Entertainment Magazine

Review #3881: Elementary 1.10: “The Leviathan”

Posted on the 14 December 2012 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Bronzethumb

Written by Corinne Brinkerhoff and Craig Sweeny
Directed by Peter Werner

“It’s this case,” says Sherlock Holmes, as the episode moves towards its final act. “It renews one’s faith in the profession.” He may as well have been talking about the show itself, because just as it seemed “Elementary” was slipping further and further from the promise it showed in episodes past, along comes “The Leviathan”, which delivers on just about every front. The show has yet to crack the storytelling boundaries of the mystery procedural, but this episode goes to show that within that bubble, “Elementary” can work, and work well.

Review #3881: Elementary 1.10: “The Leviathan”

Holmes is contracted by a security company to discover how two separate groups of thieves were able to crack “the Leviathan”, an expensive and supposedly-impenetrable design of bank vault. When his own efforts to crack the vault prove futile, Holmes is forced to investigate the first group of thieves, who were caught and imprisoned but never gave up their secrets, and he soon uncovers a conspiracy in the unlikeliest of places. Meanwhile, Watson’s family are converging on New York and she’s once again forced to justify her work to those who don’t understand it.

Leggy blonde(s) and “Game of Thrones” references are a crude but effective way to grab the audience’s attention in the teaser of the episode, but they also speak to the mindset of the writers who put this episode together. They know what makes lowest common denominator television, but they’ve also got an awareness for the other kind of viewer that’s likely to be tuning in: the nerdy, the geeky, the critical-minded, the kind of viewer who’s familiar enough with the Sherlock Holmes canon to be easily disappointed by something that doesn’t live up to its standards. And that approach is well-reflected in both the A-plot and the character beats that make up “The Leviathan”.

The mystery isn’t the usual whodunit, so from the get-go it’s doing better than most episodes of “Elementary”. But there’s a fiendish puzzle quality to the mystery, something that begs the audience and the characters to get stuck in and unravel the threads and red herrings, and for the first time the show has managed to serve up a mystery worthy of Sherlock Holmes. It frequently twists and turns and goes to unexpected places, changing the paradigm of the puzzle, and when whodunits finally present themselves, they’re an organic part of the narrative and the viewers are invested enough to care about the answer.

The character subplot centred on Watson and really packed a lot in. The audience gets to meet Watson’s whole family and though their scenes are limited, there’s a lot in the performance and the writing to imply what Watson’s upbringing was like. “The Leviathan” also throws some fresh complexities into the Holmes/Watson dynamic by examining the reasons why it might continue beyond the nebulous in-universe deadline, and what the pair really thinks of one another. There wasn’t as much for Holmes: the teaser pushed Jonny Lee Miller’s incarnation further from the original, but it’s such a strange, funny scene that you’ve got to laugh.

It seems like “Elementary” will never break out of the mystery procedural bubble, which is disappointing and limits how far the show can go dramatically. But within the bubble, it’s really stretching its limbs and doing a lot of good stuff, hanging interesting character beats and fun scenes off the skeleton of an A-story that’s smart and engaging in its own right. Whether the show gets better is doubtful, but what it’s become for the moment is pretty darn good.

Score: 8/10

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