Elementary episode 5 review: Lesser Evils

Elementary does little to defend itself from accusations of being a Sherlock copycat in this week’s lacklustre episode…

This review contains spoilers.

1.5 Lesser Evils

Oh Elementary, you’re not making it easy for your defenders are you? This week’s corpse-choking opener put a whacking great tick in the ‘pallid Sherlock rip-off’ column, handing your detractors enough fuel to keep their incensed fires burning for a good long while.

Lesser Evils opened with Jonny Lee Miller strangling a dead body in a hospital mortuary, a scene that will have rung all kinds of bells for Sherlock fans, none of who will have forgotten that our introduction to Benedict Cumberbatch’s glorious Holmes saw him setting upon a cadaver with a riding crop in precisely the same scenario. That’s Miller off Cumbie’s Christmas card list this year then…

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Things didn’t really improve from thereon in. Even Miller’s usually charismatic performance wasn’t enough to elevate Lesser Evils from oversentimentality and generic medical/crime drama banality. So plodding and predictable was its narrative, any number of TV detectives could have solved the case of the Angel of Death. Heck, my golden retriever could probably have pinned the lurking janitor and the ego-monster surgical department head from the off.

After The Rat Race’s illuminating glimpses into Holmes’ emotional life, Lesser Evils attempted to do the same for Watson by delving into her lapsed medical career, but offered only a superficial look at the character’s situation. Likeable as Liu is in the role, from Watson’s wistful looks down hospital corridors to her browsing those ‘what larks’ med school photos (soundtracked by the kind of tune that would once have accompanied Joey pouting over Pacey in Dawson’s Creek), what should have provided character depth felt only shallow and tiresomely familiar.

Personally, the moment I realised the episode wasn’t up to its usual diverting standard was when I experienced an involuntary inner shudder at the use of Sherlock’s first name. It was as if Watson had called Miller’s character Beyoncé, or Jesus, or Ronald Macdonald, so incongruous was the proper noun ‘Sherlock’ in such a straightforward medical drama. The episode felt more ER than Conan Doyle, and closer to an uninspiring House spin-off than anything else.

It’s always disappointing when a show of which you’ve become genuinely (and unexpectedly in this case) fond delivers a sub-par instalment, but that’s what Elementary did this week. A loose theme of luck vs. skill and instinct vs. risk ran through the script, but so, unfortunately did a bunch of sugary clichés that, try as they might, Liu and Miller (whose lines this week lacked the enjoyable acerbity of previous episodes) could do very little with.

Never mind though, such is the way with twenty-two episode US series. The sheer number of stories-of-the-week to be told makes it quite natural for the odd duffer to come along. Elementary still has a talented cast going for it, let’s just keep our fingers crossed they’re given something more engaging to do next week (and that it hasn’t been ported over from its much more consistently impressive BBC twin).

Read Frances’ review of the previous episode, The Rat Race, here.

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