This review contains spoilers.
2.16 The One Percent Solution
“We own chickens, don’t we?” Lucy Liu’s resigned punch line to this week’s Elementary topped off a highly entertaining episode from writer Bob Goodman.
The case itself was Elementary by the numbers, right down to the culprit being revealed as the harmless-looking witness interviewed and dismissed early on. (If Holmes and Watson were just to familiarise themselves with a season one box-set, they could save themselves a great deal of effort by just nabbing the sweet “I’m still not over the shock” witness from the off). By Elementary’s own rules, the bomber was either going to be the Labor Department Undersecretary or the restaurant manager, but as a wealthy white-collar ruling classes-type, the baddy odds were stacked in her favour.
No, the real fun came from the return of Sean Pertwee as fame-seeking fraud former Inspector Lestrade, the Gilderoy Lockhart of Scotland Yard. After their set-to in this season’s London-set opener, Lestrade and Holmes performed the human version of Sherlock’s fighting cocks experiment, tasked as they were with co-existing and not pecking out each other’s eyes. Did they manage it?
More or less. This version of Lestrade, though indubitably a preening, self-regarding fool, wasn’t thoroughly rotten. He may have performed the duties of a manipulative pimp, but he wasn’t prepared to let a murderer walk free, which showed just enough moral fibre for Holmes to dislike, but not to despise him.
Elementary had plenty of fun this week, not just with the cock jokes, nor the Daniel Powter ringtone gag, nor even the revelation that Holmes was the reason for Pluto’s demotion from planet to big rock. The entire construction of Lestrade’s monstrous ego was a hoot. The helicopter, the assistant, the thinly disguised Ted Talk, the omnipresent coconut water… It was painfully recognisable and well-observed. Sean Pertwee’s performance had the depth to show that underneath all the character’s razzle-dazzle was a profound sense of self-disappointment. He wasn’t really a monster, this Lestrade, just out of his depth and showing off. It’s not easy being Sherlock Holmes, Elementary repeatedly shows us, but Lestrade reminds us that the inevitable failure of those who try to equal him is no walk in the park either.
While we’re praising performances, it’s time to put the needle back on these reviews’ broken record. Jonny Lee Miller is consistently the most captivating and entertaining aspect of the show, something not only down to the writers, as seen in his laugh-out-loud wordless response to Watson’s incredulity about his being able to identify Aurelius where teams of others have failed. A look, a crick of his neck, a sharp nod and a pursed mouth are Miller’s brushstrokes, and with them, he’s painted a comic master work in his Sherlock Holmes. Send him awards by the truck-full, because Lord knows we needs decent clowns.
The cast was so good in fact, that the episode’s unadventurous plot – how many times have Holmes and Watson moved in on a suspect only to discover a corpse? – barely detracted from the fun. Who’d criticise a procedural for being generic anyway? The comforting familiarity and routine are part of the reason we all show up to them each week.
The One Percent Solution (a pun on established Holmesian phrase, ‘the seven percent solution’, relating to the character’s cocaine use and later turned into a pastiche novel and film) was packed with something more important than ingenuity: wit. When a script is performed by a tip-top cast, and is funny and agile enough to move between classical references and knob gags in a single leap, who needs originality? Not me.
Read Frances’ review of the previous episode, Corpse De Ballet, here.
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