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Elementary, Ep. 2.12: “The Diabolical Kind” is must-see television

Elementary, Ep. 2.12: “The Diabolical Kind” is must-see television

Elementary - 2.12

Elementary, Season 2: Episode 12 – “The Diabolical Kind”
Written by Robert Doherty and Craig Sweeny
Directed by Larry Teng
Airs Thursday nights at 10 on CBS

“You look a bit tired.”
“You look a bit evil.”

“The Diabolical Kind” begins like any other episode of Elementary might. Watson walks down the stairs, notices Sherlock sitting in his beekeeping outfit, makes a sarcastic comment about his laundry and exits the brownstone. What follows – a sequence narrated by Johnny Lee Miller, which we find out is from a correspondence with Moriarty – is “The Diabolical Kind” announcing itself as anything other than a typical episode of Elementary. It struck me when Moriarty (Natalie Dormer, just one of many TV actresses who had a fantastic 2013) is speaking with Watson at the crime scene that I was watching something heightened. Elementary, at times, has the literally awesome capability of not being a CBS procedural. That moment is a clash of powers between our outmatched co-protagonist and the most endearing and lethal opponent she and Sherlock have come across. Visually, it’s absolutely wonderful, as Dormer towers over the smaller Lucy Liu. It’s a scene that would find itself more at home in a prestige drama – two independently strong characters trying to destroy the other one’s morale word-by-word. Then the episode continues and the whole damn thing is brilliant, leading us to a dark shot of Sherlock holding Moriarty as she’s bleeding out and telling him what might be lies about how his capacity to feel has rubbed off on her. We sometimes speak of chemistry between actors as being magnetic. For all its faults, it seemed to be the one thing that entertained viewers in the past season of Homeland – that its two leads could still carry a scene with such brutal force of talent. Watching Sherlock and Moriarty in that hallway is beyond something as simple as “magnetic.” It is the kind of scene in which you forget that you’re breathing. And as Radical Face’s “The Crooked Kind” kicked in, it became clear that Elementary‘s capacity doesn’t just stop at heightened procedural. “The Diabolical Kind” is the stuff of cinema. Good cinema.

It may be that next week’s episode of Elementary returns us to standard fare, but this – as was the case with the season two premiere, “Step Nine” – is as clear of a reminder as any that the US has found a Sherlock story that works just as well, though much differently, than its more popular British cousin. That opening montage that is set to Miller’s narration is a microcosm of how much respect Robert Doherty and Craig Sweeny have for this story and this medium. It brings back the issue of Bell’s injury, showing him struggle to wield his weapon at the shooting range. It’s a series of images that gives us these characters in their barest forms, broken and in search of meaning. Watson is failing to achieve success in her dating. Gregson takes a momentary pause from his work to look at a picture of himself and his wife when they were younger and happier. “And so the conversation, futile though it may finally be, continues,” Shelock says, referring to this attempt at connection, “and we are left to wonder: have we simply failed to find the answers to the questions that preoccupy us? Or can they not be answered at all?” These are two questions that rattle around in the back of Sherlock’s head through the whole of “The Diabolical Kind,” even as he tries to push them away by being angry with Moriarty and ignoring, at first, the insight that Watson elucidates about his relationship with his former lover-turned-criminal-mastermind.

If this sounds like it’s sidestepping the meat of the stuff that “happens” in “The Diabolical Kind,” it’s because “The Diabolical Kind” doesn’t want to be looked at as a series of events in which the culprits of a kidnapping are brought down. It doesn’t want to be looked at as a kind of fun riff on what The Blacklist is based on – a criminal creating an opportunity to work with law enforcement. This is so much more than an open-and-shut case where Sherlock uses his insanely keen deduction skills to locate coded messages in sketches and newspapers. “The Diabolical Kind” doesn’t see itself as a normal episode of television. Otherwise, Moriarty’s child would also be Sherlock’s. The literature of these scenes go against expectations. Sherlock, for instance, sits in front of a fire at episode’s end with the pile of letters from Moriarty. If we cede to typical television storytelling, those letters go in the fire for some kind of weakly symbolic reason. Instead, Sherlock carries them back up to the roof to keep them with his bees, one of the only other slices of his life that is important to him. It’s a small treasure that something like this exists on CBS at 10 o’clock and especially that we bring in the new year with this episode. Elementary introduced the idea of Moriarty at the beginning of last year, and the series took a huge leap forward as the year progressed. If that evolution repeats itself in 2014, then something has to be done about getting people to take Elementary more seriously.

– Sean Colletti