New Show Recap: Elementary Episode 2.1 “Step Nine”

Oh Elementary, how I love you. When the show first premiered, many dismissed it as another inferior version of a acclaimed British series and nothing could surpass BBC’s Sherlock. Plus, a WOMAN as Dr. Watson; set in NEW YORK CITY! Blasphemy to the canon.

Well, the naysayers were wrong. Elementary is smart, funny and has an emotional core that is entirely missing from its British counterpart. It reflects the diversity of the city it’s set in better than any other show on network TV. Sherlock in the series is an addict who first employs Joan Watson as a sober companion. Their relationship develops into a close friendship with Watson training with Sherlock as a consulting detective.

When we left the series, it was revealed that Irene Adler, Sherlock’s amour who he thought was murdered by Moriarty, actually was Moriarty. It was a nice little twist and added dimension to a character that had poorly written and stripped of her most interesting qualities in other adaptations …*cough Sherlock cough.* She was brought down with the help of Watson and as part of his thanks, Sherlock named a new species of bee after Watson (told you this show had heart).

The premiere episode of season 2 takes us to the original setting of the Sherlock Holmes stories: London. But first, Holmes and Watson are in the middle of a case involving murdered U.S. District Attorneys and a cartel. Holmes has figured out that the cartel used carrier pigeons to communicate with the hit man, hence why Holmes and Watson are meeting in Central Park. The hit man comes to collect the pigeon and message, prompting Holmes to chase after him. The guy gives Holmes the slip, but is brought down in spectacular fashion by Watson (did I mention I love her?) As Detectives Gregson and Bell wrap up the case, Holmes receives a call that his old colleague from Scotland Yard, Gareth Lestrade, has gotten himself into some trouble. Though it’s a seemingly personal matter, Holmes wants Watson to accompany him to avoid any unsavory seat mates (there was some fat shaming in that statement. Come on writers! You can do better).

While Holmes was consulting with Scotland Yard, he began working with Lestrade on cases. They weren’t friends; it was more a marriage of convenience. His relationship with Lestrade never developed as it did with Watson. They had one common trait: addictive personalities. For Lestrade, his drug was the spotlight that Holmes’s crime solving shone on him. Holmes never took credit for the cases, leaving Lestrade to enjoy the spoils and become a warped sort of addict, much like Holmes. With Holmes now in New York, Lestrade has been a bit adrift and has become obsessed with this one case. A man named Lawrence Pendry called in a robbery and reported that his wife, Mary, was shot while he wrestled with the robber. Lestrade was convinced that Pendry murdered his wife despite evidence to the contrary. He is a bit unhinged, going so far as to show up at the funeral for Pendry’s father and brandishing a grenade.

So to London they go; a city that Holmes states is different every time he visits. As they arrive at Scotland Yard, Watson suggests Sherlock might want to consider moving onto Step Nine of the Alcoholics Anonymous program: making amends to the people you’ve hurt. In this case, apologizing to Lestrade for getting him addicted to the spotlight. They have to find him first and that is the only job, though Holmes’s interest in the Pendry case is piqued.

After getting debriefed by the Yard, Holmes takes Watson to his beloved residence, 221B Baker Street, left in the care of a man called Geezer Bob. Sherlock designed the place to stimulate creativity and clarify focus, but when they enter, the flat has been turned into a bland version of a posh London flat. As Sherlock goes upstairs to find Geezer Bob, a stylishly dressed man enters the apartment and demands to know why Watson is there. His name is “Fattie,” according to Sherlock who arrives downstairs (more fat shaming), though his given name is Mycroft. He’s played by the lovely Rhys Ifans and is more lackadaisical than the calculating, power brokering Mycroft of other adaptations. Instead of being the power behind the government, he’s a restaurateur, owning a dozen restaurants around the city. As Sherlock and Mycroft play out their dysfunctional relationship, which includes Sherlock sleeping with Mycroft’s girlfriend just to prove she was after his money and Mycroft selling all Sherlock’s belongings, Watson goes to sleep off the jet lag and Sherlock heads out to find Lestrade.

As it turns out, Lestrade is not that hard to find. He’s hanging out at a pub across the street from a building where Holmes had a secret cache of money (well secret until he confided in Lestrade) and is just waiting for the security guard to go on break before absconding with the money. While Sherlock still feels guilty for introducing Lestrade to the spotlight, he agrees to help him put away Lawrence Pendry for the murder of his wife.

Meanwhile, Watson and Mycroft have a little heart to heart where Mycroft exemplifies the “you can’t really trust my brother” trope. Shortly after, at an abandoned theater where Lestrade has been squatting, Watson informs Sherlock she’s having dinner with Mycroft. In a surprising show of emotions clouding judgment, Sherlock thinks Mycroft is trying to seduce Watson in order to get back at him for his indiscretion. Watson is having none of it and refocuses the attention back to the case, based on placement of some art and the fact that there was milk in the fridge even though Mary was a vegan. They use the ruse of Sherlock delivering an apologetic suicide note from Lestrade to gain access to the Pendry house and Watson as a security consultant to roam around. Sherlock finds an odd nail holding up a piece of art.

It’s deduced that Pendry used a 3D printer to fashion a plastic gun and then melted down the bullet used into a nail.The plastic gun was melted down with acetone to make it look like milk, hiding the murder weapon in plain sight. Since they can’t prove the fake milk was once a gun, Sherlock seeks to find out who might have purchased 3D printers in London in the last few months. To do so, he goes to Trafalgar Square and holds up a sign to one of the dozens of CCTV cameras, asking for help from a Langdale Pike. The man delivers in the form of a dropped envelope in Watson’s purse as he whizzes by on a bike.

Watson meets Mycroft at one of his restaurants, conveniently deserted for the evening and Watson mistakenly thinks that Mycroft really is trying to seduce her. It’s nothing as clichéd as that really; Mycroft just wants to be Sherlock’s friend and regrets their estrangement after he fell ill while Sherlock was in New York. Watson is the only one whose gotten past Sherlock’s defenses and Mycroft wanted to know the secret.

While Mycroft and Watson discuss feelings, Lestrade and Sherlock discuss their relationship with Sherlock awkwardly trying to initiate Step Nine, which fails spectacularly before the pair go to the residence of an associate of Pendry’s who bought the 3D printer. Of course, they find him dead from a knife wound. Curiously, the man was stabbed by a person who is left-handed and Pendry is right-handed. The only other evidence is an apple pierced by some type of metal fragment. From all the miniscule evidence, Sherlock concludes Pendry has the 3D printer and made another plastic gun.

In typical Dragnet style, Holmes and the rest of Scotland Yard show up at Pendry’s house and explain how he did the deed. Apparently, when Pendry went to tie up his loose ends, he used the wrong caliber bullet in the gun he tried to shoot his accomplice with and it blew up in his right hand. He ended up stabbing the guy with his uninjured left hand. All that was left was the arrest. Now with Lestrade’s named cleared, he asked Sherlock if he could take full credit for the case and the two would be square. Sherlock refused on the grounds that he couldn’t enable another addict in their drug of choice, but Lestrade called his bluff and took credit anyway.

Sherlock’s final business before leaving London was a meeting with his brother outside the place where he had stored Sherlock’s belongings before moving into 221B (he had lied about selling it). There were some odd items among Sherlock’s things like a shrunken head and bomb building books. Instead of a stereotypical heart to heart, Mycroft blows the storage room, seemingly with help from those bomb building books. In Holmes-speak it’s the equivalent of “I forgive you and love you.”

So this was a solid season premiere. The show has a good formula that the writers don’t want to mess with and it works because of the strength of the two leads. It’ll be interesting to see if they decide to introduce a Big Bad for an over-arching story arc for the season.

What did you think of the premiere? Are you happy that Lucy Liu is back on your screen?

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Florida girl, would-be world traveler and semi-permanent expat. Her main strategy of life is to throw out the nets and hope something useful comes back, but many times it's just an old shoe. She also really, really hates winter and people who are consistently late.

6 thoughts on “New Show Recap: Elementary Episode 2.1 “Step Nine””

  1. I ended up liking this show by accident. I really like Sherlock, even with all its flaws, and I was afraid it was going to be a cheap knock-off. A Saturday afternoon marathon of several episodes converted me, and Elementary has become one of my favorite shows.

    I agree that Sherlock was just mean in this episode, and out-of-character mean. Sherlock is tactless and smug, but he’s not typically cruel for cruel’s sake, and that’s the impression I got here. And that’s when he wasn’t being a walking PSA for how not to talk to one’s business partner.

    I did like Ifans as Mycroft. I thought the parallel between Sherlock’s addiction and Lestrade’s was nicely drawn. Melting the plastic gun in acetone was pretty clever, but my suspension of disbelief was seriously tested when Sherlock figured it out. They’ve had some really smart episodes, and even the mediocre plots last season were still highly enjoyable, so I was disappointed at the deus ex Sherlockness of it all.

    I hope it’s just writers shaking off the break, and we’ll see a return of the smart, unpredictable show we all fell in love with last season.

  2. I’ll admit that the first episode of this season disappointed me. The fat shaming and sexual misconduct from Sherlock’s end was not out of character in any way, but I did think that the episode did not need it in any way, shape or form. Nothing about that moved the plot forward, and I feel like Sherlock took a giant step backward in how he treats Joan with such comments. I was also really put off by the idea that we’re supposed to think Joan is a bad ass for assaulting a suspect with a weapon on behalf of the police when they were running away and not actually attacking her. I think had the context been different I would’ve derived deep satisfaction from a WoC taking out a white man like that, haha. But, not in this instance. The most triggering aspect for me was the discussion of Lestrade’s metaphorical addiction and the repeated attempts to analogize it with substance abuse and addiction. I also wasn’t thrilled with Mycroft’s characterization.

    I am really, really hoping the writers step it up for the next episode. I really like Elementary a lot, and it has become one of my favorite ACD adaptions yet. I want it to say that way!

  3. The fat-shaming was jarring for me. I know that Holmes is supposed to be a jerk in a lot of ways, but I wish they had used other methods to show it. Otherwise, though, I enjoyed the show and liked Mycroft a lot. And, of course, Lucy Liu! Also, now I want a 3-D printer.

    1. The reason I love this show over BBC’s Sherlock is because while Johnny Lee Miller’s Sherlock Holmes can be a jerk as you said, he’s got a compassion to him that is missing from the other portrayal. So, the fat shaming comments was pretty disappointing, especially for a show that goes out of it’s way to be diverse and inclusive. Just disappointed in the writers.

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