After a pair of decent episodes, "Elementary" turns in a noticeably weak effort with its third episode 'Child Predator,' a story laden with absurd plot twists and convenient loop holes.
This time around, Holmes tackles a cold case of serial child abduction and murder. The 'Balloon Man' kidnapper steals children from the street or their homes, leaving behind a bouquet of 'Thank You' balloons as a token of his appreciation for the respective parents' "gift" to him.
The episode starts on a strong note, as Jonny Lee Miller's Sherlock is once again in his element in surveying the latest crime scene, detecting a correlation between the media exposure the parents allow and the imminency of the children's murders. The longer the abductor is deprived of the sight of the parents' public pleas, the longer the child will live. Much like the previous episodes, the victims' families withhold important information which Holmes is able to expose. This time around it's the father of the latest abductee, hesitant to admit to an affair which could have potentially kept a eyewitness to the crime from testifying to the police. Way to go, dad!
The eyewitness account leads to our first promising twist of the night: the driver of the vehicle behind the kidnapping is none other than the never-found, presumed-dead first victim of the The Balloon Man, a now teenage Adam Kemper. After living under the guidance and abuse of his abductor for so long, it appears Adam has grown to love the man as a sort of father-figure, potentially playing a role in the subsequent crimes and therefore resisting cooperation with police in finding the missing girl.
This is about where the episode starts to fall apart. There's the plot hole of Adam lawyering-up and refusing to talk to the police, but a police consultant commissioned and affiliated by the police is fine. Then there's the second plot twist where Adam, after agreeing to an immunity deal and helping the police find The Balloon Man, is revealed to be the mastermind behind all the kidnappings and murders that followed his own. Adam's confession to Holmes is straight out of James Bond villain territory, spelling out his master plan and confessing everything because he's certain to get away with it all now. It's all so silly -- from the thought that a young victim just happened to be a psychopath to Adam then turning the tables and fooling the man who's supposed to be the world's greatest detective.
Then there's the subsequent plot hole after the big reveal that getting the immunity agreement was contingent on talking to police, which he wasn't doing at first, which meant Adam knew there was a police consultant who he could talk to, which means... oh, it's all too much illogical nonsense to keep track of, and none of it is inconsequential enough to the overall story that it can simply be swept under the rug.
The episode also loses points in the previously strong category of the Holmes/Watson relationship, as the pair's issues are pretty underwhelming in this episode. The latter's talking is at first a distraction to the former's observational skills until it isn't. That's really all there is to it, and while Watson played a bigger role in the previous episodes' investigations, this week she comes off as a bit inconsequential, her biggest contribution being that she teaches Holmes squats as a means of staying awake. Yeah. In the future, the dynamic between the two main characters could be enough to salvage an otherwise anemic mystery, but this time around is anemic itself.
Overall, a thoroughly disappointing effort this week with an episode loaded to the hilt with contrived plot twists, weak character development, and plot holes you could drive a truck through. Jonny Lee Miller's charm and charisma in the role of Holmes makes it watchable, but it certainly can't work miracles.
Final Grade: D+