An old case of Captain Gregson’s (Aidan Quinn) might be connected to a new string of serial murders on this week’s Elementary , “One Way to Get Off.” But with the murderer Wade Crews (Keith Szarabajka) long behind bars, do the new killings suggests that Gregson and his former partner put away the wrong man? And worse, might the police have set up the convicted serial killer? Or do the police have a copycat on the loose?
Gregson is furious with Sherlock (Jonny Lee Miller) for suggesting that the murderer was convicted on the basis of planted evidence. The police captain is squeaky clean; his deeply felt ethical code would require him to uncover any injustice, even if it means the end of his own career (or that of his ex-partner). But Sherlock doesn’t trust the criminal justice system, especially, and when he spots irrefutable evidence that evidence indeed had been planted, Gregson’s suspicions turn to his ex-partner.
But nothing is ever quite that easy on Elementary (else why put Sherlock on the trail?). Indeed the evidence had been planted, but that’s beside the point as the consulting detective makes a series of cognitive leaps that point towards a new, but connected, murderer.
What better way to let a murderer walk free than to plant evidence that they’d got the wrong guy? A loyal son, now working for a literacy program to help prisoners learn to read, teaches a once illiterate lifer, suddenly able to quote Oscar Wilde and Tolstoy. It’s an anomaly–a puzzle piece that does not quite fit for Sherlock. Following that thread, Holmes discovers the hitherto unidentified son and a plan to cast enough doubt on the original conviction and get Dad off and walk free. The plan might not have ever worked, except for the unintentional police assist of the planted evidence, and without Sherlock making that discovery, Crews would have walked out of jail free.
“One Way to Get Off” is an engaging installment of the new CBS hit. Yes, it does follow the tried and true CBS formula of its long string of police procedurals, but it’s always fun to watch the edgy, ever-hyper Sherlock piece it all together. But even more satisfying, as usual, are the glimpses we always get into Holmes’ troubled psyche. We want to know (perhaps even more the resolution of the case) why Sherlock is in so much pain. As does the audience’s avatar, Dr. Joan Watson (Lucy Liu).
We get several new bits of evidence about Sherlock’s this week. Before I get to the biggie, there is a more subtle clue we get early in the episode during a case detour down a wrong alley (or red herring, if you prefer). Sherlock and the police are led to a potential copy cat murderer. While Sherlock is exploring the suspect’s home he hears muffled cries from behind a wall. Inside is a young woman who speaks no English. As Gregson and his associates approach to rescue the beaten woman, Holmes gets to her first. Crouching at her level on the floor, he gently comforts her, speaking to her in her native Chechen.
It’s a fragile moment tucked into the brutal discovery, and makes me wonder about Sherlock’s reaction. There is such tenderness and care in the way he relates to this frightened woman; the first time, I believe we’ve seen him shed that armor of indifference in public. What’s behind that?
More significantly, we learn more about Irene, and what she means to Sherlock after last week’s reveal. Sherlock is furious (and I believe deeply hurt) that Watson had sought out Allistair last week, convincing him to divulge what he considers private information about the night of his meltdown. It is a deep invasion of his privacy, and his anger is understandable. This week, she goes to the rehab facility where Sherlock had been resident. No one can tell her anything about him, other than that he was the most uncooperative and opaque patient they’d ever encountered.
It is the facility gardner (Stephen Henderson), and fancier of bees, whom Watson spots as she’s talking to a therapist, that seems to have gotten to know Holmes better than any of the professionals. The gardner explains that Holmes felt he was the “only one without an agenda.” They would spend time together with their mutual interest in beekeeping. Reluctantly, the gardner gives Watson a stack of letters. From Irene Adler!
Although Sherlock is stunned that she has them, he takes them, explaining that there was a reason he’d left them behind. He demonstrates this by shredding them in the blender. But in the end, we find Sherlock sitting in the dark, eyes devastated and teary. “We were very close,” he confesses simply to Watson. “She died, and I didn’t take her death very well.”
I’ve made no secret of the fact that these little (or big) reveals of Sherlock’s troubled soul are my weekly payoff. I love the character study aspects to Elementary. This is what also distinguishes this Sherlock from other versions, and what elevates this series above so many other police procedurals.
I also feel, more and more each week, that Elementary is a great replacement show for fans of the dearly departed House, M.D., especially those who watched as much for the character exploration of that medical Sherlock Holmes as for the case of the week.
Former House writer/producers Peter Blake and Liz Friedman now write for the series, and next episode, Lisa Edelstein makes a guest appearance, so it’s a perfect time for House fans to catch the series (and then catch up) if they haven’t already discovered it. And although it’s unfair to compare the two very different series (and I won’t), House fans should find Elementary quite satisfying on several levels.
I will be interviewing Elementary creator/executive producer Rob Doherty later today. The interview will appear on Blogcritics November 28, the day before the next new episode. So be sure to follow me on Twitter to be sure to catch it as soon as it’s live.
Elementary airs Thursday nights at 10:00 p.m. on CBS, returning to the air November 29 after a brief Thanksgiving break.