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Elementary proving to be more than typical CBS procedural

Elementary poster

Written by : published Wednesday 6th February 2013

I was highly skeptical when CBS's Elementary premiered in the fall. We already have a great modern version of the Sherlock Holmes tale in the BBC's Sherlock, and CBS is not known for breaking new ground in their dramas, preferring to stick to a tried and true (and very boring) formula.

However, in recent weeks, the story told in Elementary has begun to deepen. There are hints early in the fall at something better, an intriguing character study forming, making the case of the week bits less important. This comes to a triumphant crescendo with "M." a couple of weeks ago, and continues this week in the post-Super Bowl episode "The Deductionist."

In "The Deductionist," Sherlock (Johnny Lee Miller) is forced to work with profiler Kathryn Drummond (Kari Matchett, Covert Affairs) when a serial killer named Martin Ennis (Terry Kinney, Oz) escapes. Kathryn is the one who catches the murderer the first time, but she also has a past with Sherlock, having slept with, and then publicly profiled, the brilliant detective. He feels betrayed, making him act irrationally and immaturely, forcing Kathryn into a competition, rather than a partnership.

There are few individuals who can shake up Sherlock, so that fact that Drummond does says something intriguing about her. Despite Sherlock's claims that what she does is worthless and false, I don't believe that Sherlock would get so upset were Drummond not extremely talented and capable. What she did to him hurt him, touching on something deep inside, and because he doesn't have the social skills to behave like an adult, this sends Sherlock into a spin.

Sherlock's instability continues when he finally tracks down Ennis. Rather than bringing police backup, Sherlock risks a one-on-one confrontation so that he can grill Ennis about the killer's own profile. It's reckless, much like Sherlock's actions in "M.," and it proves to Captain Gregson (Aidan Quinn) that Sherlock can't be trusted.

This could threaten Sherlock's continued work with the police. Yes, our detective is highly intelligent and helps put away the bad guys. But that has to be weighed with how Sherlock respects rules and procedures, as well as orders from Gregson. Without this structure, it puts everyone at risk, and Gregson can't allow his guys to get hurt just to keep Sherlock happy. The bad may outweigh the good Sherlock provides soon enough, and Gregson is growing wary of this.

Sherlock's main goal with Ennis seems to be to prove to himself that Drummond is wrong, thereby being assured that he does not have to worry about the fate she has predicted for him, total self-destruction. Here, we get to see one of Sherlock's greatest fears, that the same elements of his psyche that make him a genius could also lead to his downfall. It's a portrait of a scared man laid bare, and one viewers are unlikely to soon forget.

This is why I like Elementary. It goes beyond what one might expect at first glance, is willing to let Miller take risks with the character, and gives him writing that supports his sheer talent. Sherlock, unlike other crime show investigators, is not a replaceable cog in the system, but the entire reason this series exists. He is something special.

I did not expect the surprise of Drummond being stabbed in this episode. One doesn't assume that the villain to accomplish their goal, and it was a shocking twist. I almost wish that she had died, because it would have been even more unexpected, but I'm glad in retrospect that Drummond can return in the future, given the effect she has on our lead. And I like Matchett.

The B plot of "The Deductionist" involves Watson (Lucy Liu) being evicted from the apartment she sublets because pornography has been shot there, breaking her lease agreement. But with a little pushg from Sherlock, Watson is soon able to prove that her landlord is trying to pull a fast one on her, and negotiates a deal. She doesn't want the apartment back, but she ends up satisfied.

I like that Watson is very intelligent in her own right, and that she sometimes doesn't have to stay by Sherlock's side all the time. She is a fully developed person, rather than a one-note sidekick, and adds quite a bit to the overall success of the show.

I do have a theory that Sherlock is the one that hired Watson, not his father, having looked into her, and realizing that they would be good together, she being what he needs right now. This could explain a lot, would mean that Sherlock is well aware of her continued presence in spite of the fact that she was fired. It also sets them up for a big falling out when she learns of Sherlock's betrayal of her trust. Sherlock tests her all the time. Who's to say that her entire job thus far hasn't all been a test? This revelation would make a heck of a season finale!

My only real complaint about "The Deductionist" is the opening. Sherlock engages in a sting against a couple of prostitutes that rip people off. It doesn't really fit, and seems designed purely to hook in the football fan who might tune in after the big game. In that, it should serve its purpose, and because it might draw a few more viewers, this can be easily forgiven, as long as it's a one-time slip, and not a habit.

Elementary normally airs on Thursdays, including this week, at 10 p.m. ET on CBS.

Want to read some of my fiction? It's on my website, JeromeWetzel.com! Also, for the latest updates and article links, as well as commentary on episodes I don't fully review, please follow me on Twitter.

About the author JeromeWetzelTV

JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome Wetzel is a huge fan of stories, in both books and television. He writes TV reviews and fiction. He currently posts articles for TheTVKing, Seat42F, and BlogCritics, as well as his own personal blog, as well as writing fiction. His website is www.jeromewetzel.com Follow him on twitter @JeromeWetzelTV

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