Oh man, oh man, oh man out of all of the shows premiering and returning this fall there hasn’t been one I’ve anticipated nearly as much as I did for Elementary and it seems that my anticipation was well earned because what an enjoyable way to kick start a season.
We begin not far from where season one left off with our two leads, Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) and Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) having a midday stakeout, keeping an eye on pigeons for their newest lead to walk by in search of the message one of the grimy birds is carrying.
It’s not long before their guy shows up and the two begin a pursuit and chase him through the park but Sherlock loses him. Luckily, Joan has been practicing her defense skills and manages to take the man down with Sherlock’s weapon of choice—the baton. It reminds me that Liu is truly fearsome when a weapon is put in her hands (if you don’t believe me please go watch Charlie’s Angels or Kill Bill).
Captain Gregson (Aidan Quinn) and Detective Bell (Jon Michael Hill) appear for a brief moment to remind the audience member that they exist but are soon carted off screen for to make way for the location and characters that will be filling the episode: London and the inhabitants that used to make up Sherlock’s life.
An old colleague from The Scotland Yard has called in a favor of Holmes: come back to London and sort out his old “partner” Detective Lestrade (Sean Pertwee).
We first see Lestrade at the start of the episode as he ambushed the recently deceased wife of his target, Pendry, with a grenade in hand. He accuses the husband of the wife’s death and swears that he will make sure Pendry sees justice not only for the murder but for the discrediting of Lestrade’s name.
Lestrade, as we learn from Sherlock, had held a good reputation a few years back when Sherlock still consulted for the Yard and acted as Lestrade’s crutch. As put by Sherlock, Lestrade was a perfectly “adequate” detective but Sherlock typically solved all of his cases and would simply allow Lestrade to take the credit for them. Sherlock feels responsible for how Lestrade reacted to the fame and puts him on his Step 9 list which entails him apologizing to anyone to whom he believes he’s done a wrong to.
And for most of the episode that’s what he does, dodging all over to try and alleviate the guilt he feels for Lestrade succumbing to his current state, but also picks up the case out of pure interest. It doesn’t take long before Sherlock is fully invested and finding clues left and right with Watson’s aid. With their teamwork they find that a 3D printer had been used to make a gun, kill the wife, and then the evidence was dissolved in acetone. However, a second murder finds a piece of the gun untarnished and they deduct that it was the man Pendry all along.
Sherlock offers Lestrade the option to allow Sherlock the credit for the case he just solved but unable to break old habits Lestrade takes it for himself once again, a move that Sherlock saw coming.
Detective Lestrade is but one acquaintance we make but it’s the second one that has been much more largely waited for: Sherlock’s brother, Mycroft Holmes (Rhys Ifans).
Sherlock and Watson just arrived in London, are heading towards Sherlock’s old home, 221B Baker Street, an address that I’m sure had many like myself excited.
He says that all of his possessions were supposed to have been kept in pristine condition, calling his home a representation of his mind but instead he finds that his loft is not as it was—richly decorated, muted and clean, it is not his home. He runs off to see what’s happened and when upstairs Mycroft makes his entrance and inquires as to why Joan is in his home and that’s when Sherlock bursts back in, shocked to see his brother standing there.
Barbs are traded and it’s obvious the two aren’t well off. It also allows for some comedic turns by Ifans and Miller to be traded off in a theme that continues throughout out most of the episode—this episode is funny and it’s quicker witted than many of the episodes last season, a lightness that didn’t at first exist. Like the comedy it’s also hugely energetic with Joan and Sherlock seeming to bound wherever they go, the pacing fast as to not bore the audience on the first go back—it seems that the entire cast and crew are excited to be back.
It would have been simple to have made Sherlock the victim in the fall out between he and his brother—it would have been the obvious choice to make Mycroft the one who acted on the wrong and Sherlock the one to have befell the consequences. It’s easy to like Sherlock the martyr, Sherlock the man with the cold exterior but the heart of gold. The damaged hero, it’s what so many viewers crave when finding themselves a person to idolize and watch each week but what makes Sherlock wholly more interesting is that he is riddled with flaws and the fallout with his brother only showcases a few. Him sleeping with Mycroft’s fiancé may in Sherlock’s mind have had nothing to do with wanting her but wanting to prove her shady behavior to his brother. If she slept with Sherlock it meant he was right and she only wanted Mycroft’s inheritance. However, the way he went about it (seven times) only fueled his ego and belief that because of his genius he could get away with whatever he wanted.
Even if what he wanted inspired the ending of a relationship—two if you count the trepid state we find the brothers in.
During the case and after Mycroft has allowed the two of them to stay at this home Joan tells Sherlock that Mycroft has asked her to dinner. He informs her that Mycroft wishes to sleep with her to get back at Sherlock for sleeping with his fiancé and that maybe Watson wants to because it’s the closest she can get to sleeping with Sherlock, who she can’t because of their business partnership and her having been his sober companion.
Joan ignores him and his rambling.
Later he gives her the okay, telling her he’s decided he doesn’t care and she’s an adult and can do as she pleases.
It must be exhausted to live in his head.
It turns out that he was wrong however and despite the romantic notion of emptying out a restaurant just to talk to her, Mycroft actually wants to speak to Watson about Sherlock. He’s in awe over how she’s become friends with his brother because he’s never seen it happen before—Sherlock has never held the capacity for friendship and yet Watson has seemingly managed to chip her way through to him and now they enjoy a companionship. Mycroft wants to know how she did it because he wishes to do it, too. As he tells her, he’s been sick recently and it put things into perspective and one of his few regrets was how his relationship with Sherlock had turned so sour.
After the case is finished and before Watson and Sherlock take flight back to New York City Mycroft asks Sherlock to meet him. Sherlock is hesitant to do so but still goes and listens to what his brother has to say. He tells Sherlock that he had placed all of his belongings in a storage unit, one that resides right behind them. He tells him that Watson told him that to be friends he needs to do something that will really get him to listen.
So he blows up the storage unit that held all of his belongings from his old life.
He tells Sherlock that he considers them to now be even and to know that the status of their relationship has changed for the better. I’m hoping this means that we get to see more of Ifans in the season to come because he’d be a much welcome addition. His Mycroft was cool and calm in a highly-mannered demeanor that promised something a little more anxious lurking beneath.
The episode didn’t paint London as some greater area of Sherlock’s expertise, it didn’t feel like we were missing anything with our characters not residing there, more so it felt as if it was simply an excuse to fill in missing puzzle pieces.
Sherlock’s origin story—no matter how many stories were published, how many television versions or how much money a movie with his name made—have never, truly, been given much enlightenment. While there’s been plenty of hints, smokes and mirrors mostly, intricacies about his boyhood have typically been briefly touched upon rather that illuminated. There’s a mysterious nature to Sherlock Holmes and how he grew to be the man he is could potentially spoil that mystery.
The real mystery—the real bit of intrigue that has always remained through the course of the character’s history is the friendship and codependence that grows between Holmes and Watson. The story behind all of the crimes and deductions and genius has always been the growing warmth between the two characters so that even through the most dreary or boring stories the interest exists because of our narrator and the subject he/she was writing about.
However in this case Elementary has managed to work in two contributing parties of Sherlock’s past and rather than take anything away from the character has instead added to idiosyncrasies that we already knew as well as contributing more. My greatest fear walking into this episode (and my sheer excitement nearly overshadowed it) was that after 24 episodes of character exploration the writers were going to find difficulties wringing out any more nuances of our characters and instead they’ve managed to prove me wrong only one episode in.
I’m excited to trail behind my favorite literary and television duo for yet another season of wonderful misadventure and friendship on the streets of New York City, who else is ready?
In the original Sherlock Holmes stories, Mycroft has kept 221B as it was for Sherlock for three years after Sherlock had faked his death. In Elementary he keeps all of his belongings from 221B until his return and then proceeds to destroy them.
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