Elementary, Season 2: Episode 2 – “Solve for X”
Written by Jeffrey Paul King
Directed by Jerry Levine
Airs Thursdays at 10pm ET on CBS
After last week’s season two premiere, which was very much Sherlock-heavy, “Solve for X” brings Elementary back to its week-to-week procedural proceedings with an episode that gives Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) all of the character-based material. Over the course of its first season, Elementary did a lot of this type of stuff, where we saw the relationship between Sherlock and Watson advance in small steps with one or both being given emotionally interesting moments. So, in that sense, “Solve for X” isn’t all that interesting as an individual episode in the collection of Elementary episodes that currently exist. That said, it’s still a strong example of what exactly this series is and, if a first-time viewer happened to tune in, it still behooves fans to acknowledge that it’s an episode that would probably get someone to come back next week.
Everything is there in the case-of-the-week: plenty of conundrums to throw off Sherlock and Watson (a couple more than usual, actually), a great guest appearance (Rich Sommer from Mad Men, who gets to be shirtless and ridiculous) and good character beats to balance everything out. The case deals with the real-life mathematical aspects of the P versus NP problem, which is a solid source of conflict to tackle for Elementary, since it puts Sherlock into a realm in which he has little to no expertise. There’s no overload of jargon, so viewers won’t feel stupid having not studied any of this in their lives. But it actually would have been nice to delve further into the abyss of this mathematical White Whale despite the fact that some of the real-life implications were addressed. As a 10 o’clock series on CBS, there might be more wiggle room to turn the notch up on some things like this and really bring Sherlock out of his element and status as quasi-superhero. As long as the format of the series remains intact, making Elementary just a little more difficult (meaning more demanding of its audience, either intellectually or emotionally) won’t cause it to lose its rather large audience. This is one of the few success stories – both critically and based on ratings – from last year’s network premieres, and while there doesn’t seem to be any signs of the basic format of Elementary getting stale (especially when mythology episodes come up with the right frequency and at the right moments), the biggest show of respect for the fans would be to push this a little further.
All in all, though, there’s little to be bored with here. If the worst that can be said of an episode of Elementary is that it is an average episode of Elementary, everyone’s in good shape.
– Sean Colletti