Elementary: 105 “Lesser Evils” Review
Reviewed by Phil Boothman.
Elementary seems to have found its footing, and is currently delivering consistently enjoyable, if not entirely ground-breaking episodes. “Lesser Evils” is a fast-paced romp which, while not particularly revealing of anything new about either of the protagonists, was largely enjoyable in its own right.
While I don’t wish to litter my reviews of Elementary with comparisons to Sherlock, the opening scene of “Lesser Evils” evoked so many memories of the latter that it is difficult not to: the episode opens with Holmes strangling a man, who is shortly revealed to be a cadaver in the morgue. He claims that this is to examine post-mortem bruising, the same reason that the first time we saw Sherlock in the BBC show, he was thrashing a dead body with a riding crop. This is not to say that the scene was handled better in either version, just that there is a direct comparison to be made between the two.
However, the rest of the episode bears no similarity to Sherlock, as Holmes swiftly spots signs of a potential murder on a fresh corpse brought into the morgue, and, as I believe is the appropriate parlance in this situation, a game is afoot!
From here, the episode moves at an incredibly quick pace, as Holmes and Watson barge into the dead man’s hospital room, wherein Holmes finds evidence that he was overdosed with epinephrine to mimic a heart attack. He is subsequently dragged before the hospital administrator, the head of surgery and Captain Gregson to apologise for his behaviour, which he does after making a typically snarky comment about the administrator’s stature.
After this encounter, the episode flits from one location and one clue to another at such a fast pace that I had to re-watch the episode in order to take everything in. First the dynamic duo head to the local coffee shop to find the vaguely lecherous barista who supplied the coffee found in the hospital room, who leads them to an attractive female optician who visited the dead man, who points them in the direction of a mysterious doctor at the hospital who frequently spent time with the victim before his death.
This leads Holmes to believe that the murder was not, in fact, a one-off, instead being carried out by an Angel of Death: a murderer who targets the terminally ill in the belief that they are helping them. He quickly manages to get hold of dozens of boxes of hospital records and sifts through them until he finds all the patients who have died of a heart attack, and then narrows it down to 9 victims and 23 suspects and sets about interviewing them.
The movements from location to location in this episode were so quick as to almost make me feel out of breath, but the interactions between Holmes and Watson, and Holmes and the potential murderers are well-written enough that the extreme pace is just about forgivable, if not entirely simple to follow.
The first suspect on Holmes’ list is Dr Baldwin, the Chief of Surgery seen briefly earlier in the episode. Apparently he is on his second strike from the board for losing a large number of patients during experimental procedures, and after a brief conversation Holmes decides that he is too ‘indifferent’ to be the Angel: he states that his favourite patients are the unconscious ones, and he doesn’t really care whether or not they’re suffering.
While the following sequence, in which Holmes and Detective Bell interview suspects is not particularly demonstrative of Holmes’ spectacular deductive abilities, it is a nice dose of realism which is not often seen in police procedurals: it shows that much of police work is boring and tedious, but necessary nonetheless. Even though we only see the pair interview one doctor, a nervous and slightly sleazy surgical resident, the impression is given that they have been doing it for a long time, and they still have a long way to go after him.
Naturally Dr Sleaze is soon found guilty, but not of the main crime. It is only at this point that Holmes realises that the victim was basically completely blind, and the visitor who claimed to be a doctor might not be one, and it leads him to investigate the hospital’s support staff. Of course, he is soon proven correct, and the perpetrator is found, interrogated and charged within a few minutes of this realisation.
One unfortunate element of this episode was that I was able to predict the perpetrator at an early stage in the episode. However, this was not due to any Holmesian powers of deduction, but was instead due to my broad knowledge of current US television: I was aware that Danilo Gura, the Ukrainian janitor, was played by David Costabile, an actor prominent enough from his roles in The Wire and particularly the iconic and basically perfect Breaking Bad that it was inconceivable that he would be given such a small role in Elementary. However, this is hardly a fault of the show itself, more a fault of the trend in US police procedurals of the highest-profile guest actor usually being the perpetrator.
There is also an added twist which not only detracts blame from Gura, but also provides a far less interesting villain in the form of Dr Baldwin, who tricked Gura into killing a largely healthy patient in order to cover up a surgical error which could have ended his career. This extra twist felt somewhat redundant, as Gura was a far more interesting villain with fairly complex motivation, and Baldwin was an arrogant man attempting to save himself from having his medical license revoked, which I found far less intriguing.
Similarly, this week’s subplot, involving Watson reconnecting with an old friend at the hospital and spotting a potential danger on one of the patients, is actually fairly uninteresting. I understand the reason it is included, to add some texture to Watson’s backstory, but the manner in which it is handled, and the fact it feels squashed into an already packed episode made it feel somewhat unnecessary.
An interesting and enjoyable caper for Holmes and Watson this week, albeit one slightly let down by a rather humdrum subplot and an unnecessary twist at the tale’s close.