Entertainment Magazine

Review #3880: Elementary 1.9: “You Do It to Yourself”

Posted on the 14 December 2012 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Bronzethumb

Written by Peter Blake
Directed by Phil Abraham

Even as it polishes some of its gems so they shine brighter than ever, “Elementary” is falling deeper and deeper into a rut with each episode. It’s determined to keep the most interesting elements of the show on the backburner and focus on a mystery that’s simply not very engaging. This episode was better than most, but it lacks connection, some kind of hook to get us invested in the resolution. As usual, it comes down to sideplots and details to decide whether “You Do It to Yourself” is a pass or a fail.

Review #3880: Elementary 1.9: “You Do It to Yourself”

A college professor is found murdered under strange circumstances, and suspicion quickly falls onto the dead man’s widow and his teaching assistant. Holmes is called in to investigate, but a simple illness is throwing off his deductive powers and threatens to derail the whole investigation. Meanwhile, Watson gets a chance to put her own deductive skills to the test when she’s contacted by an ex with a drug problem who needs help getting out of jail.

As usual, most of the A-plot is rather dull and unengaging. While it lacks the kind of meta-casting that makes it easy to pick out the true culprit, the by-the-numbers approach to this mystery, as with most of the episodic stories in “Elementary”, just doesn’t grab. It lacks thematic resonance, or a compelling link to the characters, or a fresh concept to belay the saturation of procedural whodunit storytelling. The episode deserves some credit for an interesting twist to the end of the A-plot, but it’s too little too late.

Far more interesting is Watson’s subplot, which takes up more screen time than these subplots usually get. From the beginning, Watson has only had the most threadbare connection to her literary inspiration, but “You Do It to Yourself” really starts embracing one of the most interesting aspects of Dr. John Watson and his dynamic with Holmes: an education in deduction. It was really fun to see Lucy Liu’s Watson taking a case of her own and really applying the skills we’ve seen her developing since the pilot. And making the case one with personal connections gives the audience a hook to get invested — a lesson the A-story should think about learning.

This brings us back to the dynamic between Liu and Jonny Lee Miller as Homes and Watson. It’s quickly become the single best part of the entire show, and is almost reason enough to watch “Elementary” despite the plodding A-plots and thin links to the literary canon. Miller and Liu have great chemistry, and better still, it’s not romantic or overly shippy. The characters aren’t falling into the traps many feared they would when “Elementary” was first announced, and while they still don’t quite work as adaptations of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, they’re a fun, interesting pair who continue to bring out the best in one another.

Again, if you’re a fan of basic procedural mysteries, this one will likely be right up your alley, but it doesn’t work as a piece of drama in its own right, and this episode, like so many others, suffers for putting it front and center. But “You Do It to Yourself” does a great job of handling the Holmes/Watson dynamic and developing the latter as a character and a partner. “Elementary” is still yet to make the jump from strictly formulaic to an ongoing drama — and it really needs to — but in the meantime, there’s something to enjoy.

Score: 7/10

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