Elementary "Solve for X" Review: Sines of Murder

By Noel Kirkpatrick

Oct 04, 2013

Elementary S02E02: "Solve for X"

I've mentioned this elsewhere in the past, but now that I have myself a proper procedural to review, I get to expound on it a bit more: Procedurals are important because they can react to major events and trends in the world far quicker than some serialized shows are able to. It's the benefit of not having an ongoing plot that requires consistent development; instead, you can rip from the headlines and be all zeitgeist-y. Of course, many serialized programs have been created in response to trends and major events—24 and the rebooted Battlestar Galactica immediately spring to mind—and they can explore how such trends and major events are shaping our world—but procedurals can mobilize them to make their cases feel contemporary and to add a sense of urgency to the narrative beyond the whole "Whodunnit?" aspect.

"Solve for X" wasn't immediately apparent as an example of this. I can't speak for all of you, but I know that I personally don't do a whole lot of shirtless math (oh, I hope Rich Sommer returns later, that cameo was just too adorable), nor do I discuss P versus NP with my coworkers in the break room while also complaining about the large pie that's been in the fridge since March. However, in a time when "metadata" is suddenly an important aspect of our lives, when our emails are scanned to display ads that relate to them, and when one of the most commonly used passwords is "password," the applications of cryptology suddenly become very relevant. 

So the "key to building the skeleton key" for data security—as the solution to the P versus NP problem was called—tapped into these concerns to give a bit of depth to an otherwise fairly predictable case. What I appreciated about it here, and what Elementary actually tends to do very well overall, is that the episode didn't overplay these concerns. The solution to P versus NP wasn't immediately cause for concern, and a larger federal agency didn't suddenly swoop in and engage in a jurisdictional battle with the NYPD and their quirky-but-brilliant consultants. In other words, the show resisted the urge to make a *big* episode out of a *big* plot device, something a series like Castle could learn from. I like Castle as much as the next person (okay, maybe a little less), but the show tends to lose its focus and rhythms when its homicide cases suddenly become connected to issues of national security.

"Solve for X" wisely ignored that avenue for something smaller, but also more relatable. Barrett didn't use the solution to cause the stock market to crash or threaten to launch a nuclear arsenal; instead, she attempted to cover her tracks by altering some video time stamps and writing some incriminating emails to frame her threatening ex-boyfriend. These are things that regular people looking to cash in on something as valuable as the solution to P versus NP—the prize for it is real—would feasibly do if the police were breathing down their necks and they had the resources to try and get away with it.

Outside of the case-of-the-week, we had the requisite character development work. The son of the patient Joan inadvertently killed and that drove Joan away from being a doctor—or at least that's what I was assuming; that's certainly how it played to me—wanted Joan to invest in a bar he and buddy were starting. The episode wasn't terribly subtle about hashing out the issue of guilt and baggage from the past—Sherlock did a very small spiel about it, after all—but I didn't mind that so much. I'd rather it have played out like that than see Joey caught up in some murder case that causes all sorts complications for Joan. This way, the story hit the right balance of filling in Joan's background a bit and forging another link in Joan and Sherlock's friendship.

Which leads me to conclude with a thought about their friendship. Sometimes I feel like Sherlock can read as condescendingly meddling in Joan's life; consider this week's big box of money and last week's concerns about her and Mycroft as examples. I like that Elementary pushes against that interpretation by emphasizing that Joan will argue with Sherlock about it, but will also work a way out of the situation using the advice Sherlock has given her, as she did here. Also, as his desire to visit the cemetery with her next time demonstrates, his meddling doesn't stem from a desire to fix her problems, but to help her and develop a closer bond with her, in the same way that she has helped him. It's just one reason why their friendship is one of the show's strengths.


– So raise your hand if you did not recognize Aidan Quinn in this episode, because I sure didn't. Haircut and a dye job, and I thought it was a totally different actor at first.

– Sherlock doing exercises while trying to figure out the case made me think that Jonny Lee Miller and Stephen Amell on Arrow should have an exercise-off! I'm sure Miller can totally do a salmon ladder.

– "Actually, you wrote, and I quote, 'Yes, please, now. Triple smiley face with tongue protruding.'"

– "Also, the river smells like rancid cod."

What did you think of "Solve for X"?

  • Comments (96)
Add a Comment
In reply to :
  • Misao_83 Nov 18, 2013

    Shirtless JLM, what more can I say?

  • AdamCetnerowski Oct 19, 2013

    This one actually surprised me. Just as I was grinding down my teeth, they finally showed the crypto implications. While a bit simplified, there was nothing inherently wrong, which makes it one of the few shows that talks sensibly about that domain (almost makes me want to forgive that stupid Euro scam from S1 finale).

  • TomWayne Oct 10, 2013

    Noel, the difference between Holmes and Queen? Holmes deliberately misses vital organs when skewering a perp, and alos Holmes would've had the Glades map clue solved while still on the island.


  • Willowing Oct 06, 2013

    Character error: When Sherlock was exercising he stands up and we can see that he has a tattoo near his left hip. The tattoo is of the symbol for Scorpio. Sherlock Holmes' birthday is 6th January, making him a Capricorn. Jonny Lee Miller's birthday is 15th November, making him a Scorpio.

  • kelljoann40 Oct 14, 2013

    Who cares??

  • Willowing Oct 14, 2013

    People that frequent these type of websites. If you don't care then maybe this isn't the website for you.

  • kelljoann40 Oct 14, 2013

    I love websites like this, because I get to read really stupid comments about a tattoo that the ACTOR has. Get a grip, in real life people get tattoos that have nothing to do with any character they might play on screen.

  • Willowing Oct 15, 2013

    I like the show, I have always been a fan of Jonny Lee Miller and I like his tattoos. It was just meant as a fun observation. I apologise if I have upset you with my trivia and I did not mean to show any disrespect to the creaters of Elementary or actors with tattoos. Or anyone with tattoos, of their star sign or otherwise. I will in future take greater care and consideration of what I post on the internet and try to do it with a grip.

  • mnementh01 Oct 07, 2013

    Any rule says Sherlock doesn't just like scorpions?

  • Willowing Oct 07, 2013

    Anything's possible

  • Mcarson09 Oct 06, 2013

    Don't you know a new season comes with new hair?! ;)

  • bleumystique Oct 06, 2013

    Awww Noel is doing the reviews now! :)

    • The relationship between Sherlock and Joan IS the strength of this series. They have a wonderful chemistry and the more I see how amazing they are now, the more I think back on their past performance. They did a remarkable job of having this subdued and cuatious relationship and giving us just enough where we now see just how much they've grown and evolve since the pilot. I love them. It is by far one of my favorite relationships on televison right now, and I have a great deal of those.
    • I love that Sherlock has been showing some genuine interest in Joan, in her past, in her life, in being part of her life. For someone who can easily come across as...prickly, for lack of a better word, she has somehow managed to work hserself into his life, and never more than when she stopped being his sober companion and just let him be. She never appeared intimidated by him, bored of him, or in awe of him. She never tried to be his friend and that is precisely how she ended up being his best friend. As a result he seems to really value her, and now, now it's about seeing all the ways in which he values her, he's become more reliant on her and he actually cares for her and it seems to puzzle him, and that is one of the most fascinating things to watch. Their relationship has fallen into this category where they just...are. They let each other be, it just sort of happened, and now you can tell he's picking apart at that and prying at that when he gets the chance to, because he finds it fascinating. It is encouraging him to make these little attempts at the relationship/friendship steps that he'd typically fine mundane and uninspired They had some really beautiful and fantastic scenes together. The scene in the corner's office, and both scenes in the den. I loved that he seemed genuinely interested in going to the cemetery with her next time, to pay his respects to the man that more or less drove Watson in his direction and seemingly bettered his lie, despite the fact that cemeteries and speaking to graves seems to be the antithesis of everything Sherlock. But he'd do it, for her. I feel like these are all steps towards showing them as honest to God equals in their partnership, instead of rotating between one or the other having the upper-hand .
    • I thought the case was okay. I actually enjoy the cases more when they don't have to do with murder. I know for the math geeks it probably was fun, and for that reason, I was happy enough. I just found the Joan character development far more interesting this week.
    • I really felt for Joan. It is truly funny because people tend to right one off as just being naive, foolish, or a doormat, when it is so much more complicated than that. She knew the kid was taking advantage of her, she wasn't oblivious to the fact. She was just punishing herself. It had everything to do with her own guilt and masochism and not much to do with this kid. I mean she cared for this kid because she's a caring person by nature, but he was her penance. I love that Sherlock understood that and told her that, and tried to help her out of it out of real concern rather than anything else. I love that she works her way out of these situations by listening to Sherlock's adivice but doing her own thing in her own way. It really highlights the equality in their bond.
    • I too love that Bell is starting to hold his own. I always felt like Bell and Gregson never got as much screentime an rarely commanded the screentime they did have, unlike other characters like Alfredo (miss him!). But Bell is holding his own.

  • embereye Oct 06, 2013

    This was a fun episode. I did find myself checking to make sure that P vs np did exist and was a thing. I also am enjoying the continuing growth of the friendship between Watson and Sherlock and the way that Sherlock is being shown as a human being who cares about other people in his weird and awkward way.

  • Savvytvfan91 Oct 06, 2013

    I really enjoyed this episode, not one of the best but an entertaining 40 mins nonetheless. The case of the week was ok, but I eenjoy abstory I can solve with them, but all of this math and cyber stuff went a bit over my head. I do enjoy learning more about both Sherlock and Watson's pasts, but the son of that patient (I can't remember his name) just seemed so suss but that might be because I saw him somewhere else being super suss and dodgy.
    The captains new hair did throw me at the start of last weeks episode, but I have to admit I did a bit of a double take when I saw him this week.
    I am wondering whether there will be another season arc, like last season with M, Moriarty and Irene from his past or a new serial killer case or something this season.

  • Mcarson09 Oct 06, 2013

    I've enjoyed every episode of this show so far. Other shows have really lowered my expections over the years.

  • current Oct 06, 2013

    I liked elements of the episode but found it a bit too obvious and by the numbers - cheese intended. Last week, similarly, left little for the viewer to puzzle but at least this week had more of a case to ponder. Watson's storyline, however sweet, felt like it was overly invading both the crime story and Sherlock's character. This isn't Bones and I don't want or need for Holmes to be schooled in attempts at altering him for the 'betterment' of his personality. The thought of H&W; supping their respective drinks whilst chewing over a case gave me a cold shiver. No. No. God, no. Sorry.
    As has been noted, I'd like for a wider variance in cases and not just murders. Although, of course, that would either mean the writers having to swing ways of still including his cop duo or going weeks without them. And I can't really see that happening too often if they expect to keep both actors on - particularly the, as is, thinly utilised Aidan Quinn.
    One character I saw hope in expanding was Miss Hudson, but fear the transgender character was seen as too much by the more conservative suits to be a regular. Hopefully I'm wrong on this...

  • vampman87 Oct 07, 2013

    The difference between Bones and Sherlock is that Bones more or less was forced to be social as the series progressed by Angela. She was just as standoffish as Sherlock at the beginning of her show, but Angela said "nope, that's wrong. You need friends." It got even worse with her relationship with Booth, in which Angela practically had to beat Bones into realizing she was in love with him and adjusting herself into a woman more suitable to Booth.

    Sherlock, on the other hand, while being forced to the AA meetings by Joan, began warming up to her voluntarily. The first few episodes he treated her like an unnecessary annoyance, but the first clue that he was finally melting was when he stayed with her out of his own volition when she was waiting for the former boyfriend who never showed up. Then he defended her decision as a sober companion to her parents, then he admitted that he would miss her after his ordeal with Moran, then finally in "Details" he flat-out told her that he wanted her to stay in his life as an equal partner, and has been nothing but encouraging to her ever since. His personality blossomed on its own instead of having, say, Captain Gregson (who was the closest thing to a friend Sherlock had before Watson) tell him he should start acting more socially conscious so he can become besties with Watson. Also, the fact that the writers have said there will never be any romantic ties between Sherlock and Joan makes the show even more appealing, because in my opinion Bones pretty much jumped the shark when Bones got pregnant with Booth's baby and they became a happy family (who can't get married because of a Big Bad who overstayed his welcome.)

    Seriously, why does every main male/female cop duo have to hook up these days. The only exceptions I've seen are Goran and Eames from Law and Order: Criminal Intent (though he did kiss her once... on the cheek) Benson and Stabler from SVU (though Stabler did hook up with his temporary partner.) and most recently Abbie and Ichabod from Sleepy Hollow (because Ichabod is married and his goal is to stop the bad guys so he can be with his wife in the afterlife) I honestly hope this "partners hook up" cliche never happens to Sherlock and Joan, since the fact that season 1's Big Bad turned out to be the love of Sherlock's life and is still alive can make for a very interesting series if the writers decide to bring her back.

  • current Oct 07, 2013

    Bones is like some person with an undiagnosed mental/social disorder that she's unaware of or annoyingly ever refusing to accept. Whereas Sherlock's social disorder/s, if you can call them that, are chosen ones of which he's painstakingly aware but less willing to openly share with all and sundry. I'd rather have him bed Miss Hudson than Joan. Emily thechannels' chosen nasal voicing for Bones always irked me to the Nth degree and I gave up regularly viewing unless drunk/hungover on catch up tv.
    I felt more chemistry seeing Boreanaz kissing Craig Ferguson on the latter's chat show.

  • vampman87 Oct 07, 2013

    Word of God (Emily Deschanel herself, since she's a producer on the show) says that Bones has Aspergers Syndrome. Sherlock is just a snobby British person.

  • current Oct 07, 2013

    She isn't my God.
    And...Sherlock is just a...loveable...snobby British person.

  • PanagiotisHalat Oct 05, 2013

    After watching the episode, I now crave more for a crossover between Person of Interest and Elementary's Sherlock.

  • See More Comments (27)