Elementary episode 4 review: The Rat Race

Review Frances Roberts
26 Oct 2012 - 15:15

Jonny Lee Miller’s performance continues to be the chief attraction of CBS’ steadily enjoyable Elementary…

This review contains spoilers.

1.4 The Rat Race

Now the initial anxiety about Elementary (It’s a copy! It’s American! It’ll be rubbish!) has dissipated, we remaining viewers can relax into the show’s pleasantly enjoyable groove. Four episodes in, and already the opening credits induce in me a shoulder-dropping, sofa-sinking, slow outbreath sense of “Lovely. Forty-three minutes of Jonny Lee Miller being brilliantly watchable in a show that can’t quite keep up with him” repose. Quite good but not too taxing telly: it’s what your settee was made for.

This week saw Sherlock Holmes face the case of the opiate-laced salad, an investigation that dredged up a number of personal demons. Exposed at a crime scene to his own variety of Proust’s madeleine - a spoon of cooked heroin - ex-addict Holmes visibly struggled, but eventually won the day in a surprisingly tender episode that inched further open the tiny aperture into the character’s past.

Miller, of course, remains the chief attraction of Elementary. Liu and Quinn provide strong support, but it’s Miller’s cage we all come to this zoo to gawp at. His recalcitrance upon being summoned to the boardroom of the one percent this week was a bit of vicarious joy, as was his popping off a round of scandalous deductions at the assembled bankers who went down like ducks at a fairground shoot.

As Holmes, Miller is funny, insufferable, smart-arsed, and also - this week at least - a little bit heart-breaking. The final scene between him and Gregson saw Holmes vulnerable as a peeled grape, afraid of a father-figure’s disapproval and admitting to that most English of ailments: embarrassment. It made for wonderful viewing and begged the question of when we’ll meet the mysterious Holmes Sr. and/or whether there’s a Mycroft lurking somewhere back in Blighty. 

As ever, the case was one of the least interesting things about the episode, furred with dangling threads and resolved in a hurry to meet the forty-odd minute deadline. With Watson’s help, Holmes was quickly able to best (and indeed, Taser) a resourceful sociopathic secretary in another generic scenario that could have been solved by almost any other TV detective. No matter, because as we said, it’s all about Miller’s performance, and you could have few complaints about that in The Rat Race.

If we have to point out a weak link in Elementary beside the workaday cases, it’s Det. Bell. Brief and forgettable though Bell’s appearances are, his clockwork-regular scepticism at Holmes’ deductions is becoming hair-pullingly frustrating. He’s the Hastings to Sherlock’s Poirot, steadfast in his belief that despite the consulting detective being right every single time, Holmes is a time-waster full of madcap nonsense. Like a homeopath with a lottery ticket, despite the visible, numerable evidence that he’s entirely wrong, Bell continues to pooh-pooh Holmes’ theories, and needs badly to be given a line of dialogue other than “Yeah right, so you're saying that this definite suicide is in fact a murder? Pah! I’ll believe that when I see it... What’s that? Oh.” 

Watson becoming inured to Holmes’ techniques and discovering the pitfalls of deduction was a decent touch this week, something like those sci-fi and fantasy shows which remind us that the gift of telepathy isn’t always a blessing. If she remains by Sherlock’s side as sober companion, sidekick, or - why not? - bodyguard, will she, like him, become an outsider, separated from normal society thanks to her deductive powers? Surely that can’t be the last we’ll see of her Mark Ruffalo-ish potential new squeeze Aaron (Take This Waltz’s Luke Kirby).

Let’s end on a round of applause then, not because Elementary’s brilliant (it isn’t), but because Jonny Lee Miller's performance in it is. And a pat on the back to whoever commissioned the full season order this week, guaranteeing us at the very least eighteen more outings with Miller’s twitchy, tormented, Withnailian Englishman in New York.

Read Frances’ review of the previous episode, Child Predator, here.

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