Elementary: 104 “Rat Race” Review
Reviewed by Phil Boothman.
After last week’s standout episode, Elementary has a lot to live up to this week, and for the most part it performs admirably. The characterisation of Holmes in particular was enjoyable, and even though the subplot was slightly redundant, it didn’t distract from the main case too much.
“Rat Race” begins rather intriguingly, with Watson barging into Gregson’s office claiming that, due to his three-hour absence and radio silence, she believes Holmes has relapsed. We then see a shot which adds weight to that theory, with Holmes waking up, groggy, in the back of a car with apparently no memory of how he got there. However, of course it isn’t as simple as that: he has actually been handcuffed and his feet have been bound, so clearly he has been kidnapped.
A cut back to two days earlier, and the bulk of the episode sees Holmes roped in to investigate the disappearance of a Wall Street executive, despite his hatred of bankers. In fact, his dislike for these people is one of the more entertaining elements of the episode, as he milks the power he has over them for all it is worth: for example, he swiftly deduces the embarrassing secrets of a number of the boardroom executives, and then proceeds to charge them twelve times his ‘normal rate’ (which doesn’t exist) and take every subsequent opportunity to berate them for their immorality and corruption.
Holmes soon works out that the missing executive had a penchant for high-class prostitutes and tracks him down to a rented apartment, where the executive is found dead, presumably of a heroin overdose. This was an interesting addition to the episode, as it is the first time that Holmes has had to confront his sordid past; whilst his reaction isn’t nearly as severe as it could have been, it seems to be the first time in the season that Holmes has shown any kind of weakness when it comes to his prior addiction, and definitely makes him seem more human. It also gives Watson her first real opportunity to delve into Holmes’ past, as she shows genuine concern for him as he relives some painful memories, and his willingness to reveal anything about his addiction to her shows the mutual respect that is gradually building.
Holmes’ past also becomes an integral part of the case, as his prior knowledge of heroin and the kind of people who use it lead him to deduce that the executive was, in fact, murdered. He works out, simply from the manner in which the food is arranged in his fridge and the décor of the apartment that the executive was almost definitely not a regular user of heroin, and in fact he was overdosed through the insertion of heroin into his salad dressing. This was something of a ludicrous twist in the tale, and yet the deduction process was entertaining enough that it didn’t make the episode any less enjoyable.
It doesn’t take long for Holmes to uncover a conspiracy of death and deception in the company he has been hired by, and he soon has a suspect, Jim Fowkes, who also happens to be the CEO of the company. Of course, his initial suspicion is soon proven false and he is banned from the building. From here, the remainder of the case is somewhat predictable, as the only other person whose career path has followed that of the initial suspect is revealed to be Fowkes’ secretary, who stuns Holmes and places him in the situation we found him in at the opening of the episode.
His eventual escape from the villain as she arrogantly monologues to him before killing him is inevitable, but the manner in which the secretary is defeated is a testament to the growing relationship between Holmes and Watson: a text message sent to Watson from Holmes’ phone by the secretary is not in Holmes’ typical childish abbreviated ‘text-speak’, thus peaking Watson’s suspicions and resulting in some local police finding Holmes and the secretary.
Whilst there are a lot of improbabilities and some elements which are downright implausible in the main case, in the context of Sherlock Holmes these are just about permissible provided they contribute to the story. In this case, they were largely successful, but the writers of Elementary need to be careful in future about which side of this particular line they land on.
However, the subplot in which Watson is forced into a blind date by a friend and subsequently becomes suspicious of Aaron, her date, is frankly pretty dull. It works as a simple method for Watson to develop her intuition and deduction skills, as she works out from the manner in which her date answers a question that he is lying to her, but the chemistry between Watson and Aaron is negligible, and a far less interesting potential relationship than the platonic one between Holmes and Watson. Whether this is due to the writing or the performances of the actors involved is unclear, but what is clear is that, at least in these early stages, less time needs to be spent forcing new relationships between characters, and more time developing the ones which exist already.
The relationships which are progressing nicely, however, are the ones between the two main characters and Captain Gregson. In Holmes’ absence, Gregson is the first person Watson goes to for help, and the first person she confides in about the true nature of her relationship with Holmes. Gregson’s reaction to the news that his friend and trusted colleague is a recovering drug addict is somewhat underwhelming, but the reason for this is revealed soon after in a scene between Holmes and Gregson, wherein the Captain reveals that he has known about Holmes’ past all along. Holmes’ admission of his vanity concerning Gregson’s opinion of him is one of the most human moments in the show so far, and shows something almost unheard of in adaptations of Sherlock Holmes: a genuine friendship built on mutual respect that is not between Holmes and Watson.
A minor drop-off from last week’s episode, but an enjoyable romp nonetheless, and a few intriguing glimpses into Holmes’ past.