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“Dead Man’s Switch”: Elementary Review

By on April 26, 2013
Jonny Lee Miller (left) and Aidan Quinn in Elementary. Image © CBS

Jonny Lee Miller (left) and Aidan Quinn in Elementary. Image © CBS

The daunting duo of Holmes and Watson frequently deal with unpleasant characters in their work, but in this week’s “Dead Man’s Switch”, the baddie is particularly vile. The case revolves around a blackmailer targeting the parents of rape victims. There is a sense of urgency and a deep, nagging desire for justice that is not always present in some of the less serious cases.

Fortunately, the case is brought in by Alfredo (guest star Ato Essandoh), Holmes’s sponsor. This ties in nicely with the fact that it is also nearing the one-year anniversary of Holmes’s sobriety. An excellent sponsor for Holmes, Alfredo gets his message across without ever coming across as preachy – even when he is scolding.

Throughout the episode, Holmes dodges Watson’s prying and concern. She wants to talk about feelings, and he does his best to avoid that. Eventually, after a prodding conversation with Alfredo and stressful few days, he admits to Watson that it is not truly his one-year anniversary. It turns out that he had snuck out of rehab the first day there in order to get a fix.

Jonny Lee Miller is devastatingly good in the scene where he confesses this failure to Watson. Technically, she is no longer his sober companion, but she means much more to him than that at this point. This is solidified when he comes clean to her, insisting that it was important she knew before anyone else, including Alfredo. It is difficult to see Holmes unravel in such a raw, human way. Seeing him stumble and sputter over his words as he tries to explain just how severely he agonizes over his past failure is tough.

It is also a reminder of the weight that Holmes carries every day. Clearly, he judges himself more harshly than anyone else. As he continues with his sobriety, he is also moving forward in a very challenging occupation. It is realistic and profound how the show portrays it as a daily battle, and as a dark thought always in the back of the mind. Thankfully, they do not try to cheaply wrap up the problem in a matter of a few episodes.

Lucy Liu, Jonny Lee Miller, and Ato Essandoh (right). Image © CBS

(LtoR) Lucy Liu, Jonny Lee Miller, and Ato Essandoh. Image © CBS

Despite the heavy subject matter above, we are still treated to the Elementary humour we’ve come to appreciate. Watson barely blinks an eye when she comes downstairs to find Holmes tattooing himself. When he notes that he is ambidextrous, she sums up our thoughts nicely with her response, “Of course you are”.

There is a heartwarming moment when Watson gives Holmes a congratulatory gift for his one-year anniversary. Holmes and Watson know each other so well by now that we just know the present will be perfect. This is made evident when Watson gives him the following, beautiful Robert Frost poem:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

The case itself requires a considerable effort to solve, and Watson is a helpfully calming presence when Holmes gets frustrated. There is also a good scene between Holmes and Gregson, who currently have a solid relationship. This might not last if Holmes goes off the rails again in his pursuit of Moriarty.

What did you think of the episode? Have you recovered from the bathtub scene? (I haven’t.) Catch Elementary Thursdays on CBS.