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TV Review: Elementary – “The Deductionist”

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Any time Elementary gets into the head of its central character Sherlock Holmes (the excellent Jonny Lee Miller) and pushes his story to front and center, it is always a good thing. Much more than a signature CBS police procedural, Sherlock is at its heart a character study of the consulting detective, or “deductionist,” as this week’s episode calls him.

Scoring the coveted post-Super Bowl slot, this week’s episode had the opportunity to add new viewers to its numbers. I’m glad the show’s creators decided to go with an emotional, psychological character-driven story, rather than a homicide-of-the-week script.

Unfortunately, the power failure during the Super Bowl (a puzzle worthy of Sherlock!) might have affected the episode’s ratings as the start time was pushed back more than half an hour, and DVRs were also unable to keep up with the time shift. (Annoyingly, even when I hit manual record, my very expensive TiVo refused to completely cooperate, ending the recording at what it thought to be the end of our local news half-hour, and preventing me from doing an immediate re-watch; something I usually require to write my commentary. Oh well.) On the up-side, CBS has already posted the full episode, on its Elementary site.

Sherlock clashes this week with an ambitious FBI profiler with whom he’d worked back at Scotland Yard. Kathryn Drummond (Keri Matchett) is an expert on this week’s serial killer Martin Ennis (Terry Kinney). After he’d been convicted, she wrote a book on him, detailing her inflated theories on his childhood, including allegations of parental sexual abuse. The shame of those allegations were too much for Ennis’ parents, who both died in the aftermath. But Drummond’s unprofessional destructiveness did not stop with serial killers; she also had turned her eye on Sherlock himself, her observations while they worked together turned in to a monograph called “The Deductionist.” 

Accurately predicting Sherlock’s problem with drugs, Kathryn also predicted that Holmes would eventually “self-annihilate.” Her prediction has haunted him, and her return to his sphere has more than unnerved him.

Rob Doherty and Craig Sweeny’s lovely script creates an interesting parallel between serial killer and consulting detective, something they explored recently in the stellar episode “M.” This time, however, Holmes’ struggle is largely internal, which is just fine by me. What I love about these episodes is that we see Holmes’ essential emotional fragility; something that clearly touches Watson (Lucy Liu) as well. 

The episode begins with Ennis donating a kidney to his sister under armed guards. But as they prepare for the surgery, Ennis escapes, and rather than running, he taunts the police and Agent Drummond. His goal is not to return to his life as a serial killer (although there are a few incidental killings along the way), but to execute Drummond for her perceived role in his parents’ death. 

But it is not Ennis who gets to Drummond, but his sister; they had planned the entire thing as revenge. (The plot device reminded me a little of the old  X-Files episode Kitsunegari, written by Vince Gilligan and Tim Minnear, in which the sister of serial killer Modell plans her revenge on FBI Agent Mulder.) 

Ultimately, Sherlock confronts Ennis, sympathetically appealing to their mutual desire to prove Drummond’s profile of the murderer as wrong. Sherlock seems to almost-desperately need this assurance. Sherlock wants this, perhaps even more than Ennis, because, as he says, if Drummond’s profile of Ennis is ultimately wrong, perhaps Sherlock’s fate isn’t quite so dire. 

It’s a lovely turn in a great episode. Jonny Lee Miller continues to impress me, playing Sherlock’s arrogance, his violent nature, his deep empathy, and his sadness with great nuance. The synergy of Doherty’s vision for the series and Miller’s emotional take on Holmes creates a completely unique vision for the character as it moves into the second half of its debut season.

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About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is publisher and executive editor of Blogcritics, as well as a noted entertainment writer. Author of Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, M.D., her primary beat is primetime television. But Barbara writes on an everything from film to politics to technology to all things pop culture and spirituality. She is a contributor to the book called Spiritual Pregnancy (Llewellyn Worldwide, January 2014) and has a story in Riverdale Ave Press' new anthology of zombie romance, Still Hungry for your Love. She is hard at work on what she hopes will be her first published novel.
  • LucyHoneychurch

    “playing Sherlock’s arrogance, his violent nature, his deep empathy, and his sadness with great nuance”

    Thanks for this description. Sums up JLM’s and Doherty’s Holmes beautifully, I think.

  • Meeloo86

    I totally agree with you on JLM, he is phenomenal as Sherlock and even if I love the entire cast, he really makes the show for me !