[This is a review of Elementary season 2, episode 15. There will be SPOILERS.]
This week’s Elementary provides a great example of how sometimes the basic necessities of the procedural format can wind up utilizing so many similar broad strokes and generalizations that in trying to make both a mystery and a social statement seem relevant and compelling, everything just winds up falling flat. And that’s honestly too bad because, as an episode, ‘Corpse de Ballet’ felt like it was sincere in its goal of calling some attention to the nation’s mental health crisis – especially as it pertains to veterans suffering from PTSD – but the unnecessary attempts to use Joan Watson’s heretofore unknown history as the point to which it would affix its emotional resonance wound up doing a disservice to the writers’ efforts.
The episode begins setting up the standard devices and introducing a recurring bit of humor involving Sherlock’s posting of a note on his bedroom door, declaring he’s entertaining a guest, and Joan’s almost involuntary response to offer a To Go cup of coffee for the lucky individual on her way out. This not only provides the episode with some levity, but it also acts to set up the eventual reveal that Sherlock has recently been intimate with Iris Lanzer (Aleksa Palladino, Boardwalk Empire), even though she’s a likely suspect in a gruesome murder.
Initially, this felt like it would be a straightforward case, as Sherlock and Watson first consult with the NYPD on the murder of a young dancer whose bifurcated body made a surprise entrance onstage at a dance rehearsal not long before. But, in the case of ‘Corpse de Ballet,’ it’s not just the poor victim that winds up being bifurcated; it’s the entire episode. Perhaps because Sherlock is so taken with Iris’ talents and is so sure of her innocence – and eventually sleeps with her as part of his “investigation” – it makes sense to give him and Joan some space to investigate her own mystery, but if the characters’ interplay and apparent morning routine is any indication, pulling them in different directions doesn’t add anything to the story; it just weakens the very foundation on which the show was ostensibly built.
Joan gets a big win in the case of a missing veteran suffering from extreme PTSD, but when Sherlock inquires about the depth of her concern, she informs him that her biological father is schizophrenic and homeless, and that she would occasionally see him at a shelter and he would sometimes recognize her, sometimes not. Joan hasn’t seen him in two years, so naturally the notion of someone with mental health issues having gone missing struck a particularly strong chord with her. The only problem is, the revelation about her father is so out of the blue it feels too calculated to deliver the intended emotional significance. Sherlock’s side of the story avoids those emotional pitfalls, but in doing so it almost goes too far in the other direction, featuring stock characters that fit the generalized notions of what a greedy lawyer and bottom-feeding paparazzo would be like.
While the episode certainly fits the bill in terms of offering up a tidy procedural, there are too many essentials missing – like the whiff it makes on Det. Bell returning to the field – to put it on par with the more emotionally resonant Elementary episodes from this season.
Elementary will be airing a rerun of ‘Ancient History’ next Thursday @10pm on CBS.