You Always Know It, Watson. If You Didn’t, It Wouldn’t Be Penance—Elementary: While You Were Sleeping.

Previously on Elementary: Pilot.

This second episode of Elementary was a step closer, a step closer to what I think the producers want to achieve with it; and a step closer for us as an audience to figure out what it is that we’re seeing in terms of plot, characterisation, and genre.

The thing about Sherlock is: he is a consulting detective—just not to the public, but to the police, which means he has to follow protocol. And at least for now, he does. Although Holmes and Watson do go off on their own, they mostly follow Captain Gregson around to question suspects and investigate leads; in this episode, most of Holmes’ breakthroughs occur when he’s not actually at a scene involving the case directly. As such, this pushes Elementary’s narrative more into the form of the police procedural.

Of course, the original Holmes stories have always had a predictable structure; that’s simply the convention of the Detective Fiction narrative that you can trace from the Newgate Calendar to Poe to Conan Doyle to Chesterton to Agatha Christie, that’s not the point. The point is that the police procedural, especially in this 45′ format, is less inclined to go off on tangents, leaves less room for other things; and it clashes horribly with Holmes’ personality. Maybe it’s just me, but he didn’t, to me, feel like the driving narrative force in this episode; he was reacting too much to what the investigation presented him with, the way a cop would. Not the genius detective who’s figured it all out.

The case itself was much more interesting this week, I found, and held more tightly together, whereas last week’s sort of… fizzled out towards the end. It served well to illustrate Holmes’ eternal catchphrase: When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.

When you have one genius detective who’s bloody well sure that the alleged coma patient did it, and no other suspects except for her sister, who’s got a watertight alibi—then she must have been faking it, by whatever means.

Another genre convention, or perhaps rather cultural particularity, is the use of pop songs instead of original scoring. Not being used to that in the Holmesian context, I was thrown for a second; and then even more so by the fact that Sherlock was nearly crying when getting out the proper violin from its case. The one he’d burnt earlier must have been a practice instrument. I wonder who gave him this one, and why refusing to play (when it’s something that we would expect to afford him some peace of mind) is some sort of penance for him.

This is another thing that takes Holmes’ characterisation down a different path: capable of remorse, he denies himself. His drug habit must have been the emotional response to whatever happened with whatever woman back in London, rather than a way of stimulating his mind when caseless. Key phrase being: emotional response. Bloody hell, he is one sombre bastard, isn’t he?

Should this Sherlock actually be on a quest for happiness?

Joan continues to try and figure him out, to get a foot in the door up in that attic of his; and at the moment this still seems more like a siege on Camelot. Sherlock, normally not one for privacy, values his own very much—and hers, apparently, too, as long as she doesn’t poke around in his. Of course he asks curious questions about Ty, her ex-boyfriend; and makes all sorts of inappropriate deductions, but he doesn’t try to screw with Ty until Joan violates his privacy after she finds the violin. He doesn’t mess with him for the sake of messing, it’s payback. Watson takes her job seriously and wants to help him, but, as ever, the stubborn ass doesn’t want any help. Oh, surprise. This actually makes a nice contrast to the traditional Holmes and Watson double act. While, usually, we know that there is an underlying bond that instantly forms keeping the two together even when they’re fighting about experiments in the kitchen and the occasional thumb in John’s tea tin; now, there’s just the necessity of living together until the six weeks are over and a lot of rowing in the meantime.

It will be interesting to see in how far and in what way these two will actually end up co-dependent, if indeed they do.

Next: Child Predator.

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