Elementary Season 3 Review “Bella”

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On the latest episode of “Elementary,” Holmes met what may have been his most formidable opponent yet- an artificially intelligent computer program that went by the name of “Bella” and which was personified by a baby doll avatar to creepy effect. (A wry nod to the recent doll-gone-amuck horror flick “Annabelle,” perhaps?) So unnerved was Holmes that he passed off the actual case at hand- who had stolen and copied the “Bella” program from its creators- to Watson, with Kitty assisting, while he tried to disprove that the program was able to think on its own, not unlike another recent film, ”Her.”

While Holmes gathered together some of the finest minds in computer science to create the ultimate “turing test” to disprove Bella’s AI skills- including, much to her chagrin, Andrew, Watson’s boyfriend- Watson looked into the actual crime, discovering the thief’s spot where he cased the company in question. Finding some cigarette butts, a DNA test led to an unsolved art heist perpetrated by the mysterious “Raffles,” who had gotten away with any number of similar crimes before turning his skills towards corporate espionage. But why?

The elusiveness of “Raffles” got Holmes’ attention, and he puzzled out that “Raffles” must have a benefactor that steered him in his new direction. Deducing that such a person must be very rich and high profile, a little digging led him to find a likely suspect working at a high-end tech company as a “security consultant” and who matched the description the police had on file for “Raffles.” Confronting the CEO of the company with his evidence, in no time, the CEO caved and sent Holmes proof that the program copy had been destroyed, with the caveat that if anything resembling the “Bella” program went onto the market, Holmes would bury the company for real.

Case solved, it was back to disproving the AI skills of “Bella”-only with a new wrinkle: the creator of the program, Edwin Borstein was found dead from an epileptic seizure seemingly caused by “Bella” herself. Or itself, if you prefer, as Holmes did. Holmes was naturally skeptical, but took the program home to study further. After cohort Mason amusingly deigned it the “rise of the machines” for real, Holmes set about picking the machine apart, finding one clue: a mix of death metal found on the computer, only with a special feature: a hidden series of videos designed to induce a seizure in epileptics.

Tracing it back to the guy who made the mix, Holmes decided that he couldn’t be responsible, but later realized that the man had been duped by a faux cleaning service who offered him a free cleaning and had planted the mix in question precisely to kill Borstein. The man identified a potential culprit, a cute blonde who turned out to be the student of a professor who was a member of the ETRA, or Existential Threat Research Association, a group of doomsday types that thought AI computers would bring about the death of mankind as we know it.

Alas, she was the dedicated type and took the fall for the crime, even though she didn’t have the wherewithal to design such a program. Holmes tried to bait the professor to confess by dangling a three-strikes threat against his brother, a struggling drug addict, but the professor correctly called Holmes’ bluff, deducing that Holmes would never do such a thing as that to a fellow struggling addict. He was right, unfortunately, and with nothing directly tying the professor to the crime, he got away with it, leading to a touching moment in which Holmes tried to quiz “Bella” about the situation, unsuccessfully.

This was an interesting episode, with some cool ideas, plot-wise. While I kind of wanted even more of Holmes’ determined fight to prove that “Bella” wasn’t as AI as his creators claimed, and the whole “turing test” thing, I get that we only had so much time, and there was a lot going on to contend with. Still, the main cases at hand were intriguing enough in their own right, and I like that Holmes gave Watson’s BF Andrew the thumbs up, which shows real progress on his end, in terms of being supportive of Watson and her personal life.

I suppose its better to be left wanting by an excess of clever ideas than stuck with a host of them that went nowhere, but I guess I could have done without the “Raffles” thing if it meant more of the other stuff, which I found much more fascinating. That said, I did thoroughly enjoy the episode, and I’d have to say it was my favorite of the season thus far. Granted, we’re only four episodes in, but it was nonetheless really compelling, I thought. (Bonus points for the turtle munching on lettuce and leech scene that opened the episode.)

What did you think of “Elementary” this week? What was your favorite of the three main plotlines: the “Bella” thing, the corporate espionage, or the ETRA wackos? Were you happy about Holmes being supportive of Watson’s outside relationship? Is Kitty growing on you? What did you think of “Bella”? Does the thought of AI programs being self-aware give you the creeps? Sound off below and I’ll see you next time!