It was bound to happen. After an impressive string of strong episodes it took until episode five “Ancient History” for the plot to finally falter, taking a misstep.
It wasn’t bad so much as meandering. In this week’s episode of Elementary there are a handful of nice moments, funny one-liners and good appearances from Detective Bell but otherwise this week is the first in quite a while that the show felt straight procedural rather than offering up the usual depth it’s become so efficient at.
Joan begins the episode as a narrative driving force as she accompanies a friend, Jennifer, to a flea market, even finding Sherlock some form of platypus memorabilia. Jennifer brings up Joan’s recent career track and asks her if she could help with a favor. She says she met a man about a year ago, had a one night stand and then never saw him again. She said that she wouldn’t be asking Joan to find him if she didn’t believe that there might actually be something there. Joan agrees, if a bit reluctantly, considering that the task is near impossible when there’s only a name to go on.
It’s always nice to see Joan be the one to jump start the narration. For most of the episode we’re watching Sherlock through her point of view, watching her story play out. Considering as we witnessed a few episodes ago that Joan may now be telling Sherlock’s (and her) story, it would make sense that we would be allowed to see her story for more than one episode.
Back at the brownstone, Sherlock is less than thrilled by the case Joan has decided to take on, believing that a literal goose chase would provide loftier results than what she’s doing. He believes it to be a frivolous task and tells her that they could be doing useful things with their time.
However, the two haven’t had a real case in quite a while and Sherlock has been shacked up in his apartment for far too long. He decides that to remedy this problem he and Joan will take a field trip to the morgue to try and find anything that the police may have missed.
After a few hours of investigating dead bodies Sherlock makes a discovery: a man who presumably died from a car accident may have also had a hand in a murder.
The duo bring this case to Gregson, citing evidence such as the man they’ve identified as Leo used to be a professional hitman and scars on the man’s hands that Sherlock believes indicate that he had killed the day he died.
Gregson listens to their claims but says that without concrete evidence there’s nothing that they can do about the case.
So Sherlock and Joan further the case on their own and visit the deceased man’s wife to ask her about Leo’s past life to see if there’s anything noteworthy she can tell them. She tells them that they didn’t know her husband that he was a wonderful man who she met a church, who wanted to open a home for the elderly.
Sherlock tries to get through to her with a heart to heart. He tells her that he knows from personal experience that learning of a loved one’s dark identity is troublesome, that it settles deep inside of you for a while until you learn to shake it off until nothing but anger remains.
She’s steadfast though and reaffirms what she had already said, that he was a good man nothing more.
Sherlock is annoyed and driven to more drastic measures of deduction and steals many of the condolence letters than the wife had received to try and worm out who out of their acquaintances hadn’t sent one.
It’s around this point that I began wishing that they had just forgone the crime plot this week since it seemed to be going nowhere. I know to some it may seem boring to have an episode that is self-contained, focusing on Sherlock stewing out of intellectual boredom for an hour, but as we watch Sherlock meticulously going through mournful letters I was actually wishing for a bottle episode. I think it would be intriguing to see what Sherlock does to keep his mind occupied when there are no interesting cases to probe his interests. I think it would be interesting to see how Joan deals with a petulant and bored Sherlock. I think anything would have been more interesting than having to follow Sherlock on such a mundane task as going through letters.
Despite it being procedural in nature, shows are known for deriving from their status quo every so often and maybe this was an episode that could have benefitted from a change from the norm.
Sherlock finds someone from Leo’s past who seems to have gone missing and settles to tracking him down. This includes a fake New York accent with a lisp and finding the place where Travis, the friend, works. There they find a video of Travis and Leo fighting and Leo storming off.
They find his truck which leads them to the hotel where he’s been holed up in with two women and some stolen money. Sherlock laments the fact that Travis is alive and well and takes the money to investigate.
With Detective Bell’s help they learn that the money was in fact stolen and link it back to a big bad crime boss in New York.
During this Joan believes that she had been making strides in her case for her friend until Sherlock throws a wrench into it by telling Joan that he’s the mystery man and that he slept with Jennifer.
Joan is stunned, wondering why on earth he’d led her run around like a fool trying to solve a case that he obviously knew the outcome to. He tells her it’s because he only knew of Jennifer because in the first few weeks of knowing Joan he would follow her sometimes to try and grasp what she was all about and saw the two of them interacting. He then spoke with Jennifer to try and learn more about Joan and ended up sleeping with her.
The end, in Jennifer’s mind.
Joan is livid, she tells him that he can’t just bypass the breach of trust and ignore the fact that he had been following her with her knowledge. He tells her that it shouldn’t matter because they weren’t what they are now yet, that he stopped the second he deemed her trustworthy.
But he apologizes.
Joan tells him that this isn’t something that a simple apology can fix.
But it seems like it does? For the remainder of the episode we see the two continuing on with the case, they find the loan shark who leads them to the crime boss who has an alibi which leads us full circle back to the wife who ends up having been the one to kill her husband.
While all of this is taking place there isn’t one more mention of their argument which is disappointing considering it could have led to some truly interesting character moments, allowing for their relationship to grow realistically. Just because they’re living together and seemingly have found kindred spirits in one another doesn’t mean things will automatically be smooth sailing. Sherlock is someone who’s been said to be difficult to live with and Joan, despite her patience, is still learning how to live around him. Why wouldn’t they butt heads once in a while and go further than simple antagonistic one liners? I wouldn’t have minded seeing the two have a full-out argument because it would make sense!
What doesn’t make sense is the outcome of the episode with the wife being behind her husband’s death.
It feels like I must have dosed off for a ten minute interval or so in the middle of the episode because I have no idea how that outcome came about. It could just be me but for some reason I believe that it may have been some of the writers scrambling about to tie up the episode in a neat and tidy way and it ended up going with some straight nonsense. Bring us back around to a character we’ve already met in the episode whose ties to the murdered suspect make her hard to ignore.
The episode wraps with Joan visiting Jennifer to apologize for the case but Jennifer stops her and tells her that Sherlock came to her to tell her everything and to apologize and speak highly of Joan.
And then ended up sleeping together again. Jennifer says it was closure.
Joan goes back to the brownstone to pull Sherlock’s leg as payback and tells him that it was really nice of him to help Jennifer have a baby.
He almost falls for it, and that is progress on Joan’s end.
Not a bad episode but not one that’s even remotely memorable and after next week’s promo that promises Halloween hijinks and the first appearance of Gregson’s home life already has me forgetting the plot of this week’s and anticipating the next.
Who else was disappointed in this week’s turn?