Friday, February 28, 2014

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.

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