Entertainment Magazine

Review #3759: Elementary 1.3: “Child Predator”

Posted on the 24 October 2012 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Bronzethumb

Written by Peter Blake
Directed by Rod Holcomb

“Elementary” was always going to struggle between its two core elements: trying to be a Sherlock Holmes adaptation and trying to be a CBS procedural. The demands of the latter have made the former rather difficult in the previous episodes, so for any given episode to really succeed, it needs to deliver a really solid, enjoyable procedural plot and then tie in all the glimmers of interesting characterisation. “Child Predator” is the first episode to do just that.

Review #3759: Elementary 1.3: “Child Predator”

Having already followed the crimes of a serial child abductor known as “the Balloon Man” for many years, Holmes is eager and ready when the Balloon Man abducts another child and Gregson requests his help in the investigation. Holmes and Watson give the police a leg-up in tracking down the Balloon Man and his victims, but it quickly becomes clear that their most important leverage is Adam, a former victim believed dead who has been held captive by the Balloon Man for seven years.

Serial killers are meat-and-potatoes for mystery procedurals. They combine all the typical elements of police investigating a crime, talking to witnesses, and doing their intricate forensic whatsits, but they also involve a villain who’s supposed to be smart and with a flair for the theatrical. A serial killer case requires more than the average cop, it requires a TV detective who’s more brilliant and strange than the average bear. In the face of such a villain, this version of Sherlock Holmes finally rises to the challenge. He still doesn’t feel very Sherlockian, but Jonny Lee Miller is an excellent actor and he alone makes his TV detective character fun to watch.

The villain is also more interesting than the average TV serial killer, though to say much more would spoil some plot developments that genuinely don’t deserve to be spoiled. And the actor who plays Adam does very well for someone so young and working across from a stage and screen veteran. The sit-down scenes between the two, starting with Holmes’ careful psychological probing, are excellent — though in procedural fashion, the writer either didn’t watch the pilot or assumes people can’t remember three weeks ago, because Holmes’ interrogation technique is totally at odds with his previous approach.

Even Lucy Liu and her character are improving are becoming more interesting parts of the show, though not integral by a long shot. Her dynamic with Miller as Holmes is settling down into a steady ebb and flow, and again it seems like it would be far easier to like Watson if they weren’t framing her as a new version of the literary John Watson. But this episode brought to the fore that beyond the name and medical connection, Watson is a grounding influence for Holmes, something that wasn’t as strong or apparent in weeks past. She’s a good tether to normality, but it’d be nice if the writers started developing her into a character in her own right.

“Elementary” is improving. It’s not difficult to say this episode is the best yet, with a genuinely interesting case that in turn capitalises on the strengths of Miller and Liu in the main roles. But in the end, it’s hard to see the show improving any further while it sticks to the current, rigid formula. Even this, its best episode, is still a cliché of cop shows with strange but brilliant protagonists with the names of Sherlock Holmes characters slapped across them.

Score: 7/10

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