Elementary episode 16 review: Details

Review Frances Roberts 15 Feb 2013 - 07:30

Elementary disappoints this week with a dull case and clichéd characters. Here’s Frances’ review of Details…

This review contains spoilers.

1.16 Details

It’s a shame that in the week this website publishes a piece that eats a big slice of Elementary-praising humble pie, the show delivers one of its most generic, disappointing instalments yet.

Details wasn’t a Holmesian case, and it certainly didn’t take Sherlock Holmes’ peculiar talents to solve it (he didn’t in fact; Watson made the leap that took us to the perpetrator). The conclusion to Detective Bell’s framing was reached by sluggishly connecting a generic series of dots that any CSI type worth their badge could have followed. Case files were looked over, boot imprints taken, ballistics tested, and it was revealed yet another evidence-planting cop was out for revenge. So far, so unexciting.

It makes sense in a long-form TV serial to spend some time developing your surrounding cast, hence the tradition of handing over the odd episode to a bit player. The wittiest example I can remember was Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s The Zeppo, which confronted Xander’s side-kick status head-on and acknowledged the camera had temporarily swung in a different direction. Captain Gregson having had his past probed in One Way To Get Off, this week was the turn of Detective Bell (Jon Michael Hill).

After a knockabout comedy exchange in which Holmes urged Watson to learn self-defence, a pre-credits attempt was made on Det. Bell’s life, or rather, something designed to look like one. The drive-by shooting was the first step in a scheme to frame Bell for the murder of a vengeful crim as payback for his having shopped his former boss for planting evidence years earlier.

The frame plot unfurled like a toaster bouncing down a staircase, thud by clunking thud. Bell’s colleague, Officer Reyes, was introduced all but wearing a red shirt, and was predictably unveiled as the guilty party. Most disappointing though, was the arrival of Bell’s brother André.

It’s hard not to be suspicious of a show that - set in New York City remember - chooses to characterise its only black detective as having had two career choices: cop or gang-member. Bell’s brother couldn’t have been say, a clarinet teacher, or a pet store owner, or a civil servant, no, in accordance with The Big TV Book Of Tired Race Clichés, he's an ex-con who used to run a corner.

Seeing as the vast majority of cases Sherlock investigates happen to wealthy white people in exquisitely turned-out houses (I can’t have been the only one to admire the square footage and interior design of previous crime scenes), the first time the show ventures properly into a black family it’s all shootings, drug-running, and gangland retribution killings. What next, an episode in which Watson wins a Mathletes championship then fails to parallel park?

The lazy stereotyping’s fast becoming a pattern. Think back to the last time Elementary gave young black characters any screen time. Bell aside, there was street rat Teddy in M and ex-junkie reformed car thief Alfredo in The Long Fuse. Add to that The Wire-lite scene of Bradford and co. on that basketball pitch this week, and the tedium continues.  

Holmes and Watson’s arrival at a partnership this week also failed to live up to its potential. Elementary has done great work slowing inching forward the friendship between the two, creating quiet moments of genuine connection (the closing moments of One Way To Get Off and You Do It To Yourself spring to mind), but this week’s proposition felt rushed.

It was as if a chart exists in an office somewhere with a big cross marking episode sixteen as the one in which Holmes offers Watson the role of partner, and she accepts. Holmes seemed too unguarded too quickly, offering up emotional explanations for why he wanted Watson to learn self-defence instead of more characteristic veiled excuses.  

At this stage, whether Elementary’s Holmes is or isn’t like Conan Doyle’s creation is almost beside the point. Sixteen episodes in, the show now only has a responsibility for its lead to live up to the behaviours and attitudes it’s established for him. For me, this one fell short of that target.

It’ll certainly take more than one below-par episode to put me off Elementary, which remains a witty, diverting procedural show built around a fantastic central performance, but too many more like this week won't do it any favours.

Read Frances’ review of the previous episode, A Giant Gun, Filled With Drugs, here.

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I liked the episode, and what conflict the detective would have with his brother if he was in deed a clarinet teacher? Partnership is one thing, friendship is another and it is not necessary to have them both. At this point Holmes can't offer his friendship that's why offers partnership. Obvious.

I liked this episode. I thought the partnership created between Holmes and Watson was done well. My fear is that things are moving so fast, the writers will run out of ideas for season two.

I really enjoyed the episode and actually surprised that Frances didnt enjoy it. I was glad they didnt drag out the whole thing with watson not telling holmes about her situation and it has been hinted at for a few episodes. Holmes reasoning was touching as well considering he almost came close to losing her recently which showed growth in his character. Now we can move on and she can embrace her new role fully and that showed in the episode with her solving bits of it. I agree about the stereotyping but sadly not surprised as this is tvland and the pandering to this type of thinking is expected.

Blimey Frances, given your recent write-up about how good Elementary has turned out to be and how it's silenced its critics, your last two paragraphs are a bit of an about-turn. American TV show in slightly duff episode horror. It wasn't that bad, really, this episode, was it? I mean, it wasn't one of the best, but it was OK? I thought Holmes offering Watson a partnership was very well done - it was more of the slow-burn characterization between the two characters that has been so well done in this series. I do wonder whether you're letting the almost universal slagging in the Comments under your other article get you down a bit - who cares what obsessed fans think? They're the last people you want to pay attention to...

When Elementary first aired, I said that I expected it to rest heavily on racism and sexism, and that it would succeed at least partly because of that, rather than in spite of it. I haven't changed my mind.

The CBS audience appears to include a large segment of viewers, mostly older, who like shows with 'old-fashioned' familiar attitudes toward race and gender. CBS does that cleverly enough to avoid drawing widespread condemnation. The fact that few reviews and responses to this particular episode find any problem with the numerous race stereotypes and cliches is just another indication of the CBS success in handling these issues.

As for Watson, the fact that the part is played by a woman, and an Asian, attracts those who rightfully bemoan the overlooking of females, and WOC in particular, in major roles on TV. We rightfully celebrate the fact that she contributes to solving problems and that she has some strong speeches, as in warning the drug dealer not to hurt Holmes. But at the same time, CBS plays extremely well to that considerable chunk of its audience that likes seeing all women in traditional gender terms, and a WOC in the very familiar role of devoted caretaker to a white person, with no significant outside life of her own.

Holmes tells Watson that her anger at his outrageous behavior is due to the fact that she needs to be taken to bed by a man, and that he would, if her cycle timing allowed for it, attribute some of her behavior he doesn't like to menstruation. And she lets him get away with it instead of telling him she'll leave if he does it again. She comes to live with him not as an equal friend, but as a paid caretaking employee whose contribution doesn't even have to be acknowledged by him to the people he works with. Her history as a doctor is blighted by loss of her license, and even when encouraged to take up medicine again, she wipes out her contacts, symbolically erasing that part of her life. She's had lovers, but no real relationships now, not even friends; indeed, she seems to have almost no life outside of taking care of Holmes or an old boyfriend. A damsel in distress in her relationship with her mother, she is saved by Holmes' intervention, and she's grateful for his making her acceptable in her mother's judgments, even though he explains he was telling lies. Every step he takes in treating her better is played like a gift from him. So long as her feisty comments are to serve his welfare, it's acceptable and amusing to all the audience. If Gregson yells at Holmes, it's serious. When Watson orders him out to the car, everybody laughs. She sacrifices a paycheck to take care of him for free. And his Valentine Day's proposal to her is that she continue to devote her life to him - not as a business partner, but as a "companion" for money, not a very respectful offer if seen in the context of his series-highlighted use of female prostitutes to serve weaknesses he's contempuous of.

Having grown up in the American Deep South, I find all this uncomfortably like old, old, familiar dogwhistles. But Elementary is succeeding because it is a good procedural, and entertaining to both its prejudiced and non-prejudiced viewers. The only misstep CBS has made is in overplaying the Sherlock Holmes card. It's a subtle irritant to many who would have otherwise been entirely happy with this very non-Holmes-show under a different name. And the changes in Watson's situation (from the original stories) helps focus attention on how very stereotyped is CBS's treatment of race and gender.

Hi, I am Teddy. I am 7 years old. I have no eyes and blood all over my face. I am dead. If you don’t post this to at least 12 pictures I will come to your house at midnight and I’ll hide under your bed. When you’re asleep, I’ll kill you.Don’t believe me?Case 1: Patty Buckles got this chain e-mail. She didn’t believe in chain letters. Well, foolish Patty. She was sleeping when her TV started flickering on and off. Now she’s not with us anymore. Ha ha Patty, Ha ha! You don’t want to be like Patty, do you?Case 2: George M. Simon hated chain emails, but he didn’t want to die that night. He post it to 4 pictures. Not good enough George. Now, George is in a coma. we don’t know if he’ll ever wake up. Ha ha George, Ha ha! Now, do you want to be like George?Case 3: Valarie Tyler got this chain e-mail. Just another chain letter, or so she thought. Only had 7 pictures to post to. Well, that night when she was having a shower she saw a bloody figure in the mirror. She got the biggest fright of her life. Valarie is scarred for life.Case 4: Derek Minse was a smart person. He post it to 12 pictures. Later that day, he found a $100 bill on the ground. He was promoted to head manager at his job and his girlfriend agreed to marry him. Now, he and his wife are living happily ever after. They have two beautiful children.Post this to at least 12 pictures or you’ll face the consequences.0 pictures – You will die tonight! 1-6 pictures – you will be injured! 7-11 pictures –you will get the biggest fright of your life! 12 and over – you are safe and will have good fortune!Do What Teddy Says!!!! Hurry, you must post this to 12 pictures before midnight

Really? Really?! More fool you, you haven't even posted this on a picture ...

you need to get over some of your issues

why don't you go and write a television series or any series and make a woman tough

at the end of the day there is enough crap on television and you don't have to watch the programme in the first place

sorry but bored of the whinging about equality

live your life

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