Elementary: A Study in Charlotte Review

Sherlock and Joan investigate a case of murderous mushrooms and employ their trademark, oddball chemistry to keep things light.

This Elementary review contains spoilers.

Elementary season 4 episode 13

Sometimes Elementary is a rollicking ride — and other times it’s simply a bit of a snooze. This week’s episode, “A Study in Charlotte” (Season 4, Episode 13), was neither, hovering somewhere in the middle with a slightly dull storyline and a few characteristically quirky moments to hold it all together.

Kicking off the episode was a good old fashioned tenant stand-off between Joan and Sherlock, and their noisy neighbors. While Sherlock is more than happy to don noise-cancelling headphones, Joan isn’t eager to let the nuisance slide and heads next door to meet 221A’s tenants face-to-face.

Of course, when it turns out that the original neighbor has moved out and is simply renting his brownstone as a “party pad” (“Noise not an issue,” the neighbor has written in the rental ad), Joan finds herself in a quandary. It seems that the original neighbor moved out because of the noise coming from 221B — random explosions, loud music, and a veritable array of sounds at all hours of the day. To get revenge on Sherlock and Joan, he’s been renting his brownstone to tenants guaranteed to keep the consulting duo awake at night.

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(If you’re still reading at this point, yes: This is a description of the latest Elementary episode, and not a recap of Friends.)

While Joan and Sherlock are left to sort out their community obstacles, the NYPD is busy investigating a case of murder and scandal. After joining up with the department, the consulting duo hops from suspect to suspect, trying to uncover the killer of Joseph Ballantine, a professor and botanist, and subsequently, Charlotte König a botanist and chemist previously under Ballantine’s tutelage. Between bio-fuel company Zarachem, who Charlotte had once accused of stealing her research, and several lovers, past and present, Sherlock and Joan are left scratching their heads.

When it’s finally discovered that Professor Ballantine’s colleague, Austin Harper, had nabbed the idea of using poisonous mushrooms to kill Charlotte (his apparent estranged wife) from Ballantine himself (Charlotte had given a dose of the poison to Ballantine as a gift, not knowing the mushrooms, Blue Angels, were deadly), the NYPD takes Austin into custody. Topping off the episode’s victorious conclusion, Joan and Sherlock are also able to figure out their quarrel with 221A, much to everyone’s relief.

The plotlines this week weren’t particularly exciting in and of themselves — sure, while there was plenty to be seen and sorted out, the episode was relatively uninteresting. Rather, what gives “A Study in Charlotte” its spirit is a smattering of uniquely “Sherlock” moments: In the first few minutes of the show, for example, Sherlock sits silent, facing one of the corners in Ballantine’s office which has been designated a crime scene. After an investigator asks the lead NYPD detective on the case what Sherlock is doing, the consulting detective replies cheekily, without turning around, “I was told not to touch anything, so I thought I should avert my gaze as well.”

Later in the episode, a fire breaks out at 221A, and when Joan enters the brownstone at 221B, Sherlock is seen sitting stiffly in the hallway, opposite a chainsaw. “Tell me you did not start that fire,” Joan exclaims quickly, while Sherlock simultaneously insists, “I did not start that fire.” (Here, of course, Sherlock is telling the truth, but it doesn’t make the moment any less humorous.)

The amusing back and forth in this week’s episode can largely be credited to the notable chemistry between leads Jonny Lee Miller (Sherlock) and Lucy Liu (Joan). No matter what you might think of them separately, there’s no doubt that the fabulous coupling of Miller and Liu was one of the smarter choices the casting directors made in their initial deck-stacking of the CBS procedural. Liu plays the exasperated Watson perfectly opposite Miller’s oddball Holmes — a gratifying trend that most modern adaptations of the Conan Doyle classic seem to have nailed.

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Thankfully, it’s that sort of smart-mouthed chemistry that keeps Elementary afloat, even when the main arc and subplots become a bit stale. Such is the case in “A Study in Charlotte”, which, if we’re being honest here, might not have survived the the ratings without the peculiar duo to give it a little moxie.


3 out of 5