How much do you think a television series would benefit from cutting previews for the upcoming episodes? Quite a lot I’d imagine, at least in regards to Elementary. The preview for this week’s episode “The Rat Race” killed my anticipation for it. It’s something about the cheesy voiceovers and even worse taglines. Which is a shame, considering this episode in many regards is the best of the bunch yet. Robert Doherty and co. are really hitting their stride on what they want the show to be, they’re establishing that while the basic premise of the show is procedural based in theory, the real focus and real draw is the character exploration. Here are two individuals forced together due to stressful circumstances, and here, watch as they grow, observe and warm to each other.
The episode begins in a typical storytelling fashion with viewers being shown the end of the story before getting the beginning. Watson was going to Gregson, worried about Sherlock after hours of not hearing or speaking to him. In order for Gregson to understand why she is so worried she tells him the truth about her relationship with him, saying she’s his sober companion after his stint in rehab. She’s afraid that he’s had a relapse.
Flashback to the beginning of the episode where Watson is now happy and relaxed, out to lunch with a friend, until she is ambushed with a blind date. The date is Aaron, played by the wonderful Luke Kirby of Take This Waltz fame. They seemingly hit it off until Watson has to leave to attend to Sherlock, and the two plan for a possible date.
Back with Sherlock she confronts him about his usage of shorthand texting. She tells him that he is obviously articulate enough to write full, comprehensible messages. He brushes it off saying he’s fascinated with it. It’s a funny, light scene, but by no means a throwaway. It’s the little things that end up being so important.
Sherlock and Watson are beckoned to a meeting with a company on Wall Street and Sherlock tries his best to look as unimpressive as he can. He says suits are just costumes that people use to inspire misplaced respect. This, it seems, is the episode of the bizarre character quirks. They’re all tastefully put in place and they continue to create the enigma that is Sherlock Holmes. It isn’t the cases that make the character interesting but the personality that follows him.
At the meeting they’re told that one of their associates has gone missing, Peter. They tell the two that it’s not like him to not show up for work. Sherlock uses his intellect to prove his worth and is allowed into Peter’s office. He doesn’t find much except for a private account that documented his affinity for high priced prostitutes.
The two call for a meeting with Peter’s accountant. While waiting, Sherlock has an expensive bottle of wine brought to the table for his consent. At first Watson believes he has ordered it for himself and begins to chastise him but he quickly reassures her that it’s not for him. Since they’re using big business money for the lunch, he wants to be able to redistribute the wealth to others in his own way of protest. He had noticed a young couple a table or two away where it looked as if a young man was going to propose, he was sending the bottle over as a celebratory gesture. It’s very Robin Hood of him, and that makes this depiction of the character so interesting.
The fact of the matter is, it’s nice to have a nice Holmes. While Jonny Lee Miller’s is still abrasive, frustrating and irrational, he’s not detached, nor is he apathetic. Sherlock has always observed people, used them in a means of study. Here, instead of being fascinated with them and creating a cold distance, he creates warmth. He understands how individuals work. He isn’t devoid of human emotion, he just knows where it comes from.
The meeting with Peter’s accountant leads them to his apartment and that’s where they find him, dead from an apparent accidental drug overdose, at least that’s what the police think. Sherlock believes it’s murder. He says that the first dose of heroin was in Peter’s salad, and then when he was unconscious, was dragged to the chair and delivered the fatal dosage. When Gregson doesn’t believe him he asks what junkie he’s ever known that keeps such a pristine apartment? What heroin addict would have such a prestigious job? He says that an addict, especially a heroin addict, is searching for oblivion, a way in which they can dull their senses. It’s a rare deduction that comes from personal truth rather than rationale. Because, as Watson let us know in an unsubtle exposition moment, one of the drugs that landed Sherlock in rehab was heroin.
Back at home Watson tries to have a moment with Sherlock to discuss what he saw and how it affected him. He says he’s fine and that all he really needs is his privacy. He also reminds her of her date with Aaron. Out on the date, things are going well until the very end when something feels off to Watson. She tells Sherlock later that it’s something she never would have noticed before meeting him, but she thinks Aaron was lying about him ever being married. Sherlock looks him up and finds out that while Aaron wasn’t lying about being married in the past, he is currently married.
The next day, Sherlock arranges another board meeting to try and call their attention to a possible murderer among their midst. He tells them of all the company murders in the past few years and how they’re all linked. It seems that the killer isn’t doing it for the kill, but is doing it in a way of advancement. They’re killing their way up the ladder. The head of the company board complains and shoots himself in the foot by saying he’s the only one in the company that the killer would resemble. Sherlock calls him out, saying that puts him as his prime suspect.
Later, the head of the board visits Sherlock to rectify his mistake. He tells Sherlock that what happened in that meeting could ruin his reputation since gossip travels quickly in an office setting. He gives Sherlock medical papers that would have put him out of commission during one of the deaths, eliminating himself from being the potential killer.
Annoyed, Sherlock contemplates his misdirection in the case and shoos Watson out of the house so that he can think in peace and not disturb her with the racket he may possibly make. As he sits alone he comes up with who must have been the murderer all along, Peter’s secretary.
Yes, a woman who was given two minutes worth of screentime earlier in the episode is the killer. Here’s my issue with this, and it’s the only issue I had this episode. This was a case of surprise mystery rather than suspense. There were no red herrings, there was no hints that could have possibly lead to her. It was a surprise twist, because there was no reasoning behind it. With Elementary I’ve realized that it’s pointless to try and deduct for myself who the killer of the week is going to be because the writers aren’t afraid to pull someone out of left field and force us to accept it.
Sherlock goes to confront her, letting his ego get in the way of intellect, he wants to prove to her how much he knows. Because of this he ends up on the receiving end of a taser. In the car, she tells him why she did it and tells him that someone has been texting him a lot ever since she knocked him out. It’s Watson, and she decides to text back so that no one will suspect a thing.
However, back with Watson and Gregson, she gets the text and immediately knows something wrong because it isn’t in Sherlock’s typical shorthand. It’s all about the little, seemingly inconsequential moments.
As the killer tries to get Sherlock to dig his own grave, he adamantly refuses, and instead tries to get her to talk more, stalling for time as he picks his way out of his handcuffs. As the exchange takes place the police suddenly arrive and she, surprised, is allowed to be overtaken by Sherlock just as he’s managed to unlock himself.
Joan and Sherlock sit in the aftermath as he tries to give her something of a compliment. She tells him that she had feared he had relapsed and had been forced to tell Gregson of their condition. She encourages him to go speak to him.
He takes her advice and ends up in Gregson’s office, looking well mollified. He tells him that he’s been meaning to tell him the truth before but he was embarrassed, embarrassed by his supposed weakness. Miller is fantastic here playing a very subdued Sherlock, struggling to get the words out in fear of rejection. Sherlock obviously looks up to Gregson in some weird, surrogate fatherly way, and the chemistry between Miller and Aidan Quinn is demonstrated perfectly. Sherlock is honestly frightened of how Gregson sees him now, but Gregson quickly lets him know that he already knew. Did Sherlock really think he’d let him on his team without a proper background check? He tells him that he’s proud he made out of rehab and he’s still the best detective he’s got. It’s a sweet scene and it showcases just how much the few people Sherlock has mean to him. He’s human.
The last scene of the episode encourages that theme. Watson says she thinks she scared Aaron off with knowing that he was married, even though it ended up being a fluke. Sherlock, in a sobering moment, tells her that there are pitfalls with the gift of deduction. Even though being well aware of the individuals around him, and being able to detect the aspects of them that make them special and unique to others, people don’t always like being so easily read. Watson says it sounds like a lonely life and he restates that as he said, there are some cut backs.
It’s seems as if the writers are, rather than showcasing Sherlock’s intellect and having that be the main draw of the show, are instead showing what his intellect and how he uses it can affect his life, and how does he live with such a gift. We’re getting the private life of Sherlock Holmes and instead of simply being wowed by his masterful mind, we’re being moved by him and his daily struggles. As Watson and Holmes grow a little closer each episode, with Watson still deserving some more exploration, audiences begin to get a clearer look at just how Holmes works and it’s captivating. Here is the man behind the cases.