Yes, yes, I love this show. I say it virtually every week. You’re sick of hearing me say it, and I’m sick of saying it. But you know when Elementary is ESPECIALLY awesome? When there’s a terrific guest star playing a dynamic character that can really bounce off of the fantastic chemistry that Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu have. And this week’s episode, “A Giant Gun, Filled With Drugs” (this brilliant title brought to you by a quote from Joan Watson) features exactly that, in the person of Scottish actor, John Hannah. Hannah lights up the screen as Rhys, a guy who happens to be Sherlock’s former drug dealer.
Ah, but Rhys hasn’t crossed the pond just to party and reminisce with his old buddy/customer. Not even close. Rhys’ daughter, who he hasn’t seen in quite some time, has been kidnapped, and he’s on the hook for 2.2 million dollars in ransom money. 2.2 million bucks sounds like a pretty specific sum, doesn’t it? Sherlock thinks so. Good ol’ Rhys, a likeable chap, ripped off his Dominican suppliers for exactly that amount several years earlier before legging it to Thailand to spend his ill-gotten gains on…well, whatever it is that one spends that kind of money on in Thailand. As you might imagine, these drug kingpins took that rather personally and finally figured out a way to get to him.
Sherlock is, of course, all too happy to help out Rhys. Joan, on the other hand, is less than thrilled having Sherlock’s former drug dealer living with them while they try and solve the case. Did I mention that they have twenty four hours to come up with the money? Or that the kidnapper, in true, anonymous creepy kidnapper style, has forbidden Rhys to go to the police? All of this is rather by-the-numbers, I’ll admit, but on-screen, with John Hannah’s manic, comic energy working with Sherlock’s generally unpleasant nature and Joan’s deadpan wit, it’s actually terrific.
Of course, the tension then becomes about not whether the case will be solved or not (I mean, c’mon, it’s Sherlock Holmes, people), but rather whether Sherlock is going to relapse or not. It’s clear he wants to, and it’s clear that Rhys’ presence has rekindled some old cravings in him. He says as much to Joan. It’s really the first time that Elementary has put Sherlock that close to a legitimate relapse. I can’t help but wonder if, at some point, they’ll actually let him cross that line and fall back into those old habits that nearly destroyed him. For those of us who remember Miller’s brilliant performance in Trainspotting can imagine what this version of Sherlock would be like under the influence of various cocktails of hard drugs.
With Sherlock walking his addiction tightrope in this episode, it’s natural that Joan Watson would get to step up to the plate. Lucy Liu gets to show some of Joan’s backbone in this episode, and she is, as usual, a joy. She gets to throw down a little (in a rather understated way) later in the episode as well, and she continues to impress. Even better, that hint of romantic tension that I thought I detected a few episodes ago seems to be gone, so once again, Elementary is a show about friendship rather than any kind of nonsense involving unrequited love.
Sherlock is especially testy throughout this episode, likely a result of the proximity of his favorite drug dealer. In fact, one of the offhanded remarks he makes to Joan is so extraordinarily misogynistic and out of line that I was hoping she’s take him to task for it. Unfortunately, the scene it happens in moves along a little too quickly for it to be addressed, and, sadly, it would appear that she’s getting used to these things. I’d love to see her let him have it about this stuff at some point in the future, though.
The episode lacks some of the more contrived twists and turns of many other installments, but in this case, it’s a good thing. The plot is relatively straightforward, and most viewers should be able to spot the real culprit fairly quickly. However, this lack of intricacy allows for a more tense and action-packed climax than I’ve become accustomed to. Sherlock is a little more physical than we’ve seen him (more than once), and all in all, the last ten minutes are pretty darn exciting. It’s tightly written, there’s hardly a wasted moment, and everyone on the show gets to do what they do best. Hell, I even thought they had forgotten about Captain Gregson and Detective Bell, but even they get their moment in the spotlight before the credits roll. And just like everyone else, they nail it.
I think this show is really hitting its stride. Where Elementary will ALWAYS have an advantage over its BBC counterpart is the ability to develop these characters over more and more episodes. If at any point Elementary decides to step away from the safe, episodic, network crime drama format, it could REALLY shine. Right now, it’s solid entertainment, virtually every week. But if they decide to take some chances, well, watch out.
Best “Sherlock is a dick” moment: “I can identify 140 brands of cigarettes from their ash. If you’d bothered to read my monographs, you would know that.”