Elementary seems to be overly fond of using shots that would normally suggest that the protagonists are surveilled, i.e., they have all or most of the following properties:

  • They are taken from an unusually long distance (given the main content of the scene).

  • The angle is unusual but would fit a human’s point of view.

  • They are unnecessarily obscured by some foreground object.

  • The camera is moving slowly.

If this were any other show, I would expect such a shot to show the perspective of somebody surveilling whoever is the main subject of the scene, and thus in particular take it as a hint for the audience that surveillance is happening.


Note that these are not the most blatant examples, but the best I could find without re-watching entire episodes.

From Episode 22 – Risk Management:

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From Episode 57 – The Eternity Injection:

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While in most of this scenes (like most of the series), surveillance wouldn’t be totally unexpected, it is never brought up in the respective episode. Of course, these could be red herrings, but that does not fit the series’ style: The law of conservation of detail is strictly obeyed¹ and red herrings are intensively discussed by the protagonists if they appear. Also, in some cases where it turns out later that somebody actually is under surveillance, such shots are not used.

This begs the question: Why are these shots made the way they are?

Note that such shots are used by different directors, so it does not seem to be just a quirk of one of the series’ directors.

¹ to the extent that it is a reliable tool for viewers who want to guess the culprit

  • 1
    TV shows with directors who work only a block each do not get to choose the 'look & feel' of a show - they are in effect handed a guidebook to follow, so that is a red herring.
    – Tetsujin
    Sep 30, 2017 at 17:19
  • @Tetsujin: they are in effect handed a guidebook to follow, so that is a red herring – Okay, then this poses the question why somebody would put this in a guidebook, i.e., why they made this stylistic choice or why they chose to use such a kind of red herring (when not using any other small ones).
    – Wrzlprmft
    Sep 30, 2017 at 17:26
  • I'm pretty sure the only answer is going to be "somebody wrote it in the guidebook." Why? We may never know unless one of that guide's contributors happens to be a member here, or someone finds a quote. if you want to see extreme 'shot through intervening objects' watch Philipp Kadelbach's SSGB or for very low DoF (& a colour palette to die for) try Marc Munden's National Treasure both of which are well worth watching anyway.
    – Tetsujin
    Sep 30, 2017 at 17:35
  • I agree with @Tetsujin that there probably isn't a solid answer to be found, but my two-cent guess is, given that this is a suspense crime-drama/mystery is that this motif is suppose to either let the audience into the story (a kind of meta element, where "you" are the observer) and/or is suppose to peak one's interest by making one aware that another "could" be there--adding a mysterious or curious tone. Sep 30, 2017 at 21:22
  • "why somebody would put this in a guidebook" Because it looks cool, because it gives the show its own style, etc. It's a stylistic decision, most likely taken to make the show instantly recognizable.
    – BCdotWEB
    Sep 30, 2017 at 21:29


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