Elementary, Season 2: Episode 15 – “Corpse de Ballet”
Written by Liz Friedman
Directed by Jean de Segonzac
Airs Thursday nights at 10 on CBS
The biggest strength of Elementary as a series is perhaps how well it draws on the relationships of its characters or else how it delves into their individual lives. Even if some episodes have crime plots that are a bit lacking, Sherlock and Joan can almost always elevate the material to make an episode stand out in a way it otherwise wouldn’t have. “Corpse de Ballet” continues in a trilogy-like series of episodes that have wonderfully unique plots – this time focusing on the murder of a bisected ballerina – but those interesting moments around the plot that usually involve the main characters are all but absent, making the episode suffer more than the average Elementary entry.
What little information we get about Sherlock and Joan consists of the former being emotionless and using sex as recreation (which we’re already familiar with) and the latter having a biological father who is homeless. The Joan material is better than the Sherlock material, but it’s hardly as enlightening as the usual characterization that goes on in Elementary. Joan is certainly the more underdeveloped of the two leads, so it’s good to see her get more of the focus, but what her story in “Corpse de Ballet” ultimately boils down to is that her family history affects her to the point where she’ll go out of her way to help anyone who reminds of her past/current situation. We don’t see her father (although, I can imagine the Elementary writers coming back to this in an intelligent way), so it’s much more difficult to empathize with what Joan is going through than if we had actually met a member of her family. The B-plot still creates a nice coda for the episode in which Sherlock offers to go with Joan to hand out blankets to the homeless on the streets, but it’s not enough of a character moment to live up to the standard of what Elementary‘s second season has been able to execute.
And that’s okay. The past eight episodes of this season have really felt like a peak run, and there was little to suggest that it could sustain that quality. Mycroft and Moriarty dominated their entries and the stand-alone episodes were graced with very unique material to go along with an interesting arc concerning Detective Bell. That arc, though, is complete. Now, Bell is almost fully integrated back into his previous position, here getting along with Sherlock without much ado. Sherlock’s post-coital scenes, too, don’t break up the main story other than to provide a couple good laughs. It’s weird to be disappointed with an episode like this, because – again – the main plot still has a few great flourishes to it (more on that below), but comparing “Corpse de Ballet” to other episode of Elementary and not to other episodes of an average police procedural leaves it near the bottom of the pile.
That said, if “Corpse de Ballet” is a little predictable regarding who the culprit is, it’s also quite interesting. For one, it’s an episode of a CBS series that treats homosexuality very respectfully. This isn’t exactly a rare occurrence these days, especially in the 10 o’clock hour, but it still says something positive about the network that is considered the most conservative of the bunch. The episode also gives Sherlock a moment of “fanboy” out in the presence of one of his favorite ballet performers, with whom he later…engages. Sherlock is usually so blank-faced and collected that the small light that shines in his face in her presence is an amusement in itself. And, of course, investigating the murder of a ballerina is much more intriguing than a normal homicide investigation. That might be a bit of a callous statement – to say that a murder is boring sometimes – but when it comes to television, everything has been done so many times that a series needs to find unique hooks like these, and writer Liz Friedman makes wonderful use of the story with great turns of events and colorful supporting characters.
– Sean Colletti