Elementary episode 6 review: Flight Risk

Review Frances Roberts
9 Nov 2012 - 17:11

Guess who's not coming to dinner in this week's Elementary? Here's Frances's review of Flight Risk...

This review contains spoilers.

1.6 Flight Risk

Just as it was for Miller’s character, Flight Risk’s planes, wrenches, and coke-smuggling case was really just a distraction from the real mystery of the episode: who is Sherlock Holmes and what happened to him pre-rehab? Elementary’s done a solid job of raising audience curiosity about the circumstances that caused Holmes to wind up in treatment, and unlike him, we’re keen to wade into the particulars of his personal history.

As is Joan Watson, who continued her sleuthing this week by tracking down an old friend of her charge: ex-pat struggling actor Allistair (a great turn from Roger Rees). Expecting to meet Holmes Sr. - despite Sherlock’s “Dad never shows” mantra - Watson fell for a prank that eventually led her to discover a clue to the stranger she lives with. That clue? A woman’s name. Which woman? Why, the woman of course, (because to Holmes she is always the woman).

As a few suspected, it turns out that Irene Adler is somehow entangled in Holmes’ pre-rehab meltdown, meaning an appearance from the only opponent to have bested the consulting detective looks as if it’s on the cards. That is, if Adler’s still alive…

Keeping Holmes Sr. dangling like a guillotine blade ready to drop over the episode was a masterstroke this week, as was delaying us meeting him further. We’ve barely come to know Holmes and Watson yet, so divulging the identity of the shadowy Holmes Sr. would have felt anti-climactic this early on. There's too much potential in Holmes' hostility towards his absent father to introduce him just yet.

The scene in which Allistair and Watson discussed Holmes was one of the show’s best, and an effective reminder of just who we’re dealing with in Elementary. Allistair’s grief at the notion of Holmes’ exquisitely rational mind being addled by addiction was so well played that anyone still doubting whether Miller’s character can truly be considered a bonafide Holmes should have been nudged into belief.

Incidentally, Allistair’s deceptive introduction brings to mind one element of Conan Doyle’s Holmes that Elementary has yet to exploit: disguises. Holmes’ ability to turn himself into a haggard washer woman or a hulking tramp with a few smudges of coal dust and a hat was always one of the more far-fetched elements of the original stories, so giving it a miss is more-than understandable, but with an old luvvy like Allistair around to coach him on accent and loan him the greasepaint, it'd be fun to see Miller don a disguise or two in future.

As far as the case went, it all unspooled entertainingly enough. While keeping his fingers crossed for a wood-chipped mother-in-law to land on his lap, bored, fidgety Holmes stumbled upon a light aircraft crash on the police scanner and set about proving it was a murder and narcotics case. There was something oddly retro about the Miami coke-smuggling revelation wasn't there? As if it belonged in a lost episode of Starsky and Hutch. The synthetic sand and brackish water weed were good, solid Holmesian clues though, and our consulting detective barely broke a sweat following the trail from hunch to conclusion.

What the plane plot did throw up of interest was a return to a theme introduced in The Rat Race - that Sherlock’s insane perspicuity is something of a curse to him. Holmes explained to Watson that his anxiety around aircraft is down to his finely-tuned perceptive skills making it nigh-on impossible not to observe the enormous risks around him. Treating Holmes’ genius as a neurosis of sorts seems like a rich seam for Elementary to mine, especially in our psych diagnosis-heavy age.

During the somewhat hysterical period between Elementary being announced and arriving on our screens, executive producers Rob Doherty and Carl Beverly vowed the show’s focus would fall on “…the evolution of a friendship” and Flight Risk delivered on that promise. Over six episodes, Holmes has gone from begrudging acknowledgement of Watson’s talents to seeming to care about her feelings and opinion of him, albeit in his own atypical way. It might well mean that Watson has to redefine her notion of friendship, but that's what her relationship with Holmes is fast becoming. What was it Allistair told her? “You can’t expect Sherlock Holmes to relate to you the way others might”. Sage advice.

Read Frances’ review of the previous episode, Lesser Evils, here.

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