where it’s Wagner night or dinner at Marconi’s after a tough case. “Elementary” is giving us the evolution of a friendship in something close to real time. The subtle signs of that growing camaraderie we see interspersed the episodes are doing it for me right now. Cupcakes endings maybe a late season two development. Perhaps, for a light-hearted closing moment, you should pull out your Rathbone/Bruce DVDs.

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  10. Gravitas says:

    My problem with this episode is the idea that people would pay tens of thousands to prevent such videos from “airing” on the internet. As though this meant that vast numbers of people would see the video of their daughter’s attack, she would become a household name, people would recognize her on the street, etc. No, the internet does not work that way. First of all there is quite enough porn of every possible variety already, from what I hear. The really sick and illegal stuff like this would probably be relegated to a few dark corners of the web, to avoid the law… If I were the parent in that situation, would I want to spend my life’s fortune just to ensure that a few dozen sickos somewhere in their basements wouldn’t have a chance to whack off to that video? I wouldn’t pay the money. Putting something “on the internet” is not the same as putting it on the front page of the newspaper, or on the nightly network news broadcast. The whole episode is based on a false premise, and the real Holmes wouldn’t have pledged his abilities to stop someone from posting a video. Of course, in real life I’m sure some dumb parents could have been persuaded to fork over cash for such a ridiculous reason.

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