Elementary, Season 2: Episode 16 – “The One Percent Solution”
Written by Bob Goodman (story by Bob Goodman & Craig Sweeny)
Directed by Guy Ferland
Airs Thursday nights at 10 on CBS
On the spectrum of tonal heaviness, Elementary usually leans to the lighter side of things, but it’s rarely as light as “The One Percent Solution” is. In a way, this is a very unusual episode of the series, especially amid a season that has taken steps to become more serious than its fun debut season, which could occasionally enthrall. “The One Percent Solution” doesn’t exactly suffer because of this, since the almost slapstick comedy lands fairly well. Additionally, bringing back Lestrade for this episode makes the detour more enjoyable to take part in. Yet, it still manages to feel out of character, which is even more odd when you consider that Craig Sweeny (one of Elementary‘s executive producers and quite possibly its best writer) helped craft the story.
In terms of a re-introduction to Lestrade, the tone fits wonderfully. When we met him back in “Step Nine,” he was the same bumbling detective that he is in “The One Percent Solution,” played with precision by Sean Pertwee. That he is once again staring in the face of public ruin is both kind of sad and terribly funny. A lot of the comedy in this episode revolves around how annoying and pesky Lestrade can be, the most outright hilarious of which is how Sherlock changes both his and Watson’s ringtones to Daniel Powter’s “Bad Day” for incoming calls from Lestrade. We’re almost always laughing at Lestrade, yet he manages to bring it around by the episode’s end and prove that he has an admirable moral compass when it comes to his job. He’s willing to sacrifice his dignity to put the right person behind bars, and it’s in a moment like this that we can see how Sherlock and Lestrade might have got on in a previous life.
The Sherlock-Watson scenes, though, are mostly limited to this weird C-plot about cock fights, and writer Bob Goodman throws in a fair few sexual jokes into his script, including one in which Watson unintentionally and verbally buries herself, giving Sherlock ammunition to suggest her epitaph. These scenes are fine on their own, but they’re a bit jarring sandwiched in the episode, especially considering that the final one serves as a punctuating note for this week’s entry. Sherlock manages to cure the cock fighting impulse, but…so, what? Maybe I need to lighten up and just let these things entertain me, but Elementary has been ridiculously effective at making the Sherlock-Watson scenes in episodes serve as sources of character development this season. They’ve never been this throwaway. And given that Lestrade’s presence here doesn’t really illuminate anything new about Sherlock himself, it lack of depth in “The One Percent Solution” stands out even more.
Pile on the facts that the long-wanted criminal, Aurelius, is found dead in the third act and that the actual perpetrator of the bombing that takes place in the episode is brought down with hardly any fanfare, and “The One Percent Solution” feels almost entirely like a vehicle for some easy jokes. Is it a bad episode of television? Not at all. But it’s definitely not a necessary episode of Elementary.
– Sean Colletti