DVD Review: Elementary (The First Season)

DVD Reviews, Reviews

We are in a golden age of Sherlock Holmes. The 19th Century sleuth is all the rage in the 21st Century with Robert Downey Jr.’s revisionist blockbuster films and Benedict Cumberbatch’s modern miniseries. Elementary adds to the revival by not merely bringing Holmes into a contemporary setting, but transplanting him to America. Jonny Lee Miller is known for three things in America: his turns as the psycho inspirational speaker on Dexter, being the Sean Connery obsessed Sickboy in Trainspotting and his title as the first Mr. Angelina Jolie. Strangely enough, these three elements of his past make him perfect for Elementary. His Holmes is recovering junkie with a bit of a Messiah complex and dark past. But Holmes does not work alone. Thankfully the producers were also as inventive in getting their Dr. Watson cast right with Lucy Liu (Kill Bill) as Jane Watson. She has the ability to hold Holmes’ leash in order keep him clean, but enough sense to let him run on a case. Her primary job is to keep Holmes from returning to his wanton druggie ways. But Holmes needs her to do more than slap his hand when he gets an itch. The leading cast is what makes this show irresistible viewing and not merely an exercise in abusing a public domain character. Elementary: The First Season is a work of true chemistry.

“Pilot” brings the duo together when Watson is hired to be Holmes sober companion. She’s paid a nice sum by his father, but is it really enough to live in Holmes’ bachelor apartment in Philly? He’s not the neatest of people. She also learns that he’s not the normal rich kid who got into trouble dabbling with drugs. He has a gig consulting with the police and reporting to Captain Toby Gregson (Desperately Seeking Susan‘s Aidan Quinn). He’s not just some guy calling the main number with a hunch. He proves his skills while finding the killer of a doctor’s wife. “While You Were Sleeping” makes a coma victim out to be a murderer. Can he prove the impossible was probable? “Child Predator” puts Holmes on the trail of an infamous kidnapper of children who kills them. A big break comes when they discover his first victim is alive. Will he flip former captor? It’s a masterfully complicated case which tests Holmes’ wits. “The Rat Race” gets him hired to track down a company’s executive. Turns out the guy is dead. What’s disturbing is there have been a few homicides in various divisions. Is this their retirement plan? “Lesser of Evils” places an angel of mercy loose at a hospital. Can Holmes stop the employee from putting people out of their misery and denying the hospital major billings. “Flight Risk” has Watson probing Holmes’ past. She wants to know about Irene.

“The Long Fuse” has Watson wanting a new sponsor to work with Holmes. Can they really be breaking up? Their latest case involves a bomb that might have been planted four years before it exploded. Who plans that far ahead for a terrorist act? “You Do It to Yourself” wraps a mystery of a college professor who dies from having his eyes shot out. The clues lead to an underground Mahjong club. “The Leviathan” involves the robbing of the world’s most secure safe. Holmes must crack the safe cracker before the company’s reputation is ruined. “Dirty Laundry” uncovers a body in a fancy hotel’s linen pile. Is the body connected to a prostitution ring that was working out of the place? “M.” finally brings a real rival to Holmes. Sebastian Moran (Vinnie Jones) arrives in town with his calling card left for the police. “The Deductionist” sticks Holmes with a profiler that gets under his skin. He doesn’t like to share his genius that way. “A Giant Gun, Filled with Drugs” reunites Holmes with his old drug dealer. The guy needs his old client to locate his kidnapped daughter. When Holmes can’t figure things out, the dealer offers to get him drugged up to get back his old skills. Can he stay clean or is all Watson’s work going down the tubes.

“Déjà Vu All Over Again” splits up the team when Watson wants her own case. She’s looking for a missing woman while Holmes pokes around a murder in the subway. Jim True-Frost (The Wire and Treme) might be a link. “Dead Man’s Switch” involves a blackmailer going after the parents of wild children. They have nasty videos of their daughters. When the blackmailer turns up dead, Holmes must hunt down the partner in crime to make sure the videos don’t get dumped on the internet. “A Landmark Story” marks the arrival of Moriarty. Is Holmes ready for the legendary evil genius? “Risk Management” makes him more obsessed with Moriarty even though Watson wants her pal to back off. “Heroine” is the big cliff hanger that has an injured Holmes having to avoid painkillers while dealing with a Greek tycoon. Is Moriarty behind all this?

Elementary quickly became a hit last season because of the amazing chemistry between Miller and Liu in their characters. They brings a new angle to the characters instead of merely doing an American version of the Cumberbatch Sherlock. Holmes’ constant fear of falling off the wagon always leads to a sense of jeopardy when he accepts a case. The mysteries do their best to keep everyone guessing. They’re not really based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories so there’s no simple solution for those familiar with the character. Elementary: The First Season proves there’s still room to explore and expand Sherlock Holmes.

“Pilot,” “While You Were Sleeping,” “Child Predator,” “The Rat Race,” “Lesser Evils,” “Flight Risk,” “One Way to Get Off,” “The Long Fuse,” “You Do It To Yourself,” “The Leviathan,” “Dirty Laundry,” “M.,” “The Red Team,” “The Deductionist,” “A Giant Gun, Filled With Drugs,” “Details,” “Possibility Two,” “Deja Vu All Over Again,” “Snow Angels,” “Dead Man’s Switch,” “A Landmark Story,” “Risk Management,” “The Woman” and “Heroine.”

The video is 1.78:1 anamorphic. The transfer brings out the East Coast grit in the production. The audio is Dolby Digital 5.1 and Stereo. It’s a clean mix so that you can easily hear Holmes’ logic while breaking down a case. The episodes are subtitled in English, Spanish and Portuguese.

A Holmes of Their Own (11:52) discusses updating and relocating the iconic character.

In Liu of Watson (9:45) lets her talk about her approach to the character.

Holmes Sweet Holmes (17:56) recaps the season. Lucy Liu seems amazed at how the show was able to do so much in 24 episodes. The creative guys talk about the challenges of coming up with mysteries complicated enough to be worthy of Holmes.

Set Tour with Lucy Liu (3:19) let you know how film crews make a horrible looking apartment. She’s a fine tour guide.

CBS Launch Promos (8:06) are the house ads they ran all last summer to push the concept of the show.

The Power of Observation is a six part web series about Elementary.

Elementary: The First Season brings Sherlock Holmes to America. But he’s not the clean cut crime fighter. He’s doing his best to stay sober as he drags a female Watson onto his mysteries. Elementary fits in well with the Holmes boom.

CBS DVD present Elementary: The First Season. Starring: Jonny Lee Miller, Lucy Liu and Aidan Quinn. Boxset Content: 24 episodes on 6 DVDs. Released: August 27, 2013.

Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.