Elementary, Season 2: Episode 18 – “The Hound of the Cancer Cells”
Written by Bob Goodman
Directed by Michael Slovis
Airs Thursday nights at 10 on CBS
After a few fairly by-the-numbers entries of Elementary in the past weeks, “The Hound of the Cancer Cells” grounds the detective series back into the sphere in which it usually excels: character. Even with a guest turn from character actor Mather Zickel, the main crime plot is lacking in terms of drawing the viewer into something that she ought to care about. That might sound like a harsh criticism given that Elementary is essentially a police procedural, but a lacking crime plot doesn’t have to be an obstacle. Nor does it have to be the A-story of a given episode. “The Hound of the Cancer Cells” makes good on that by bringing two different character-based issues part of its concern.
Both, actually, revolve around Detective Bell. The most important as far as Elementary is concerned has to do with his impending celebration now that he has been re-instated completely, including being able to use his firearm. There is the added reminder that Sherlock is a recovering addict and so being in a bar in general is not a great situation. But the main source of powerful material here comes from the Sherlock-Bell dynamic, which finally gets properly resolved after the likely scenario of it being handled off-screen. Bell is reluctant to join in his own celebration, and Sherlock offers the idea of grabbing a cup of coffee across the street. It’s not a grand gesture, but it’s one that connects the two characters in a meaningful way, both very aware of what it feels like to be ostracized to some degree.
The second surprisingly effective storyline has to do with Bell’s investigation into an unrelated case in which a local criminal is set to go free once again. The whole scenario has a very Samuel L. Jackson Shaft feel to it, and the conclusion to it is pretty much the same as in that film – *Spoiler* the criminal gets taken out before his court date, because that seems like the only way to stop him. *End Spoiler* While the Sherlock-Bell scenes help to remind us that the relationships between these characters are not entirely amicable, this other story situates Elementary in a New York City where people get away with horrible things and can’t be stopped by the traditional routes of the law.
Again, “The Hound of the Cancer Cells,” which ought to be plot-drive, winds up succeeding by giving its main characters interesting things to do. We’ve seen Elementary succeed through sheer force of innovative plot, but the series is at its most potent when the characters are the driving force, as is the case with this episode. That’s not to say that the crime plot is wasted here. But it is once more solved in a way that puts its final punctuation without any feeling of revelation. We don’t see Mather Zickel’s character react to his plan being foiled other than with whatever facial tics he uses in that scene. Hopefully, as the second season winds down, Elementary can find a way of both giving its characters intriguing sub-plots and getting us invested on what exactly is going on in each episode.
– Sean Colletti