[This is a review of Elementary season 2, episode 16. There will be SPOILERS.]
Other than multiple hiatuses, the second half of Elementary season 2 has been filled with episodes focused more of the show’s procedural qualities, letting the Sherlock-in-recovery storyline take a backseat to the kinds of plots the show started out producing. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; in general, the series’ writers can be rather crafty when thinking up mysteries for the central protagonists to solve. In fact, the central murder investigation at the heart of ‘Dead Clade Walking‘ came across as one of the more entertaining, straight procedural hours of the series this year.
Sometimes, though, a straightforward approach isn’t enough, and this time around, ‘The One Percent Solution’ brings in Sean Pertwee as Sherlock’s collaborator from his Scotland Yard days, Gareth Lestrade. Elementary has had great success with its re-imaginings of popular Sherlock Holmes characters, and the appearance of a slightly down-and-out Lestrade at the beginning of the season was another iteration offering some potentially interesting avenues to investigate. ‘Step Nine‘ saw Lestrade on the verge of ruin, addicted to the fame his collaboration with Sherlock had brought him, and ostensibly unable to recreate that kind of celebrity and renown on his lonesome. Pertwee managed to play Lestrade with a sweaty kind of desperation that ultimately left things with him taking credit for a job Sherlock had done, despite the super sleuth’s demand that he not.
The more resonant personal aspect of the episode, which also introduced a radically different take on Mycroft Holmes, ultimately overshadowed much of Lestrade’s appearance. So, offering the fame-seeking investigator his own chapter, dedicated to his increasing ability to irritate Sherlock and guzzle coconut water, was an amusing way to break up a solid, but unremarkable mystery involving a bomber targeting members of the financial sector, one of whom, Richard Balsille (Bill Irwin), happens to be Lestrade’s new boss.
The investigation of the bombing is fairly standard, there’s an appearance by Captain Gregson, but no real interaction between him, Sherlock, and Joan. Meanwhile, Det. Bell continues to be underused, even though he’s provided the season with some of its strongest episodes. Instead, ‘The One Percent Solution’ is focused on painting a picture of Sherlock’s now-semi-competitive relationship with Lestrade and how it differs from his partnership with Joan. As a way of symbolizing the Sherlock/Lestrade dynamic, the episode has Sherlock attempting to rehabilitate two roosters that were formerly a part of a cock-fighting organization. The symbolism is overt, but not without its humor – both in the most obvious, puerile way, and in seeing the strange, but funny sight of Jonny Lee Miller squatting in front of two roosters in the living room of a New York City brownstone.
Once Sherlock’s investigation turns up the truth behind Lestrade’s work for Balsille – he’s little more than an overpaid pimp – the episode works its way into allowing the character to regain a little of the dignity he apparently once had. Though that attempt leaves Lestrade penniless (or should I say Pennyworth?) and crashing on Sherlock’s couch, it also opens the door for future appearances by the character.
Amounting to little more than a middling story, ‘The One Percent Solution’ had an opportunity to open up Sherlock’s past at Scotland Yard, with the added advantage of having Gregson and Watson on hand to weigh the character’s past against his far more positive present – especially since Gregson’s dealings with Scotland Yard have been noted, but never expanded upon. If this is simply opening the door for future Lestrade appearances on the show, then so be it. Hopefully in the future, the character will help shape our understanding of Sherlock in a way that doesn’t require farm animals to get the point across.
Elementary continues next Thursday with ‘Ears to You’ @10pm on CBS.