Elementary season 3 episode 5 review: Rip Off

With Watson out of the way, this week's Elementary was the Sherlock and Kitty show. So how did the pair fare?

This review contains spoilers.

3.5 Rip Off

With Watson packed off on her Danish sabbatical-slash-sexcapade this week, a path was finally cleared for the Sherlock/Kitty partnership to be taken for a test drive to see what it could do. The results? Not thrilling, yet not entirely damning.

The problem with – as one commenter wryly put it last week – Elementary’s “our cousin Oliver” is summed up by Kitty’s response to Gregson’s question at the end of Rip Off. When asked what exactly she told the abusive cop to convince him that a move to Hoboken was the best course of action, Kitty coyly replied, “Does it matter?”.

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Does it matter? Yes, actually. It does. The line may have made for a cute exit, but with viewers sorely lacking anything other than hints that this Kitty character is someone we want to stick around, it’s time for the writers to stop hinting and show her actually doing something. Imagine watching Kitty go to work on that low-life cop. Imagine seeing her in action, cleverly righting a moral wrong and, thrillingly, not caring which side of the law that position found her. She’d be impossible not to warm to.

Instead, like most of the excitement on Elementary, Kitty’s hero-moment happened off-screen. The new kid’s yet to prove her chops as anything other than an empathy machine with some good hunches and a terrible, unexplored backstory. Don’t mistake me, I like Ophelia Lovibond in the role. Her reserved, sardonic performance is nicely underplayed, she can hold focus even against Jonny Lee Miller (no mean feat) and the woman can handle a dry punch line. It’s Kitty that’s the problem; she’s being underused.

And overused as a Watson slot-in, if this week’s anything to go by. As Sherlock’s counsellor in season one, it made sense for Watson to be the touchy-feely yin to Holmes’ emotionally repressed yang. When a case called for a bit of feelings-based finesse, there she was, lending an ear and reading insightfully into the heart of the situation. Now that Joan’s off eating rye bread and herrings with Andrew (still don’t trust that guy), an empathy hole has been left in Elementary, and this week, it was Kitty’s job to fill it. She duly offered Gregson a shoulder to cry on, and understood exactly why Sherlock hadn’t read Watson’s deleted casebook. She was basically Deanna Troi without the body-hugging jumpsuit, and roughly as interesting.

Enough complaints. There was at least an attempt to draw Gregson’s floating B-plot in to the main show by drawing parallels between Kitty and Hannah (two women who’ve experienced abuse, both of whom want to grow up to be like their father figures, choosing not to portray themselves as victims). Add to that the way compassion was sort of introduced as the episode’s theme with Clyde’s whole electrocution/empathy opening gambit, and you’ve the makings of thematic coherency. It wasn’t the neatest plotted episode, but it aimed for a throughline, I’ll give it that.

As for the diamond-smuggling murder, that unrolled from grim discovery to eventual confession without much disturbance of the status quo. Going by Elementary’s rule book, it was fifty-fifty at the beginning of the episode whether the culprit would be the innocent-looking orthodox Jewish brother, or the innocent-looking grad-student employee. It turned out to be the latter (alas, the rubber band was his undoing). Hey ho. Another week, another grisly, easily resolved murder.

Also intriguing was the precedent set by the arrival of Officer Hannah Gregson. Thus far, we’ve known that Aidan Quinn’s character has an undisclosed number of adult daughters. Is Hannah the only one we’re going to meet, or are the Gregson women now a toy box into which Elementary can put its sticky mitts when in need of a B-plot?

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Something enjoyable this week was seeing Sherlock’s balls, figuratively speaking. Challenging that gym behemoth to an arm wrestling match only to engineer him bloodying his own nose was a fun interlude. (It’s always gratifying to see brains prosper over brawns – though one wonders if Holmes would have been brave enough to attempt that without the assistance of his cop pal). Sherlock being sniffy over “crimes against the English language” too, is always good for a smile.

However competent Elementary is in its third season though, the truth remains that if it was flinging out episodes like this back at the beginning, the likelihood is that we wouldn’t be watching a third full run today. The Sherlock and Kitty show has potential in spades, but too much is being held back for us to fall for them as a pair. We need some proper stakes, some action from Kitty, and, tell me if I’m wrong, but isn’t it about time we met Mr Holmes Sr? (If everybody could concentrate really hard on the words Jeremy and Irons for ten minutes a day from now on, perhaps the message will get through?) That could be the secret ingredient season three has been lacking.

Read Frances’ review of the previous episode, Bella, here.

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