Sherlock (Jonny Lee Miller) is desperate for answers as Moriarty continues to play mind games on this week’s Elementary. Does Holmes get any closer to the answers he seeks?
Let’s bitch it out.
Elementary continues to embrace a more serialized format – picking up directly from last episode’s cliffhanger (and introducing another doozy this week, but more on that later). We’ve even broken out the ‘Previously On’ – a good sign indeed.
Moriarty (or someone claiming to be Moriarty) ‘hires’ Holmes to find the true murderer of Wallace Rourke. The prize? All the answers Holmes “can handle” regarding Irene Adler’s (Natalie Dormer) death. The murder ‘mystery’ essentially plays out as many of the other case-of-the-weeks we’ve seen throughout the season, but much like last week’s episode, because we know that Moriarty’s involved, the stakes are much higher. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted the touch points of the case to be over with faster so that we could finally get some advancement on the whole Moriarty/Holmes/Adler saga.
The Wallace/Sutter case unfolds quite traditionally, but the parallels between Daren Sutter’s (J.C. MacKenzie) struggle to avenge his sister’s murder and Holmes’ obsession with Adler’s death are purposeful and resonant. Miller again gets the award for acting excellence as he offers us hints of Holmes’ torment throughout the episode in ways that don’t feel forced or counterfeit. Take the moment where he angrily pushes the crime-scene board in frustration when he’s so close to the answers he seeks, or the moment when his eyes well-up just before he goes to brush his teeth.
Watson (Lucy Liu) is appropriately startled and sympathetic in these moments, again taking on the position of audience surrogate. As Holmes has been our hero from the start, Watson’s sympathy for him invariably evokes viewer empathy. It’s a lovely little shared circle of emotion that brings us closer to these characters, allowing us to care about them.
Holmes’ emotional apex comes at the episode’s end when it’s revealed that Adler is not only alive, but has been painting away to Mozart in New York all this time. The buildup to this reveal is one of the most masterful sequences we’ve seen in the series. The attention to detail is astonishing: the sound design adds so much as we hear every creak in the floorboards as Mozart’s overture gets louder and louder. I must applaud director Liz Friedman for her tact: the scene is atmospheric, tense and completely satisfactory as it unfolds unhurried, allowing us to soak in the experience as our protagonists do.
Although many will remember this episode as “the one where Adler is revealed to still be alive”, for me, it’ll remain “the one where Watson finally came into her own”. There are so many fabulous Watson moments that it’s the first time that I’ve really felt like she’s just as much of a main character as Holmes is. I was cheering during her private scenes with Gregson (Aidan Quinn) in which she calls out the sexist overtones in his desire to protect her from impending danger as a result of her work with Holmes. It’s incredibly refreshing that she does so in a calm, controlled manner so that Gregson looks like the emotional and unreasonable one. Elementary subverting expectations? Colour me happy.
Another great moment comes when Watson confronts Holmes about his self-centeredness in his pursuit of Moriarty, suggesting that she might indeed be put in danger as Gregson forecasted. Although this could be read as contradictory considering the praise I just lavished on her for the scene prior, I feel this scene further humanized Watson, giving her much needed complexity and dimension. She doesn’t cowardly run back to her life as a sober companion as Gregson suggested, but actually confronts Holmes, allowing him to ‘recognize’ the consequences of his action as it were. Of course she’s concerned about what might happen to her, but again, the leveled and reasoned way in which she discusses this with Holmes speaks to the sophisticated believability of her character. She truly serves as a balanced counterpoint to Holmes.
Watson’s appearance at episode’s end when it’s revealed that she (in a way) outsmarted Holmes by tracing his phone furthers her character arc. I absolutely loved it when she proclaims that she has just as much right to Moriarty’s answers as Holmes does. In taking on the case, she’s made the choice to confront any potential danger and it’s not Holmes’ responsibility to protect her. Watson showing up in the end exhibits her agency and cements her role as Holmes’ rightful partner, not merely his apprentice.
These Moriarty-focused episodes have been the series’ best by far. Although it’s completely unrealistic that Elementary will completely abandon its procedural roots, here’s hoping that the character development will be something that continues into S2 when it inevitably returns to a more stand-alone format. For now, I’ll sit back and enjoy what’s left of S1 as we go further into Moriarty’s web.
- The humour throughout this episode is also the series’ best. Highlights include: Holmes telling Watson that if she needs to use the toilet he would just turn away (and his subsequent question of whether or not she had asparagus last night) and Watson’s scolding when Holmes very annoyingly starts to kick a soccer ball repeatedly across the room. Wonderful.
- There’s been some chatter that Irene might only be a figment of Holmes’ imagination, as her appearance could be read ambiguously. I’m inclined to think that indeed she is alive, and likely working with Moriarty in some dastardly master plan that required a deception of Holmes. I’m also kicking around the possibility that Adler IS Moriarty.
What did you think viewers? Are you excited about next week’s episode? Any theories on how the Adler/Holmes confrontation will go down? Do you think Moriarty was indeed the man on the phone? Do you think the infamous M will be revealed to us this season? Sound off in the comments below.
Elementary airs at 10pm EST, Thursdays on CBS.