After returning from our annual national “watching teenagers put orange bouncy-balls in the net-thingy” broadcast programming hiatus, we’re back to our good ol’ skulduggery and deductive detectivery from the firm of Holmes & Watson, where finally (no, really, . . . finally) were treated to a Joan-centric episode that actually feels like something taken from her character as a real human being. And it’s a pretty decent episode, too, with a handful of caveats. How many caveats can you even fit into a handful? Like, a dozen? Less? I dunno. I’m gonna say somewhere between five and twelve, depending on the size of the hands. I have huge she-hulk hands, so I can probably get ten caveats from one place to another. Thereabouts.
This week’s episode, despite it’s smattering of flaws, was a welcome return to Elementary’s heretofore recently absent penchant for wrapping the various subplots into each other to make the episode feel more organic, urgent, and personal. Almost always, these types of episodes have been reserved for Sherlock, as the writers seem to find it easier to dig into his canonical background to embellish the A-Plots than figure out anything similar for the very non-liturgical Joan Watson, Asian-American ex-doctor/sober companion (and the less said about the sudden and random subplot about her homeless biological father, the better). The plot this week revolves around the possibility that the NYPD arrested the wrong man for a murder case a decade ago who soon died in prison from a stabbing, of which one of the doctors on his unsuccessful resuscitation attempt was one half of our consulting detective team — I’ll let you guess which one. The case itself was hilariously convoluted and unlikely, filled with the requisite red herrings and laughable coincidences that the Holmes mythos has always been famous for (and at this point, you’re either on-board with this silly stuff or you’re probably not watching this show). The short version of it all: two recent murders are connected by dental imprint to an already-deceased convict, who turns out to have participated as the model for a prison dental service, so a bunch of random jailbirds have the same teeth as our killer. However, it’s all a red herring from the real culprit, the dead killer’s mother, who stole the denture imprint and used it in the killing of two women in an attempt to make it seem like the NYPD were liable for her son’s wrongful imprisonment and death, thus winning a huge pile of settlement money from them (and NINE figures? Jiminy jumpin’ Christmas, lady, did you want their babies’ milk money, too? Yeesh!).
I may just be projecting, but it seems like some of the professional tension between Joan and Sherlock that has been bubbling ever-higher the back half of this season is a legit situation that is slowly coming to a head. Sherlock this week was almost out of character in regards to the extent that he treated Joan like a subordinate; he ordered her around, he badgered her about her whereabouts and her availability, he invaded her privacy for no reason more than selfishness and lack of empathy, and at the end of everything he had the temerity to condescend to her brusquely while offering the way she was handling an emotional and existential disturbance was inappropriate to his standards. It was not an easy week to root for our boy, is what I’m saying. Not for me, anyway. Joan, however, handled it like a pro, keeping her professionalism in check while asserting her displeasure with him, as it has to be a somewhat Sisyphean ordeal to balance a relationship with someone who is simultaneously your roommate, your partner, your sponsored ward, your landlord, and your boss. That’s just nuts. As a medical professional myself, while the parts of the episode that took place in the hospital were technically “medically stupid,” the issues at heart here were a great way to involve Joan in a capacity that engaged both her personal and professional consciences, which are not always in harmony, as I can attest. It’s your job to provide the same standard of care to all patients, with none less deserving than others, but your head and your heart aren’t always in synch, and that’s a scary condition when you realize you hold peoples’ lives and health in your hands and judgment. This is the throughline of the episode for Dr. Watson, who spends much of the running time fretting how she can’t convince herself of her own innocence in the death of the convict years ago, though in finding closure she concludes this week by making the metaphorical incarnate — destroying the case files in the shredder, clearing the physical reminder from her personal space and (hopefully) the lingering doubts from her mind. It’s the curse of those gifted enough to save lives: being merely human.
I wasn’t pleased with Sherlock’s spiky behavior this week, though I recognize it was largely to contrast Joan’s story against. Regardless, I still want to see more equal footing between the two as the season comes to a wrap in the coming weeks, or at the very least an open acknowledgement that Sherlock is slipping into a habit of taking Joan for granted and not respecting what she brings to the table. After an episode weeks back that asserted textually Joan is indeed Sherlock’s partner and completing element, restated again in Jamie’s fascination with her, we need to see more “show” and less “tell,” to paraphrase a Tarantinosim. Hooray this week for the shoutout to both Mycroft and Mrs. Hudson, but shame on the show for keeping them off-screen for so long between episodes. But we got two Clyde appearances! Showing off his adorable sharkfin shell-scarves, knitted by our resident awesome OCD houselady! Too cute, really. It’s dumb it’s so cute. Also, while I strongly disagree with Sherlock’s invasion of Joan’s bedroom privacy, I wholeheartedly endorse the use of Clyde and his Post-It pad as the chief method of note-passing between the two detectives. He could be like Thing from The Addams Family, and everything needs more Addams Family, right? Yes, of course I’m right.
Alright, darlings, next week! Enjoy your spring weather while you can! See you below in the comments!