“Only to the very sharpest minds do the incredible solutions seem Elementary.”
Taking on a Sherlock Holmes project is a risky business, made all the more so when there have been successful incarnations in the past few years. But CBS took a gamble with Elementary, their take on the character. Significant changes were made: Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller, Dark Shadows) is now living in New York City, he’s a recovering drug addict, and what was the other one? Oh yes, the beloved character of Watson, Holmes’ confidante and partner-in-crime, is now a woman (Lucy Liu, Charlie’s Angels).
The gamble paid off. For the past two seasons Elementary has finished the within the top twenty shows, according to the Nielsen ratings, leading to its renewal for a third. It works for a very simple reason: the relationship between Holmes and Watson. Wonderfully free of the “will-they-or-won’t-they” plague which permeates every show that pairs up members of the opposite sex, Elementary instead has Watson starting the show as Holmes’ sober companion and moving into the role of junior consulting detective. Holmes meanwhile began the series as a loner, reliant on Watson but bitter about that fact; in Season Two the character embraces the role of mentor to both Watson and a fellow recovering addict.
It’s a testimony to how well Miller and Liu’s chemistry works that this second season focuses on their characters drifting apart. Usually we spend at least three seasons really putting characters through their paces before we foist upon them the kind of pivotal crisis which Holmes and Watson face at the end of this second season. Though the duo’s drift is a slow burn rather than an abrupt break, it still felt as though there was in fact a messy break-up, when all was said and done.
Season Two works not only because of Sherlock and Joan’s relationship, but a host of other factors, all of which are nods to the character’s origins. Traveling to London we see 221B Baker Street, Scotland Yard, and a glimpse of London itself; all which lend solidity to the character’s backstory. They are not just things which please fans of the literary iteration. But the two most successful callbacks to Sherlock’s origins are people. This go around we meet two of the most iconic members of the Sherlock Holmes canon: Inspector Lestrade (Sean Pertwee, Gotham), Sherlock’s former associate from Scotland Yard with whom he solved cases before he came to New York, and Mycroft, Sherlock’s estranged brother (Rhys Ifans, Notting Hill).
Ifans and Pertwee are wonderful. So wonderful, in fact, they both are given multi-episode arcs. More than just serving as admirable examples of the reasons their characters are so requested within every Sherlock Holmes adaptation, these two characters not only shine lights on Sherlock Holmes, they actually propel him in new directions. Character growth is always positive and in their case it’s quite well done, and helps me recommend the set overall. I left this season genuinely looking forward to the next and can look back, charting the development of the characters over the seasons.
Elementary: The Second Season offers up 24 episodes spread across six discs.
* “Step Nine” — Holmes and Watson take a trip across the pond to London, to help Holmes’ former associate Inspector Lestrade. While there Sherlock meets with his estranged brother Mycroft who reveals some previously unknown information.
* “Solve for X” — When a mathematician is murdered Holmes and Watson discover an equation he was trying to solve, but it’s the return of someone from the past that really occupies the duo’s time.
* “We Are Everyone” — When classified information is leaked, Holmes and Watson try to find the perpetrator responsible however they soon become targeted by cyber activists.
* “Poison Pen” — This time it’s Holmes’ past that leads the episode, when a woman he was involved with becomes a suspect in the murder of a CEO.
* “Ancient History” — When Watson receives a request for help from a friend the innocent request takes some unusual turns.
* “An Unnatural Arrangement” — When Captain Gregson’s wife is attacked Holmes and Watson receive an unwilling look into the captain’s private life.
* “The Marchioness” — Mycroft turns up in New York to ask for help, but learning about Mycroft and Joan’s relationship causes problems for Sherlock.
* “Blood Is Thicker” — Mycroft tries to get Sherlock to move to London.
* “On the Line” — When Holmes and Watson dig through a cold case and uncover a serial killer it causes problems within the NYPD.
* “Tremors” — When an official police inquiry is launched Sherlock and Watson’s future working with the department is put in jeopardy.
* “Internal Audit” — When a hedge fund manager is killed it’s revealed he was running a Ponzi scheme. Sherlock wonders whether he should become a sponsor.
* “The Diabolical Kind” — Holmes and Watson come face to face with Moriarty (Natalie Dormer, Game of Thrones) once again when she is brought in to consult during a kidnapping case.
* “All in the Family” — Holmes attempts to make amends with Detective Bell while he and Watson venture into the world of the Mafia.
* “Dead Clade Walking” — Watson undertakes one of Holmes’ cold cases and discovers that it may involve dinosaurs.
* “Corpse de Ballet” — A ballerina is murdered and Sherlock works on the case while Watson tries to find a homeless vet.
* “The One Percent Solution” — A bombing brings Lestrade back into Sherlock and Watson’s lives.
* “Ears to You” — It’s a strange case when Holmes and Watson try to solve a kidnapping. The strangeness comes when the victim was thought to have been murdered years ago.
* “The Hound of the Cancer Cells” — When a cancer researcher is murdered Holmes and Watson investigate while Detective Bell is given clearance to go back into the field.
* “The Many Mouths of Andrew Colville” — A presumed dead serial killer seems to have taken up his previous crimes.
* “No Lack of Void” — A pickpocket dies of anthrax poisoning leading Holmes and Watson to chase down the toxin.
* “The Man with the Twisted Lip” — Mycroft returns again which causes problems for Holmes and Watson.
* “Paint it Black” — Sherlock is forced to team up with Mycroft when the case takes a turn towards life or death.
* “Art in the Blood” — MI6 comes on the scene when Holmes and Watson’s case turns out to have international consequences.
* “The Grand Experiment” — Holmes and Watson are further apart than they’ve ever been at the end of the season which finds Mycroft dealing with charges of treason and murder.
Paramount’s 1.78:1 widescreen transfer is average, betraying some grain and compression artefacting here and there. I do enjoy the palette as there is a lovely warm yellow hue highlighting key emotional scenes between Watson and Sherlock. The audio is an industry standard Dolby 5.1 with a Dolby 2.0 track thrown in as well. Everything within the audio stream is leveled and plays well. Nothing will jump out at you.
As far as special features go, we have a decent amount. There’s a handful of featurettes: an overview of Season Two, a featurette detailing the filming of the London episode, an introduction to Mycroft Holmes, a look at production design through the lens of the episode “Solve for X,” and a featurette focusing on how Sherlock is teaching Joan some of the more hands-on aspects of being a consulting detective. There’s also an audio commentary, a cute little look at Clyde (Sherlock and Joan’s pet turtle), a gag reel, and deleted scenes.
Fans of the show will not be disappointed by Season Two. It’s impossible to jump in as a new viewer, however, simply because the show continues to build upon its own mythology, and so newbies will be lost. I recommend Elementary: The Second Season due to the relationship between Sherlock and Watson, the guest star arcs, as well as the overall growth of the characters. The nods to the British side of Holmes are an added plus.