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Elsbeth Review: A Classic New York Character Gets a Reality Shock

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Whew! This week’s Elsbeth double feature certainly tried to make up for our long wait since the Elsbeth premiere dropped back in February.


While “A Classic New York Character” was another fun jaunt about New York City with our favorite quirky lawyer-turned-detective, “Reality Shock” left much to be desired.


Let’s start with Episode 2.

What's In There? - Elsbeth Season 1 Episode 2


This episode had it all — rich, snobby New Yorkers, high-priced real estate deals, and a convoluted murder scheme only Elsbeth could solve.


Much like Elsbeth Season 1 Episode 1, we opened with a murder. Well, eventually.

Gloria Hates Her Neighbors - Elsbeth Season 1 Episode 2


First, we met Gloria. She’s a nagging neighbor who seems to have a problem with everybody in her upscale NYC apartment building.


Gloria’s troubles with her neighbors escalate from petty disagreements when a realtor, Joann (played by the fabulous Jane Krakowski), informs the building’s co-op that Oprah wants to buy several units.


Gloria immediately vetoes the idea to the ire of her neighbors. We can see where this is going.


Or can we?

My family was part of this original co-op, and I won’t allow the culture to be changed.

Gloria


What looks like the setup for one of Gloria’s neighbors to murder her so they can cash out turns into a much more complex story.

Joann is Suspicious - Elsbeth Season 1 Episode 2


We see that it’s not the neighbors who come for Gloria but the realtor.


Joann breaks into Gloria’s apartment and loosens the bolts on her balcony’s handrail, knowing the next time she leans against it, Gloria will fall to her death on the sidewalk below.


What a complicated murder method. What if it hadn’t worked out exactly as planned? Or what if someone other than Gloria leaned against the handrail first?


Thanks to TV magic, we don’t have to worry about that. After an argument with her son Lewis (instigated by Joann, of course), Gloria does indeed plummet to her death as planned.


It all happens a little too seamlessly, but we know this is how things go in Elsbeth’s world.

There is Something Up There - Elsbeth Season 1 Episode 2


Speaking of Elsbeth, when she and Kaya arrive at the murder scene, who should turn up but Joann? (And when will these murderers stop returning to the scene of the crime?)


They have a quick chat about the fact that Gloria commissioned Joann to sell her son Lewis’ apartment, and Elsbeth’s antenna is already up. This story isn’t adding up for her.

Kaya: Can I help you?
Joann: Oh, I’m a real estate agent. I’ve always wanted to see in this unit.
Kaya: Lady, the body’s still warm.
Joann: I was actually called here by the police. One of my listings was in Gloria’s hand when she died.


Before she gets to continue investigating, Elsbeth receives a call from Celetano, who wants an update about her investigation into Wagner.


We can’t help noticing Kaya lurking in the background, overhearing the call, but she doesn’t bring it up. Eventually, this will all come to a head, and Elsbeth’s budding friendship with Kaya might be in jeopardy.


After the call, Elsbeth does what she does best. She stalks her suspect.

Joann is Fabulous - Elsbeth Season 1 Episode 2


First, she meets Joann back at the apartment building under the guise of looking for an apartment herself.


There, she’s introduced to Leonard, another co-op member, and he’s acting just as suspicious as Joann. Is he involved, too? This plot is thickening by the moment.


On her way out of the building, we see Joann planting a wrench — the very one she used to loosen the handrails — in the building’s garden, where it will eventually be found.


Before her next stalker sesh with Joann, Elsbeth has a touching heart-to-heart with Kaya, where she discusses her strained relationship with her adult son.

Kaya: You really just giving up your old life?
Elsbeth: My old life can come visit.
Kaya: You mean your son?


We can feel this friendship blossoming, and we love to see it.

Eslbeth - Solving the Crime - Elsbeth Season 1 Episode 2


However, the moment is short-lived because we quickly learn that Lewis’ fingerprints were found on the wrench. Is Joann setting him up to take the fall?


Elsbeth stages a run-in with Joann at a rock-climbing gym to find out more. She continues questioning and sniffing her out, but she also gathers some crucial evidence.


The chalk Joann uses for grip while rock climbing matches a mysterious white powder found on Gloria’s balcony.


Case closed, right? Well, not quite.


This is where Elsbeth sets her master plan into motion, and we get to sit back and watch.

Wagner is Unimpressed - Elsbeth Season 1 Episode 2


Elsbeth tells Joann she wants to buy an apartment in the building and demands a meeting with the co-op.


There, she confronts the murderer.


After carefully piecing together the various bits of evidence — the wrench, the powder, the handrail — she’s deduced that Joann didn’t kill Gloria…alone.


Elsbeth masterfully explains her theory that everyone on the co-op was involved in the murder, from planting evidence to enabling Joann to break in to covering her tracks.


We love that we got to be surprised by this shocking reveal.

Colorful Elsbeth


Joann and the co-op are arrested, and eventually, the co-op members turn on Joann, naming her the mastermind.


But Elsbeth still has one more trick up her sleeve.


When she visits Joann in jail — who looks stunning in her orange jumpsuit, by the way — Elsbeth uncovers the real reason Joann wanted Gloria gone.


It wasn’t about Oprah. Oprah was never even an option.


Sadly, Joann’s mother had been employed by Gloria when Joann was a child and was fired, leaving her family destitute.

Hi, I'm Elsbeth!


Joann never forgave her, but she finally got her payback.


Somehow, Elsbeth has made us sympathize with another murderer.


At the episode’s end, we get another call between Elsbeth and Celetano, where we learn that Wagner was taking bribes and laundering money through his charitable foundation.

Elsbeth: What is this about?
Celetano: Taking bribes, laundering money through Wagner and his wife’s charitable foundation.
Elsbeth: But who’s Wally?


We can see Elsbeth is torn by this news. Nothing she’s seen from Wagner so far has pointed to corruption.


Still, this is what she came to NYC for, so we can’t wait to see what she can dig up.

Carrie Preston is Elsbeth


While Elsbeth Season 1 Episode 2 built on the momentum of Episode 1, Elsbeth Season 1 Episode 3 gave us more of the same.


It’s only the third episode, and we know procedural shows like this follow a certain format. Still, this episode felt like it echoed the story arc of the pilot episode almost identically.


This episode opened with a quick introduction to some interpersonal drama, this time in the form of reality TV stars squabbling on the set of their show, Lavish Ladies.


Like Alex and Olivia in Episode 1, producer Skip and reality star Wendy in Episode 3 have a one-on-one disagreement that sets up the eventual murder.


Where Olivia threatened to expose her affair with Alex, Wendy threatened to expose Skip’s role in an issue with another of the show’s stars, Katrisha.

Wendy in the Bath - Elsbeth Season 1 Episode 3


Much like Alex had affairs with multiple women, Skip tells several of the show’s stars that they’re his “favorite.”


In another one-on-one meeting, this time with Wendy lounging in the bathtub, Wendy blackmails Skip, and he reacts by pushing an electric blender into her bathtub, killing her instantly.


So far, this episode isn’t giving us anything new. The only saving grace is that Skip is played by Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who plays the two-faced reality TV producer well.


The only difference so far between this opening scene and the one from Episode 1 is that this murder is a crime of convenience rather than a well-constructed plan.


We then jump to Elsbeth and Kaya at the murder scene the next day, where Kaya is being surprisingly standoffish. Given the warmth we’ve seen between the two, we expect a little more friendliness.

Elsbeth: You know, you really should call me Elsbeth. Can I call you Kaya?
Kaya: I guess. Whatever.
Elsbeth: Such a pretty name.

Kaya at Work - Elsbeth Season 1 Episode 3


Regardless, Elsbeth is still lugging around her many tote bags (what is she always carrying around in those bags anyway?) and poking around at the evidence.


At the crime scene, Elsbeth meets another detective, Detective Donnelly, and we’re treated to another round of the exposition we got previously — that Elsbeth is there to observe the department after some false arrests.

Kaya: Miss Tascioni is here on the consent decree for Major Cases.
Detective Donnelly: Oh, right. A few wrongful arrests in the unit and now we’re stuck with the police police.


This episode almost feels like it would work better as the second episode, what with all the background we’re being given.


At least Elsbeth is still as charming as ever.


In her first meeting with Detective Donnelly, Elsbeth adorably discusses her uniquely-spelled name and the frustration it causes (same, girl).

Skip's Alibi - Elsbeth Season 1 Episode 3


We also learned that Kaya is a fan of Lavish Ladies. We love getting some background info about Kaya, especially something that contradicts her serious demeanor.


They head over to the show’s set, and Elsbeth meets the murderer. She’s immediately suspicious because, of course, she is.

Skip: I’m afraid there’s glitter everywhere. The ladies use it in their hair, in their makeup…
Elsbeth: In the bathtub?
Skip: I wouldn’t be surprised.
Elsbeth: No, I have a feeling you wouldn’t be.


Skip’s reaction to “learning” about Wendy’s death is hilariously over-the-top, though, so I’d be suspicious, too.


We also get an after-work hangout with Elsbeth and Kaya in this episode. They meet at Kaya’s house to watch Lavish Ladies and eat Chinese food.


Sounds like the perfect girls’ night to cement this friendship!

Elsbeth at the NYPD Season 1 Episode 3


Side note: Kaya’s house is stunning! Who knew the NYPD paid so well?


Reminiscent of her meeting with Alex in Episode 1, Elsbeth meets Skip at his office to ask more questions, though this meeting lacks the exciting tension.


Skip is very suspicious, eager to discuss his alibi and Wendy’s drunkenness to make her death seem like an accident. Elsbeth is obviously not convinced — who would be?

Elsbeth: Why was Skip Mason so eager to prove his alibi with Tracy?
Wagner: Maybe because he doesn’t want to be wrongfully accused of murder.


Skip is floundering.


As luck would have it, Elsbeth finds a Cameo video Wendy made from her bathtub moments before her death. What are the odds?

Elsbeth Catches a Killer Season 1 Episode 3


This video proves Skip is not a calculated killer, and this was a spur-of-the-moment crime of passion.


As Elsbeth closes in on her suspect, the NYPD zeroes in on another suspect — Wendy’s intern, who had a history of assaulting a former employer.


Once again, the NYPD doesn’t believe Elsbeth, but she’s going to go rogue anyway.


She does this by interviewing people from the murderer’s past.


On Episode 1, she interviewed one of Alex’s former affair partners. This time, she interviews Skip’s former reality star, Katrisha, and learns the truth about the drama on-screen and off.

Elsbeth and Katrisha Season 1 Episode 3


Katrisha reveals Skip and Wendy drugged her, causing her to have a meltdown on TV. Knowing Wendy had this information to blackmail Skip, Elsbeth is more confident than ever that he’s the killer.


Now, she has to form her master plan to convince the NYPD. Sounds familiar?


Elsbeth cracks Skip’s alibi and, with the blessing of Captain Wagner, sets the wheels in motion to catch Skip.


So, let’s recap.


In Episodes 1 and 3, we have a murder over blackmail, an immediately suspicious killer, a begrudging detective, a one-on-one between Elsbeth and the killer in his office, another suspect who is interrogated, and an interview with someone from the killer’s past.

Elsbeth at the Funeral Season 1 Episode 3


Wow. Thank God we had a different vibe in Elsbeth Season 1 Episode 2!


This formula works well, but it could definitely grow tiresome if we see it repeated several more times this season. Let’s hope for some fresher storylines, like the one we got in Episode 2.


Going forward, we’re dying for more info about Elsbeth’s secret observations of Captain Wagner. We expect this will be a conflicting task for her as she grows to like him.


We’d also love more girls’ nights with Elsbeth and Kaya, though we’re expecting some drama in that friendship when Kaya learns the truth about why Elsbeth is really in NYC.

Elsbeth Tascioni - Elsbeth Season 1 Episode 1: Pilot


Let us know what you thought about Elsbeth Season 1 Episodes 2 and 3.


Were you surprised they didn’t mesh very well?


And do you wonder why, after such a long hiatus, they’re already burning off episodes with two per night?


Let us know in the comments below!


You can watch new episodes as they air on CBS or Paramount+ Live or catch up on previous episodes on Paramount+.

Shela Ward is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. You can follow her on X.





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