"Elementary" follows up an exceptional episode last week with another strong effort in this week's "Lesser Evils," presenting a layered mystery mixed in with a little bit of a message.
The episode opens with Holmes learning postmortem bruising patterns from strangulation the hard way: by applying chokeholds to corpses firsthand. Whether it's this or his wall of handcuffs and padlocks, the writers seem to enjoy showing Holmes in awkward situations that shed some light on the type of 'homework' a brilliant detective must immerse himself in during his off hours.
In any case, one of the corpses catches his eye: an elderly man with signs of brain cancer treatment, recently deceased from an evident heart attack while awaiting surgery. What would ordinarily be considered another unfortunate patient death in a hospital appears to Holmes as foul play, and we're treated to another great episode featuring an endearing and revealing give and take between Sherlock and his sober companion, employing both the former's deductive reasoning with the latter's medical expertise.
The two set out to gather background information on the anonymous patient using only trash from his room when hospital administration refuses to cooperate. Apparently, barricading oneself in a patient's room and treating it as a crime scene will tend to draw the ire of administrative types. From two coffee cups and a receipt, Holmes and Watson are able to piece together the basics: patient Trent Kelty was given six months to live, had no family or friends, and was visited only by an attractive next door neighbor (owner of one of those coffee cups) and a kindly doctor after he fell ill.
Holmes theorizes that the killer is drawn to the weak and dependent, and with the help of Dr. Baldwin, head of surgery, deduces that there are several other victims who fit the same pattern, suggesting an 'Angel of Death' killer who puts terminal or badly suffering patients out of their misery. There are a few requisite red herrings thrown in for good measure, including a morphine addict intern and Dr. Baldwin himself.
The hospital setting of this week's mystery also allows for a further glimpse into Watson's checkered past. Joan runs into old colleague and friend Carrie, who lets on that her medical license was suspended for only two months and she left the medical field voluntarily rather than being forced out as Holmes had initially believed. While Watson may have bowed out of the medical field, she can't keep her instincts from kicking in while shadowing Carrie on a patient visit, and employs her own manipulation to both save the patient's life and help her old friend. As nicely done as Watson's subplot is, it also cleverly ties into the layered mystery at hand.
While it lacks some of the pathos of last week's stellar effort, "Lesser Evils" follows the same pattern of utilizing a well-constructed mystery to further expand on the backstory of Watson while simultaneously fleshing out her relationship with Holmes. If the writers keep this trend up, "Elementary" could fast become a can't-miss series.
Final Grade: B+