Elementary 3×01, ‘Enough Nemesis to Go Around’: The tenuous independence of Joan Watson, P.I.

Elementary-season-3-episode-1-recap-feature

Velcome, velcome!  Do sit down and have a nice warm glass of blood, um, . . . I mean . . . cocoa.  Yes, cocoa.  Warm, salty, hemoglobin-rich cocoa.  Or whatever.  It’s the day after Halloween, whaddya expect?  For Dia de los Muertos, it’s festively raining bodies down elevator shafts this week on Elementary‘s season 3 premier!  Sherlock’s back from London and he’s not working alone, Joan is still working for the NYPD and is vehemently working alone, and Clyde is perfectly content just being alone, just as long as he gets his turtle chow.  Sit tight, huddle up close, and pass the eye of newt — it’s mystery time.  Mwahahahah.

source: CBS

source: CBS

It’s been a bit of a break, hasn’t it?  Most of the autumn TV shows premiered weeks or even months ago, and Elementary comes dragging in late like a sophomore at a 7:00 AM math lecture.  SHIELD is on, like, episode seven by now.  Rise and shine, ya knobs!  But here we are, and the episode’s cold open serves us not one but two time skips; the first taking place a few months after Joan has separated from the erstwhile Sherlock and opened her own consulting agency, where we see her attempts to bring down the sleazy head of a drug cartel (Gina Gershon in a “Real Housewives of Secaucus” Halloween costume) resulting in the inexplicable murder of the star witness, and then another time-jump to two months later where Joan and Marcus Bell are given clues to the murder by way of a mysterious anonymous source (hint: it’s Sherlock).  The Amazing Boy Detective is out of MI6 and back in Gotham to begin anew his detective business, now with a new young protegé named Kitty tagging along (who enjoys the occasional impromptu sword fight with Joan).  Sherlock wants to go back to working for the NYPD but refuses to do so without Joan’s blessing, Joan just wants to be left alone, and Captain Gregson vehemently does not give a crap.  Of course the episode ends with Joan and Sherlock teaming back up to solve the murder, sending the mobsters to jail, and laying the foundation to repair their fractured relationship.

source: CBS

source: CBS

And you know what?  This episode kinda sucks.  And you know why?  Because every major predicating narrative thread involving the now-discordant relationship between Sherlock and Joan happened completely off-camera at some indeterminable point between the finale of last season and the opening of this season.  Much like Scully and Mulder in the X-Files pilot, we in the audience have experienced lost time, and I feel like it was a really cheap way to inject dramatic tension into the show’s familiar dynamics when our characters are now reacting to issues and situations we never got to see.  Sometime in that gap, Sherlock suddenly acted like a real jerk and left for London without saying goodbye to people (which doesn’t really jibe with all the personal growth he had made in the prior two seasons), and he and Joan are now on uneasy terms as a result.  Also, apparently Sherlock was fired from MI6, and (at least in this episode) the program shows no interest in detailing anything about the events that led up those major cliffhangers of last season, so we’re left in the dark as to what happened there or how he decided to bring Kitty into the fold.  It’s a little insulting, especially since the show was left in such an interesting place last season, and moreso to see that the writing staff never really had a plan to develop any of that.  It’s a huge bait-and-switch, and instead of the intriguing program that follows Sherlock’s adventures in Britain’s top spy agency we were promised, we get a weird melodrama that feels like two former lovers trying to figure out how they’re going to act when they see each other at the same laundromat.  It’s a soft reset of the series, and we’re all lesser for it.

source: CBS

source: CBS

In addition to all that, Sherlock acts like the worst kind of smug and intrusive interloper when he simply barges into Joan’s ongoing case and solves it for her.  Joan’s consultancy agency is seemingly doing quite well, and the drug cartel case has been her collar for months, but Sherlock in his brilliance solves the whole thing by pointing out the myriad clues that master-detective  Joan Watson has failed to see despite working on the elevator murder case for over eight weeks, despite the fact that he has had no access to the crime scene or case files in that time. Oh, and Joan specifically asks him about a dozen times to get the hell out of her case.   I understand the point that the writers were trying to get across was, “things are better when Sherlock and Joan work as a team,” but what they actually showed was, “Joan is kinda crap at abstract thinking and needs Sherlock to solve things for her,” because in this episode the deduction of almost every major clue and every correct theory comes from the mind of Sherlock Holmes.  The key problem this show has had from the start in terms of defining the dynamic between Shirley and Joan is that Joan, while crucial to her partner’s sobriety and emotional development,  has never strongly been defined as being critical to Holmes’ professional efficacy.  The show often says she is, but the rule of motion pictures has always been, “Show, don’t tell,” and this episode is all “tell.”  So now having Holmes breeze back into Joan’s life and begin doing her job for her is less an argument for their collusion and more for her redundancy.  I like Joan, so I’m definitely in the camp that wants more of her on the show, but the program really needs to find a better way to assert her essentiality that doesn’t end up making her look like an also-ran to Sherlock’s brilliance.

 

Anyway . . . . next week it looks like Joan and Sherlock are back to working together again, with Kitty tagging along like a third wheel.  Hmmm.  I’m not impressed.  And what’s with Sherlock’s new hairstyle?  It looks like he cut it himself whilst wearing mittens.  Joan, of course, looks great as always.  No mention of Mycroft this week, or Ms. Hudson, or Irene.  But we did see Clyde at his new digs, so I guess that’s something.

*sigh*

 

Until next time, friends.

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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