Elementary season 2 episode 21 review: The Man With The Twisted Lip

Review Frances Roberts 25 Apr 2014 - 15:48

Elementary begins its descent towards the season two finale. Here’s Frances’ review of The Man With The Twisted Lip…

This review contains spoilers.

2.21 The Man With The Twisted Lip

Mycroft’s back, Sherlock’s stashing heroin, and Joan’s been kidnapped. So begins Elementary’s first steps towards its season two finale. This week paved the way for the remaining three episodes to reveal something we’ve been wondering since the beginning of this season: just what is Mycroft’s game?

Since episode eight, when we heard Elementary’s dapper restaurateur version of the elder Holmes sibling phone his anonymous accomplice to report on the failure of his “little gambit” to lure Sherlock back to England, a question mark has hung over the character’s head. Why does Mycroft want his little brother back in Blighty? To whom was he speaking? And what does the “different way” he intended to come at “the problem” involve?

Another question can be added to that list, and not an insignificant one: are Mycroft’s romantic overtures towards Watson to be trusted? My money says a tentative yes, if only because revealing one of Sherlock’s inner circle to be an arch villain would be an almost exact repeat of season one’s endgame. Elementary’s writers are surely too canny to bore us with another such twist.

Between Mycroft’s reappearance and the drone murders, The Man With The Twisted Lip certainly didn’t lack for incident. Rather, like a tree crowded with blossom before it drops the lot, there was almost too much going on in the episode in its frantic rush to set up the season's end. The mosquito drones for instance - appealingly bonkers murder weapons and entirely characterstic of Elementary - could have been used more fully had there not been so much else to fit in. Similarly, Tess and her sister weren’t characters but mere stepping stones to the meatier military conspiracy, and it showed.

Much better handled this week was the treatment of Sherlock and Watson’s relationship. Sherlock’s infantilising suggestion that he and Mycroft “share custody” of Joan was revealing, especially coming after the NA meeting speech on his peerlessness and fear of not being able to maintain adult relationships.

Perhaps the savviest and certainly the harshest assessment of Sherlock and Watson’s friendship came from Mycroft. He sees Joan as Sherlock’s salve, someone on whom his little brother relies for sobriety but doesn’t value. It asks the question: Joan spent the first season of Elementary slowly becoming Sherlock’s friend, was it worth it?

Watson's bristling response and uncontained frustration at Sherlock’s interference in her personal life, along with her resigned answer to his apology, suggests not. Season one was all about Elementary bringing together its own version of the famous Holmes/Watson partnership. With a new home for Joan on the cards, season three could see that union under threat. What’s currently hidden inside Sherlock’s copy of the collected William Cullen Bryant is likely to present a challenge to it at the very least…

Plot devices they may have been, but Tess and Paige Dahl did serve another purpose in The Man With The Twisted Lip. They stood in for the concerned wife and missing husband in the Conan Doyle story of the same name. While this week’s episode could hardly be called an adaptation of that story (the missing person presumed to be using opium being its only apparent link), another reading presents itself. The original story told of a wealthy, respectable man revealed by Sherlock Holmes to be making a comfortable living in disguise as a street beggar. Perhaps the hint is that Mycroft’s respectable restaurant career isn’t all it seems.

As the cliff-hanger ending of Watson being bundled into a van by the Corsican mafia showed, this week’s episode functioned more as an engine rev for what’s to come instead of a complete story. It was like season two in miniature: entertaining but erratic, and promising something great on the horizon.

Read Frances’ review of the previous episode, No Lack Of Void, here.

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I confess, I found the whole bug robot thing a bit too gimicky and sci-fiey (I sad as much in the commercial break, and Watson echoes me as soon as the break ended. Sadly the lampshading was not enough to excuse it) for a detective drama (the drones I had no problem with, but the CGI bug robots? Too far).

Also, and I hope this changes in the coming episodes, but I am a bit disappointed with a certain aspect of Mycroft. I've always loved how in the books that despite Sherlock being brilliant, he wasn't the best. Usually if the hero is an expert on something, he is THE best expert. I just love how in the canon, Mycroft is portrayed as simply better (but lazy) (and I also love how Sherlock just accepts this and doesn't really care).

Nothing in this show indicates that (if anything, the opposite. In that horse episode, an episode I had originally hoped would showcase this as it featured Mycroft assisting on the case, Mycroft spent some time marvelling over Sherlock's detective tactics).

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