In this week’s episode of Elementary, Joan showcases her independent skills of consulting deduction, Sherlock reunites with the woman he calls his first killer, and the case seems more sturdily built, if not thrown mildly off kilter at the very end.
The episode opens with Sherlock and Joan at a gym, the former in the boxing ring practicing his defensive skills.
Joan would argue that they’re offensive, telling him that he fights dirty.
He tells her that you learn to when your opponent is often larger and stronger. This is a point that will be a focal one for much of the episode despite seeming like a flippant remark.
They receive a call from the police that there’s been a murder and must end their cute gym bonding time and go to the crime scene, still decked out in work out gear.
What they find is a dead man in latex S&M suit with a prostitute who’s called them in.
Sherlock soon deducts that he was poisoned and that’s where the case launches off. The next morning Sherlock, Bell and Joan in a funny scene go to a bondage gear shop that sells XXL latex suits and finds the name of the man who bought it.
It turns out that man didn’t kill him but just wanted to humiliate him post-mortem so that his family wouldn’t have to be paid by the company.
I almost think that’s worse but hey, what do I know.
They go to question the wife at the house and while they’re there the nanny swings by and instantly Sherlock recognizes her by a tattoo on her wrist and the sound of her voice. He knew of her from years ago when she was the center of a murder investigation over the death of her father. She was acquitted but the media hounded her, ruining her life and forcing her to create a new one.
He, however, can tell it’s her and makes the connection of how her father died and the current one’s death. He tells Captain Gregson this and Abigail is brought in for questioning.
She tells them that she understands there’s a coincidence, but one she didn’t actively take part in. Sherlock believes that someone is trying to frame her and goes to visit to tell her just that as well as to tell her his identity.
She asks him why he didn’t tell her and he tells her he was flustered by actually seeing her in person. When he was fifteen they had been pen pals of sorts as he wrote to her seeing a person behind the case and she wrote back wanting a faceless person to divulge her secrets and fears to. She tells him how much she appreciated those letters and he, later to Watson, says just about the same when he tells her how he was mercilessly bullied in school for his intellect and his inability to handle it with tact. This comes after Watson has accused him of his head not being fully in the case and him having to explain to her why he’s showing some hesitation to pursuing it so head on when she believes Abigail could be a likely suspect.
Instead it turns out that the wife and the son could also be likely candidates.
It’s always the brightest or the oddest that are delivered the brunt of schoolyard shame and the fact that Sherlock was subjected to these violence-driven bullies is no surprise. It isn’t surprising that Sherlock saw Abigail Spencer and thought that maybe there was more to her, that the media shouldn’t be crucifying her considering that context of her abusive relationship with her father. Sherlock found a faceless kindred spirit in Abigail as well as a means of escapism. He wrote to her as she divulged personal secrets and even when he deduced that she must have killed her father he said nothing, wanting to protect her. She was his up close and center look into the mind of a criminal and he was thriving because of it. Not only did he find an outlet for his loneliness because of her, but he found his calling and his love for a seemingly impossible mystery.
It’s such a beautifully built relationship in such a short period of time. Within the confines of their episodic limit they realistically conveyed a tentative but personal relationship between two near strangers and made me care about it. Much of this must be attributed to Jonny Lee Miller and Laura Benanti’s performances which are subtle and careful and work so well together.
So much so that I’m okay with the lack of Watson and Sherlock interaction this week. Typically it’s the duo’s banter and connection that drives the show—and that’s not a bad thing. They’re the prominent relationship so they should be the most compelling component of the show. But to have an episode where they’re separated for most of it and for it to end on a note where Sherlock is alone, shows that the show has longer-lasting legs than previously believed. Watson got to have a B-plot that was solving the case while Sherlock’s was the aforementioned development with Abigail.
Which leads to the only part of this episode that kept me from absolutely loving it: the murderer of the father and the reasoning.
It ends up being that Sherlock was right to suspect the son Graham for the murder but for a much more sinister reasoning that first believed. Sherlock had thought that it may have been that Graham desperately wanted the large inheritance his father was leaving him but when Joan and Bell find the father’s tablet that’s been hidden away in a secret air duct in his study, they find a motive for his father’s death.
Graham had been sexually abused by his father and his father had much of it on tape.
This explains everything: why Graham would think of Abigail as a reasonable cover, why he’d be so desperate to protect his younger brother, why the wife would have thought her husband was cheating on her and ultimately why Graham would lash out with murder.
It’s a somber way for a case to be solved and when Graham is brought in for questioning it’s all treated delicately. None of the investigative team comes straight out with it, waiting for Graham to admit the crime first but he doesn’t want his aunt and lawyer to be around when he talks about something he’s kept hidden for so long. He finally gets half the story out but not before Abigail runs into the station after hearing the story and her combined guilt over her father’s death and evading justice and her guilt over not realizing what was happening to Graham compels her to turn herself in for a crime she didn’t commit.
And it works, Graham is allowed to go, having to carry the weight of what happened to him but in the comfort of home not a prison cell and Abigail is taken in for murder.
Sherlock is unhappy with the chain of events.
He goes to Abigail after not speaking with her since their fallout and she tells him that it’s what she deserves, that it was what the father deserved. He was disgusting and he had what was coming for him she tells him.
But Sherlock doesn’t believe that being imprisoned is fair for her but she disagrees. She says she has no doubt in her mind that she made the right decision in protecting Graham from the spotlight that would follow him, that would unveil his darkest secrets. She says she should have been put in jail a long time ago but managed to escape it, now she’s simply doing the time she was supposed to do before.
The problem is that the focus is on Abigail still and not Graham, whose sexual victim past came as a curveball for many of us and while it’s rightfully depressing it never seems like we’re telling his story, more like he’s an afterthought to the main storyline which with a narrative like his, seems like a disservice.
However, as a whole, I loved the way the case was played out because by no means was it a neat wrap up which is something I’ve been complaining about since the show began. I get that each episode is essentially a self-contained story where the case is involved, hell that’s how the original stories were as well and it was always the Sherlock and Watson dynamic that tied all of the individual vignettes together. In Elementary however, barring a few episodes, it’s always felt as if the cases were too tidy at the end, no loose ends, nothing that could possibly infer an ambiguous ending but in this week’s episode “Poison Pen” we’re given just that.
Sure, Sherlock and Joan solved the case, but it didn’t turn out in nearly the direction Sherlock would have preferred. He would never have predicted that Graham was being sexually abused and he never would have presumed that Abigail would have turned herself in. Abigail is now imprisoned for a crime she didn’t commit and his subtle affection for her makes that damaging and Graham will have to live with the scars of his father for the rest of his life and despite Sherlock’s genuine offer of help to him, it isn’t an easy demon to shake.
So the case is solved, but no one is really, truly happy with the result.
And that’s real life. When tragedy happens there are rarely happy endings, one can only hope for justice which in this case seemed to happen in the deaths of men with too much power over those who were weaker than them.
The show continues to deliver a sucker punch of a last shot with Sherlock at the gym alone, punching a bag set up for him, and it’s moving because for the first time it ends with him alone. We’ve spent so much of this series watching as he proves people wrong with the relationships he’s built— his love and pain over Moriarty, his work relationship with Detective Bell, his quiet respect for Captain Gregson, his rebuilding of his relationship with his brother Mycroft, his nearly reliant partnership with Joan—and now his first (presumably) love with Abigail, and yet he ends the episode on his own allowing his distress to be kept secret and that speaks volumes of the character. He’s allowed himself to let people in but not enough to willingly share turmoil. Over what? Over his shared past of torment, of his lost companion? Does it matter when we see Miller performing as he did in that last shot? Probably not.
I would have loved for Graham’s plot to not be as emotionally vacant considering the plot, but on the flipside, what we were given by Abigail and Sherlock almost makes up for it entirely.