Each episode I make a list in my head (when the pen and paper are an arm’s reach away) of things and moments to mention. And, without fail, I go off on some tangent each episode and forget to mention at least half of what was on my list. Such as how Jonny Lee Miller’s comedic timing is aces, how Detective Bell is defying my original opinions and is actually developing into a well-written character played wonderfully by Jon Michael Hill, how Watson’s sturdy and subtle watch dog attitude of Sherlock is appreciative for a girl who’s seen one too many pliant and doormat Watsons. What I haven’t failed to mention is that Elementary works so well because of the little moments and little character quirks. This episode, which was slow on plotting, is a prime example of how well written characters can save an otherwise dull storyline.
Sherlock investigates a suspicious hit-and-run accident that involves a conspiracy theorist. Watson tries to mend that fragile relationship between Holmes and Gregson and I watch completely lost for the majority of the plot.
In all fairness, it may only seem on the boring side because of the high expectations that the previous episode left me with and the upcoming post-Super Bowl episode which will undoubtedly kill it,since that’s what’s expected.
There’s also the fact that I had the hardest time following what on earth was going on. Ever since seeing The Sixth Sense and guessing the twist about half way through I’ve likened myself as a sort of movie genius, so from thereon I’d spend every somewhat mysterious movie shouting out my own conspiracy theories and guesses for how the film was going to pull the wool over my eyes. Elementary has been a harsh come down to reality. If I get distracted for a second, miss a bit of dialogue because I talk to a roommate who walks by, the plot can escape me in a second.
Let’s all acknowledge and nod knowingly over the irony that Sherlock Holmes pointed out I’m nowhere near as talented at deductive reasoning as I wished I were.
After an accidental murder, the duo realizes that like so many of their cases, there’s more to it than meets the eye. They find out it’s linked to a group of conspiracy theories. These theories are linked to an Army war games team who discovered something wrong in national security.
This leads them to Bill, an Army intelligence officer who later after interrogating him is found dead.
It’s discovered that anyone who knows anything about the Red Team is going to be killed.
Sherlock finds the man behind all of the recent deaths and seeks him out and confronts him. While having a gun pointed directly between his eyes, he makes a gamble and tells that man what he wants to hear and walks him out to the police waiting outside.
There are a number of reasons that this episode worked despite the mystery of the week being unexciting.
There’s the humor that was on point whether it was the new introduction to the turtle Clyde that the two find while investigating the murder, to Sherlock’s introduction to Bill where he says “My name is Sherlock Holmes; I am a temporarily suspended consultant for the NYPD. This is Joan Watson, she keeps me from doing heroin,” which caused possibly the biggest laugh of the night. As I mentioned above, Miller’s timing is excellent which is just enhanced by the look of exasperation played by Lucy Liu. You can’t tell if she’s glad to at least have been moved up from personal valet, or annoyed at him giving such information.
There’s the fact that the show, despite its crime procedural origins, refused to forget the actions of “M.” and instead allowed them to be a whisper in the backbone of the episode. Sherlock’s trying to move on, but everyone around him—Watson, Captain Gregson and Detective Bell—cannot forget it and won’t. Moriarty is also now a name at the back of audience’s minds. When is he going to show up? Who’s the actor going to be? How on earth is he going to be played out?
They also smartly made sure we all remembered that Watson lied to Sherlock about her reasoning for staying on, something that could derail the trust they’ve built if he were to ever find out about it. It puts an added element of stress onto the viewer who’s watching as the friendship builds as they become a “we” when it comes to solving cases. Will Sherlock react positively when he finds out (because I can’t imagine the writers not using this as a moment of drama and friction) or will he like Watson’s therapist suggests, relapse because of it? Will his aid in sobriety be the one who turns him around?
A risk Watson is either willing to take or ignoring because she goes on with life with Sherlock as if nothing’s changed. We as an audience need to remember that her decision to lie and stay on was a decision that also benefited her. Personally, I would love to see more Watson-based storylines on the show because Liu plays her wonderfully and it’s a shame we still haven’t gotten a full episode dedicated to her.
The ending! Let’s talk about the ending because it was the last five minutes that turned a well-done, if a little forgettable, episode into one that had something special added to it. Sherlock meets up with Gregson to have a conversation about his current suspension from the NYPD. They meet at a bar where Gregson tells him he needed a drink to handle the upcoming talk. Sherlock tells him that he regrets that what he did to Moran, what he planned to do, threatened their relationship and could’ve resulted in his imprisonment, but that doesn’t mean he’s anymore invaluable to the force. This isn’t what Gregson wanted to hear and instead angers him more. He reprimands Sherlock, telling him that the people he manages to let into his life are constantly worrying about what kind of mood he’s in, whether or not he’s using again, if he’s going to throw a temper tantrum, but despite all that there is something special about him so they ignore or at least deal with the faults. So Gregson welcomes him back on as a consultant after delivering a harsh punch to the stomach, and as Sherlock curls up from the blow and Gregson walks out in anger, and a number of realizations hit the audience.
Number one is the belief I held that the episode would wrap itself up in a neat little bow, a disservice to the show that has managed to upend every other preconceived notion I’ve held for it. I, without question, thought that by the end of the episode Gregson and Sherlock would be on good terms again because that’s the type of writing I see in shows that are similar to this one. And I was wrong, and gladly so. They’re not on good terms, not at all. Gregson is angry because he didn’t apologize or admit that the planned torture and murder of any man, no matter the reasons, is not okay. He betrayed Gregson’s trust by threatening the legitimacy of his team by having a potential death on his hands.
Let me also take this as a moment to point out just how good Aidan Quinn is in this scene, managing to convincingly play out Gregson’s anger and disappointment in Sherlock and letting it to momentarily get the best of him.
I cannot wait to see how showrunner Robert Doherty and co. further explore this dynamic and the hopeful reconciliation.
The real moment of episodic revelation helps though when Sherlock is back at his apartment, dutifully eating his soup, downtrodden as Watson walks in. Sherlock figured out the case against pressing odds and having to take a wild guess, yet it’s emptier now. The cases aren’t the only fulfilling thing in his life anymore, so are his slowly developing friendships.
Watson asks him to tell her that he didn’t in fact use Clyde to make soup and he pulls the little guy up onto the table, clearly fond of it and tells her of course not. He asks her if she really thought he’d ever eat it and she tells him she never knows with him. Her response is automatic and flippant but from his face and the way Jonny Lee Miller is playing it the audience can tell there was a deeper connotation to that question rather than simple incredulousness that Watson would believe it.
Here is a Sherlock that is now dealing with the consequences of his actions with Moran. Initially, he believed himself to be justifiable but now with Gregson’s open disapproval, he’s doubtful. He has to deal with the people closest with him and their current perceptions of him.
It’s a nice nod to the fact that the mentality of Holmes is not one yet that is on solid ground and it will very likely play well into the post-game episode and the upcoming February sweeps.
The episode overall was unremarkable, but if there had been more character moments such as the last scattered throughout the hour, it could have been.
Who else is hoping Clyde the turtle makes repeat appearances? Who else is more excited for the next episode than the four-hour advertisement space sprinkled with bits of big men throwing a ball to each other?