Elementary, Ep.1.20: “Dead Man’s Switch” – a seemingly endless web of blackmail, murder and confessions

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Elementary Season 1, Episode 20: “Dead Man’s Switch”
Directed by Larry Teng
Written by Christopher Silber and Liz Friedman
Airs Thursdays at 10pm (ET) on CBS

Dead Man's Switch

After yet another extended break from our screens, Elementary returns and the good news is that it will remain in its weekly slot until the epic two-hour season finale on May 16.

A hint of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit laces this week’s story as Holmes and Watson try to track down an accomplice to a murdered blackmailer, who had been targeting families of teenage rape victims. On the offset, it is a sensitive subject to launch a murder story for Elementary, but anything almost remotely related to it is quickly covered up by a seemingly endless web of blackmailers, victims and accomplices. This results in the show effectively hiding the topical stuff with more similar show elements.

The episode nicely balances Holmes’ interactions with Watson, who is now more active in the investigations and deductive work. A key scene to mention is Holmes approaching Gregson after he has witnessed a murder – him approaching the Captain for assistance is not his usual MO and after the events in ‘The Red Team‘, it appears that the lingering trust between the two; something that has not been touched on during the last few episodes is evident, possibly hinting that a real test of their friendship is yet to come.

The extended cold opening is well executed as it perfectly sets the scene for the episode, resulting in Holmes visibly shaken from the crime that enfolds before his eyes. In fact, he is very much in tune with his emotions this week, so they are now on par with his deductive reasoning. The idea of blackmail clearly touches a nerve in Holmes, who calmly states his objective to bring the criminal to justice and delete any evidence linked to his client’s daughter – a clear and direct promise to a client; something that has rarely been seen before, if ever. Holmes’ feelings are even more evident when questioning convicted rapist Garvey – his voice and stance are chilling, almost sinister yet justified.

Miller is quite fabulous in this week; his emotions are shown on his sleeve throughout the episode, as Holmes rejects the idea of celebrating his one-year anniversary of being sober. His inner conflict of seeing it as an anniversary of personal failure puts a dark spin on the whole deal, culminating in a teary confession of a relapse pre-Watson. The idea of him confronting his demons is unfamiliar territory, so Miller takes the opportunity to shed some tears and essentially break Holmes out of his bubble. This could be a breakthrough as Holmes has resisted any form of confessional or intimate conversation throughout the season – whether it is during meetings or even with his ex-con sponsor Alfredo, who makes a welcome return – but this confession nicely sets the stage for the remaining episodes.

Sensitive yet intricate with regards to case details, ‘Dead Man’s Switch’ is essentially a reminder of Miller’s sterling acting abilities.

– Katie Wong

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