Elementary season 2 episode 18 review: The Hound Of The Cancer Cells

They can't all be zingers, proves The Hound Of The Cancer Cells. Here's Frances' review...

This review contains spoilers.

2.18 The Hound Of The Cancer Cells

What teases Elementary’s makers are. This week’s episode title alluded to one of Sherlock Holmes’ most famous cases, but did we see a modern take on Conan Doyle’s hell beast/inheritance plot in The Hound Of The Cancer Cells? Did we heck.

Instead, we were served an intricately plotted but workaday murder with a side salad of cliché about gangs, pregnant teens, and standing up to crack-dealing ‘bangers’. Perhaps an incarnation of Baskerville Hall is due an appearance in a future episode, but if not, Doyle fans are likely to feel a little cheated by this week’s punning episode title.

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Death-by-helium was a diverting opener at least, the victim’s appeals for life made darkly cartoonish, a tone Elementary has made its own over the second season.

Broadly though, this week’s medical research murder mystery was an unrewarding watch, despite the presence of whistle blowers, Mossad agents, and a labyrinthine route from suspect to eventual culprit (who would have guessed it would be the ‘devastated’ first interviewee? That’s right, anyone who’s previously seen an episode or twenty of Elementary).

Filling up two dozen episodes of a crime procedural with engaging, surprising cases amongst crowded competition is nigh-on impossible, so it’s not really a criticism of Elementary to say they can’t all be zingers. At the very least, Jonny Lee Miller is there to take viewers over the bumpier moments.

Miller had the line of the week (when does he ever not?) bemoaning his social responsibilities now his character has friends, “Misanthropy was so easy,” Holmes told Watson, “Elegant. I miss it sometimes”. Holmes’ winding route back to an alliance with Detective Bell after the role he played in his being shot culminated in this episode’s closing moments when the pair were united in their need for seclusion.

Bell’s story was uncharacteristically sentimental for Elementary, a straightforward tale of good and bad, a local hero with his own “legend” sacrificing himself when the law failed to see justice done. Jon Michael Hill played it well, as ever, but there were too many crime TV clichés for his B-plot to land with any conviction. We could have seen that exact story played out by any number of TV cops, and trite preaching isn’t what attracts us to Elementary. Bonkers cases being pursued by a bonkers genius, with occasional dip into Holmes canon and emotional whack are what Elementary does best. Leave the ‘aren’t bad things bad’ moralising to the other shows.

This close to the end of the second run and fresh from the news of a third season renewal, it’s worth considering in which direction Elementary is heading. Season two introduced tantalising threads – Mycroft’s conspiracy, Watson’s biological father, Moriarty’s daughter – and so far, has left them dangling limply. It’s been an entertaining enough run with a few high points, but with just six episodes remaining, things are going to need to ramp up steeply if we’re to anticipate its return this coming autumn with anything like the fervour we did last year.

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Read Frances’ review of the previous episode, Ears To You, here.

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