Elementary, Season 1, Episode 13: The Red Team (Review)
An intricate, conspiracy-fueled plot made for an especially good hour of television with everyone's favorite detective (even if he is a bit of a jerk).
I feel like I always start these reviews off by justifying my love of Elementary. It’s almost like fans of this show have an inferiority complex because of the universal praise (which is deserved, by the way) heaped on the BBC’s Sherlock. In fact, it’s almost impossible to talk about one without mentioning the other. I’ll do my best to refrain from this in future reviews, but it bears repeating, here: Elementary, when it’s firing on all cylinders, is as smart and entertaining as a network crime thriller is likely to get on this side of the pond, and Jonny Lee Miller is every bit as compelling as Benedict Cumberbatch. There. I said it. You know where to send the hate mail.
This week’s episode, “The Red Team” is definitely Elementary doing what it does best. There have been a couple of clunkers, recently. I was less than totally enthralled with their roundabout introduction of Moriarty in Episode 12, and they’ve been skirting some kinda dangerously awkward territory with Sherlock and Joan’s friendship recently. Luckily, almost all of that is forgotten here. “The Red Team” opens with the fallout from “M” still being dealt with. Joan still is no longer under contract as Sherlock’s sober companion, Sherlock is still suspended from his role as consultant with the NYPD (and with good reason), and now the name “Moriarty” is prominently affixed to the center of Sherlock’s case board. There is one rather unwelcome holdover from those episodes, though. Joan Watson’s “exposition therapist” is still here. Look, don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking the mental health profession and I’m certainly not shaming anyone who is now or ever has been in therapy for anything. I just really think that the whole “talking to a therapist to explain stuff that the writers can’t find a way to fit in anywhere else” thing got old back when The Sopranos was still actually watchable. And that, my friends, was a long-ass time ago. But seriously, unless her therapist turns out to be Jane Moriarty or something and now she knows all of Sherlock’s secrets because of Joan, then, y’know, find another way to explain things to the audience, please.
Alright, I’m being a jerk, as this was all of five minutes of the episode. Interestingly, unlike many other episodes of Elementary, “The Red Team” doesn’t open up with a gruesome murder. Instead, we find that Holmes has a fondness for conspiracy theories. Oh, wait, no he doesn’t. He’s far too smart for that malarkey. No, in true Holmes fashion, he just loves conspiracy theorists, who he engages with on various internet message boards. There’s no shortage of laughs as Holmes unpacks his disdain for all manner of feeble-minded nonsense, with, what appears to be his greatest ire reserved for idiots who think the moon landing was faked. When his favorite internet sparring partner (who goes by the handle of “Zapruder,” of course) turns up dead, Sherlock decided to investigate. The problem is, Sherlock is no longer a consultant with the NYPD. It appears that they took his attempt to torture and murder the villain in “M” rather personally, and now Mr. Holmes isn’t really welcome over at One Police Plaza. Of course, being made to feel unwelcome has never stopped him before, and he still finds creative ways to insert himself into the investigation. Which leads us to the title of the episode, “The Red Team.”
A “Red Team” is usually used in war or conflict simulations where it’s necessary to wreak as much havoc as possible. Well, it seems that one particular “Red Team” did their jobs especially well, and came up with something so horrific that it would be pretty valuable to anyone looking to take out thousands (or more) innocent lives at a time. Perhaps Sherlock’s factually-challenged conspiracy nut friend stumbled on something legitimate that made him a target. What follows is a somewhat intricate (for a one hour drama) plot that at least managed to FEEL a little larger in scope than the average episode of Elementary. “The Red Team” had a number of things going for it that seemed to set it apart from other episodes. Considering the complicated plot, it felt particularly tightly edited.
There were a few sequences where the musical score also seemed a little more cinematic than I’m used to. It’s rare that I’ve noticed the incidental music when watching Elementary, but this week, it was deployed quite well, heightening the tension at just the right moments. While, by episode’s end, I had a feeling that I knew who was bumping off the various members of the team, the MOTIVE for the killings still managed to surprise me. When Holmes finally confronts and outsmarts his quarry, it was very satisfying and, as usual, well played by Miller.
Towards the end of the episode, we not only get a little resolution for one of Sherlock’s larger problems, but Aidan Quinn is allowed another terrific scene as Captain Gregson. The friendship between him and Sherlock has remained largely unexplored in Elementary, with the exception of one or two key scenes throughout the season. There’s another one here, and it’s certainly interesting. I’m thrilled that we’re getting a full season of this show, and I think it’s finally hitting its stride. If you’re a fan of Sherlock Holmes and you’ve written off Elementary without seeing it, you’re missing out on a lot of fun.
Best “Sherlock is a dick” Moment: “Well, it’s obvious that that man isn’t a mastermind of anything.”