Elementary: 106 “Flight Risk” Review
Reviewed by Phil Boothman.
This week’s Elementary offers up a staple of the crime drama: a locked room mystery, albeit one with a few interesting twists to keep the concept fresh. It also offers some genuine insight into this incarnation of Holmes, and does it all without feeling rushed.
The episode opens with Holmes listening to an assortment of police scanners, claiming it’s been a ‘slow week’, while Watson informs him that his father is coming into town and would like to meet the pair for dinner. Holmes informs Watson that his father is a ‘serial absentee’, a man who will generally fail to show up for any engagement he has pre-planned, before hearing an alert for a plane crash on the scanners. Without an invitation from Captain Gregson, he drags Watson to the crime scene to investigate.
Whilst it initially seems that there was no foul play involved, Holmes appears to begin inventing crimes that he has no way of knowing happened: he deduces that one of the passengers on board was murdered with a sharp blow to the back of the head, and takes it upon himself to solve a crime nobody previously realised had been committed. He also seemingly becomes distracted by the feel of the sand on the beach, stating that some of it feels different to the rest, but this seems to be of no consequence. Holmes seems far more manic during this section than we’ve seen in a few weeks, and it is to Jonny Lee Miller’s credit that he deals with this shift in attitude without dropping his own characterisation of Holmes, a persona which has remained remarkably consistent throughout the first few episodes of the season.
This particular crime also offers a familiar side to Holmes that hasn’t been all that apparent before now: even though the culprit is most likely another of the deceased crash victims, and can never be brought to justice, he still wants to discover their identity. The pursuit of the correct result, even if it doesn’t lead to a conviction, is a trait which every incarnation of Sherlock Holmes has shared, and yet it was lacking in this particular version until now, even if it is, as Watson presumes, a way of avoiding spending any time with his father.
The case trundles along nicely, and as Holmes listens to the black box recorder, it soon transpires that the case isn’t, as previously thought, a ‘locked room’ mystery. He discovers that the victim, Hank Girard, was actually dead before the flight took off and his body was stashed in the cargo hold, the extra weight potentially contributing to the plane crashing. He quickly rules out the pilot and the other passengers as he listens to the black box recording, and decides that the killer is almost definitely still alive.
After some to-ing and fro-ing, Holmes uncovers a conspiracy regarding Carmanto Foods, a large company under legal pressure due to their harmful sugar substitute; a conspiracy which ultimately leads to nothing, as the murder was actually to do with a pilot using his internal flights to smuggle cocaine. The multitude of sinister plots in the episode worked to the plot’s detriment, as one big problem (the legal battle against Carmanto Foods) is completely dropped partway through the episode, when it could easily have made for an interesting case in and of itself, particularly as the smuggling plot was far more relevant to the case itself.
In a similar fashion to previous episodes, the perpetrator is not all that sinister, instead just a normal man forced to do abnormal, immoral things through circumstances beyond his control, but the manner in which Holmes uncovers the culprit’s guilt is the thing to be enjoyed: solving a crime from the smell of glue and a man’s almost insatiable thirst seems very Holmesian indeed.
However, somewhat unusually for Elementary and most television dramas in general, I found the episode’s subplot more interesting than the main plot. It concerns Watson meeting Sherlock’s father, who turns out to be a kindly old gent who, while slightly disapproving of Sherlock’s activities, seems to largely have his best interests in mind. However, after an inappropriate question about the state of Holmes and Watson’s (non-existent) sexual relationship, Watson realises that Holmes Sr. is not who he claims to be, and that Sherlock has played a trick on her.
Holmes claims that he only played the prank because he was entirely sure that his real dad wouldn’t show up, and Watson is understandably upset with him. However, she soon realises that, while the man she met wasn’t Holmes’ father, he did know Holmes, due to a story he told about a childhood injury which turns out to be true. She does some deduction of her own and tracks the man down, who turns out to be a struggling actor Holmes knows, and who briefly looked after him during a particularly harmful drug binge.
Surprisingly, Watson actually finds out a reasonable amount of new information about Holmes, and her relationship to him, during this conversation. The actor also tells her that she should stop expecting Holmes to relate to her in the same manner as other people, otherwise he will ‘migrate out of her life’ and she will be the worse for it. However, the most interesting snippet of information given is that when the actor was looking after Holmes, he wouldn’t stop repeating a name, which he is at first reluctant to give to Watson, but ultimately relents.
When the episode comes to a close, Watson confronts Holmes about the name, and asks him to tell her about Irene. This is a reveal which undoubtedly had fans of Sherlock Holmes excited, and we shall return to Elementary next week with the promise of some answers about the woman who destroyed Holmes’ former life.
An enjoyable, if somewhat hectic and confusing episode, but one which offers exciting hints and clues to the enigma that is Sherlock Holmes, and shows promise for the episodes yet to come.