The first episode of season two was packed full of canon references — so many that I had to watch the episode three times to catch them all! I’ll hit the two big ones (Lestrade and Mycroft) in detail, and then break out the other small references you might not have caught.
Inspector Lestrade makes his first Elementary appearance in this episode. Before I get into this, I just have to say that I love Sean Pertwee’s performance here — he manages to present a Lestrade that is tenacious and not without merit, but ultimately flawed in different ways from Holmes and Watson. Most of what we know of G. Lestrade (he is never given a first name in the canon, although the episode calls him “Gareth”) comes from A Study In Scarlet, and it meshes quite a bit with the presentation here. For example, Holmes in the episode calls him “the best of a bad bunch,” which is very close to his quote in Scarlet describing him as “the best of a bad lot.” He’s also described as a “wiry bulldog” in Hound of the Baskervilles, which also maps well to this episode, both in his physical appearance and his personality. Also, Holmes did often let Scotland Yard take credit for his cases — in “The Adventure of the Naval Treaty,” Holmes admits that he has only taken credit in four of the last fifty-three cases he’s worked with the police on. There isn’t mention of Lestrade specifically taking credit, but it’s not a huge stretch.
Finally, an interesting note of pronunciation — most pastiches go with the French “Leh-strah-d” pronunciation, and Elementary keeps this. However, the 80s Granada series (one of the most influential television pastiches) went with the less common “Les-stray-d” pronunciation. Every time he’s introduced in a new pastiche, I’m always curious with version of the name they’ll go with, and I was pleased they went with the more commonly-accepted on here.
If Lestrade’s presentation was fairly close to the canon, Mycroft’s was about as far as it could be. In the canon, the two brothers largely got along. Mycroft’s corpulence was a large factor in his character, but he is thin here (although, to be fair, “thin Mycroft” was also an element of the BBC Sherlock series, and it actually the first direct connection to that show I’ve seen thus far). Mycroft has no visible connection to the government, and instead appears to be a restaurant owner. They are both lazy, however, and while Elementary Mycroft doesn’t display any real deductive skill, he does appear to be intelligent. However, canon Mycroft is explicitly more intelligent than Holmes, and that fact doesn’t appear anywhere here.
That isn’t to say that this interpretation of Mycroft is bad. Much like the first season’s interpretation of Moriarty, it’s a radical one, and while it strays from the traditional core of the character as a hyper-intelligent counterpart to Holmes, it does focus on the actual familial relationship, which the canon glosses over. In fact, Holmes’ cryptic comment of “art in the blood” at the end of the episode does have a canonical grounding — in “The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter,” we learn that Holmes’ grandmother was the sister of the French artist Vernet. If they kept a similar French artistry for Elementary, it not only explains the comment, but also Mycroft’s command of French.
Finally, I want to note that Mycroft did once keep Holmes’ rooms at 221b in the canon — during his “Great Hiatus” between 1891 and 1894, which was mentioned in “The Empty House.”
- Joan, in the first scene, is wearing a shirt with a gigantic dog on it — likely a reference to Hound. (Thanks to Gareth Skarka for pointing this one out to me.)
- DCI Hopkins is a reference to Inspector Hopkins, who was referenced in three stories (“The Golden Pince-Nez”, “Black Peter”, and “Abbey Grange”).
- As Holmes and Watson ascend to 221b, Holmes mentions keeping “trophies from old cases.” This is something canon Holmes did as well, perhaps most famously in “A Scandal in Bohemia”.
- Holmes mentions that he worked with Lestrade on “the case of the Norwood Builder” together, which is a reference to a canon story (and yes, Lestrade does appear in that story).
- During that same scene, Holmes mentions that he keeps five caches of emergency supplies around London, including passports. In “Black Peter,” Holmes tells Watson that he has five “small refuges” around London that he used to store disguises in case of emergency.
- Langdale Pike, as brief as he is in this episode, actually is referenced in two canon stories: “The Creeping Man” and “The Three Gables.” In both, he is a part of Holmes’ organization in the late post-Watson years, whose specialty was as a “human book of reference upon all matters of social scandal.”