The gravy train of good episodes keeps a’rolling this week, complete with biscuit wheels. Of course, these are British-style biscuits I’m talking about, not those soggy wads of chewy buttermilk you’ll find south of the Mason-Dixon at each and every Cracker Barrel you’ll pass once every three miles. I mean good biscuits, like chocolate HobNobs or Digestives. Oreos will do in a pinch, and yes, those are biscuits, too. Anything sweet and crispy that pairs well with coffee or tea or a glass of milk; if it goes soft and stale when left out too long, it’s a biscuit, and if it goes vice versa, it’s a cookie. Okay, now I’m hungry. I blame Mycroft and his constant whinging on about restaurants and dinners and menus and whatnot. Not that I’m mad or anything; Mycroft is always awesome, and this week he may have turned even more awesomer. Plus, are Shirley and Joan about to make a big change?
We open on a familiar scene in Elementary: a dead body. Or, simply, a “body.” No one ever says, “Hey, chief, we found a live body over here!” Live bodies are “persons,” dead persons are “bodies.” Language is funny. This particular formerly-live body belonged to a young woman and was found atop of a delivery truck after falling three stories from a balcony, but strangely enough she was knifed in the abdomen prior to her rapid descent. This is why I never go on balconies: I’m deathly afraid of being stabbed. At this point, the crime scene is a bit of a Rube Goldberg machine, which is a neat parallel considering that Elementary‘s opening credits features an actual such contraption, but here it veers a little too far on the morbid side of morbidly-humorous. Regardless, we find that the victim was the estranged daughter of super-billionaire Ian Gale, inventor of tech stuff, who himself is dying from a failing heart transplant. The obvious suspect here is Dr. Mrs. Super-Billionaire; with her stepdaughter dead, nothing stands in the way of her collecting her husband’s massive estate. There’s only a problem with that: she is the one who brought her step-daughter and her husband back together (to help out with blood and tissue transplants) and ensured that the young woman was written into the will in the first place. So the real murderer is probably the lady’s sketchy ex-con boyfriend, from Mineral Wells, TX, by way of El Paso, which is a classic weird thing TV does with cities in Texas — assuming that they’re fairly near to each other. I’ve lived in Texas. Nothing is close to anything. Mineral Wells is almost 600 freaking miles from El Paso. Little Rock, New Orleans, Memphis, Topeka, Carlsbad . . . . those are cities all closer to Mineral Wells than El Paso. Texas is ginormous is the point I’m making, so Hollywood please take note. Anyway, the show presents the boyfriend as the classic red herring, as he has motive and a sketchy background and a poor alibi and didn’t contact the police about finding her dead even days later, so of course this greasy dude didn’t do it. It’s too easy. This episode did make me wonder, however, why Holmes and Watson were called in so quickly on the case. I don’t think Detective Bell wants to do anything without having the two of them around anymore, and I think he’s happy to be the only case-solving detective in his precinct. However, the NYPD’s reliance on the two, as well as Sherlock and Joan’s fascination with criminal investigation, actually becomes a plot point later on, which again is a great little detail this show gives to reinforce the fact that while it may be a procedural, nothing is happening in a vacuum. The A-Plot wraps up as per usual for a detective series: a late piece of information changes everything and it all falls into place. Here, that comes in the form of a blood bank technician telling the police that Dr. Mrs. Super-Billionaire infected her stepdaughter’s blood with antibodies before it was administered to her husband, which then of course made him sick and then die. I’ve worked in healthcare, and while some of the science behind that notion isn’t completely bonkers (though some of it is), the processes and levels of patient protection that would have to be bypassed to make all that happen are astronomical; it would be like trying to rob a bank by passing yourself off as a teller, not knowing any codes for the vault or having a company ID. Just showing up in a pantsuit with a duffle bag, asking the guy working at the window next to you, “Hey, I’m new here, can you show me where the big pile of money is?” For an A-Plot, it’s a little weak, but a lot of procedurals pad out their running time with this kind of thing; fill 35 minutes with the leads in the dark, find the one improbable clue that ties everything together, yada yada yada, the mystery is solved and hands are tidied.
No worries, however, because we’re still getting residual Mycroft action from last week, which is always welcome, because Rhys Ifans is really knocking this character out of the park. In canon, the character was always depicted as lazy, condescending, and disinterested despite being possibly more intelligent than his younger brother, and in our three modern incarnations of the Doyle series the version this most aptly fits is Stephen Fry in the Guy Richie films. I do like how this show is so unafraid to subvert the canon, making their Mycroft both the man from the Doyle stories but also having grown past that and attempting to change. Making him a cancer survivor has given him a wounded depth that Ifans so ably pulls off with those downcast eyes, and this informs many of his actions and relationships, as he is now bent on making his restaurants his legacy and he is making great strides in reaching out to his brother in hopes of repairing their estranged connection. Giving Mycroft a sexual history with Joan is also a great touch I’ve hit on in earlier posts, but I’ll again reiterate how it not only gives texture to both characters, it broadens and adds facets to Joan’s relationship with Sherlock, who has openly accused her of sleeping with Mycroft as a surrogate to sleeping with him. That’s great stuff, and I do love how the writers write Sherlock into being so blunt and objectivist with his deduction, but more so I applaud Jonny Lee Miller’s performance in the role, as I can never really be sure if Sherlock is opining objectively or trying to convince himself when talking about things that personally affect him. I’m not going to start a war here by saying that Miller is better in the role than Benedict Cumberbatch, for one because Sherlock on the BBC is an outstanding show that I feel is largely superior to this one (though a different beast in many ways and thus somewhat difficult to directly compare), but I will say that I think Miller’s twitchy, uncomfortable, preoccupied characterization of Holmes is more nuanced and multifaceted than Cumberbatch’s approach, and in the way the show has subverted traditional dynamics I feel that Miller’s portrayal informs the character in ways that the BBC version doesn’t attempt to.
The thematic glue of the plots this week is familial dynamics and trust, and Mycroft spends much of his screentime this week attempting to mend fences with Sherlock, culminating in the revelation that their father is desperate to have Sherlock back home in London and will cut off Sherlock’s trust fund if our boy doesn’t find his way back to Old Blighty hasta pronto. This causes Sherlock to admit to Joan that he is almost broke and has been paying her with his father’s money, largely because the work they’ve been taking with the NYPD doesn’t pay all that well. Sherlock has taken those cases because criminal investigation is what best interests him and engages his intellect, but even he admits that the practicality of taking the consulting jobs with Captain Gregson may be limited in the face of how many well-paying jobs he turns down from private clients because he doesn’t find them exciting or worthy of his and Joan’s combined talents. We leave the episode with our heroes facing a conundrum: move to London and continue their work there for Scotland Yard, start taking the boring jobs from private clientele who will pay better, or find a way to make ends meet working for the NYPD. Context lends toward them deciding on the last option, which may mean them selling the house and downsizing their operation, which sucks because that house is awesome but probably worth, like, four million dollars or more in the Manhattan real estate market. Also, Sherlock makes the ultimate decision to remain in New York and find his own way based on some very self-aware introspection, that being that he’s a former addict who is making a successful recovery thanks to the stability of his work and the consistency of his support system, e.g., the NYPD and Joan. So I think we know where our boy will be for the future to come, but we don’t really know how he’s going to maintain it, though I hope we will find out in the coming episodes. We go to credits this week with the revelation that Mycroft is keeping something secret from his brother that has to do with getting Sherlock back in London and involves a mysterious third party, and the story about their father wanting him back there may have been a ruse. Ooooh, look at you, Mycroft, being all clandestine and murky and suddenly untrustworthy! I can’t wait.
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