This review contains spoilers.
3.2 The Five Orange Pipz
“You’re really back”. Yup, he really is, Detective Bell, but in somewhat diminished form, it has to be said.
This week’s case – which in characteristic Elementary style bore only a superficial resemblance to its source material – wasn’t just lacklustre, it was a waste of a good Doyle story. Based on recent real-life events, the Pipz plot was merely an exposition-heavy framework on which to hang the now-solved mystery of Kitty Winter.
Luckily, Ophelia Lovibond’s Kitty is an interesting enough prospect by herself for the time being. A surly, sarcastic adoptive daughter can’t have been at the top of many people’s wish-lists for Elementary’s third season, but now that she’s here, Kitty will do nicely.
Just like Sherlock in season one, we learned this week that Kitty came to New York to escape a past tragedy. Unlike Sherlock in season one, the nature of that tragedy was revealed as early as her second episode: Kitty is a former kidnap victim. Five years ago, she was taken by a man, and – we assume – suffered untold torments at his hands, creating the caustic, aggressive character we see today. Kitty isn’t her real name, but an assumed identity, a fresh start to escape the infamy of her high-profile case.
Sherlock, we learn, is using Kitty’s tutelage under him as a form of therapy, channelling her unresolved issues into the art of deduction. (That being the case, one wonders whether tying the former kidnap victim to a chair, as he did as part of her training in last week’s episode, was the most sensitive course of action.) Not only is Sherlock instructing Kitty in his deductive methods, he’s also displaying uncharacteristic patience in the face of her temper, tutoring her on the morality of crime-solving, and attempting to quell her desire for revenge against homogenous bad guys.
Is altruism and a need for a live-in apprentice really the inspiration behind Sherlock’s adoption of Kitty? As Mycroft’s situation revealed in the season two finale, five years ago in London, Sherlock was using heavily and making mistakes. Could Kitty’s fate have been one of said mistakes? Perhaps guilt is motivating him in the same way that revenge is motivating her.
Watson, for one, was shown to have learnt something from her experience sneaking around Sherlock’s letters to ‘Irene’ in season one, and exercised restraint when presented with Kitty’s awful history. Abrasive, resentful eventually Kitty offering the papers up to Watson was a repeat of Sherlock and Watson’s season one trajectory on fast-forward. Those two have gone from antagonism to mistrust to a begrudging acceptance in a matter of days, a journey that took Sherlock and Watson months.
Back to the case. Things began with a frosty territory dispute between Sherlock and Watson (now operating independently of one another) over who got to play with the most interesting corpses. It all soon thawed to more or less a resumption of the usual partnership, plus one. Despite Sherlock praising her line of questioning, Kitty threw more spanners into the works than insights and whatever deductive potential he sees in her, it wasn’t on display here.
It’s fitting perhaps, considering Kitty’s anger, that the murder investigation was revenge-themed, or at least appeared to be at first. The revelation that the FBI agent was simply looking to make a quick buck took even that meaning away. With the ‘baddies’ already dead and nobody at risk, The Five Orange Pipz lacked peril or stakes. There was no ticking clock, no real action, and an overabundance of scenes in which characters merely talked us through stuff that had already happened. The case was treated as mere background for the Kitty Winter show, wasting the potential of the original story, with its murky Ku Klux Klan history, multi-generational feuds and mysterious threats.
With 22 episodes in a run, as we always say, they can’t all be zingers. Showing signs of flagging this early on in the season though? Fix up, Elementary. We both know you’re much better than that.
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