Elementary season 2 episode 14 review: Dead Clade Walking

Review Frances Roberts 31 Jan 2014 - 16:15

Nano-dinosaurs, international smugglers and a temptress called Eve are all in Elementary’s casebook this week…

After a short break, our weekly Elementary reviews are back. This one contains spoilers.

2.14 Dead Clade Walking

Once I’d recovered from my initial panic over the fate of Elementary tortoise Clyde after misreading this week’s title, Dead Clade Walking was a very easy episode to enjoy. Nano-dinosaurs, suspicious ice-cream vans, dastardly palaeontologists… it was chock-full of the kind of sprightly Scooby Doo battiness Elementary does so entertainingly.

If the plot – academic turns murderer to protect their livelihood – felt familiar, it’s probably because we saw something like it in writer Jeffrey Paul King’s previous season two entry, Solve For X. No matter though, because enough was different about the episode to swerve any sense of déjà-vu.

The chief point of difference was Holmes and Watson having swapped roles, at least temporarily. While Watson led the investigation into the cold case, making leaps a drug-addled Holmes had missed and springing surprise house-guests on her colleague, he was out tending to the needs of a recovering addict.

Sherlock’s struggle with his role as an AA sponsor made for satisfying character development. We saw Holmes going against his urge to join Watson in the reopened investigation and instead devoting his time to Randy’s recovery. He behaved with – if not patience – then tolerance and, in Watson’s words, compassion for his sponsee, even after the relapse. The episode was an exercise in self-awareness for Sherlock, who interrogated his determination for Randy to remain sober and deduced that his vanity and competitive streak played their part. Those repeatedly thwarted attempts to trepan that human skull were perhaps Elementary’s way of showing us the consulting detective probing his own psychology. They were also funny and macabre, another of Elementary’s specialities.

Watson meanwhile, as the lead investigator, played Sherlock’s role by cracking a murder that took in all manner of outlandish elements. Getting a lead on a long-dead case by spotting the striation and colouring of a garden rock is so Holmesian a technique, it could be canon.

Granted, it wasn’t much surprise that the murderer turned out to be – as it so often is in Elementary – the museum academic and thus the first point of research in the investigation. We’re so used to the villain being a character introduced early and then discarded that I half suspected newcomer Geologist Gaye to be the Magpie-murderer, but no, she lived to inspect rocks another day. There were enough twists and suspects in the case to keep it rattling along though, even if the resolution was by-the-by.

Introducing Sherlock’s trunk of cold cases was a sage move from Elementary’s writers, giving them an opportunity not only to detour from the precinct and take a breather from ongoing storylines, but also to delve into Holmes’ past regrets. An episode or three like this one scattered around the rest of the season would be a welcome addition.

Fans also enjoyed a reference to Moriarty (come back again soon, Natalie Dormer) in Sherlock’s admission to Randy that he understood all too well the lure of a dangerous woman (Eve, good name for a temptress, that).

More tantalising though was the discovery that Sherlock Holmes has another hobby besides bee-keeping and single stick, namely, an ongoing erotic correspondence with his prurient pen-pal, C. Now there’s a tie-in book idea for CBS should the Elementary merchandise revenue ever start to dry up…

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