After a disappointing low point last week, "Elementary" bounces back in a huge way with its fourth episode "The Rat Race."
Holmes steals Watson away from an ambush lunch date set up by an old friend, as he has been summoned to an emergency meeting revolving around the disappearance of an investment firm COO. Sherlock's observational skills are given a new dimension this week, as he expresses his disdain for his employers and their greedy self interests while gleefully overcharging them for his services. COO Peter Talbot unexpectedly no-showed an important quarterly conference call with investors, prompting the company's upper crust to grow concerned that this may lead to negative speculation and a stock drop.
Surveying Talbot's office, Holmes notes the shelves full of unread books, the spine cracked and weathered on only one: a hollowed out book which hides a high-end prostitute catalog. Further prying unearths the COO's secret apartment and Talbott himself -- overdosed on heroin, a drug we learn is "one of" the drugs that sent Holmes to rehab in the first place.
An interview with Talbott's wife elicits a seemingly harmless comment about the accidental death of Talbott's predecessor. While Gregson and his department see a simple accidental overdose, Holmes sees a trail of suspicious deaths within the company's upper crust, deducing that the killer is a sociopathic ladder climber.
As strong as the case is this week, it's really secondary to the stellar character development. Holmes' background is the real meat of the episode, as the mystery behind the overdosed corporate executive sheds some light on the consultant's own addiction recovery. Miller's performance is exceptional this week, depicting Holmes' tough outer shell slowly crumbling as his past is revealed to his friend and colleague Gregson, all while he also deals with internal strife after being confronted with his vice.
Watson and Holmes' relationship is expanded on even more. Sherlock's worldview is rubbing off on his sober companion, as after Joan's friend sets her up on a blind date, she uses her newly acquired deductive skills to reveal her date lied about his marital status. Her concern with Holmes at the OD crime scene, as well as the pair's shared scenes at the end of the episode, exudes a chemistry between the two actors that had barely shone through in previous episodes. As if that weren't enough, Gregson and Holmes' own bond is tested when Sherlock is forced to come clean about his addictive past in a genuinely emotional scene. It's all top-notch, and a welcome return to form after the awful third episode.
Hopefully, "The Rat Race" is a sign of things to come for the series. The police procedural has been done to death, but mysteries serving as catalysts to expand on Holmes, Watson, and Gregson's colorful pasts is rife with potential, as this week's episode shows.
Final Grade: A+