This week’s episode of Elementary spent a lot of time trying to prove to me something that I just cannot buy: that Sherlock Holmes is a mean-spirited man. From what we’ve seen through the context of the show, from what has been written to how Jonny Lee Miller has delivered the lines there has been zero indication that Sherlock is downright mean. He’s aloof, oftentimes distant and self-centered, more concerned about closing a case than pleasantries but he isn’t devoid of courtesy.
His compassion was displayed last year and this year when young women were brutalized or captured and we seem him either gently take their hand or tell the police to get the attacker away so that the victim never has to see his face again. We’ve seen Sherlock’s warmth not only for Joan, but also his admiration of Gregson and his respect for Bell. He isn’t this impenetrable void of simply matter and mind. He can be deeply affected—whether it be through frustration with his brother, betrayal by an ex-dealer and friend’s request that he take drugs to heighten his deductive skills or heartbreak from his past lover Moriarty.
I’m being told to buy into Sherlock’s dark side and I just don’t.
It’s odd, twelve hours ago if I had been asked what I thought about this episode I could have very easily responded by saying I loved it. It was action packed, took on a different style of narrative concerning the baddie of the week, allowed some friction between the Sherlock and Joan pairing and allowed some great acting moments for Miller yet despite all of this, twelve hours later I’m wondering if it was simply an initial high from a show I enjoy immensely, and not the reaction that the episode actually deserves.
Because while everything worked, it seemed maybe that creator Robert Doherty and co. had almost all of the figures in place without key components to make it all work as a cohesive storyline.
The case this week seems immediately different as we watch an elaborate suicide take place as a young woman goes through efforts to make sure the gun she is pointing at her head is dragged into the ocean the minute she fires.
It becomes clear that her aim is to frame someone.
Sherlock comes to the same conclusion the morning afterwards at the crime scene when he realizes that the shot is too clean. Captain Gregson tells him they already have a suspect in custody, the woman Samantha, had called 911 the night before telling them exactly who she thought was following him and how he had a gun on him.
Gregson still allows for a sweep to go and see if a gun is found and they watch an interrogation of Lucas Bunch, the prime suspect, as he undergoes a polygraph test. The interrogation is interrupted by Gregson being told they found the gun weighed down just as Sherlock said. This is correspondent to the moment that Sherlock realizes he’s made a huge mistake.
He rushes into the room and asks if what Samantha believed was true and if he did in fact kill Ally, her sister, years prior. She says no but apparently it’s enough for Sherlock to go on and he tells Joan that he believes he’s made a gross miscalculation and that while Bunch may have not killed Samantha, he believes him to be a serial killer who will now still be at large.
Sherlock Holmes has made an egregious mistake in his eyes that could have enormous consequences. He goes to Gregson and tells him that there were obvious signs of misleading in the polygraph test. Bunch was controlling his heartbeat as his lied by measuring his breathing or biting his tongue to allow the pain mask the truth. Gregson trusts Sherlock’s judgment and brings the news to Detective Coventry, the man who was on Samantha’s sister’s case to see what he can recollect.
Not much it would appear as Coventry goes out of his way to not help. He, and many of the police force, are sick of Sherlock and Joan’s contribution. He says that Samantha was crazy and that Lucas Bunch is innocent, confident that closed the case correctly.
Sherlock and the gang however wish for him to take another look and it’s nice to see our main four working as a cohesive unit all trying to reach for the same goal. However, as Sherlock begins to grow agitated with Coventry’s stubbornness it all goes nowhere.
Joan and Sherlock are allowed evidence, but they’re going to have to work it alone. Sherlock was just getting a scolding from Joan about his lack of respect towards Coventry and the ramifications it could hold for them when there is a knock on the door.
It’s Lucas and he’s there because Coventry gave him their address so that he could try and clear the air.
It’s easy to see why Sherlock can’t stand him.
It’s a chilling bit where Lucas tries to play it as if he’s completely oblivious to the accusations they make towards him and the discussion bounces back and forth until Sherlock asks him an important question:
“Did you come here tonight to scare us, or are you just being a good predator.”
Sherlock has utter distain for men like Lucas and it’s interesting to see Miller play his own version of Sherlock as menacing in scenes such as this. It’s as if he goes into a more primal mode, taunting the suspected murderer despite the immediacy of the threat to him and Watson as a supposed serial killer sits in their living area.
Lucas leaves and the next day when Gregson hears of it he’s furious with Coventry and lays into him at a bar. Coventry tells him he’s making a mockery of the police force allowing a consultant to disrespect cops and Gregson tells him that Sherlock closes cases and keeps people safe and that’s all that should matter.
Meanwhile Sherlock and Joan continue their search. Joan is prickly about how Sherlock’s actions lead to jeopardizing their safety. Throughout questioning family members of past victims they’re lead to their next clue although it’s a red herring—a way of Lucas telling them that he’s a step ahead. It also alerts Sherlock to a part of Lucas’s more chilling plans.
He confronts him at his work and tells Lucas that he knows he’s keeping tabs on the family members of the girls he has abducted and how it’s his own way of keeping the game going and seeing the ripple effect play out. Sherlock is disgusted and Lucas continues to taunt him, implying about how much worse the girls are, and Sherlock cracks and hits him.
It was a moment where I cheered for him as well as cringed, knowing nothing good could come from it, but it was nice to see Sherlock lose his cool when provoked.
Gregson doesn’t agree with me and tells Sherlock that he fell into the baiting trap that was set for him and tells him that Lucas has filed a restraining order and that he’s now off the case.
Until later that night when Sherlock and Joan are lured to another abduction site and are told to leave by Bell. Sherlock agrees but only because he’s concocted an insane plan where he would frame Lucas. Joan talks him out of it, saying how it could get the two of them in massive trouble despite Sherlock assuring her that he can be quite the adept criminal.
However it’s due to an offhand comment that derails him and it’s soon that he, Gregson and Joan are at Lucas’s work with a search warrant. They soon find where he’s been keeping the girls and find two alive.
The episode ends on two notes. One is Gregson making an announcement to his team to not question the decisions he makes concerning the tools at his disposal to making the city as safe as he possibly can and if anyone has a problem with that they can leave. It’s nice to see him fully backing Sherlock and Joan as detectives and the work they put in.
The second note is quite a dour one and the moment that kept me from fully loving this episode.
It’s the speech that Sherlock makes about not being a nice person and how he can’t change. Joan tells him that he has, that he isn’t the same person that he was when she first met him. He chalks this all up to her and tells her that he finds her exceptional so he makes an exceptional effort to accommodate her.
It still rings false despite the honesty. It seems, more than anything else, that Sherlock was written this way to service this particular episode rather than a way to expand on his characterization. This version of Sherlock is in his own head space often, he’s sarcastic and silly, he wears inanely patterned socks, is riddled with tattoos that decorate his body, and buttons his shirt to the top button. He’s also loyal to those he cares about, is dedicated to his craft and has lingering damage from his past. He has affection for bees, an affinity to help the underdog, has found a kindred spirit in Watson.
That is what we know about Sherlock. We have been privy to learn all of that information about such a complex character and throughout the episodes we’ve watched we’ve never been lead to believe he’s mean.
So I, like Watson, don’t believe it in the slightest and I hope that the writers soon forget about it as well because otherwise this was a very strong episode, well-written, with a very real threat and a quick pace.
There is no new episode next week due to Thanksgiving.