Elementary season 2 episode 2 review: Solve For X
Elementary’s cases may be as predictable as ever, but its characters really have evolved. Here’s Frances’ review…
This review contains spoilers.
2.2 Solve For X
I’ll start by saying that any show in which a character unexpectedly happens upon Harry from Mad Men doing crazy, topless mathematics in their living room is okay in my book. If said show could also find its way to providing a case-of-the-week that doesn’t laboriously tick off a list of tired conventions and drag its feet to a conclusion the audience can see coming a mile off, then it might even make the first page. Of my book. Which exists only as an idiomatic metaphor. Wait, what were we talking about?
Crazy, topless maths, as it happens, which made roughly as much sense as that last sentence. Helpfully, Rich Sommer’s character (hopefully we’ll be seeing more of him in future) disguised the first paragraph of the P versus NP Wikipedia entry as dialogue to get us all up to speed.
It seems that someone had been killing off Mathematics savants on the brink of a massive breakthrough. Was it a professional rival? A government protecting its national secrets? An Englishman riled to the point of murder by America’s refusal to add an ‘s’ to the end of Math?
The first one, it turns out. A blurry Zooey Deschanel had masterminded a plan so scheming that it took Holmes and Watson over three ad breaks to solve it. Along the way Elementary stamped its loyalty cards at the ‘first suspect turns out to be the next victim’, ‘eyewitness unexpectedly awakes from a critical condition at a point of narrative expediency' and ‘double/ triple bluff by the one we all thought did it from the beginning’ stations (once they have a full set of each, presumably, the writers are allowed to conceive an original case). It’s perhaps worth noting that the season one episodes Solve For X was most reminiscent of were The Long Fuse and The Red Team, both also by this week’s writer, Jeffrey Paul King.
The cases though, as we’ve long established, are never the thing in Elementary; they’re just the track around which Jonny Lee Miller’s performance runs impressive laps. Unfortunately for Solve For X, this week saw Miller’s usually ebullient, irascible character subdued. Instead of fizzing with energy, he was thoughtful, empathetic, and not just fiscally, but emotionally generous… in short, he was a changed man.
Responsible for that change is of course, Watson, whose story was foremost this week, and who did more than her fair share of case-solving, from her handwriting analysis to that happy hour leap in the closing segment. Now that she’s transitioned into a consulting detective, Watson’s disgraced medical career is two steps behind her, but this week’s guilt trip proved it still provided her with demons to battle.
Of note in the episode was the reversal of roles between Watson and Holmes. In that mortuary scene, he pressed an unwilling Watson to share personal information in a complete inversion of what we saw between them throughout season one. Holmes was the therapist and companion, showing concern, offering advice, nagging even. Watson’s was the habit that needed to be broken, and Sherlock - his years of eye-rolling at the lexis of therapy obviously having had some effect - ushered her to find closure with that lovely speech about the toxicity of guilt. Will Holmes continue with this new, gentler iteration in season two, or will circumstances conspire to make the explosive, unpredictable Holmes re-emerge?
Watson-centred stories have ever leaned towards the mawkish and earnest in Elementary, principally because, unlike Holmes, she’s never really done anything wrong. As a paragon of virtue whose life in one way or another has been devoted to helping people, like this week's episode, she’s just a little bit dull. Let’s see Watson slip up once in a while, Elementary; put her in a situation where she chooses, say, to torture Vinny Jones. Give Watson some real demons to do battle with, because I think she’s up to the fight. Also, with that brain and those surgical skills, wouldn't she make quite the bad guy?
Read Frances’ review of the previous episode, Step Nine, here.
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