Elementary, Ep. 2.01: “Step Nine” takes Sherlock back to his origins

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Elementary, Season 2: Episode 1- “Step Nine”
Written by Robert Doherty & Craig Sweeny
Directed by John Polson
Airs Thursdays at 10pm ET on CBS

For those who have yet to see Elementary for whatever reason (such as not wanting to dive into another Sherlock Holmes adaptation when there’s a perfectly good Sherlock series featuring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman), let it be known that CBS’ procedural take on the source material – which features Lucy Liu as a female Watson – is simply fantastic. For a network that specializes in crime procedurals, it’s amazing how well Elementary fits in and how much better it is than almost anything broadcast network television has to offer. “Step Nine,” the second season premiere, steps right back into the stride of the series’ strong first season.

Elementary can usually hang its hat on the chemistry between its two leads (Jonny Lee Miller is as good a Holmes as anyone). “Step Nine” deviates from that a little bit by having Watson take a step back as she accompanies Sherlock to London, where he encounters both his brother and his former boss. Mycroft Holmes tries explaining to Watson how special she is, since she is the only person to have ever become a friend of Sherlock. But despite how much Mycroft envies Watson’s ability to gain the trust and confidence of his brother, “Step Nine” is almost all about Sherlock. Seeing him operate on his home turf (on a day that’s far more sunny than a normal London day – good scheduling, producers) is satisfying to the viewership who spent the first season with him as he struggled through his post-addiction phase and especially the events of the final two episodes. Sherlock is, understandably, a bit of a legend back home; it’s a nice way to ease us back in to the series that previously had Sherlock’s reputation and character in question so often.

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The most effective scenes in “Step Nine” deal with the relationship between Sherlock and Mycroft. Considering how little Elementary uses the source material as a narrative crutch, we might not see Mycroft for a while, but just in a single hour he is able to color in some of the dark spots in Sherlock’s character. While it’s great to watch Sherlock be Sherlock – brilliant and witty – Elementary hasn’t been shy about making him flawed. That Sherlock twists his way into explaining that him cheating with Mycroft’s girlfriend was a way of helping Mycroft is certainly amusing, but more than that, it is important information for us as viewers to know what kind of person Sherlock used to be and how that person compares to the Sherlock we and Watson know now. Mycroft gets the last laugh in a stunt that finds all of Sherlock’s old furnishings and belongings blown to bits but which also levels the emotional playing field between them, allowing for forgiveness and for that relationship to move forward instead of remaining stagnant in bitterness.

The fact that it’s possible to talk about an episode of Elementary for a while without even addressing the episode’s “case” should say something about the series. This isn’t just a series that tries to get by simply by using the Sherlock name and throwing it into the crime procedural machine. There is emotional depth to Elementary‘s characters that gets built in very small steps. The result of that is something someone can watch and enjoy weekly on TV here and there, but it is also something that rewards investment. As familiar as these characters are, Robert Doherty has created as compelling a take on them as could have been hoped for by anyone. So, if you still haven’t got around to checking out Elementary, the second season premiere is as good a time as any.

– Sean Colletti

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