As the first season of Elementary draws to a close the audience is treated to its first Joan Watson-centric episode of the season that perfectly utilizes Lucy Liu’s wealth of talents. As of yet, Liu has wonderfully filled the role of supervisor, newbie detective and tentative ally, but this week’s episode didn’t just dip its toes into Watson’s characterization, it focused on it completely while allowing Sherlock to become the secondary character of sorts—a move that one isn’t expected to see in a television show that’s marketed as one about a modern day Holmes. It’s what also makes it all the more surprising and enjoyable.
It’s almost pointless to say just how empowering this is for a female character as well. While I obviously love it when women characters simply kick butt and demand respect, it’s also nice to see one whose strengths are explored, knocked around a bit and then revived by finding the right moment at the right time. It’s an empowering episode because our Watson is showcasing talents and personality traits that most—and we must stop doubting the showrunner Robert Doherty—audience members didn’t expect to see.
It begins with a short flashback to six months earlier as a woman waits for her train. A mysterious man gives her flowers and she talks on the phone about how nice it is was to have that act of kindness after such a terrible week, just before the same man comes back and pushes her straight in front of the moving train, killing her.
We switch over to Watson who’s at a bar with some friends celebrating just as she gets a call about a new potential companion. She only has one question, “What kind of name is Sherlock Holmes?”
And then we’re back in present day as Watson struggles to break into a car and hotwire it as the car alarm wails. Finally she gives up, frustrated, and we learn that this wasn’t a real plight but a lesson and Alfredo, Sherlock’s sponsor from some episodes back, is the one helping her saying every hour she spends with him he’ll spend double with Sherlock. It’s nice to see that Sherlock is utilizing his past caretakers of sorts into his own little mystery gang.
She returns home to where Sherlock is throwing a fit. After having borrowed 2.2 million dollars from his father to help with the kidnapping his father is now cashing in on the deal they made where Sherlock would have to help him with whatever case he asked. Needless to say, Sherlock’s throwing a bit of a fit. Of course we’ve still yet to meet the elder Holmes and I have to wonder if that’s a face we’ll end up seeing by the season’s end or if it will be a season two storyline to introduce. Obviously, it’s a sore spot for Sherlock and it would be exciting to see such a dynamic play out.
Despite Sherlock’s petulance the duo ends up meeting the attorney that his father’s set them up with. However, it ends up being the attorney’s assistant Rebecca that requires help. She tells them that her sister Kelly went missing about six months ago and she believes she has been killed, and has a theory that it was her sister’s husband who performed the murder. She shows them a tape Kelly left for her husband that talks about her wanting to leave him, saying things have been different since the woman at the train station accident (seen in beginning) and how it made her want to live her life without worry. Rebecca believes that her sister was forced into making the video so that her husband had cover.
Sherlock and Watson leave the room and he tells her that he doesn’t believe Kelly was under any sort of duress while making the video—her face was too calm, too put together and if she was under any sort of pressure there would have been a more noticeable tell. Sherlock says this is a prime case for Watson to tackle on her own, saying it’s almost like a case with training wheels. He has a fascination now with the woman from the beginning of the episode that was pushed in front of the train considering six months ago he was still out of commission.
Watson getting her own cases opens up some wonderful storytelling possibilities. As with the original stories, there can now be more than one case per episode, ways of tying in interesting mysteries without it ever beginning to feel stale or repetitive. Not every single case needs to be a make-it-or-break-it deal that the episode revolves around. The show has already proven itself to be mighty capable with characterization, this will just give them more opportunities to showcase it.
Watson and Sherlock break off into their individual cases and at the start both stumble along. Watson gets a call from a friend that we saw in the six months ago scene, who tells her that she has forgotten plans yet again. Watson promises to make it up to her the next day.
After she has interrogated Kelly’s husband about her whereabouts that is.
He tells her that Kelly was always unpredictable and that he just wants her to be happy, even if it’s isn’t with him.
Immediately Watson calls Sherlock and tells him she believes he’s a murderer.
Why? He asks.
She tells him that the husband sounded too rehearsed, as if he’d written himself a script to perform after the murder. Playing devil’s advocate, Sherlock says he might just sound rehearsed because he’s been asked questions about the disappearance so often in the last six months. He helps her by sending an anonymous text to the husband to try and scare him into the truth and tells her to go on a stakeout.
Meanwhile, Sherlock has found someone who could possibly be the pusher, but instead finds out he was simply a day-to-day stalker. A stalker, who had a video of the pushing which grants Sherlock another angle to the murder and he notices a violinist in the train station who does a double take at the pusher’s face before disappearing.
Sherlock calls Watson to tell her that Alfredo will be taking over for her so she can go and meet her friend like he’d overheard her say she would the day before. It’s a sweet scene and Sherlock makes sure to brush off the niceties, but nevertheless it’s another moment that implies their growing friendship.
However, the meeting turns out to be more of an intervention, with her friends telling her that she seems lost after jumping around between careers. She’s upset saying that what’s she’s doing now isn’t anything to laugh at. No, they say, it just doesn’t seem like her. Upset and needing something to prove, she leaves and returns to the stakeout with Alfredo.
She tells him she needs to get into the husband’s car and look at the trunk, convinced the body of Kelly is in it. He tells her not to but still seething after the interaction with her friends she does it anyway only to be caught and brought in by police.
There’s a nice touch here with Watson sitting in the cell and Sherlock walking up to talk to her, a touch that he points out has an odd sense of déjà vu. The last time this happened was the very first episode when they were no more than distrustful strangers. He posts bail and tells her not to worry about her mistakes but to allow the two of them to work together for the rest of the case.
They go to the violinist from the video and find out that he had run away because he and the pusher had gotten into a fight a few days before and he was afraid that he’d call the cops on him.
Might I add that the pacing of this episode was excellent, every scene serving a purpose and moving along the plot at a fast speed as to not bore the audience.
In the station the next day, Captain Gregson tells Watson that if she apologizes to the husband he won’t press charges. Not wanting anything to go on her record, and still down from her mistakes, she agrees to despite Sherlock’s protests.
She goes back to Kelly’s sister to apologize since her misgivings means a stalling of the case but it’s then she notices a picture of Kelly, wearing the jacket with the very same emblem that the man who pushed the woman was wearing.
Sherlock, Watson and the team end up in an interrogation room with the husband again to prove him guilty.
And this is where it kind of loses me.
I understand suspension of disbelief, of absurd cases to make the plot interesting and so forth, however, the lengths this man went through to kill his wife, and the reasoning behind it, is almost too farfetched.
The video she had left him had been eighteen months old, not six, right around the time of another accident on the train. So, because she was about to leave him and having none of that, he replicates the flower/train murder so that Kelly’s video will still ring true.
The positive of this scene is being able to watch Lucy Liu bring out the passionate explanations for why he would do this and why she isn’t just some woman, as he puts it, tossing around grand theories.
The last scene has Watson receiving a phone call from her friend apologizing for the other night. Sherlock walks in for her advice and tells her just because she solved a case doesn’t mean she should grow a big head. It’s sweet, it’s a throwaway but it’s nice because it solidifies her as a consultant detective who is confident in her work.
We’re drawing to the end of the season soon. With Watson on his team, it will interesting to see which new twists and turns the series takes, and if there will be any big stakes up the line for our two detectives.
Also, who else noticed the two The Wire alum that appeared as guest stars?