Who Is Elias Openshaw on 'Elementary'? The Classic Sherlock Holmes Character Has Probably Undergone Changes
"The Five Orange Pipz" may seem like a wacky title for an Elementary episode, but it comes straight from a story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, minus a slight change in spelling. CBS' Elementary has always played fast and loose with its source material, which makes sense for the tone they're trying to achieve. This has led to some incredible highs (Irene Adler is Moriarty!) and some unfortunate lows (most of the procedural aspects of the series). But the Sherlock Holmes story this episode draws its name from, The Orange Pips, is weird —to put it nicely. It involves mysterious deaths, odd letters, and the KKK. Yes, you heard right. The Ku Klux Klan figures heavily into the story and are behind the various murders. Will the show stick closely to this story? And who is the mysterious Elias Openshaw at the heart of it?For those that don't know, the orange pips referenced in the title are basically orange seeds. How do they figure into the story? They are a warning. When the KKK puts them in letters, it lets the receiver know life is about to take a deadly turn. Sherlock Holmes takes the case when the young John Openshaw seeks him out. He tells Sherlock a strange story with his uncle, Elias Openshaw, at the center of it all. It starts with Elias returning to England after spending time in the United States serving as a Colonel in the Confederate Army.
Strange incidents occur when John begins staying with Elias, including Elias receiving a letter with five orange seeds and growing exceedingly paranoid afterwards. Then come the murders that are construed mostly as accidents. Elias goes first. Then John's father dies in a supposed accident soon after receiving his own letter with orange seeds.
Sherlock is able to deduce the true identity of the killer even with scant evidence. But he isn't able to save John, whose body is found in the River Thames and ruled an accidental death. While Sherlock is able to figure things out, the story doesn't have much of a resolution, since the boat the killers were on is declared lost at sea. Got all that?
Elementary has dealt with heavy subject matter before, but it still manages to have a sense of levity. None of the promos for this episode even hint at the KKK angle from the short story. Curiously, the only Openshaw mentioned in the cast is Elias, played by John Rothman. That probably means the writers behind Elementary are using the story as a jumping off point, rather than creating a faithful adaptation. I suspect that the unseemly nature of Elias will remain in tact, but whether that means uncovering his racism remains to be seen. The writers have probably combined characters and have left Elias alive while the two murders that are mentioned in the episode description could be that of his nephew and brother.
Will the show include the heinous KKK? Will Sherlock and Watson find a resolution unlike their literary counterparts? Various behind-the-scenes information and promos haven't alluded to the answers of those questions. No matter what direction the episode takes, I expect it to continue upholding the awesomeness that kicked off this season in its great premiere episode.
Images: Jeff Neumann/CBS (2), Giphy