Elementary "The Red Team" Review: Enough With the Spies Already

By Lily Sparks

Feb 01, 2013

Elementary S01E13: "The Red Team"

Spies and counterintelligence must be tracking well on the giant algorithm machine that tells studio executives what to make shows about, because for the second time Elementary set a story in the little-known, high-stakes world of international espionage with an episode centered on “The Red Team,” a phrase which brought me back to my college days where lots of fellow students wore the T-shirt “BE THE REDS!” which I think is grammatically incorrect yet totally charming. Needless to say, the episode was not about a beloved Korean sports team that the secondary characters were members of, but an elite National Secret Service squad that zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Here’s the thing: The pitch of “Sherlock, but in New York City!” CUTS GLASS because of how unique NYC is. And New York has the weirdest crimes IRL. Like, just last year alone a sushi restaurant burned down because one of the chefs hoarded gasoline in soy sauce buckets, a father walked into a public school swinging a chain around his head and demanding to fight some 14-year-olds because someone was bullying his daughter, and a building superintendent broke into a tenant's apartment to sex up their dog. (Well, the dog thing happened in New Rochelle, but you see what I mean.) NYC has literal layers of people from every culture in the world who have grown set in their New York City-specific ways and are thrust together in this pressurized atmosphere, and that means the crimes that happen there are like, you know, interesting but instead we’re getting mixed up in these big international spy dramas. I mean the climax of last night’s episode happened in a seedy motel that looked like it was in Burbank. I know it's roughly $500 million a second to film in New York but Elementary doesn’t even TRY to get anything about the city across except for like, hailing taxis. You know they have at least the same money Louie did in Season 1, but that rarely comes through in the cases. Sherlock living in NYC mostly translates to his house looking vaguely like a set from the film version of Rent. And more and more the crimes seem to happen in isolated, non-New York bubble locales, or in largely theoretical worlds like that of secret national service groups, Russian spies, international assassins, etc.

But far be it from me to argue with the computer that runs Hollywood. It’s the size of a refrigerator and voice activated and draws on both science AND magic for its computations, and I don’t. Maybe I am not smart enough for last night’s storyline? I honestly had a lot of trouble following the bouncing ball all the way through. A conspiracy theorist was killed, he had been bugged by Yossarian who said he was a marketing exec and not a spy with a Catch-22 reference code name but this hot team of super spies was being killed off BY OUR GOVERNMENT but they didn’t want to talk about it to a Brit/the NYPD because they were proud to die for their country and also the last one alive would have this super valuable information to sell to Page Six and then one of the guys who had a wife in a wheelchair (and was either carrying a boombox or a big purse) decided to everybody else off to save her life and… I’m sorry I suffered this breakdown of understanding where my brain got just straight-up too bored to function and I just started mentally fixating on the shiny parts of the show that caught my magpie’s eye. Like Lucy Liu’s wet look!

And her boots! This episode was a foot fetishists’ fant-ta-ta-saaaay. She was wearing some HOT BOOTS. Sherlock, also, I realized a lot of this show functions as a primer for the freshest in men’s sweaters. He had so many holier-than-thou sweaters this week. And he kept doing like little muppet expressions. NOT A COMPLAINT!

It was exasperating how awful the NYPD were. We’ve seen Sherlock solve the last 11 cases singlehandedly and vindicate Gregson from framing a terrible murderer, and yet they were still icing him out at the station and getting angry at him for helping them out.

Then they horribly accepted his help and let him solve the case after rightfully admitting they were too stupid to sort out a box of Legos let alone a spy ring and then Gregson PUNCHED SHERLOCK IN THE GUT at the end for his troubles. How awful. What a bunch of just terrible stupid thugs. Hopefully the real police department is not as horrible but ever since that one cop tried to meet women online for the express purpose of cooking them I’ve given up hope on the 5-0. And also one time the LAPD pulled me over under suspicion of being a hooker!

Yes, it’s true. I had a 5am shift at a hostel in Hollywood where I worked the front desk and made the hooker mistake of putting on chapstick before hopping out of my vehicle. A car pulled up and did that little “YOPYOP” sound and they pulled me over and wanted to know, “Where are you going, what are you doing, oh you have a job around here? Or really, at this hour? What kind of job? Well go over there and walk in the front door then, if that’s the case. Who does that car belong to? Where’s your daddy?” and all that kind of commentary. Let me tell you right now, I was NOT dressed the part of a streetwalker I had a giant navy blue crewneck sweatshirt on top of huge baggy jeans and sneakers and wet hair in a pony tail and chapstick. They wrote down my license number and everything! I slumped around feeling like Fantine for the rest of the day. So no, I’m not going to sit here and sing you a lullaby about how IRL as a whole the police are looking after us all day every day because each police department is but a tapestry of individuals and some of those threads are BROKEN.

Loved the bit with the turtle.

ALSO BEES. BEES. Okay, so from last episode, technically the first commenter to call out how I was wrong about the Sherlock’s pet hive from the pilot never coming back again was THEOPRATT. I owe you a coke! DM me via this site with an address to send you your prize!


1. What’s your personal experience with police?

2. Does Elementary need some more of that “real authentic New York pizza” sort of tone or should it just keep doing its thing?

3. Is Gregson being totally ungrateful for that time Sherlock did his job for free and also that time he let it slide that he had framed a criminal with false evidence?

4. Are you getting tired of all these high-falutin’ spy game type plots or are they exciting?

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  • Anondananda Feb 12, 2013

    Was just watching this episode where I noticed, just after one minute in, a discontinuity: The jug which Sherlock has just used to add milk to his scrambled eggs suddenly quantum leaps from the counter where he set it into Joan's hand. Watson immediately places it back on the counter next to Holmes where it "belongs". Anyone else notice inconsistencies?

  • xubxerox Feb 10, 2013

    It IS a bad sign for the show if the review of an episode starts talking about personal experiences of the reviewer half way through that review.

    Sadly I have to agree, this one was sort of weak.

  • CarlosR628891 Feb 05, 2013

    Recently saw the unaired pilot of the British "Sherlock" (yes, the Benedict Cumberbatch one). Even that rough & tumble, shortish, unpolished and incomplete version was a million times better than this episode. Sorry.
    The police are nice. They'll stop when it's raining to help you change a flat tyre, they'll escort you home, and they'll have a nice chat over a cuppa. Well, that didn't happen to me, exactly, but to my 18-year-old sister...

  • sophie6370 Feb 04, 2013

    Do you not review Scandal anymore? :(

  • MariaMahoney Feb 04, 2013

    I liked this episode in a sense. I was hoping for a little more Watson/Holmes friendship interaction, but I didn't get too much of it. Loved the whole deal with Clyde the turtle. That cracked me up. So to answer Lily's review questions.

    1. What's your personal experience with police?

    Well..... I live in London, in fact I live in Tottenham, where the London Riots started. I've seen people get beat up just outside my house for crying out loud. My faith in the Police Department and Justice System of England is EXTREMELY limited. I trust them to catch a cold. That's about it. I did have a cop ask me what I was doing hanging around OUTSIDE MY HOUSE! Stupid cops. They don't deal with real crimes, they chase random people and ask stupid questions.

    2. Does Elementary need some more of that "real authentic New York pizza" sort of tone or should it just keep doing its thing?

    I kinda like Elementary the way is is at the moment. But I would like to see some wacky crimes. I used to read original Doyle's Sherlock. There was some wacky, s**t crimes. There was this whole deal with paralysing a snake, making it look like a hat band and giving it to someone so they could be killed with it. THAT was amazing. We need more crimes like that. I also want more about M and more of the development of a friendship between Holmes and Watson. (nods)

    3. Is Gregson being totally ungrateful for that time Sherlock did his job for free and also that time he let it slide that he had framed a criminal with false evidence?

    If you look at it from Gregson's P.O.V. it's sad because Gregson really trusted Holmes and then Holmes did something to completely shatter that trust. We all know why Holmes did it, but Gregson doesn't. So Gregson is angry and feels betrayed. So he wants to hit Sherlock, so he does it, because he knows that Sherlock won't hit back. Sherlock allows it, because as a smart man of great intelligence, he knows that Gregson needs to hit him for them to move on. So I wouldn't agree that Gregson is being ungrateful. It's not that he's not grateful to Sherlock. He admits that without Sherlock their cases wouldn't get solved. But he's angry that his trust has been broken and he may be slightly angry that they do need Sherlock, even if he does do silly things. (nods)

    4. Are you getting tired of all these high-falutin' spy game type plots or are they exciting?

    Hmn..... I'm not really into the whole spy thing to be honest. I'm not even a fan of James Bond. But if the story is interesting I'm happy, spies or no spies. LOL!

  • AlanFinkelst Feb 03, 2013

    I totally agree with this review, which was far more interesting that this convoluted episode. I have no idea what was going on, not made any easier by the ramblings of "sherlock". I want to like this show, but after half a season, I do not find anything that makes me want to keep going on watching. I read about the great chemistry beforehand of Watson and Sherlock, but I am still waiting for it to develop. Funny, it also seems like there are only 2 cops in all of NY, they handle all the cases and not too interestingly. Person Of Interest blows this show away. After tonight's super bowl episode i might bail on this one.

  • LilyRoRoSparks Staff Feb 03, 2013

    OMG I was trying to reply to pcsjunior and suddenly his comment disappeared! He had such an awesome comment that perfectly made the point that smaller crimes can be harder and more interesting to solve....hopefully its just my computer freaking out and I didn't have a brain fart and hit remove? My mouse was hovering over reply. Look, a lot of my keyboard accoutrements are covered in cookie crumbs, no lie. Is there some way to get his comment back? It was brilliant. Egads.

  • amnisias Feb 03, 2013

    Lily, please do us all a favour and stop watching Elementary.

  • scholtemarco Feb 03, 2013

    Disorientating? Did they use that because Sherlock is British?

  • bleumystique Feb 02, 2013

    -This review is hilarious. The cop story, chica. The damn cop story. I choked on my tea. Too funny. My experiences with 5-0. Hmm they can vary. Most of the mundane.
    - I suppose it does need a bit more of the New York state of mind. There is plenty to go on. I don't dislike the spy thing, because that always intrigues me too, so I didn't find this episode to be too bad. Though I may have snoozed on some parts myself, or checked out,or something.
    - Yes and No. It's the trust thing. I thought it was an interesting development for their relationship. Clearly Sherlock has the classic "daddy-issues" that 85% of the human population is afflicted by. Not too many people really get through to Sherlock or matter to him, but Gregson does. I actually enjoyed seeing him a bit unsettled that he's on the outs with the trust thing.
    - I could take them or leave them. I'm just enjoying the show regardless. Miller and Liu have a great chemistry that has gotten better as the season progresses. I'm really buying that they genuinely care about one another and love the heck out of their partnership, even though neither of them are inclined to say as much and find ways to rationalize why they like being around one another. And it's all non-sexual which makes it all the better. Watson is slowly starting to hold her own in the deductive aspect of things, which helps because I'd hate to see everyone else come across as incompetent in relation to Sherlock. I like their dynamic.
    -Thank God they didn't kill Clyde. Clyde was sooo cute. :)

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