Elsbeth – Episode 1 ” Pilot” Recap & Review


Episode 1 of Elsbeth starts at a theatre where Alex Modarian’s students start the final act after Lana stabs Olivia Cherry on stage. Alex excuses himself to congratulate the cast and leaves the final scene to his TA, Todd. He sets his phone timer to five minutes and rushes to the dressing room.

He exchanges the sleeping pills in Olivia’s bag for something else, and he is almost out of the room, but his students swarm in. He secretly removes the gloves and interacts with the students. Alex gets into a confrontation with Olivia, who is angry that Alex is giving him one-line scenes, and she threatens to report him to the dean for sleeping with his students. Olivia tells Alex to give her back the keys to her apartment. 

Later that night, Alex heads to Olivia’s house and finds her unconscious on the floor. He picks up the sleeping pills on the floor and puts back Olivia’s original pills before tying a plastic bag over her head. He copies Olivia’s sim card and leaves evidence on her laptop, googling how to commit suicide, and then leaves. 

The following morning, bubbly Elsbeth, a lawyer from Chicago, arrives in New York and is the lone Hip-hop tour bus passenger. She tells the guide that she came to New York for a temporary job but hopes it will become permanent because she loves New York.

Elsbeth arrives at the location where she is to meet with Detective Smullen, which happens to be Olivia’s murder scene. Elsbeth asks Officer Blanke where she can find the detective, and Blanke takes her inside the house.

Elsbeth is excited to see a real crime scene, saying that she has only seen them in photos and that a real one is better. Blanke takes Elsbeth to Smullen, but he is busy and pays her no heed. Unbeknownst to Smullen, Elsbeth is a part of the consent decree due to the increase in unlawful arrests within the NYPD, and she is an outside observer sent to watch the officers.

Meanwhile, Smullen continues to question Lana, who says she is among the cast, and after the play, they all go to an after-party, which Olivia bails on, saying she is depressed. According to Lana, Olivia then sent messages to the group, and they all thought of calling the suicide hotline. 

Kaya Blanke explains Smullen Elsbeth’s role, and he calls Captain Wagner to complain about her, but Wagner insists that they have to entertain her since she was sent by city hall. Meanwhile, Elsbeth takes the initiative to look around the house, and her amazing intuition picks on many clues that lead her to believe that Olivia was murdered. She looks through Olivia’s medicine cabinet and notes that she has male deodorants, meaning that she had a boyfriend, and asks Ailune how many pills it would take to kill someone. She also takes note of a teeth whitener strip in the trashcan and an empty diaphragm case. 

Smullen finds Elsbeth and asks her to wait outside, and on the way, she mentions that the empty diaphragm case shows that she was waiting to get intimate with someone so she did not commit suicide. On the way out, she runs into Alex and follows him to the bedroom. She overhears him and the students talking about Olivia being angry about Alex’s casting. Smullen walks in and insists that Elsbeth leaves the crime scene, so she rides the same elevator as Alex on the way out. 

Elsbeth talks about loving New York and the plays she wants to see, but before Alex can leave, she suddenly asks if he knows anybody who would want Olivia dead. Her questions pique Alex’s interest, and she asks if the NYPD is investigating the case as a murder.

Elsbeth’s remarks at the scene make the medical examiner consider that it might be a murder case, and Smullen reports to Wagner. While Smullen is convinced there isn’t enough evidence to pursue the murder angel, Kaya feels that Elsbeth might be onto something. Therefore, Captain Wagner assigns Kaya Lawyer patrol, and she is supposed to follow wherever Elsbeth goes. Wagner then calls Agent Celetano of the Department of Justice to ask about Elsbeth, and Celetano tells him to give Elsbeth a chance, and she will grow on him.

The following day, Elsbeth shows up at Alex’s acting class and observes him help his students understand a cheating scene. When he looks up and sees Elsbeth, he pauses for a while before continuing the lesson. Elsbeth runs to catch Alex after the class, complimenting his acting skills, and she follows him to his office.

At his office, Elsbeth questions Alex about the kind of deodorant he uses, and Elsbeth does not amuse him by following him around. He says he wants to make a call and tells Elsbeth that he uses Ralph Lauren when he notices she is trying to sniff him. Alex calls Lana and cancels the meeting later that night, but Elsbeth sneaks in and overhears the phone call. 

Elsbeth returns to get her phone and then asks Alex about Olivia’s text message. She notes that the sender uses two spaces after each period, which is something older people do, and after going through Olivia’s previous texts, she notes that Olivia did not use two spaces. Alex furiously asks what Elsbeth is getting at, and she humorously asks him to look out for an old person who uses two spaces after periods and wears Old Irish deodorant. After Elsbeth leaves, Alex rushes into the computer lab and prints a message. 

When Wagner asks Elsbeth why she is following Alex, she says she has been a lawyer for thirty years and has represented guilty people. Although she does not have proof yet, she insists that guilty people tend to revisit the crime scene, which is why Alex came to Olivia’s apartment the following morning.

Elsbeth heads back to Alex’s office, and she finds Smullen and Kaya looking at notes from a possible stalker and a new suspect named Trevor. Smullen intends to investigate the new lead since it has a plausible motive. After looking at the message, Kaya follows Elsbeth, who notes that there are two spaces after the period in the stalker’s message. That, coupled with the fact that Alex is the one who found the notes, convinces Elsbeth she is on the right track, and all they need to find is a sample of Alex’s writing to make the connection.

On the way out, Elsbeth notices playbills from other plays produced by Alex, the most recent of which is Lana. Elsbeth makes the connection that Lana is the same one Alex talked to on the phone, so she looks for her in the dressing room. Elsbeth asks Lana if she is dating Alex, and her body language indicates she is lying. Kaya notices the syllabus on the desk and sees the same two spaces after periods.

Elsbeth and Kaya deduce that Alex sleeps with different female students each semester in exchange for favours, and they visit the one featured before Olivia. Although she refuses to sign a statement, she confirms Elsbeth’s theory and promises to sign it once they find proof. Elsbeth figures the motive for the murder was because Olivia was going to report Alex and get him fired. When Kaya shares Elsbeth’s theory with Wagner, she agrees and asks Smullen to help them find proof. 

Elsbeth finds Alex at a party, and she explains the evidence she has found, including the similarities in typing errors. However, Alex introduces them to Todd, his TA, who types all his syllabuses and uses Old Irish deodorant. Todd is taken in for questioning, and Smullen is convinced he is the murderer. When Elsbeth almost gives up, Kaya directs her to a specific time stamp in the video where Todd says that he does not type the syllabus but copies and pastes it from Alex’s laptop, meaning the typing errors are not his. 

Therefore, Elsbeth tells Wagner that Todd is not the killer, but he insists she goes and apologises to Alex. Elsbeth brings apology cookies to Alex, and while apologising, Kaya pulls her aside and whispers about the officers searching Todd’s apartment and not finding the card reader. Kaya says they had to let Todd go because they could not explain how he had sent the texts from Olivia’s phone without the card reader. When they leave, Alex goes to the control room, and after ensuring that Todd is busy for the next three minutes and will not leave his station, he heads to the dressing room to pack the card reader in Todd’s bag. 

However, Wagner and the police force had planned the whole thing and caught Alex in the act. Alex wonders how Elsbeth caught on, and she says that his acting was bulletproof, but in real life, people do not act. As he is being led away, Alex asks Elsbeth to think of him when she watches Cats. 

Elsbeth watches the police take Alex away when Wagner approaches and tells her she does not have to pretend to be sad because she won. He tells her that the department has decided to keep her around, and Elsbeth is thrilled. After Wagner leaves, Elsbeth gets a call from Celetano, who wants to know if she is ready to go to work. Elsbeth thinks they might be wrong, and Wagner is not a corrupt official, but he reminds her that friendly people can be polite. Celetano reminds her she is no longer a defense lawyer and that the truth means putting people in jail. 

The Episode Review

The episode introduces our main character, who is intelligent, charming, and observant, as she notices small details that other detectives overlook. The pilot gives everything I need to fall in love with this show, including a murder case investigation and a likeable and smart main character whose appearance and mannerisms make everyone around her think she is not to be taken seriously.

I fell in love with Elsbeth’s unique style, which reminds us of why I fell in love with her character in The Good Fight and The Good Wife. She is quirky but not to be overlooked. In the upcoming episodes, I cannot wait to watch her use her excellent intuition and discerning abilities to unravel the corruption mysteries in the NYPD and see if her handler is right about Wagner. 


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