Elementary, Season 2: Episode 17 – “Ears to You”
Written by Lauren MacKenzie & Andrew Gettens
Directed by Seith Mann
Airs Thursday nights at 10 on CBS
After an unusually light episode by Elementary‘s standards last week, Lestrade sticks around a little while longer in “Ears to You” – an episode only mildly less light. If the tone is still a little bit jarring, the use of Sean Pertwee’s Lestrade is much more effective this time around, as he gets to bounce off Sherlock and Watson in both entertaining and interesting ways. Again, part of what makes Elementary stand out ahead of its procedural compatriots is how earnestly it focuses on its central two characters, bringing in other foils when relevant, such as Mycroft and Moriarty. Lestrade isn’t quite on that level, but he serves several functions in “Ears to You,” not least of which is unintentionally testing Sherlock’s sobriety by being drunk himself. With all the alcohol we always see TV characters drink, it’s easy to forget that the brownstone is a dry fortress for our main characters, so seeing Lestrade fumbling around as Joan chastises him works well in terms of reminding us of that fact.
More importantly, Joan learns a thing or two about life with Sherlock by being around his former partner. Of course, the Joan we know doesn’t seem like someone who would be prone to the same kind of lapses in judgment caused by a need for attention and public recognition, but the points that Lestrade makes about the longer you know Sherlock, the easier it is to see what he’s doing are all valid. Joan can’t see when Sherlock might be manipulating Lestrade, for instance, and even if Sherlock is telling the truth about not having any idea of what Lestrade is talking about, the fact that the possibility doesn’t cross her mind means there are still nuances to Sherlock’s character that Joan either actively ignores out of denial (Sherlock acts like a human with her, but no one else) or she just hasn’t had enough exposure to those sides of him. In any case, if all Lestrade was around for was to reassure Joan that she’ll get to know him fully one day, that’s probably enough for me. It would have been nice if Lestrade had the same depth as Mycroft, but Elementary seems content to let its two main characters do all the heavy lifting (and, in many episodes, just one of them).
The crime plot in “Ears to You,” as you might deduce from that title, is what gives the episode its still-light tone. I suppose, on paper, knowing that a plastic surgeon crafted ears from implanted cartilage in his wife’s back to fake out the police might seem gruesome, but it’s all kind of silly when you see it unfold – silly in an entertaining way, at least. I’m getting a little tired, though, of the conclusions to Elementary‘s crime plots always being Sherlock explaining what went down and then the camera shifting to the perpetrator’s “Oh, shit” face before they go to jail. The writers would do well to find some aspect of the intentions behind these crimes to weigh on our detectives and consultants in some way so that they have meaning outside of serving the episodes’ structures. We’ve seen Elementary be plenty intelligent in its past in this way, but it has really ignored that side of things as of late.
There was a time several episodes ago when I thought Elementary had made the same kind of jump in its second season that shows like Arrow and Banshee have managed to do. But at this point, the show has simply settled into a comfortable level of quality, never quite getting to “amazing,” but also not falling to anything like “mediocre.” In some ways, it’s a shame because of the potential that was flashing in December and early January. What, for example, has happened to Sherlock the sponsor? Why have we not seen more Joan-centric stories that serve her character well? Now that Bell and Sherlock are getting along fine again, what purposes do the detectives serve in this season? These are all questions Elementary was interested in asking at some point or another. And though we can still look forward to some more Mycroft as the season winds down – the question of what his intentions are is the most interesting thread yet to be tied up – I’m left wondering how this series can elevate itself to being the viscerally exciting series we saw in “The Diabolical Kind” instead of just being a solid show all around.
– Sean Colletti