Elementary 2×21, “The Man with the Twisted Lip”: Without peer

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The Elementary company builds to the climax of the second season with the first of a two-parter that weaves myriad mysteries and revelations around each other in a tremendously satisfying episode this week, as Watson & Holmes attempt to solve a double homicide that may be much more complicated than at first glance.  Brother Mycroft also arrives back in New York to complicate the relationship between Sherlock and Joan . . . and possibly for other reasons far darker.  Yeah — it’s good stuff!

source: CBS

source: CBS

The cold open this week beautifully frames the central motif of the episode; Sherlock reveals to his addiction group that the greatest threat to his continued sobriety is his lack of meaningful friendships, a problem he accounts for as his own fault.  He alludes to Jamie Moriarty being the only person he truly feels is his equal, and while her company can neither be had nor trusted, he wonders aloud if his efforts to foster relationships with others not on his intellectual level are worthwhile.  It’s a sad revelation, as it shows our dear lad to be both terribly lonely and feeling very complicit in his own unhappiness.  The season’s simmering subtext of the growing discord between he and Joan becomes overt this week, as Sherlock begins to actualize the effect his selfishness is having on the few people close to him.  It’s rather lovely to see that the straining of his relationship with his partner over the last few weeks was actually leading somewhere tangible from a narrative standpoint, and not just the result of writers who would rather write stories about “Sherlock Holmes, Super-Genius™, and his trusty sidekick, Dr. Lady,” and there’s some actual profundity to Holmes’ worsening arrogant and aloof behavior.  Unfortunately for us to get to this point, Joan has had to bear the brunt of being underwritten and a bit aimless (and that sucks, y’all, because Joan rocks), but at least we’re finally reaping the benefits of her being short-shrifted.

source: CBS

source: CBS

Mycroft is the catalyst here.  He and Joan have carried on an amorous relationship, albeit intermittent and without expectation of commitment, but the impetus for Mycroft’s return to Manhattan is the wooing of Ms. Watson on a more permanent basis.  Sherlock bristles at this, as it assaults many aspects of his psyche at once; he distrusts his brother’s motives (which may not be too far off the mark, actually), he hates the distraction it brings to his professional duties, and it stresses him that it may remove the primary stabilizing force in his life — his partner and sober companion.  Combined with the shady behavior Shirley exhibits while dealing with a murder victim’s heroin stash (as well as his dealing with the aftermath of Alistair’s unfortunate death from overdose last week), the writers are ratcheting up the tension on a potential relapse into drug use.  It’s scary stuff, and our boy is not in a good place these days.  Towards the episode’s climax, Joan reveals to Mycroft that she’s tiring of Sherlock’s incessant neediness and boundary issues, and informs him that she plans on finding a new place to live with an emphasis on scaling back her relationship with Sherlock to that of mostly the professional variety.  There’s a lovely pair of scenes on the back end of this episode where Sherlock confronts Mycroft and accuses him of taking away his safety net and Mycroft points out how selfish that notion is, and later when Sherlock finally admits this selfishness to Joan she puts him in his place on how he has a nasty habit of begging forgiveness instead of asking for consent in terms of violating the mores of friendship.  I’d wager this to mean fewer surprise wake-up calls at sunrise on Sherlock’s part, breakfast in bed or not.

source: CBS

source: CBS

But what is Mycroft’s true motive here, really?  We know from weeks back that he is in league with an unknown party in attempts to lure Sherlock back to London for some mysterious reason, and there’s some serious shadiness going down at his restaurant, Diogenes.  A notorious French gangster and his cohorts have been using a back table at the establishment as a regular meeting place, a fact that did not go unnoticed by Sherlock and Joan’s snooping.  Is this related to Mycroft somehow, or is this just a red herring?  Is big brother malevolent enough to play Joan against Sherlock for his own nefarious gain?  I guess we’re going to find out next week, as after being stood up for a date at the restaurant with Mycroft, Joan is kidnapped and chloroformed by the froggy hoodlums, spirited off to parts unknown while the credits roll.  I gotta say, though, this doesn’t bode well for any case for Mycroft’s innocence.  Duder needs to lawyer up.  Oh, and fix that comb-over.  Come on now, really.

Errata:

– Did you see that hospital gown-y thing that Joan was wearing during her dessert date with Mycroft?  It was weird, but kinda cute.  With beautiful people like Lucy Liu you always gotta worry that something looks good because it’s on them, and not that it’s on them because it looks good, as established with fedoras in the landmark case of “Jon Hamm v. Bronies.”

– MS. HUDSON!  AHHHH!  SHE’S FINALLY BACK!  She got a shout-out last week, named as the designer of Clyde’s very stylish turtle cozies, but we finally got to see her again!  *SWOON*  I love Ms. Hudson, and I love Candis Cayne.  We need more positive portrayals of LGBT characters (especially the T)  on TV where their queerness is not the totality of their character.  Ms. Hudson is transgender, sure, but first and foremost she helps keep Holmes & Watson’s home organized and running smoothly.  She’s the Alfred to their Batman, and I could definitely do with seeing more of her.  Plus, she’s so pretty.  Gah.

– The episode’s title comes from the Doyle canon, so there’s some insight for you if you were having trouble figuring out why there wasn’t  a man with any labial deformities within the current episode, the unexplained disappearance of Mycroft’s  mustache notwithstanding.  The Doyle story was about a woman searching for her missing husband, a former drug addict whom she feared had relapsed, which is the tie to this week’s episode and the young girl found dead in the park.

 

Alright, Elementarians, we’ll pick up the second part next week!  I’ll see you there, and in the comments!

Atomika D.

is a writer and critic of TV and film since 2006, an alumnus of NYFA’s school of celluloid direction and production, and she once ate seven burritos on a dare. It was not pleasant. Read all about it on Tumblr.

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