Elementary 3×06, ‘Terra Pericolosa’: Atlas shrugged

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Joan Watson rejoins the fold this week after her (briefly alluded to) lovers’ rendezvous in Copenhagen, and I hope Lucy Liu had a nice week off work.  It’s business as usual back at the Brownstone when Sherlock, Joan, and Kitty are called in to solve the mystery of the missing maps, which sounds like such a Hardy Boys-esque level of stakes, but of course with this being a TV crime procedural, there has to be a dead body.  And there is!  Two of ’em!  So don’t worry, murderphiles, your bloodlust will be sated.

source: CBS

source: CBS

Let me continue on that notion for a while; this show is kinda preoccupied with murder, isn’t it?  I mean, the Doyle canon itself wasn’t a particularly grisly affair, as Sherlock mostly went around solving mysterious events or circumstances.  If I recall correctly, he only worked murder cases a rare handful of times.  With this version, there’s no particular textual reason that Sherlock and Joan have to be almost exclusively murder investigators, right?  The police solve other kinds of crimes, too, correct?  I bring this up not only because has it been gnawing at me that this show has basically become the “Watch Sherlock Solve Homicide Cases” hour, but this episode in particular shoehorns the murder into the script in such a tactless, dopey way that it really makes CBS look craven in what they assume their audiences want; then again, they’re the #1 network and got that way with crap sitcoms like Big Bang Theory and murderology procedurals like the seventeen CSI spinoffs, so maybe I’m giving CBS’ viewership much more assumed sophistication than they’re actually capable of.  Even so, would it kill them to write a single episode where the A-Plot isn’t about solving a murder?  Murders, in real life, are kinda easy detective work — they tend to leave lots of DNA at the crime scene and the list of suspects is usually pretty scant.  This episode last night, where the plot is driven by America’s oldest pastime (i.e., White folks stealing Native lands for fun and profit), would have been almost completely unchanged by removing the

source: CBS

source: CBS

two instances of murder within, as the maguffin centered around not who killed who, but who possessed a certain map,  who was forging other copies, and what the stakes meant for the parties involved.  The killer’s motive — good ol’ white collar greed — remained regardless of the killings; however, by forcing so much of the plot to revolve around the murder aspects, we lose the opportunity to make any kind of larger statement or examination of the cultural/racial/socioeconomic dynamics coming into play.  We could have had an episode remarking upon the still-continuing exploitation and disenfranchisement of Native Americans, but instead we get yet another rote homicide investigation.  This program, and CBS on the whole, seems to believe that no crime is a real crime until a body shows up.  I can’t help but compare that to the truly great police shows, like The Wire, where in five seasons only a handful of people were killed, and the solving of those murders was rarely the alpha and omega of the justice system’s obligation.  Still, it’s interesting to note that in Elementary‘s world, the most likeliest to be avaricious, murdering sociopaths are rich White people; a commentary that, whether intentional or not, is worth remarking upon.

source: CBS

source: CBS

Regarding the situation around the ongoing Sherlock-Kitty-Joan “who’s working with whom and why” breadtangle, this week puts a few more tacks in the coffin lid that is was Joan’s independence in both professional and personal terms.  Once again, the show alludes to more dramatic conversations occurring off-screen when Sherlock tells Kitty of Joan’s increasing involvement in their casework and resuming her role in the detective agency, a handwave of a comment meant to force the audience to drop any concerns they may remember about, you know, Joan leaving the Brownstone and starting her own agency and living her own life.  I don’t get it.  I don’t get why we’ve devoted so much of last season’s end and the entirety of this season to re-establish Joan as a competent independent, only to work to put her back into the fold in the same role she very recently left.  It seems . . . . wasteful?  Redundant?  Like the show is spinning its wheels?  The weird thing is how needless this all feels, as the show was moving with such momentum last season; now, all the great build-up with MI6 and Mycroft and Irene has been flushed away so we can watch Joan and Sherlock bicker about interpersonal tiffs while playing Mommy & Daddy to baby-detective Kitty.  And Kitty’s growing on me!  I like her!  She’s snarky and weary and brings a welcome street-level obviousness to the arrangement that often could feel a little too fussy and prim between Joan’s cold professionalism and Sherlock’s erratic eccentricity.  I don’t mind the character, but I do mind what her being here has done to the show — she’s a representation of a ruined narrative potential, and she brings so much redundancy to Lucy Liu’s role that I’m not surprised when I see the dwindling viewership numbers.  Right now, it’s a show without a rudder, and that’s a real shame because the last two seasons had been very, very good.

We get a couple of nice nods to fan favorites Clyde (this turtle has had so much face-time this season!  Get him his own show!  Clyde Turtle, P.I., coming this fall!) as well as Miss Hudson (though we keep this season’s streak alive in again not showing her, sadly), and there are a handful of really funny exchanges, especially the one where Sherlock chastises Joan for breaking into his house — but not for the reasons you might expect.  Overall, however, this show needs to find its feet and develop a solid throughline for this season, or its days may be numbered.

 

Until next time, friends!  Hit me up in the comments or bother me on Tumblr.  I’m always around somewhere.

Atomika D.

is a writer and critic of TV and film since 2006, an alumnus of NYFA’s school of celluloid direction and production, and she once ate seven burritos on a dare. It was not pleasant. Read all about it on Tumblr.

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