The finale of Elementary’s first season ended on something of a triumphant note. Sure, there were obstacles to overcome and not everything was always going to be well and good, but things were looking up. Moriarty had lost, Sherlock and Joan had grown closer because of it and he’d even named a bee after her. After a tumultuous last few episodes we had reached a calm in the story. It was a hugely satisfying way to end a wonderfully executed first season.
This is only one of the reasons why the second season finale is ultimately so frustrating.
It’s really quite a disappointing ending and it’s one that leaves way too many questions open-ended: questions that presumably could have been answered if they’d made the executive decision to trim the fat of the story they were telling. As the second half of the episode begins, the story gets so muddled that you don’t know exactly if they’re talking about Arthur West or the man working to set Mycroft up. It’s all so up in the air that it’s hard to focus on what story is being told. So for the episode to seemingly waste time telling parts of the story that have little impact makes the ending feel all the more rushed. Mycroft is gone, Joan is still planning on moving and Sherlock is playing into his self-destructive nature with intensity.
After last week’s episode that seemingly had set up a promising finale and the start of this week that got off to a fast start the anticipation was raised. However, before the episode began I was wondering about how the show was going to wrap up the storylines they had with the amount of time they were given. The answer is, simply, they didn’t.
We pick up where we left off with Sherlock telling Mycroft that he’s being set up for treason and the murder of West—it’s being staged to make Mycroft look like he was the mole in the MI6. Mycroft believes this is all a ploy on Sherlock’s end to mess up his relationship with Joan even further but Sherlock quickly proves his case when he shows his brother that his car had been lined with explosives.
Sherlock and Joan reassure him and move him to a safe house provided by Ms. Hudson. Sherlock tells Mycroft that he’ll be safe but to rid themselves of future problems they must be steps ahead of the MI6 and the person framing him. This means that Sherlock told the MI6 that he knows Mycroft’s prints were on the murder weapon and then try to provide as much information as he can about his brother’s whereabouts. Sherlock believes it won’t be hard fooling them considering his obvious contempt for his sibling.
What follows is Sherlock going to the MI6 representatives and being shut out of the case despite the tension between him and Mycroft—they believe that the relation will be too much for him to form an objective case. To bypass the stuff that doesn’t really affect the story as a whole Sherlock and Joan spend the rest of the episode tracking down who the mole was working with to set up West. They discover that it is Mycroft’s boss who’s been pulling all the strings. He’s been wherever Mycroft is for the past year or so which allowed for easy access. Mycroft confronts him despite his knowledge that Sherlock and Joan were on the case and after listening to someone he thought was his friend threaten two people he loves, agrees to walk off with him and turn himself over.
Until the man appears dead and in the morgue hours later.
Mycroft made friends with members of the NSA who are helping cover him by staging his own death which means he must disappear.
So, now that that’s finished.
The emotional moments are as always the highlights of the episode and it’s made all the more significant when the accompanying storyline is such a dud. There are three relationships explored which almost elevate this episode so that it doesn’t seem like a complete letdown.
Joan and Mycroft
I haven’t exactly been subtle about my disdain for this pairing. As I mentioned in last week’s review the lack of buildup that these two were given was ultimately detrimental in the payoff. How were we supposed to care when we weren’t given any reason to? This is all the more apparent in the finale where we’re supposed to believe the emotional response Joan has to Mycroft’s forced exit. After Mycroft tells her and Sherlock about his plan to leave and fake his own death we watch as a visibly upset Joan asks how he could give himself up so easily if he’d known about how they’d been working on the case. She walks off before he can answer, too shaken. This would be believable if we’d seen her ever be so noticeably upset before, but we haven’t. This was a new form of vulnerability that the audience has never witnessed in Joan which makes it a bigger moment than maybe the writers intended it to be. Lucy Liu plays it beautifully, as if this is simply Joan’s breaking point after a few days of emotional upheaval. I don’t know if that’s what the writers intended it to convey but that’s what I’ll believe for now.
Joan went from being ready to start something with Mycroft, to being kidnapped and threatened, to being released and throwing caution to the wind and getting with him for real, to being forced to say goodbye to all of that.
The emotion makes sense but only if you see it that way, and not her being sad simply because of her feelings for him.
Or maybe I’m just cynical.
Sherlock and Mycroft
I don’t think I’m the only person who hasn’t liked what Mycroft’s character has done to Sherlock.
Over the past few episodes we’ve watched him become, simply put, meaner, in the presence of his older brother. He’s been short of temper, quick to throw out casual insults and has been spewing vitriol at all moments. I understand characters reacting differently toward other characters, however, one of the primary reasons I’ve enjoyed Jonny Lee Miller’s Sherlock so immensely is due to the warmth and the humility the character has in comparison to other contemporary versions. I don’t need to watch a character that’s haughty or superior—I enjoy the human ones.
This could all be contributed to what appears to be Sherlock spiraling out of control, but who knows.
What makes their relationship work in this episode is the brief peak into how they relate when the tables are turned. After an argument with Joan, Sherlock learns about what his brother did for him all those years ago and how it was due to his drug addiction that Mycroft is with the MI6 and why he’s now in this entire mess. Obviously distraught over it, Sherlock asks for forgiveness and tells him that he will make it up to him, everything.
Of course this is all destroyed later when Sherlock witnesses how upset Mycroft has made Joan and is about to go off on him before Mycroft hugs him, tells him he loves him, and leaves his life for the foreseeable future.
Another storyline closed.
Joan and Sherlock
Here is, unsurprisingly, the one that’s the trickiest to handle.
The two of them are in limbo throughout the entirety of the episode and in some ways, the way they speak to each other is more romantic than what is between Joan and Mycroft but still completely platonic. They’re platonic soul mates in a sense. At the start Sherlock is angry with Joan for leaving him and her practice and tries to rid her of his research. He tells her he’s grown accustomed to having her as a partner for late night investigations but will now have to relearn how to rely on only himself.
Later though, while speaking to Joan, he tells her how much their partnership has changed him. He tells her that he has looked at the past 18 months as something of an experiment to see if he could change. To his surprise, he learned he could. He tells Joan that it’s been for her and if she wanted or needed, he could change more.
That’s a whole lot of spoken affection from him.
She responds similarly but with some reality tacked on. She tells him that he has a type of gravitational pull surrounding him and that she’s so lucky to have been pulled into his orbit but, it’s also a dangerous place to be. She needs to live on her own so that her life isn’t constantly following his.
By the episode’s end, things aren’t looking better for Sherlock who seems to be in a cycle of self-destruction. After listening in on Joan making plans to check out new apartments he dutifully goes down stairs, retrieves the heroin from its hiding place, and pockets it.
Next he goes to the MI6 and despite what he’s previously said, takes the offer to work with them.
Season three it seems will have Sherlock in a place we haven’t seen him before and if the writers choose to execute the story with care and give it significance over the week-by-week casework we could have a very dynamic performance and story on our hands.
If it’s handled as the finale was—slapped together to fill time rather than to tell a cohesive, finale-worthy story, then I’ll be a little more worried.
While season two didn’t reach the surprising heights of season one, I’m still invested in the characters and I still eagerly await its return, but they’re some cleaning up that needs to happen.