Elementary, S1E02 – While You Were Sleeping

Elementary S1E02 - Featured Image

In Elementary’s While You Were Sleeping, we are introduced to NYPD Detective Marcus Bell (Jon Michael Hill), Watson meets up with her ex-boyfriend (Ty Morstan), and our team solves the case of a string of seemingly unrelated murders.

“You mind that big heart, Ms. Ellison; it’ll beat longer.” [Holmes, 1.02]

First off, 8 things:

Elementary S1E02 - Opening credits

It’s nice to see an extended intro for a TV show. The theme song’s pretty great, too.

  1. Look!  Extended opening credits!  Rube Goldberg contraption.  Nice reference to “The Great Mouse Detective,” no?
  2. Holmes is called some version of “insane” 3 times.  I can’t help but feel this is somehow going to become something somewhere down the line.  [Vague, I know, but this show seems to be too self-aware for this to be a coincidence.]
  3. Zoe Keating’s music has been woven into the score’s narrative.  I’m all kinds of excited.  I was glad to see her music license for the pilot, but I’m even more gratified to see that there are phrases from those tracks being used as cues in this episode.  I hope it continues.
  4. Cheeky t-shirts.  I’m going to have a running list.  “I am not lucky, I am good” and this week’s “Good Lookin’.”  Holmes doesn’t seem to give much thought about his appearance or fashion, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t know what he likes.  Clearly, he favors the tongue-in-cheek.  And, hey, fashion is a form of self-expression, right?
  5. Joan Watson, your Loyalty is showing…  There are two scenes that beautifully portray the loyalty that is integral to any Watson character worth [her] salt. The first: Bell calls Holmes “nuts” when he deduces a missing armoire from the victim’s living room and Joan quickly isolates photographic evidence of the missing armoire and utters a clipped, “actually, he’s not.”  The second: Ms. Ellison slaps Holmes for his impertinence, and you can see Watson fly forward to stand directly behind him with determination. It’s a beautiful thing to behold, these little things that knit us to one another.
  6. Bell calling Holmes “Harry Potter”/Holmes’ ‘Oh. Yes. How…clever.’ face.  Hopefully, this is will be a continuing trend: Holmes being referred to as different British pop culture icons.  I’ll be amused.
  7.  The Scrunchy Face of Embarrassment: Holmes makes a face on two occasions in this episode, the first when he screams “amygdala!” at the NA meeting in the beginning, and the second, when he recommends Hemdale Rehabilitation Center to the amphetamine-taking PI, for when he’s ready to get his life back on track.  It is moving to witness such an earnest moment from Holmes, but his face betrays how unsure he still is of “sharing.”
  8. Those locks…  Holmes seems to pick locks in his spare time.  He’s even got a wall filled with them, hung up like a works of art.  I’ve no idea what this is about, but I like it.


On to the review:

I’ve got to be honest: I was really nervous about this second episode.  It’s easy to review a pilot and see all the potential a series has to explore, but the second episode more or less shows you the reality of the direction that a show will take.  I’m more than thrilled, then, to say that with its second episode of the season, Elementary is already filled to the brim with the kind of subtleties that turns me into the happiest of creatures.  The case-of-the-week is pretty standard: a woman murders her siblings to hoard the inheritance, but there are a few fun twists and I found the case enjoyable.

To begin with, we start the episode with Holmes and Watson sitting in on a Narcotics Anonymous meeting.  The hilarity of Holmes putting himself in a trance by using word repetition (His word? “Amygdala!” Of course it is.) not withstanding, I love that we’re really going here, that we’re really will explore the reality of recovering from drug addictions.  Elementary  really isn’t going to gloss over the fact that Holmes has a drug addiction and having a sober companion doesn’t mean he will skate past the difficulties that plague people with drug problems.

Elementary S1E02 - Introducing Det. Bell

Introducing the handsome and wonderfully snarky Detective Marcus Bell, NYPD.


In other news, it seems our Detective Abreu has been replaced with Detective Marcus Bell [cheeky writers, right? Dr. Joseph Bell was Conan Doyle’s professor at the University of Edinburgh and the inspiration behind Sherlock Holmes].  While it’s a shame, because I really liked Abreu (I’ll miss you, Manny Perez!), casting changes are a common occurrence after a pilot’s been picked up.  Detective Bell is just as fantastic a character—he is competent, impatient, self-assured, and has an ability of his own to read people.  The beauty of Bell in this episode is that he attempts to establish professional boundaries with Holmes.  This is not an easy task, not only because Holmes is a difficult person to engage with, but because of the nature of the narrative.  He doesn’t just say, “Hah! you were wrong!”  Instead, he takes Holmes through his steps, establishing the credibility of his methods first, and then proves Holmes wrong [for the time being].  He effectively shows his work and preempts Holmes and his penchant for drilling other people’s methods in search for where they went wrong.  It’s fantastic.

Elementary S1E02 - Analytical Joan

Watson exhibiting a sharp attention to detail all her own. She actively engages and it’s awesome.

At the first of this week’s crime scene, we see Watson start at the sight of the victim’s body, again.  This irks Holmes, apparently, as he thinks experience with cadavers in medical school amount to the same as coming across a person who’s been shot in the head.  Thankfully, Watson suggests the stupidity of such an assumption [really, context is everything].  At both crime scenes in this episode, we see Watson being an active participant, independent from Holmes.  She isn’t an investigator, nor is she a detective, but that doesn’t stop her from analyzing the situation before her.  She doesn’t just tag alongside Holmes and she isn’t just an impartial observer of his daily routines.  She takes his deductions and locates evidence that supports him.  Immediately, we see a foundation being laid for the partnership expected from the Holmes and Watson dynamic.

When she meets Ty at the restaurant, we learn that she hasn’t been in much contact with her parents because she has no desire to be lectured for her change in profession.  Even Ty questions why she would give up a career as a surgeon to “babysit drug addicts” and whether she’s doing it for penance (regarding the patient that died).  I love Joan’s response almost as much as I hate his question, that she’s doing this because she’s good at it, “I don’t know why that’s so hard to understand.”  YES.  Good.  Maintaining boundaries and not letting your motivations be questioned.  It’s honestly refreshing.  And a really smart way to begin teasing Watson’s back story.  Color me all kinds of excited.

Holmes, Watson, and Canon:

Attic theory gets a mention!  Oh, I’m so happy to see this bit of canon, and also that Watson calls him out on its ridiculousness (note: while “mind maps” are viable memory techniques, you cannot, in fact, delete your own memories.  That is what we call ‘denial,’ Holmes…).

Another canon reference is, of course, the violin.  Holmes takes a non-singed one out and plays Bach’s Partita for Violin No. 2 (the violin solo).  Beautiful choice.  For a moment, I thought they’d give Holmes a different instrument, a la House, but I’m sort of glad they went with the classic on this one.  Even though I’d have loved to see Holmes playing the accordion or something equally bizarre.

The ruse in the hospital.  Holmes would constantly put on performances to illicit the reactions he needed to smoke out the criminal he was pursuing.  It’s wonderful to see him to the same, and so elaborately, on Elementary.

We also see a bit more of the true Holmes character shine through in this episode.  Although he has the reputation for being cold, calculated, and alien, Sherlock Holmes in the books has a true desire to help people.  There are plenty of instances that exhibit a degree of sympathy and warmth towards his clients and I feel we saw that here, when he explained what happened to Ms. Ellison . His bit of advice, particularly, struck me as the particular brand of kindness I see in canon Holmes.

Holmes, Watson, and Boundaries:

Elementary S1E02 - The Violin

That poor violin!  I don’t care how therapeutic he found it—that still hurt to watch.

Elementary continues to explore the nature of boundaries in its narrative.  We see how Watson maintains her boundaries countless times and how Holmes oversteps nearly all the boundaries set by other people, but takes serious issue the moment someone seems to be overstepping his own boundaries.  There are three scenes in particular: Holmes making an observation about Watson’s romantic/sex life, Watson finding Holmes’ violin and pressing him about it, and Holmes hacking Watson’s e-mail to trick Ty into showing up at the brownstone.  Three separate breaches that culminates to what this relationship is going to come down to: trust.

When Holmes correctly deduces the nature of Watson’s relationship with Ty, Holmes cites a rather – er… shall we say interesting scientific study* that suggests one could read a woman’s orgasmic history in her walk, in an attempt to annoy her for (I assume) not being up front about the nature of her relationship with her “friend.”  Why it’s any of Holmes’ business what qualifier Watson assigns Morstan escapes me and I honestly can’t tell if I’m amused or horrified that the writers have tried to support Holmes’ creepiness with scientific data.  On one hand, it made it less of a jab and more of an empirical observation, but on the other hand, a woman’s sexual activity is always used against her.  Do we really need to give people a “scientific” basis to run commentary?  (A clue: no.)  Regardless of my issues with this particular part of the episode, I suppose I’m glad that we’re seeing an accurate portrayal of how people permit themselves to cross boundaries, smattered with underlying sexism and show why it’s so wrong.  [I mean, really wrong, Holmes.  Don’t deduce people’s sex lives.  It’s gross.]

Watson finds a violin that bears Holmes’ name on the wood under the strings.  When presented with the violin as a potential addition to his “post-rehab regimen,” Holmes appears nonchalant at first, but becomes increasingly irritated; a little flustered, even.  He’s sitting in the common room, practicing his lock picking skills and where he’s previously picked two padlocks with relative ease, he becomes a little too tense and impatient to successfully pick the lock when the violin makes an appearance.  Funny, that.  Interesting, also, that he’s still not making eye contact when personal matters are being discussed.  When Watson keeps pushing the violin and when she steps away to answer her phone, Holmes sets fire to the instrument.  Really.  Said it made him feel like Jimi Hendrix and he doesn’t want her to pry into his life.  She says she wouldn’t have to pry if he’d open up, that’s how companionship works.  He’s clearly suspicious and annoyed.  Understandable, I think.

Holmes exacts revenge by hacking (I don’t care that he thinks it a harsh word, that’s what he does) Watson’s e-mail and inviting Ty to a non-existent gathering.  Ty shows up to the brownstone, much to Watson’s dismay, embarrassment, and anger.  Once we’re rid of Ty, Watson explicitly states that invading her privacy is unacceptable (Good.  Keep coding this behavior as wrong, show, and I’ll love you forever).  His response is to be expected: “Friendship is not a requirement of cohabitation.  I’ll keep my secrets, you keep yours.  Provided I’m still sober in 5 weeks time, we’ll go our separate ways.”  Quite the end to that discussion and kudos to the writers for the very first mention that there’s an expiration date on their sober companion/client arrangement.  I can’t wait to see what they’ll do to us for that arc…

On Trust, Friendship, and Penance:

It’s an interesting question, I think, to ask how their relationship works.  They are not friends, here.  Not yet, anyway.  Watson has a degree of liberty when it comes to Holmes because she is there in a professional capacity.  I don’t blame him for being ruffled by the fact that she’s able to root around his life.  And we know that a ruffled Holmes could lead only to mischief.  He is the type of person to push back.  But, whether he likes it or not, she IS there and he will have to respect the boundaries.  It is not until the end of the episode, that the question of trust is explicitly brought up.  When Holmes figures the case out, he rushes out of another NA meeting.  Watson insists that she be let in on his plan so that she can help him.  It’s not a matter of friendship, to her; but it is a matter of trust.  The basis of any relationship is trust and if our characters don’t start with that, there can be no where to go.

Elementary S1E02 - Establishing Roots

Respectful colleagues at the end of the day?  Who’d have thought it possible?!

Fortunately, he does let her in on the plan.  With the help of Watson and Bell, Holmes stages a ruse in order to lure the killer out.  It is executed successfully and their case is closed.  It’s important to note that the matter of trust is not only central to the Watson and Holmes dynamic, but also with Holmes’ relationship with the NYPD.  Bell is not too big a fan of his, but at the end of the episode, Bell thanks Holmes for his help and extends a hand, a gesture which Holmes reciprocates.  Earlier, Watson brings up the fact that Holmes is not being completely honest with Gregson about his drug abuse.  Holmes is defensive because he feels Gregson would not allow a recovering drug addict to consult on his cases, and with good reason. Watson cannot and will not inform Gregson about Holmes’ history, but she does highlight that as Gregson is the closest thing he has to a friend, honesty might not be a bad place to start.

In the pilot we saw Watson given insight into Holmes’ character, and correct insight, at that.  We only see more of that in this second episode.  At the very end of the episode, Watson brings up the notion of penance.  She wonders if Holmes’ abstinence from the things that would otherwise give him pleasure is a direct result of his feeling guilty about whatever it was that happened in London and the fallout with the drugs.  She thinks it might be subconscious on his part, but in an unexpected display of openness, Holmes assures Watson that “You always know it, Watson. If you didn’t, it wouldn’t be penance.”

It’ll be interesting to see how the many dynamics on this show develop and evolve, and it’ll be interesting to see how Holmes will start to trust Watson.  Will it take long, do you think?  How long do you think we’ll have to wait before Gregson finds out about Holmes’ drug history?  Will Bell come around?  Comment below and tune in next week!



*“A Woman’s History of Vaginal Orgasm is Discernible from Her Walk” by Brody, et al.(2008). Read it for a laugh. (When I say laugh…)

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