There’s a gruesome murder at the ballet on this week’s Elementary.
But first we’re introduced to some tidbits about Joan and Sherlock’s domestic lifestyle which consists of Sherlock guarding off the living area whenever he has lady friends over and Joan then giving whatever woman walks out of the room a to go cup of coffee.
The bookends of this week’s episode are the strongest portions of a woefully lackluster episode, despite its attempts at finding an interesting story to tell. Instead it feels, only minutes into the episode, like a filler episode, a type of episode the show should be trying to actively avoid while in the middle of its second season, a season which many viewers have dubbed a sophomore slump.
After we’ve left the Brownstone, where Sherlock was feeling judged by Joan for his casual sex habits, we’re transported to the backstage of a ballet rehearsal where something ominous is going to take place. The girls are called to the stage in a crisply shot sequence, vibrant with color, but as they’re taking their places and beginning to dance some of the rafters move and something falls from the ceiling causing a commotion.
It was a someone, they find out. It’s a fellow dancer who has been murdered and cut into two.
I’m going to keep reiterating this complaint because it’s an obvious one and one that is recurring all too much. I’m sick of death being the motivator for the cases. If the show can do little call backs to such obscure Holmes canon facts such as Sherlock’s tobacco monographs than they can borrow from the spirit of the series as well and create cases that aren’t based in murder. Following Joan around this week was more enjoyable not only because of the show finally giving her some room to grow, but also because her case wasn’t blood-soaked.
Captain Gregson calls Joan and Sherlock to the scene where they discover the mutilated body and determine that it was a slit throat that killed the dancer, Nell, and that the body was sliced in half afterwards. I actively try to avoid watching Criminal Minds, so I don’t appreciate their style of storytelling seeping into a show that I look forward to each week.
Their first suspect is a prima ballerina named Iris, whose box cutter was used to kill Nell. She’s interrogated backstage and says she had nothing to do with the murder and that her box cutter had been taken as a token. It’s special; Sherlock explains in some monotonous exposition, that every ballerina is equipped with tools to maintain their ballet shoes—which mark them of some importance.
When they leave Joan tells Sherlock that he was going a little overboard with his fanboy qualities over Iris and he tells her that he simply doesn’t think she’s a suspect despite evidence pointing directly at her. Joan is called away by a charity that she works with and must leave the case for the day.
While I appreciate the shows attempts at giving Joan her own stories, I’d rather them come frequently rather than shoehorned in every couple of episodes to try and make up for episodes that hardly have her participating. This was a nice start, as long as they continue to pursue the storyline in future episodes.
Joan goes to the home of a man named Morris about whom she was called. She helps out with people found on the streets whose mental illnesses go untreated. Morris is schizophrenic and is in the middle of an episode but tells Joan that he saw a friend of his, Zeke, kidnapped and she promises that she’ll try and find him. Joan is always motivated to help and it’s a key quality to her character.
She tracks down Zeke’s sister and is told that she hasn’t seen him in two weeks. She’s worried about him and tells Joan that he was a veteran who ended up on the streets and it’s nice to see someone still wanting to help.
The ballet case has caught a few speed bumps along the way. Sherlock and Bell questioned Nell’s ex-boyfriend. He tells the two of them that she had left him for someone else and on top of that, he has an alibi that checks out for the night of the murder.
Their next stop is a photographer for trash magazines with whom Iris has a notorious relationship with. He had been taking pictures of her when she took his camera and smashed it which led to a long court case where she turned up on the favorable side of things and he was fired. He’s a creep, but he also has an alibi.
Rounding out the three biggest suspects it seems that Iris didn’t in fact have a good enough alibi and her housekeeper was off the night of the murder, meaning that no one was around to account for her whereabouts.
She’s brought in and put on an official suspect list and told not to leave the country which leads her to pitching a fit. However, it’s mandatory which leaves her no other choice—a fact that the press latches onto quickly.
Sherlock’s solution is to sleep with her.
Joan is just as perplexed and judgmental as the audience when she asks him what he could possibly be thinking. He tells her that he noticed that she had a tear in her rotator cuff and would never been able to use the pulleys that were needed in the dramatics of the murder of Nell. Joan asks why he couldn’t have just asked her rather than testing his theory and he tells her that aging ballerinas will often lie about their injuries because with them they become less valuable.
It was a tricky way to gather some evidence, but I guess he’s thorough.
They get a breakthrough in the case when a voicemail left by Iris on Nell’s phone is leaked to the press. It’s incriminating, so Iris has to tell the truth. She didn’t kill Nell but she did seduce her to get the lead in the newest show. However, Nell found out from a past, jilted lover of Iris’s and ended things heartbroken. Iris had actually begun to have feelings for her.
Sherlock and Joan track down the paparazzi from earlier and find out that he had bugged Iris’ apartment to try and catch some incriminating action from Nell and Iris so while yes, he’s still a creep, he’s also not the murderer.
Sherlock is growing frustrated (along with this viewer) about who the murderer is when it seems that while everyone holds a piece to the puzzle, no one holds the final one. In the midst of this, he realizes how deep Joan is in her own investigation and asks her why she she’s so invested in it all.
At first he feels like he’s overstepped but she tells him that it’s something she should be honest about, especially with him. She tells him that her father, her birth father, is schizophrenic and has been living on the streets in New York since she was very young. She says she does volunteer work on the off chance she’ll run into him—and maybe he’ll recognize her depending on whether or not he’s on his medication. She says she hasn’t seen him in two years.
It’s a sobering moment for the episode that allows for some insight into Joan’s character but the question is, is it going to stick? Or again, is it just being shoehorned in to find significance in the story? Why else would it just now be introduced? I hope it’s groundwork for a larger story to build itself on.
While listening to the voicemail Sherlock comes across a clue that he had missed before and goes to his final suspect.
It was the attorney all along.
At first Sherlock doesn’t have enough evidence against him so there’s a standoff but soon after with the aid of Gregson and the police force they gather enough evidence to incriminate him and release Iris of all charges.
Meanwhile, Joan solves her own case when she realizes that the sister she spoke to wasn’t Zeke’s sister at all. She goes back to the house where she finds three men, all veterans suffering from PTSD or other mental illnesses, chained up in the basement where the woman and her husband had been keeping them as a way to collect their welfare checks.
With their cases both solved, the two of them end back at the Brownstone where Sherlock is wishing to extend himself for Joan. He wants to distribute blankets in the park for any who needs it and it’s something that Sherlock not only is wanting to do for her, but also himself.
It is moments like this that we need in episodes like these where the plots are tiresome and the character moments sparse. It’s allowing the viewer access into a version of the duo that is different from the best, sometimes for the worse in terms of exciting storytelling, but often for the better in terms of their relationship.
It’s nice to see that it isn’t Watson’s simplicity that keeps Sherlock human, like so many other Holmes iterations. Instead, it’s Joan herself and her compassion and kind-hearted nature that has actively made Sherlock take strides in being a better person. There’s a gentle atmosphere to the show and Joan’s warmth, Sherlock’s predisposition to help coupled with Joan’s influence on him to be better, makes the show easy to watch even during the more frustrating episodes.