Last night’s Elementary was blessed with a golden opportunity: Airing after the Super Bowl gave the show basically an opportunity at a second premiere, such was the number of new viewers who would be exposed to it. And to give Elementary full credit, its cold open made the absolute most of the opportunity, with a lowest-common-denominator hook, custom-made to snare football fans: namely, two women in bikinis shimmying around Sherlock.
True, it’s not for nothing that Super Bowl Sunday is the #1 day of the year in incidences of both sex trafficking and domestic abuse, but doom and gloom aside, introducing the violent mystery the show had in store with a fluffy whipped-cream garnish of pure sex appeal was a brilliant way to go, and the writers justified it with a cute-enough button (Sherlock captured the lap-dancing robbers that had been arousing and bamboozling NYC!). From there the episode went into one of Elementary's cooler and most terrifying mysteries: A convict taken out of jail to donate his kidney to his sister hops off the table in the O.R., absolutely slaughters his team of surgeons, and escapes onto the streets.
I have seen such a deplorable smorgasboard of gratuitous cinematic violence, everything from The Master of the Flying Guillotine to Hobo With a Shotgun, and yet Innes a.k.a. "The Peeler" rising up from the operating table in nothing but a paper gown and killing everyone in the room still stood out as genuinely unnerving. I guess I’ve never seen someone in scrubs get stabbed; I just compartmentalize the genres of "medical drama" and "cops-fighting-villains," so the overlap felt weirdly scary and fresh and the way it was filmed and edited made it exponentially creepier. Violence for the sake of violence on TV isn’t cool bros, but if you’re going to throw in a violent bit to make your audience terrified of your villain, this will do the damn trick.
So then the Peeler was out and about terrorizing New York in every conceivable way, an FBI profiler showed up to figure out where he would go now that he was off his chain. Sherlock seemed tres awkward around her and finally screamed at Watson apropos of nothing, "IF YOU’RE ASKING IF WE HAD SEX, YES, OBVIOUSLY!" which was one of the more charming ways to use a character’s social weirdness to cut to the heart of the matter. (Another line I genuinely loved, when Watson told him that thanks to his addiction, he had made a friend and then had to clarify "Me. I meant me." Awww you guys.) Yes, the profiler had knocked Sherlock's boots and then spilled his secrets to the world, and Sherlock was still a little tender about it, so this was something he and the Peeler had in common. Neither of them liked being "figured out" by an uppity blonde in the FBI whose profiles didn't so much "profile" as "talk a lot of shit." In fact, she had talked so much shit on Innes and his upbringing that his parents basically died of shame. Shame was the real villain here, truth be told.
Of course, the giant gaping hole in the logic is that if Innes gave two shits about his parents' feelings, he never would have gone about killing and peeling people in the first place—and also, umm, 100 percent of serial murderers were abused in some way by their parents. (All killers no, but serial murderers, the ones who make snuggies out of their victims' skin and so forth, they generally can relate to Carrie.)
Whatever, I'll allow it, it was still scary enough and sort of plausible enough, even when they got to the apartment of the sister whose kidney was ruined and they found her whole house stocked with foods that ruin your kidneys (cheeseballs and licorice, my two faves!!!) so they realized she was complicit in the Peeler's scheme, and that was a stretch, but I went with it and I enjoyed the ride. It helped that the actress playing the sister was absolutely convincing at being both sick and crazy.
Beautifully balancing this ultra-violent psychological thriller case was this weird subplot with Watson’s apartment. As soon as I heard she had been subletting her apartment I said aloud to noboody, "Girl tell me you did not all a subletter loose in your house." I don't like to generalize, but subletters are shady. I’ve seen a subletter leave a pot of nipple paint out on the bathroom counter for all the world to see and I've had a subletter tell me to my face that three girls—and one of whom was his girlfriend—had died in his arms. I'm not kidding! And this was after he had ASKED ME OUT. You are really shouting out to the universe "Chaos Theory, show me what you got!" and throwing the door of your house wide open when you sublet, is all I'm saying.
Anyway, the fact that this show owned that and then turned it into this recurring weird visual joke—especially when they showed clips of that porn—was so weirdly funny and tangential and brilliant. I love that Elementary took a little leap there and injected some off-kilter humor that way, bravo. It balanced the grisliness of the Peeler somewhat.
But the final confrontation between Sherlock and the Peeler and the gun and the handcuffs— honestly, I didn't get it. I mean, I understood the words and the logic, but it seemed that by creating that situation Sherlock was proving her profile of himself true, not making any points about Innes. That Sherlock would self-destructively put himself and a gun across from a serial killer said more about him than who Innes was, no matter what he chose (gun or cuffs, and ultimately I'd say it's braver to take the cuffs and face down a confession than kill someone else in a man-to-man confrontation). I’d love a commenter’s take on this exchange and what it meant for both of them.
So yes, a weird and wonderful episode. If this had been first experience with Elementary I’d tune in next week, so, Super Bowl opportunity: well won!
1. On a scale of 1-10, how believable is it that a law-abiding woman would ruin her kidneys to revenge her parents?
2. Have you ever had an experience with a shady subletter?
3. What exactly was Sherlock offering with the gun and the handcuffs?