Friday, February 28, 2014

Oscar Predictions, 2014

I chickened out on a couple of the Best Picture Nominees and didn't go see them--12 Years A Slave, Captain Phillips, and Wolf of Wall Street just felt like the ratio of punishment to enjoyment was too far out of whack to do to myself voluntarily. (I saw trailers for Captain Phillips months ago, and was turned off to that right away, and have never really felt I needed to revise that opinion.)

BUT--I think 12 Years a Slave is such a likely winner for Best Picture--it's Meaningful, it's Historic, it Speaks To Important Issues Today (Racism)--that's like catnip so often! Lupita Nyong'o is also getting such love that she seems like a real contender.

So--just so I can go back and see what I thought, here are my Oscar pool picks.

The Biggies

Best Picture: 12 Years a Slave
Best Actor: Matthew McConaughey for Dallas Buyers Club
Best Actress: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Best Supporting Actor: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Best Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong'o, 12 Years a Slave
Best Director: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
Best Animated Feature: Frozen (a JUGGERNAUT!)
Best Original Song: "Let It Go" from Frozen. Could lose out narrowly to "Invisible" from Mandela, but I'd prefer "Happy" from Despicable Me 2 over that.
Best Original Screenplay: Her, although I want it to be Nebraska.
Best Adapted Screenplay: 12 Years a Slave

Random Technical Awards:

I would like to see Best Costume Design to go to either The Great Gatsby or  American Hustle, but I'm guessing it will go to 12 Years a Slave. Same for Scenic design, although Her might steal it.

Hair and Makeup should go to American Hustle, since hair is SO MUCH a part of that movie, but it wasn't even nominated. So instead, it should be Dallas Buyers Club, since apparently the entire budget for hair and makeup for the entire movie was literally $250. That's some magic right there.

Gravity will take Best Visual Effects, and probably Best Cinematography too.

Script Doctoring Elementary--"The One Percent Solution"

Honestly, show--can you tie up your loose ends please?

In this episode, a bomb has gone off in a restaurant, killing several people at a table for eight, including a big wheel at the mythical financial corporation and the Department of Labor people he was meeting with. Two survivors of the blast are available to talk, and Gareth Lestrade returns.

Lestrade in this series is a hack, who gained some measure of fame in London working with Sherlock and taking credit for Sherlock's solutions. In an earlier episode, Sherlock calls it an "addiction to fame." Now Lestrade is in New York, serving as the "security czar" for this corporation and swanning about showing off his wealth and prestige. It's obvious this guy is all hat, no cattle, or as Den of Geek calls him, "The Guilderoy Lockhart of Scotland Yard."

He also sets Sherlock's teeth on edge--Johnny Lee Miller is doing such a good job with conveying his physical distaste of Lestrade's grandstanding, it nearly comes out of the television and into the room. The script sets up the antagonism even before they meet up again, as Sherlock objects in principle to anyone calling themselves a "czar" of anything.

So, the mystery is set up, the conflict is set, we only need the B plot, which is also thematically appropriate--Sherlock has broken up a cock fighting ring and brought home two of the roosters to try to train to not fight each other. He names them Romulus and Remus, but they are really named "Sherlock" and "Gareth." (We will also accept "Sherlock" and "Mycroft" as correct.)

So first order of business is to interview the two casualties who can talk. One is an undersecretary of labor who was there with her boss, sitting at the far end of the table. (Her name is "Not Sheryl Sandberg" apparently.) The other is the restaurant manager. Sherlock asks Not Sheryl Sandberg for a seating arrangement, and the restaurant manager says the only unusual thing was that there was a waiter who came in but left early complaining of stomach ache. So--two lines of inquiry--who was the target, and was the waiter involved?

(Meanwhile, Lestrade is doing some hokey stuff, and then he continues to be a jerk, even trying to look suave in front of Sherlock while clumsily fishing for information he can appropriate. There is also a sub-B semi-plot around Lestrade's assistant that isn't worth discussing.)

Waiter is a dead end--he's got some Ayn Rand posturing on the internet, so went to ground. The seating chart shows that the three people closest to the bomb (and who are all conveniently dead now, so no info from them) are two Department of Labor people, and the up and coming shark at Lestrade's firm. Now there's a motive--Lestrade's boss wanted to erase the threat to his own position. A fake name at the hotel next door, evidence that Lestrade checked his boss in, evidence of corporate surveillance ordered on the young shark by Lestrade's boss--

Nope! Boss is a sexual fetishist who uses Lestrade to be his first contact with women. Basically, Lestrade's a corporate pimp.

Someone calls into the police station, claiming responsibility. It's Elementary's version of the Unibomber, named "Aurelius." But this time it's a copycat "Aurelius" because Sherlock and Joan find the real one dead in his bomb making shack--been there for more than a week, so not a suspect.

Then, a demand note comes in to Lestrade's boss, ordering certain trades to happen, spread out so they are untraceable, or Fake Aurelius will disclose Bosses's skeevy sex life. Oh noes! And then, suddenly, Sherlock sees the connection! For these trades to work, somebody needs access to Labor reports before anybody else sees them. So it's Ms. Not Sheryl Sandberg who planted the bomb, so she could kill the two people who were in front of her to see the Labor numbers. Now she gets them first! And she's just about to leave the hospital to go to the airport and fly off to Place with No Extradition Agreements. But she's arrested instead! The end!

Like--assuming that this is the plot--that this undersecretary planted a bomb (a BOMB!!!) to kill her two superiors, so she could get reports before they went public, so she could arrange an arbitrage situation in the financial markets, but that to pull off those trades, she had to blackmail the CEO of a major trading firm to do it. That's the plan. Ooooo-kaaaay.

So, I have questions.

  • First of all--seriously? This woman can figure out market arbitrage, and she thinks she has to blackmail a finance guy to do the trades? Has she not seen Wolf of Wall Street?
  • Where did she get the bomb? The only bomb maker we know about has been dead for a week, and no reason to believe that she knew him. Where did it come from?
  • When did she tape the phone to the table in the restaurant? There was no break in--she just came in and crawled under the table while the restaurant was open?
  • Why did she give Sherlock an accurate seating chart? She's the only living person (apparently?) who could do that--why point out the intended victim?
  • How was she so sure that a bomb was even going to work and take out the right people?
  • Why did she bother with the Aurelius decoy? Why pretend to be someone else, and take "credit" for the bombing? (No, you can't say "because we need an Act 2 complication.") (Unless that was a copycat copycat, but that was not addressed.)
  • How did she plant the faux Aurelius claim, and plot out the arbitrage plan, plus send the demand--all from her hospital bed? Let's recognize that in 2014, insurance doesn't pay for lounging around in a hospital bed if you are actually well enough to be managing Labor Department reports and analyzing financial markets. If she's still in the hospital, she's not managing the mechanics of this plot.
Here's my suggestion, show. I get that as an hour-long procedural, you need a certain number of dead ends, and a certain number of twists and complications to lead into commercials. And, since it's a detective show, the plot is going to be less than straightforward as presented. BUT! You need to go back and reconstruct the plot from the plotter's point of view. That way, it will make sense once it's all revealed. This, though--this is needlessly complicated, and makes very little sense. What kind of financial genius is risk averse enough to work for the government, but willing to SET OFF A BOMB and KEEP SITTING AT THE TABLE HERSELF? Go get a job in the financial industry and risk an insider trading conviction. That way, if you do get caught, you go spend time in a federal penitentiary, minimum security, rather than state prison and possible death penalty. And surely there are ways of sneaking access to report numbers, hacking into the computer system at work, ways to get those Labor numbers without SETTING OFF A BOMB.

The LEGO Movie, a Review

I went into The LEGO Movie hoping for something like Wreck-It Ralph, last year's paean to vintage arcade video games--a movie that uses toys to illuminate something about living in the adult world, while mining the past for jokes. Technically, that is what I got, and yet The LEGO Movie doesn't quite hit the target it is aiming for.

I have a couple of theories about why that is.

1. Expectations.
Expectations are so important in how much one enjoys a movie: too many assurances that "you're going to love this movie" and "this is so funny" inevitably oversell the experience. Even if it is funny, and you do like it, somehow you don't like it  as much as you were promised.

I tried to remain unspoiled about The LEGO Movie, not reading reviews or listening to podcast discussions, because I already knew that I wanted to see it, and I didn't want to risk being oversold on it. Yet somehow, I think that is what happened. Somehow, the very volume of the discussions I wasn't participating managed to signal that this was something worth talking about. The theater showtimes page showed the Rotten Tomatoes score of over 90%, so even when trying to just get the information about when to see it, I got some strong indication that this was going to be a Very Great Movie--possibly even awesome. Even knowing that the signature song was "Everything is Awesome" may have fed into the inflation of my expectations.

And there really isn't anything to be done about that. I was aware of the risk, but it's a tricky proposition: how do you dampen your excitement enough so you aren't disappointed, but not so much that you just don't go at all?

Perhaps I could have gone when the movie first came out, and that was my plan originally, but life (and a nasty head cold) intervened. I went as soon as I feasibly could, and that won't change unless I stop making choices and just go see everything.

In any event, I am willing to concede that my disappointment in this movie might be idiosyncratic.

After seeing this movie, I did go back and read quite a few reviews, many of which started with the traditional Critic's Jaded Skepticism about whether a branded movie could be any good, before swiftly reassuring the reader that this one was. I didn't go into this with that kind of discouragement.

2. Uncanny Valley

Ordinarily, this term is used to describe the place where animation tries to look like live action, but falls just short. Human brains are apparently happy with actual humans on screen, or else exaggerated and stylized versions, but there is a point where the animation approaches looking life-like where the brain can only process the "off"-ness. That's not strictly the problem here.

Instead, there is a sort of blending of stop action animation and CGI that creates its own Uncanny Valley. The brain knows that actual LEGO blocks don't work like that. It's hard to point to specific examples, but some of the environments seem fudged--the water on which the pirate ship sails has an eerie curviness to it that just can't be accomplished with square edges. So at some points, I abandoned the storytelling in favor of trying to decide just how my brain was being fooled. Did they create the wave shape they wanted, and then superimposed LEGO forms digitally? And if "water" is made out of LEGOs, then what is "underwater" made of? And how relationship does the "water" in the "ocean" have to the "water" that came out of the shower at the beginning of the movie?

And then we are off into questioning the world building--how much artistic license am I willing to grant? Am I supposed to believe that everything represented onscreen is an actual, pre-existing LEGO item? Do LEGO sausages actually exist, or were they just created for this movie? If they do exist, why do they exist?

Once you are on that level of critical thinking, it's hard to appreciate the movie. Because the fundamental premise--this is a movie about LEGOs--has been undermined. It isn't a movie about LEGOs, it's about LEGO-like items that have been digitally rendered and deformed. It's inconsistent, which makes the jokes about the oddity of LEGOs no longer work. How do the figures' hands work when they are just claws--it doesn't matter, because other rules have already been broken, so there's no reason to expect this one won't be either. (For the record, I don't know if it was or not.) The limitations of the story are being flouted, and I'm no longer seeing a clever movie about clever things one can do with basic blocks--I'm seeing a simulacrum of LEGO.

I go into a movie willing to suspend my disbelief. In return for buying into the premise of the movie, I want to be told an interesting story about that premise. In this case, I go in willing to accept that LEGOs actually operate the way the things they look like operate. I'm willing to give them facial expressions for purposes of the storytelling. I'm willing to believe that LEGO televisions actually display programming that is filmed using LEGO cameras. I will accept that LEGO food is actually edible by LEGO people, and that LEGO showers dispense LEGO pieces that look like water and that water actually cleans LEGO bodies. But when those rules are randomly violated, then the fragile social contract is broken, and I stop suspending the disbelief and start analyzing the world critically.

3. Further Inconsistencies and Narrative Problems

I'm perfectly willing to accept Will Farrell as the voice of the Big Bad character, President/Lord Business--although, why "Business?" It's not an inherently funny word, it doesn't point out anything about the plot or the nature of the LEGO world, it's not clever wordplay in line with other elements, like the "kragle." I actually like Will Farrell better when he's not actually on-screen. But he's now done so many animated movies that he's bringing jokes from other movies into this one.

Most notably, he's reprising the "mispronunciation of words" schtick he did in MegaMind. There, the plot actually turned on realizing that his character is the only one who pronounced "MetroCity" as if it rhymed with "atrocity." Here, his character does the same thing with Band-Aid ("Ban-Da-Id") and "the blade of Exact Zero"--which doesn't even work, because the thing isn't spelled "Exact-0" but as "X-acto." Funny joke, except for the part where it doesn't work, and takes you out of this movie and into another one.

There's another serious inconsistency in costuming too, which I noticed around Wyldstyle. When she brings Emmett out of the construction world he's used to into the Old West, she gives him a poncho and hat to cover up his construction uniform. Meanwhile, she changes her punk-y leather look for a more period appropriate dress. How does this happen? It's not shown onscreen.

If these were actually LEGO pieces, it would be easy. You'd pop off her head from the one body, and stick it onto another, no biggie. But it has to be a big deal, because that's how Vitruvious was killed--his head was cut off. So the head can't come off the body without killing the character. So how did Wyldstyle change her clothes?

Other critics have noted the inherent contradictions of the story--the plot is set up to celebrate the value of free play, of using the bricks to build imaginatively, while LEGO the corporation continues to promote the boxed sets of bricks, assembled and designed to build a single item. (The market trend continues, as individual items from the movie are now available for purchase at $30 per set.) This is a fundamental disconnect between the branded movie and the brand itself, which is further exacerbated by the practice of selling kits to allow you to re-enact the movie, denying both creativity in building and in role-play.)

There is a further problem with the "imagination is good" message as it plays out it meatspace at the end. The final sequence of the movie takes place after Emmett falls out of the constructed world into the "real" world. He sees that his world is constructed in a basement on a series of tables--elaborate constructions made by "The Man Upstairs" who is, again (of course) Will Farrell.

And here the story turns "heartwarming." Because there is a son named Finn, who has come downstairs to play with the LEGO world. He's moved things around, and it seems like the movie has been the game he has been playing with his father's set-up. The two of them have a small conflict, resolved when Dad sees the error of his ways and the two settle in to play with the figures in the world dad has built.

But there is a threat--if son is allowed to come down and play with the dad's set up, then it's only fair that little sister gets to as well. The movie cuts to some disfigured Duplo characters invading the space, but not before we see the look of horror on the son's face. And this is the problem. He sees no problem with him being allowed to deconstruct and play imaginatively, but not his younger sister? She plays with them "wrong?" So there IS some value in protecting designs and not having them disassembled! There is a "right" and "wrong" way to play creatively?

Final cavil. I wanted to see the LEGO creations more clearly than we were mostly allowed to. Early on, there is a scene where Wyldstyle builds an escape motorcycle. The pieces didn't appear to have come from the surroundings, and the bike itself was never still long enough to have any appreciation for the creativity needed to build it. This problem repeated several times--a mismatched group of figures builds a submarine, and there is really no indication of where they are getting the pieces. Things just appear, and are incorporated into a design.

How much more fun would it be to see them source the materials? There is some hint of that as they are building the submarine: the characters call out which pieces they are looking for. Batman, for example, dibs all the black pieces. "I only work in black. Or very deep gray." But there is no corresponding discussion of where those pieces are coming from, or how they are creatively repurposed. They just appear out of nowhere and disappear later.

The giant mechs pirate Metalbeard, for example, disguises himself by transforming--yes, like a Transformer--into a copy machine to escape detection in President Business's office building. Which was cute, but what? He had far more pieces, and some of the pieces were far too large, for him to credibly make that transformation. Conservation of mass, people--it's not just a good idea, it's a law!

Same thing with Emmett's one invention--the double decker couch. At one point, six characters evade capture by hiding inside it underneath the cushions. But seriously? There is a major scale problem here! Earlier, when he was demonstrating the features, Emmett lifted one of the cushions to show the "cooler" that goes inside. Which was two single cylinder pegs. No way would any of the figures fit inside that structure--again, the limits of the actual bricks is dispensed with, undermining the whole reason for seeing a LEGO movie. If you want to make a movie about people who hide in couches, go ahead and do that. Pretending they are LEGO couches and LEGO people, when they are demonstrably not, is cheating on the rules you set up for yourself.

And that's my opinion about it!

Friday, February 07, 2014

Script Doctoring--Elementary, "Corpse de Ballet" Edition

Welcome to a new feature here at The Mistress of All Evil--script doctoring. Here's where we will take a movie, TV episode, book, or other property that has left us all shaking our heads at it's nonsense. We'll point out the problems, and try to suggest either causes, explanations, or revisions.

Our first test subject is the initial scenes of last night's episode of Elementary, the CBS modernization of Sherlock Holmes. The episode is "Corpse de Ballet," in which the bitchy prima ballerina is the prime suspect in the murder of a member of the corps.

Pre-credits, we open with a montage of pre-performance preparations. The prima looks at herself in the mirror and sets the sparkly tiara on her own hair. The PA taps on the door to call her to the stage. Onstage, some 16-24 dancers warm up in various attitudes, and the prima stalks her attitude (and her rather buxom self) past all the various peons who are in her way. The curtain goes up, the dance begins--very classic corps work, and the cue goes to the stage hands to lower the columns.

I'm already calling shenanigans at this point--why would a classical ballet (as this one obviously is) be moving backdrops DURING the corps dance? It's not like "columns" are expected to be dynamic items on a stage either. Well, but the columns have to move while everyone is onstage dancing because then GASP! A body comes tumbling onto the stage! Cue screams and opening credits!

We have now established the exotic setting--ballerinas--and the shocking visual--the bisected body. It's kind of obscured by rolling clouds of dry ice at first, but we get a longer, closer look as Sherlock and Joan examine it. And there's a pretty serious production problem here--the body is absolutely not believable as a human body, bisected or not.

Call American Apparel--we've found their missing mannequin!

Maybe I'll give them a pass on the upper portion, and it seems in close-ups that they have actually hired an actress to play the body for purposes of displaying the cut throat. But just look at those legs! I want some disarray, some damage from falling out of the flies. A broken bone, a crumpled and skewed foot, some evidence of violence--not just the bottom half of a mannequin after you've managed to get the leg warmers onto it look.

"Huh," skeptics Joan, "you would think there would be more blood." Yes, yes you would. Because however long she's been dead, that body was JUST CUT IN HALF AND DROPPED FROM THE CEILING. You might expect some splotches where the bloody stumps bounced before coming to rest. You might expect some dangling entrails and viscera. You might expect some kind of messiness--but this is broadcast network television, I guess, so you get two halves of an obvious mannequin and a perfectly clean floor.

Can we get some more of that dry ice in here? Our illusion is not so effective when you can actually see the hollow legs on the dummy. Source:

Let's go to the deductions! There's red stuff on her throat--"someone cut her artery, then wrapped a wire around her. . . .time of death is around Last Night O'clock. . . .thin cut, short blade, box cutter? We found one right over here in the garbage with some bloody paper towels at the bottom. . . .box cutter has an engraved iris flower on it. . .bitchy diva is named Iris. . . .we have a suspect!!"

Okay, let's stop right here. What is the most unusual aspect of this case? (This is an easy one, so just go with the easy answer, okay?) That's right--it's the fact that this poor girl was trussed up in wire so that her body would be cut in two and dumped onstage in the middle of rehearsal. So, Sherlock, maybe look at that? 

Because here's the thing about that--it's weird. It's theatrical, it's calling attention to the murder, it requires some arrangement. Maybe question the stage hands--did you see anything odd before the rehearsal? Who has access? Does it take specialized knowledge to get up there, to find a wire, to connect it to the columns? Maybe examine the wire? Hey--no--we don't bother, because we found a box cutter, so we're going to assume it's Iris.

Now, the thing about Sherlock Holmes, the reason he's an interesting character and worth making TV shows about, is that he's not just a linear thinker. He just simply wouldn't fail to investigate or even think about what the whole "cutting a corpse into two pieces and dumping it on stage" would be about.

And frankly, the whole thing is suspect--I am calling shenanigans on it. Because the victim (who we learn is named "Nell") was a professional ballet dancer in New York City. That means she was an elite dancer, one who was originally up for the lead role. So she's a highly trained, successful, rising elite star of the ballet world. Which means--she's incredibly tiny and wiry and strong. She also probably ways about 90 pounds.

Now, I'm no surgeon, but I simply cannot believe that a 90 ballerina has enough mass to cause a wire to cut entirely through her body simply from her own weight. We are talking a whole lot of muscle and bone--her entire spinal column would have had to be severed--bones and discs and nerves. Frankly, I think she would have had to had significant additional weights tied on either side of the wire just to get any significant mutilation, much less the complete (and more or less cauterized) severing she gets.

And that whole trick--the whole murdering the girl, climbing up into the flies with her, figuring out the mechanics of the wire and the flying backdrop--all of that is evidence. It's like a fingerprint of the workings of the murderer's mind, demonstrating things they know and ways they think. Why call attention to the body, but (sort of) hide the weapon? Why arrange for the body to be found during dress rehearsal, and not a performance, which would have a bigger audience? These inconsistencies are like the ridges and grooves of the fingerprint, and should immediately paint of picture of a unique perpetrator, and Sherlock should have been thinking about all these things and piecing together a composite image of the type of murderer to be looking for.

Why? Because Sherlock is supposed to be smarter than anybody else in the room. He's supposed to have encyclopedic knowledge on numerous topics filed away in his prodigious brain. He's supposed to be able to follow several trains of deduction simultaneously. The thrill of Sherlock is how he assembles random details into a coherent whole, and that's what I want to see him doing.

What we got instead was a ploddingly linear thinker who gets led around by the police. Here is the body, Sherlock. Here is a box cutter with blood on it. It also has an flower engraved on it. It's not a brilliant for him to recognize it as an iris, and it's blindingly obvious that the next step is to talk to the person in the theater who is named Iris, and try to pin it on her.

No. That's cop thinking, that is not Sherlock thinking. Sherlock would be thinking "If Iris killed Nell with her own identifiable box cutter, why would she hide it in the back stage trash? If she wanted to hide it, she would have taken it out of the theater entirely, or returned it to her own toolbox. If she wanted it to be found, why hide it at all?" Then he'd look for anyone who would benefit from Iris being a murderer, including Iris herself. And the fun would be watching him propose theories and then disprove them. "Iris can't be the murderer, because the combination of flamboyant reveal and covering up the weapon is inconsistent. Either she needed to flaunt the murder for X reason, or she needed to hide the body for Y reason. There is no consistent theory for her to do both. It must be someone else."

(Also--if Iris had murdered Nell, it would have made sense to hide the body so it wasn't found until she left the country for her "long scheduled master class in Montreal." Skip the country and don't come back. Much more rational and efficient.)

So then, Sherlock should be delving into who has a motive for framing Iris? We could entirely skip the "torn rotator cuff" deduction--and I'm not sure why that disqualifies her from being the perp--but could still have them sleep together as he tries to find likely suspects. He would still go to the lawyer's files of past stalkers and threats (Iris apparently has a lot of restraining orders against people), and he could still recognize the sound of the automatic door closer. (Why? How many different kinds of those are there? Why does he know the particular brand of door closer? Has he written a monograph?)

Of course, the door closer is the important clue, as it shows up in the middle of the leaked voicemail from Iris to Nell. Again--why? Why would anyone be clandestinely copying voicemail messages with their door open? (Also--not sure how Iris's voicemail to Nell ends up recorded on her own phone. OR how lawyer guy knew it would be there.) Sherlock recognizes the door closer sound, decides that the lawyer is guilty, and manages to get a warrant. The motive? Lawyer wants to get famous defending a big media friendly murder case. 

Okay, this one is completely nuts, and depends on too many contingencies, primarily, Iris being willing to let this decidedly mediocre lawyer defend her on a murder case. He might be good enough for filing restraining orders (not a tricky matter, BTW. I filed a couple during my lawyering days). That does NOT mean he knows the first thing about criminal law. Iris is far too savvy for that to happen.

Furthermore, what is the deal with keeping the security cameras from the theater? He was going to show the footage as an alibi for Iris, in case he was criminally bad at defending her? Sure--let's imagine that exchange.

Lawyer: I would like to play this security footage for the jury, your honor.
Prosecutor: I object. There is no proof this is actually from the theater, or that the footage is from the night of the murder, or that it has been untampered with between the night of the murder and today.
Judge: Mr. Lawyer, can you demonstrate how that footage came to be in your possession?
Lawyer: Well, because. . .I stole it myself?
Prosecutor: If Mr. Lawyer is going to testify to his own actions, he can no longer be Ms. Ballerina's attorney--he is now a witness.
Lawyer: I stole the camera hard drive the night I killed Nell and framed Iris for the murder. . . .
[Sound effect of all the criminal defendants running away from this guy as their attorney….]

Stupid plan, stupidly executed, but at least is "explains" why the body was bisected--he thought it would make the case more media worthy. What should have happened was that Sherlock should have figured the clumsy framing job in about ten seconds.

Other quibbles:

  • Joan's suddenly revealed volunteering with homeless people. Because Tragic Family Backstory! Lucy Liu does a really great job of showing complex emotions around having a schizophrenic father who shows up at homeless shelters and only sometimes recognizes her--but the fact that the script went there is pretty ham-fisted.
  • Mental illness doesn't work like that. Joan gets called into a case of a homeless man who was "off his meds" and yelling and attacking cops. He's clearly agitated and if he's off his meds and decompensating to the point where he is actually tied to the hospital bed, he is NOT going to calm down just because Joan says "I need you to calm down."
  • Nor is her going to be completely lucid and organized less than 24 hours later, to the point where he can apologize "for my behavior yesterday." Psychotropic medications don't work that quickly either. I think it should take weeks, not hours for medications to work, and I really don't believe they turn Raving Assault On Cops Guy into Soft Spoken Caring Good Friend Guy, like, ever. Psychotropics are good, but they are not that good.
  • Last week, Sherlock was a sobriety sponsor for a drug addict named Randy--is he all better too?
I kind of like the character development this show is doing--Sherlock is teaching Joan how to solve cases, and she is actually striking out on her own and having real success. She solves the Case of the Missing Freebo--a homeless guy who is being held captive by a couple who is fraudulently cashing benefit checks. Furthermore, Sherlock tries to discourage her from pursuing this case, and she ignored him. 

But it's a mystery show! The mysteries should be interesting! And more than that, it's a Sherlock Holmes mystery show--it should be much more dazzling.