Elementary “When Your Number’s Up” Review Season 3 Episode 15

Elementary When Your Number's Up Season 3 Episode 15 05

The final show before “Elementary” goes on a brief hiatus until March, the aptly-titled “When Your Number’s Up” is a decent enough episode to leave things on, given the coming-round-full-circle ending and the twisty, clever main case at hand, complete with an ace performance from the always-underrated Alicia Witt (“Cybil,” “Friday Night Lights”) as the main culprit. (She’s on a bit of a roll between this, “Justified” and her recent turn on “House of Lies,” IMHO.) Unlike most episodes, here we knew who did it from the very beginning, and the fun was in seeing how Holmes came around to figuring it out himself- along with the usual valuable assist from Watson.

It revolved around a woman who was, at first inexplicably, going around killing various, seemingly innocent people that, at first blush, were completely disconnected from one another. To wit, she first killed a homeless man, and then a man she was sleeping with, who she’d met in a self-help group that catered to people that had survivors’ guilt as the result of having lost someone under tragic circumstances. It was, of course, that last detail that proved crucial to the solving of the case at hand.

It turned out that the murderer, Dana Powell (Witt), had lost her husband in an airplane crash, which was currently the focus of an ongoing insurance melee revolving around lawyer Arlen Schrader (Michael Cumpsty, “Boardwalk Empire”), who had come up with a demeaning mathematical formula to determine how much a given person should receive in insurance money based on certain characteristics of the people concerned, such as income, life expectancy, et al. Needless to say, this approach had generated some controversy, resulting in a delay in the dispersal of funds, as more than a few people had protested the method.

This certainly included Mrs. Powell, whose husband was suffering from a brain tumor which had all but determined that he had been about to die anyway, even if he hadn’t perished in the airplane crash which had taken his life prematurely. However, because of this factor- the brain tumor- it also, by virtue of the math formula, had placed him in the realm of lower pay-outs from the insurance company, along with the lower income passengers, much to Powell’s dismay.

After her initial killings failed to have the immediate impact she hoped for, Powell staged an attempt on her own life, with the end result being her going on television to complain about the whole airline insurance fiasco, which in turn led the airline in question to forgo the math formula approach in favor of paying out the same amount to all of the surviving families in order to expedite the process and put this whole nightmare behind them.

This was, of course, exactly what the cash-strapped Powell was hoping for, as she was about to lose her house, due to the unexpected loss of her husband sooner than she expected, which in turn caused her to be caught off-guard by his death, and thus, incredibly underprepared as someone clearly used to things going a certain way- hers, naturally.

I found all of this murderer pathology fascinating, and an absorbing look at what motivates a certain breed of killers- in this case, a white collar one. Her methodology of leaving the amount that the formula had proclaimed the respective victims were “worth” on their bodies, along with a terse note, was truly intriguing, making her one of the more captivating murderers Holmes has contended with this season.

Of course, a large part of that was the way Witt played her, a mixture of buttoned-down anger and “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore” ferocity that was bred directly from a feeling of getting what she felt the world owed her after unexpectedly losing one of the things that meant the most to her- and I don’t mean her husband. If you had any doubts about her real motivation, note the scene where her own sister came perilously close to being on the receiving end of her mania when she came close to figuring out what she was up to. Never mind family and loved ones- this woman was getting paid, no matter who she had to kill to do it.

Granted, the ultimate fate of her character was left somewhat open-ended in the end, but to me, that only drove home the point. You didn’t need the scene where she confessed and opted to go to a white collar prison to know that it was exactly what she was going to do, even if it didn’t show the actual scene. Instead, we got a nice button to the other underlying plot of the episode, as Watson made the transition in record time to selling her place and moving back into Holmes’. Fearing that Watson was moving too fast, Holmes himself invested in Watson’s former apartment, worried that she’d have second thoughts and want her own place after all.

Holmes was hardly wrong to think this, given the abrupt way everything came together, but at the same time, it was telling that he blamed himself, feeling that he might have unintentionally pushed Watson towards such a move without meaning to. I loved the telling touch that Watson was unable to sleep her first night back at Holmes’ place, not because of his typical noisy antics late at night/early in the morning, but because it’d actually been too quiet, with Holmes opting to do his raucous business down in the basement in deference to Watson’s getting a good night’s rest for once.

Of course, it completely backfired, resulting in Watson feeling- not incorrectly- that she was being handled with kid gloves. So, we ended with a great scene in which Watson used a nail gun to seal off Holmes in the basement while she went around the place to the back entrance and rejoined him, informing him that she was going to be living in the basement instead of the upstairs bedroom- all the better to both give Holmes space and claim a space of her own, fully independent of his. If Holmes needed her for a case, he simply had to come get her, as it was only a short jaunt to the back to do so- and vice versa, in her case. Problem solved.

We then ended with a relived Holmes acquiescing to Watson’s intentions, but amusingly hastening to add that he’d need to get rid of some of the various “experiments” he’d started down in the basement that could prove toxic to her new living environment. LOL. You gotta love it, and you gotta wonder just what those “experiments” were. Watson might just want to have that space fumigated entirely before she moves in, in earnest!

So, we came around full circle in the end, while at the same time changing things up just enough to show some growth in the characters and allow for the fact that, while things may in some ways be going back to square one for the pair, in others they had vastly changed, just as Holmes and Watson have over the course of the show’s three seasons thus far. It’s that sort of attention to detail that makes me love the writing on this show, as does the fact that they’re not afraid to occasionally let the audience fill in the blanks for things left unsaid, as was the case with the resolution of the Powell scenario. Well played, “Elementary.”

So, while I will certainly miss the show for the extended time off over the next few weeks or so, I do appreciate the fact that they ended the show in a nice place for the characters moving forward- by literally moving them back into a nice space for the characters themselves. That’s my kind of symmetry, and I suspect it will be for fans of the show as well, even while they lament the time off of one of their favorite shows. Hey, at least they didn’t cut the season short, a la “CSI.” That means there’s still hope for the show getting at least one more season in which to enjoy our favorite detectives doing what they do best. I can live with that.

What did you think of the latest “Elementary”? Impressed with Witt’s deadly turn? Fascinated by the case at hand? Did you like the resolution of the case or did you feel like they could have wrapped it up more effectively? Did you like the gambit of letting us know who the killer was ahead of Holmes and Watson? Were you happy with the way the show left Holmes and Watson? Do you think the mildly amended adjustments to their living conditions will be a positive one in the long run? Or do you think Watson moved back in too soon, as Holmes feared? Let me know in the comments below, and see you after the hiatus!