There’s been an issue with the show that’s begun to nag at me after each episode, a problem that I’ve chosen to ignore in favor of celebrating the characterization of Sherlock Holmes and the building relationship between him and the people around him. Through doing so I’ve neglected the character that the show has been neglecting as well: Joan Watson. Joan Watson, who was such a revelatory piece of casting with Lucy Liu, who had such promise as she refused to put up with Sherlock’s arrogance, has been put on the back burner.
Entitled “All in the Family,” the week’s storyline is deeply rooted in the mob family and mob wars but it also shows the span of the police force, the demographic department and how Bell, Sherlock, Gregson and Joan tie into it.
For an episode that clearly wishes to expand the world that Sherlock and co. live in as well as bring Detective Bell back into the field its all the more apparent how shakily the writing for Joan is progressing.
The reason why Sherlock is such a spectacular character is because of the time and effort that the show has given him: he’s nuanced to such a degree that even only a season and a half in we feel like we know him inside and out. There’s no face value with him, only nuance and complexities. The Joan character deserves the same amount of time, the same amount of effort. She’s rapidly turning into nothing more than a sounding board for Sherlock’s queries and asinine ideas, providing one reactionary response after the other. The closest we got to characterization for her this episode was her interest in the mob that stemmed from where she’d grown up as a child. That’s it. Joan could be such an interesting character, easily on par with Sherlock, and Lucy Liu is doing everything she can with the material she’s given, but it’s becoming more and more apparent which character is favored and which is being left by the wayside.
It’s an episode that would have benefitted from some narrative leeway where the case was forgone for a little and the characters were given more focus because like so many episodes of this show, it’s the latter that provides the most highlights.
The cold open shows Sherlock and Joan in formal wear, having just closed the case for a museum theft. However, the Detective on the case with them isn’t giving them much room to work with and shoos them away after they’ve given him the missing link to the mystery (the man being interrogated has a prosthetic leg that has a hidden compartment—classic Holmes). Sherlock goes to Captain Gregson to complain about the lack of help he receives from the detectives on his cases, and insists that Gregson take on more of his own cases to help the progress along.
Gregson walks away.
This is also relevant to Detective Bell leaving to go work at Demographics where they spend their time preventing the next terrorist attack, although many of anonymous leads are wild goose chases. Bell is given a task by his boss to go and investigate a warehouse where he was told surveillance footage found a man wheeling a mysterious barrel inside.
Bell finds something that he wasn’t expecting: a decapitated body also missing his hands, his clothes and any form of identification.
Sherlock and Joan are called to the case and once there with Gregson also in tow it becomes apparent that they haven’t interacted with Bell for a while—setting up the character arc of the episode.
After some investigating, they realize that this is all a part of a building mob war and Sherlock and Joan take it upon themselves to track down the man they believe is to blame for the first dead body. As they’re leaving his house the man walks into his car and the moment he steps foot in it, it blows up, killing him.
The possibility of a full blown mob war is now evident.
While investigating the man’s house they discover not only remains of the first body but also phone calls and emails between the man and his father. Sherlock believes that someone in demographics must have been the one to lift them.
However, when he confronts the man who could give him any answers he’s met with none. He does take the time to ask for a consulting position which angers Bell and Sherlock taunts him, saying it’s not the last time he’ll see him around.
However the audience gets the idea that it may not be Sherlock’s true intention to simply help out.
Sherlock receives a call that informs him that the records had been in the hands of the NSA and they, upon his request, had handed them over to Commissioner Silva, Bell’s boss. The man tells Sherlock that Silva is saving millions of lives every day with the work he does, so they don’t mind the occasional passing of information as long as it’s to their betterment in the end.
Sherlock and Joan now have to figure out a way to catch Silva red-handed.
Which leads us to the best bit.
There is a scene in particular, one to me of particular importance, which I’ve been waiting to get to (okay, secret time: I may be writing about this part first and then filling in the beginning and end later). After an episode of tension between Sherlock and Bell it was bound to come to a head and when it did it was well worth the buildup. Sherlock and Joan have called Bell over to ask him to take a closer look at his Commissioner Silva, since they believe that he has mob ties but have no evidence to build a legitimate court case. This angers Bell. He can’t believe that Sherlock, especially Joan, would ask him to stick his neck out and incriminate his boss for nothing. He doesn’t believe that there is anything troubling about Silva and it could cost him his career to poke around.
He begins to walk out and Sherlock follows him. Sherlock tells him he asked him over because he knows that Bell is still a detective at heart, that what he was meant to do, not number crunching in demographics. Bell asks him why then did he have an interest in consulting there and Sherlock tells him plainly that it was to get a rise out of him.
Sherlock berates him and tells him to get over his pride and go back to his physical therapy and to stop fooling himself that he’s punishing Sherlock when in all reality he’s punishing himself. Bell tells Sherlock that the first thing he thought of Sherlock when they worked a case together was that he had it so easy, that all of it must be so simple to him—but not everyone is as lucky.
Which is when Sherlock gets the last word as Bell begins to leave by telling him that he’s a drug addict. That it may come as a surprise to Bell considering when they started working together he was already clean but it was a constant, daily struggle. He had his hurdle and he overcame it, largely due to the consultant work he was given.
So he says, be his friend, don’t be his friend, whatever, but don’t do a disservice to himself.
Oh what a fantastic scene! Jon Michael Hill and Jonny Lee Miller work tremendously together here, showcasing one the strengths of the show is the chemistry between the actors, both of them pushing and pulling at the right moments, both showcasing bottled anger and hidden truths. It’s a scene that allows both characters their high moments and allows for another step in their relationship.
Despite what he’s told the two of them he does in the end go to Commissioner Silva to try and dig a little bit and on the surface it looks as if he was right—nothing to question.
He turns up on Sherlock and Joan’s doorstep later with a box of evidence incriminating Silva of 30 years of mob relations. He tells them that there was something in the man’s voice that hadn’t sat well with him so he did some digging and found out that Silva had his hands in criminal activities.
Now the game plan is to incriminate him because they can’t build a case on Bell poking around in classified articles.
So Bell goes to Silva and says that the mob case is closed. Silva had wanted a mob war so that he could retire in peace without any possible word being spoken by mob families about his doings so this causes him to panic. He calls the head of one of the families, Robert, to go on a boat ride and is just about to pull the trigger when Bell and the NYPD put a stop to it, arresting him and Robert.
It’s a bit of an odd, convoluted way to get Bell back. We’ll have to wait and see if there are any long term ramifications.
The last shot has Sherlock being told by Gregson that Bell is back at the force with them and it’s sweet and simple and wraps up the storyline that has carried over from a few episodes ago. It was a nice to see an overarching plot that allowed for growth between two characters and showed the reasoning and rationale behind it. The more the show serializes its stories the better it will be and as a fan who’s always excited to watch each week but is noticing more flaws than before, it can never hurt for the show to step their game up a bit.
It was a mixed bag episode—great in moments but overall had a lot of wasted potential. Nothing too detrimental to the series but they’re problems that could be an easy fix.
I hope the show’s return will have fixed all of the rough patches.