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Monday, 7 January 2013

Elementary 1x12: "Dirty Laundry".

Previous Elementary reviews. 

I am now 99% certain that the writers of Elementary are embroiled in some kind of competition to out-ridiculous one another. This episode was silly enough when two of the primary characters were (spoiler alert...?) revealed to be Russian spies, but once Holmes uttered the immortal line "Are you familiar with the concept of invisible ink?" -- Well, that was the point where the top of my head slid off and moths flew out of my brain-hole.
As Elementary crime plots go, this episode was relatively easy to understand. The various nebulous elements of "not-for-profit brothel", "suburban Russian spies" and "dishwasher murder" were all rather beyond the pale, but at least the finished product was more comprehensible than that one episode with the private jet crash conspiracy and the diabetes medication. To be fair, a certain amount of ludicrousness is almost a requirement for a classic-style Holmes mystery, as evidenced by such stories as The Redheaded League. The difference being that while The Redheaded League was appropriately satirical of Victorian London society, a TV episode about undercover Russian spies in the Westchester suburbs seems more like something from a 1970s sitcom than a contemporary crime show.

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Aside from any minor quibbles about spies who have perfect American accents but apparently still engage in "Russian behaviour" after 20 years in the USA, this was a very enjoyable episode. I laughed; I cried. (That is, I laughed at Holmes' "invisible ink" line; I cried at Holmes' "Open 24 Hours" t-shirt.) The guest stars were unexpectedly good, rather than being "oh that guy"s or an oddly typecast Lisa Edelstein. The young woman who played the victim's daughter was a real standout -- so good that I kind of hope they bring her back as Watson's next sober-buddy. Although I don't have much confidence in Elementary's ability to retain recurring side-characters, what with the mysterious disappearance of Alfrado after only one episode. Oh, and did anyone else recognise that the main villain was Cute Dad From Medium? Did any of you guys actually watch Medium? I sure as hell did, even though it took me about four seasons to realise that it was the most Republican show ever. Personally, my love for Medium mostly stems from the fact that other than The Good Wife, it's the only show I've ever seen that manages to portray the protagonist's kids as being realistically terrible without entering comedy territory. Plus, Patricia Arquette. Ever since True Romance, she has been a goddess to me.
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Holmes and Watson's complimentary outfits were out in fine form this week. My particular favourite was Lucy Liu's buttoned-to-the-neck Peter Pan collar shirt, which echoed Holmes' dorkish habit of buttoning all his shirts to the top but never wearing a tie. I'm now almost convinced that Holmes doesn't actually do laundry, but just donates his old clothes when they get dirty and buys some new ones from a bargain bin. In the light of this episode's focus on the wall-to-wall mess at Casa Holmes, this theory seems all the more likely.  

Dirty Laundry's Holmes/Watson interactions were particularly satisfying, mostly because Elementary is so unusual in its portrayal of Holmes and Watson's relationship in its tentative larval stages rather than launching straight into the I'd-die-for-you intensity of most Holmes adaptations. More than in previous episodes, we got to see the imbalance between Holmes' self-contradictory enthusiasm and Watson's professional distance. Joan is far more opaque and guarded than Sherlock whereas he, as someone who seems to have practically no experience with real friendship, looks like a kicked puppy as soon as she turns down his offer of a real partnership. Holmes is just so... sweet? Plus, he called her "My Dear Watson" for the first time! KILL ME.
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Miscellaneous
  • ZERO violins or bees. Buck up, Elementary! 
  • I L-O-V-E Watson steadfastly refusing to do any housework whatsoever on Holmes' behalf. 
  • Why can't the storytelling in this show be as good as the scriptwriting? Holmes gets at least ten pithy little zingers per episode, while the overall plots meander around in a confused bundle of red herrings and dead-ends. 
  • While I do remain unimpressed by mainstream American crime television's reliance on hooker jokes, I did enjoy Jonny Lee Miller's delivery of the phrase "whore-fishing".
  • Gird your loins, garters and accoutrements, because next week's episode is going to be featuring VINNIE JONES. The episode title is "M" and all signs point towards it either being about Moriarty or being a tremendous red-herring for Moriarty. I kind of almost want Vinnie Jones to be Moriarty because a) it's such a fascinatingly bizarre casting choice, and b) the reaction from the Elementary-hating wing of BBC Sherlock fandom would be so entertainingly horrified.
 Previous Elementary reviews. 

11 comments:

  1. I love the show, I watched the last episode cringing at how outdated the Russian spy story turned out but I'm loving Watson's strength as a female character. She is unflappable & Holmes isn't able to easily read her actions as well as he hopes, I love that she is far more intellectually social & adept than Holmes in awkward situations, I wish she was the protagonist, Holmes lacks depth sometimes.

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  2. I was shocked at how much I hated the plot considering it has everything I shamelessly love (Russian spy family!!!). And I thought even the non-murder stuff was less good than previous episodes.


    I looooved Medium. I thought the mysteries were surprisingly well done, and some of the recurring villains were great (Mark Sheppard as a serial killer ghost, anyone? But god, were the characters terrible at learning from previous episodes.

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  3. OctopusGallery7 January 2013 15:29

    Chances are they pulled it from this relatively recent case in New Jersey: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/russian-spies-double-lives-murphys-living-married-couple-reflects-years-training-source-article-1.463237

    I believe there's even a new tv series coming out soon with the same premise.

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  4. Cute Dad from Medium is also known as Super Sweet Badass Everyman from the (surprisingly good) remake of Dawn of the Dead. Because I liked Jake Weber so much in that, I actually recognized his name in the opening credits and was psyched for him.

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  5. Given the prevalence of high-class hookers on American network television, you really would think that they were literally unavoidable here. Easily identifiable hookers in hotels! On subways! In coffee shops! Hookers everywhere, to the EXCLUSION OF OTHER PEOPLE!!

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  6. Bess Neumeister8 January 2013 06:09

    Frankly, I adore the straight-faced silliness. I love the absurdity because I felt that BBC's Sherlock took itself WAY too seriously and Elementary is just frolicking about and just having fun, without it being a straight up comedy. I feel like Sherlock Holmes as a character is pretty silly just in general, and Elementary is (either deliberately or by accident) sort of taking all the blustery stuffiness out of it.

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  7. Bess Neumeister8 January 2013 06:14

    I think my comment got eaten. Anyway, I really adore Elementary's straight-faced silliness. I think a problem that BBC's Sherlock had was it took itself too seriously as an adaptation when Sherlock Holmes as a character is just absurd. So Elementary (either deliberately or accidentally) seems to be going in the opposite direction which a straight-acted madcap feel.

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  8. TheGirlintheAfternoon8 January 2013 08:44

    This may be a slightly weird thing to say, but eh, I'm going to put it here anyway: Reading your posts about costuming has been such a joy and so illuminating to me. In the episode where Joan has brunch with her mother ("The Leviathan," I think?), when Lucy Liu came downstairs wearing a starched button-up shirt under a dress - something very dissimilar to anything else she's ever worn on the show - I immediately thought, "Oh, that's not right. Something about her clothes is off." And sure enough, Sherlock immediately commented on how her clothes indicated she was nervous about seeing her mother, etc., and I just never would have noticed something like that if not for reading this blog. So thanks!



    Anyway, long comment is long, but I so enjoy your posts, and I do hope you'll continue with them. :)

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  9. Huh. I found the daughter almost laughably unbelievable, and felt that her inexplicable nodding-while-crying tic contributed to my inability to roll with the Russian spies storyline. But I'm glad you liked her!


    I cannot WAIT to see what happens when Joan moves on. Like, obviously she's not going to really, fully move on, but already I'm fantasizing about the different things they can contrive to bring her back to Sherlock's side. Also, I'm hoping that her (relative) absence will herald the Return of Alfredo, because my god, writers, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH ALFREDO.

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  10. i really hope mark sheppard shows up in elementary. or sherlock. OR BOTH.

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  11. Hello! I've really liked reading your reviews of Elementary. I first came here via your Sherlock wallpaper post awhile ago, but so glad you're on the Elementary appreciation train. I love a lot of things about the show that you've mentioned as well. The crime writing is not that good, but it's an American procedural so it's just as bad as the other stuff. I don't watch procedurals anymore, but this one sets itself off by the acting and chemistry of the characters, but most of all, there is clear character growth and development with our favourite pairing. Also, the cases of the week reflect or parallel that; they seem to be there to emphasize the main characters. I choose to see the cases as the B plot to developing the storytelling of Joan and Sherlock (and also Gregson). Can't wait to read more of your reviews. Thanks.

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