Elementary – Recap: Them Bones
Recap and review of Elementary – Season 2 Episode 14 – Dead Clade Walking:
“Dead Clade Walking” is a bit of a rollercoaster ride, and that’s not a complaint. Elementary has been well-served by the variety of its cases, even though they frequently end up being yet-another-homicide. Tonight’s episode centers on the theft and destruction of a valuable prehistoric fossil that could prove one of the most highly-contested theories in paleontology. For my money, this would have been a case where a murder wasn’t needed, as I found the premise perfectly interesting enough on its face. But the show privileges homicide investigations, as do most procedurals, so I suppose it’s not entirely fair to get on Elementary‘s case about it, especially since this week’s episode provides case-related drama and character-focused interest in just about equal measure.
So Joan (Lucy Liu) has been going through Sherlock’s (Jonny Lee Miller) cold case files, along with the help of Gay (Ashlie Atkinson), a geology fellow at NYU. Together, they’re looking into the mysterious murder of a man named Doug Neuberg, who was killed several years earlier and whose backyard contained a strange-looking rock. It doesn’t take long for us to learn that the rock in question contains the bones of a Nanotyrannus, a mini-Tyrannosaurus whose bones are exceedingly rare. Archaeology expert Jerome Thomas (Jonno Roberts) expresses shock at the discovery, stating that the remains are worth a sum in the high 7 figures, or the low 8. So while Joan and Sherlock don’t have any suspects, they at least appear to have a motive, as whomever murdered Doug Neuberg knew he had the rock in his yard, and that he was storing it for a friend, a dealer on the black market.
However, the dealer friend turns out not to be the man they’re looking for, and it gets worse from there: someone claiming to be a Federal Agent is able to infiltrate the precinct and swipe the Nanotyrannus from the evidence locker. Captain Gregson (Aidan Quinn) is positively incensed that the artifact has been stolen, and Sherlock is none too happy either, as he considers it an important scientific and historical find that shouldn’t fall into the hands of profit mongers. And so Sherlock and Joan investigate the black market channels, attempting to find out who would steal the artifact, and where they would seek to find buyers for it.
This brings Sherlock and Joan into contact with a colorful array of characters, from Sherlock’s erotica pen-pal, C. (the wonderful Jane Alexander, in an all-too-brief role), to Jerome Thomas’s wheelchair-bound archaeology partner, Andrew Donnelly (Joel Hatch), whose DNA is found at the scene of a second murder — that of a black market dealer named Malcolm Turner, alias “The Magpie”. Donnelly was apparently the biggest opponent of the “Dead Clade Walking” theory, an archaeological hypothesis based on the idea that some dinosaurs actually survived the extinction-level event that was said to have wiped out the species. The theory supposes that “Dead Clade Walking” would be proven if dinosaur bones were found above the K-T Boundary, the level beneath which dinosaur bones were thrust due to the impact of the comet that killed them. Bones above the boundary would mean some dinosaurs survived, proving “Dead Clade Walking” and bringing Donnelly’s entire career down around him.
But Donnelly is proven to have been framed, as he couldn’t have committed the Magpie murder since he was busy giving a guided tour on the night of the crime. Invariably, Sherlock and Joan set about combing the Magpie’s lists of buyers for clues, in addition to evidence compiled over the course of the investigation. Ultimately, it all circles back to Jerome Thomas, Donnelly’s partner and curator of the dinosaur exhibit at the Triborough Museum. He essentially committed the crime for all the same reasons Donnelly was alleged to have committed them, which has me wondering why it took Sherlock and Joan so long to circle back around to him, but then, by this point, I’d largely forgotten about Thomas’s existence at all, given that he’d had so little screentime prior to the big reveal (which, really, is a welcome narrative tactic. Too often on procedurals, the criminal is the most famous guest star, which is why I completely expected Jane Alexander’s C. to have something to do with it). Thomas confesses to both the Neuberg and Magpie murders, and the case is finally solved. But Sherlock is ill at ease…
In a storyline that represents one of the more subtly compelling character arcs in the past several weeks, Sherlock struggles to discover the nurturing side of his personality. Holmes has been having considerable difficulties in sponsoring Randy (Stephen Tyrone Williams), who texts him day and night to meet up. Still in the early stages of recovery, Randy is constantly in need of help, to be talked down from the ledge of his addiction. And so Sherlock indulges him, particularly after Randy threatens to use, although they’re less threats than concerns on his part, as Randy is afraid of using and voices that fear. However, it’s clear, at some level, that he just wants Sherlock to meet up with him at the diner and tell him what he wants to hear. And what does Randy want to hear? Well, he repeatedly asks Sherlock for his advice about Eve, his heroin-addicted ex who has always been a catalyst for his own drug abuse. Apparently, Eve is back in town, and she wants Randy to help her get sober. She wants to live with him throughout her recovery, and while Sherlock acknowledges that this is the worst idea of all-time, Randy doesn’t seem to want to hear any of it. Even when Sherlock finally gets firm with Randy, the recovering addict just excuses himself, leaves the diner altogether, and doesn’t contact Sherlock or return any of his calls for several days.
When Randy turns up on Sherlock’s doorstep days later, he admits to using, but claims to have kicked Eve out afterwards. So you could understand the pickle Sherlock is in, as it’s hard for him to know whether Randy is actually following through on his commitment to end things with Eve and get sober. That said, it shows remarkable strength of character on Sherlock’s part that he sticks it out with Randy, offering to take him to a meeting. In many ways, season 2 is about Sherlock developing further connections beyond Joan, widening his safety net to more effectively include people like Gregson and Bell (Jon Michael Hill). Randy is someone who can help Sherlock grow as a person, bringing out the little-seen nurturing aspect of his character. It might not make him a better detective, but it might make him a more relatable person to those around him, and that represents significant progress over last season.
“Dead Clade Walking” is boilerplate Elementary, but that’s never a bad thing. It’s rare for a procedural to so deftly weave its Case of the Week into its character-centric arcs. However, Elementary seems to have the formula down, making this one of the top Thursday dramas just for sheer entertainment value.