Elementary, Season 2: Episode 9 – “On the Line”
Written by Jason Tracey
Directed by Guy Ferland
Airs Thursday nights at 10 on CBS
Conflict is, no doubt, the major source of drama in a story. Where conflict comes from, though, differs widely between stories. Often in serialized television shows, conflict is external, where a group of characters will have to deal with some new force in the space of an hour’s worth of viewing. Elementary almost always does this. On top of that, it almost always has additional, internal conflict. And very rarely will that internal conflict reprimand its two central characters in a way that makes us question whether or not what they’re doing is “good” (based on our own definitions of that). “On the Line” is one of those rare episodes. In comes Chris Bauer (Andy from True Blood) to help consult with the consultants, Sherlock and Joan, as they look into an old case of the veteran detective’s. After some heated discussion in which Sherlock basically says the detective wasn’t very good at doing his job, we learn just how much respect Sherlock and Joan have at the department from everyone who isn’t Bell and Gregson (somewhere between zero and none). As far as B-stories go, the scenes between Joan and Sherlock as the former tries to convince the latter to be a better guy are pretty average. As a theme, however, it’s easy to look over how important an episode like “On the Line” is. Gregson eventually tells his department they can either accept the ways he utilizes his assets or they can leave, so Elementary ultimately takes a stance on the way Holmes and Watson do things. But that doesn’t necessarily mean we have to. As Sherlock tells Joan at episode’s end, he is not a good guy, nor does he have aspirations to change to be that kind of person. He is who he is, and that’s the plan he’s sticking to. It’s up to us to decide for ourselves if that lack of respect or humanity or whatever else you could want to call it deflates some of the legendary status that Sherlock has as a character.
In the actual crime plot of “On the Line,” there’s also an interesting thing going on. Usually, Elementary will tease out some red herrings before it shows us the real culprit. From the get go, Sherlock knows exactly who the killer in “On the Line” is. And even if that is kind of put into relative question at various points, the guy just oozes serial killer-ness (yep). So, like some other TV series, “On the Line” gets to dish out exactly how we get to the capture. Along the way, Sherlock loses his temper and punches the man in the face for taunting him – fantastic. Along the way, Chris Bauer gets to make a poor mistake by giving the guy he believes was innocent to begin with Sherlock’s address, where he shows up and creates a legitimately tense scene – fantastic. Along the way, a totally throwaway character gets to be reunited with his kidnapped wife whom most people had thought dead a long time ago – you guessed it: fantastic. So, even in the wake of following up the Mycroft mini-arc, Elementary brings the visceral entertainment. “On the Line” won’t go down as one of the more memorable Elementary episodes. But it is a part of what is looking like a very memorable season of network television.
– Sean Colletti