Elementary season 2 episode 5 review: Ancient History

Review Frances Roberts
26 Oct 2013 - 19:00

A pacey case, personal revelations and zippy dialogue make this week’s Elementary a joy…

This review contains spoilers.

2.5 Ancient History

Whether they’re fitting a washer-dryer, filing a tax return or creating an entertaining forty minutes of detective telly, there’s little as comforting as being in the company of people who know exactly what they’re doing. This week’s Elementary, while admittedly not the most momentous in terms of plot or arc, was proof that the show’s creators and cast know just what they’re about.

Aptly, the Bratva case opened up like a Russian doll, each suspect leading to another, and another, until we wound up all the way back at the beginning, with the wife of the deceased revealed to have orchestrated his death. The first, discounted interviewee turning out to be the culprit is well-trodden Elementary and genre territory, but who needs originality when there’s all this fun to be had?

With its nail bar loan sharks, adult movies and hit-men, the case was another seedy affair, but unlike the previous instalment, didn’t swerve distastefully between sordidness and real-life tragedy. The GTA-style Russian mobsters were caricatures first and last, simple plot devices to keep Holmes and Watson on the move and in entertaining pursuit of the solution.

There were enjoyable nods to Conan Doyle canon in Holmes’ frustrated boredom, the shady organisation tattoo-spotting and the cigarette ash-identification, (when a show reaches a certain age, its nods aren’t only made to the outside, but in - hence the hurrah in our household when Clyde the tortoise showed up a fortnight ago, and at the welcome return of both Holmes’ New Jersey accent and single-stick practise at the close of this week’s caper).

That said, the best thing by far about Ancient History was the interplay between Holmes and Watson, whose kitchen argument fizzed with platonic Tracy/Hepburn, Maddy/David energy. It’s impossible to overstate how much Jonny Lee Miller brings to the role of Sherlock, but kudos here has to go to the pair of them. Separately, he’s great and she’s fine, but together, they’re just wonderful.

Revisiting the early days of their relationship before a season and a bit’s worth of trust and admiration had been built, reminded audiences how far Elementary’s Watson and Holmes had come. It was entirely within character for Sherlock to have invaded Watson’s privacy and ended up in bed with her pal a year earlier, just as it was entirely in character for him to apologise and attempt to make amends now he’s been humanised by recovery and her friendship. TV audiences hate little more than an amnesiac approach to character development, making this week’s comic B-plot a broad tick in the viewer satisfaction box.

The romantic entanglements weren’t limited to ‘Tony’ and Jennifer’s acrobatic sessions this week either, as a long-expected frisson arose between Det. Bell and Watson (whose dating profile beau appears to have been absent since we met him on the doorstep of the Brownstone). Remarking on someone’s ability to carry off a bullet-proof vest might count as flirtation on the force, Bell, but you’re going to have to up your game if you want to impress our Joan.

In short then, Ancient History provided comedy, intrigue, and great performances from a series brimming with well-deserved confidence. Applause all round.

Read Frances’ review of the previous episode, Poison Pen, here.

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