Well colour me happy – it looks like Elementary shockingly pulls a 180 and turns into a bonafide Sherlock Holmes adaptation, introducing Holmes’ (Jonny Lee Miller) canonical nemesis Moriarty. Not only that, but we get a significant amount of character development and a complete disavowal of the tired old procedural format. Happy New Year indeed.
Let’s bitch it out.
From the episode’s first minutes, I knew that we would be getting something different from episodes past: we actually see the killer, the titular “M” (played superbly by Vinnie Jones). But surprisingly, and dare I say, even tactfully, the writers pull a fast one on the audience in slowly revealing that this M isn’t the M (as in Moriarty), but rather a pawn in an elaborate master plan that Holmes’ arch nemesis has set up for him. This “M” is really Sebastian Moran, a hired assassin who receives coded messages from an unseen Moriarty until he realizes that he is being manipulated just as Holmes is. The way in which all of this information is revealed to us is what’s noteworthy, thanks to some brilliant acting on the part of Miller and Jones, in addition to dialogue that is equally tense and engaging as it is expository.
I can’t say I was particularly surprised that Jones didn’t end up being Moriarty – I mean, his stature alone just doesn’t seem to fit ‘Moriarty’ profile (brains over brawn), but I freely admit I had no idea things would turn out the way that they did. I can only hope that Jones will reappear in future episodes to work with Holmes in his pursuit of the real Moriarty, as the two actors riff on one another beautifully.
But this episode, again, is really a showcase for Miller’s talent, who manages to show us yet another layer of Holmes that is at once sympathetic and frightening. We find out that Irene Adler, his one true love, is verifiably dead (or is she?) – killed in the same way as M’s other victims (hung upside down, throat slit and every last drop of blood drained) over a year ago. Holmes more or less confirms that it was the grief of losing Adler that led him to turn to the drugs, which led to his rehab and eventually catches us up to the events of the pilot. It’s a lot of information to get through, but the result is that we see a new side of Holmes that is quite a departure from the quirky, somewhat arrogant Holmes we’ve come to know and love.
Miller plays “vengeful Holmes” oh-so-well: filled with psychotic/torture-y rage, replete with overtones of intense grief. It’s absolutely compelling to watch. The control Miller exhibits as stoic Holmes, actively repressing the expression of huge emotions is definitely award-worthy. It’s incredibly tense as we wonder if (or when) he’s going to crack. As the show’s hero, we don’t want Holmes do go down the path of torturer and murder, yet Miller’s talent allows us to sympathize with Holmes’ plight. The moments where he’s got his back turned to M as he fights back tears is very effective. We can feel the desperation that Holmes has been clinging to all this time, devastated that he won’t be able to avenge Irene (not yet anyway).
Miller is so subtle with his performance throughout the episode: right from the start right through to its final moments. We know that there’s something off when he starts schooling the entire police force at the beginning of the episode, but it’s hard to pinpoint what it is exactly. Little do we know that he’s actually suppressing almost debilitating amounts of obsessive wrath.
Enter Lucy Liu who delivers an equally brilliant performance of her own as Watson tries to rein Holmes in from his path of revenge, as well as wrestling with her own reservations about leaving his side. The moment when she tells Holmes that she’ll miss their investigations, and that she thinks what he does is “amazing” is emotionally rich, but not overly sentimental. When Holmes echoes this statement to her at episode’s end, it’s the perfect ending to a nearly perfect episode.
The final moment doesn’t feel quite right. We learn that Daddy Holmes (aka the pursestrings) won’t continue to pay Joan for her companion services, but Watson lies in order to stay by Sherlock’s side (for a few more episodes more at least). Although it’s admirable that Watson chooses to stay (unpaid) because she’s concerned for his state of mind (I mean really, what kind of friend would jump ship after that?), given Holmes’ deductive brilliance, he should have already figured out she’s lying to him.
It’s a slight oversight in an episode that marks a significant turning point for Elementary: the show has finally become a show worthy enough to stand with the other quality dramas it’s competing with. I can only hope that it continues on this trajectory without falling back into the monotony of the typical procedural.
- I’m really getting tired at how painfully incompetent Gregson (Aidan Quinn) and his team are. It’s a wonder how they manage to solve any crimes at all.
- I loved that Teddy (Bobb’e J. Thompson) actually turned out to be one of Holmes’ many “associates” – its much more plausible that Holmes has people working for him all over the city than the fact that he simply knows everything all the time.
- Part of me wonders if Sebastian really is Moriarty, and this whole “hired assassin” ploy is just a further act to mess with Holmes. Even though it is confirmed that Adler was not killed by Sebastian, I still haven’t ruled out a bait and switch.
- M’s lady of the night clearly needs to go back to hooker school. You always get paid upfront, dear. It’s prostitution 101.
What do you think viewers? Did this episode get you excited for what’s to come the rest of the season? Do you think Adler is really dead, or could her death be a further piece of Moriarty’s endgame? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Elementary airs Thursdays at 10pm EST on CBS