In a very curiously-scheduled episode of Elementary (seriously CBS, the night of Thanksgiving? When everyone else is coming down from the meat sweats and watching football in a tryptophan-enduced malaise? A thousand lashes with a soggy green bean upon you), everyone’s favorite New York-based British detective works a case involving the hand and (eventually) the body of a murdered cancer survivor/hassidic Jew/post office proprietor/black market diamond smuggler. What can I say? The guy wore a lot of hats! Probably one those tall fuzzy ones that a lot of orthodox fellas wear. And turkey is kosher, so I guess that’s why we’re getting this episode on Turkey Day. See? It all makes sense.
Let’s start right with the elephant in the brownstone: Joan ain’t here, man. If you’ll remember from last week, Joan and Andrew(?) are vacationing in Copenhagen, because as the saying goes, Copenhagen is for Lovers. And Amsterdam is for Stoners. Reykjavik is for Loners, completing the portmanteau. Meaning, this week is all Kitty, all the time. And you know what? It kinda works. I know, right? I’m just as surprised as everyone else. Here’s the thing, though, because the whole episode I kept getting this very Doctor Who vibe, but hear me out: eccentric British guy with singular fashion style takes on a young protegé/companion to share in his adventures and learn about his world? We’re a fez and a fish finger away from a real-life Inspector Spacetime. The more interesting thing I found, however, is that the absence of Joan (and the weird fractiousness between her and Sherlock this season) allows for the burgeoning dynamic between mentor and mentee to foster and be explored in the forefront of the show. Sherlock and Kitty were interesting and engaging to watch this episode, and I would ascribe that to a clear establishment of the dynamic between the two where the leverage between them shifts not just on what is expected of a teacher/student relationship, but what distinguishes themselves as individuals in that relationship. These characters play to both the overt and the subtextual, and Kitty not being a bright-eyed apple polisher forces Sherlock to reckon with providing tutelage to someone who has lived a lot of life already.
I love Joan. She’s probably my favorite character on this program. However, the way this show has developed her in this season and the last, unfortunately, has nearly rendered her moot. Did you see on the episode tonight where the medical exposition was handled by the doctors working at the morgue? And where Sherlock bounced ideas off of Kitty, putting her through thought exercises and later having her turn that around on him? Joan and Sherlock are having some serious dynamic issues of necessitation right now and the inclusion of Kitty only exacerbates them, while also continuing to call into question what point having both women on this show serves; Joan’s not getting advice from Sherlock anymore, she’s not his sober companion either, and she’s working independently and outside of the brownstone. Theoretically, this shouldn’t pose a problem, as the canonical Dr. John Watson was never written as Holmes’ understudy, but rather his aiding friend and medical expert, and this show could have easily gone this route this season. Kitty being here, though, has done little but provide a hurdle to streamlined storytelling, and now having seen her in an episode without her constantly worrying about the specter of Joan’s presence (though it’s still felt here in very tangible ways), I’m actually kinda warming up to the girl. She and Sherlock have a lot of interpersonal connection in ways that he never did with Joan (they’re both victims of abuse and have social issues that require therapy), but more than that she gives Sherlock a purpose beyond just being good at his job. I’m not entirely confident I can say Joan provides that, leading me to wonder, “What purpose is Joan filling on this show?” And that sucks, because, as I said: I love Joan.
So not only is Kitty already pulling double duty this week as Sherlock’s primary in-home foil and his assistant on the crime scenes, she carries this week’s C-plot (yeah, we get a C-plot! That’s what can happen when your show isn’t stuffed with characters) involving Captain Gregson and his (heretofore unheard of) daughter who also to be a junior police officer. Gregson Jr. is in a very topical bit of trouble when it comes to light that her patrol partner is also her bedtime partner, and the guy likes to hit women. Of course, Gregson addresses the problem with the stereotypical response an blue-collar Irish dad from New York is mandated by conscience to serve: a severe beating of said douchebag boyfriend. The problem this creates, though, is now Gregson has assaulted a subordinate officer in view of others in the department, and this is the crux of the moral dilemma the captain now faces: go public with the young officer’s behavior and get him fired and thrown in jail, or do as his daughter asks and let her handle it on her own in private, with the caveat that option #2 requires Gregson to be civil the the crapsack and shake his hand in public. Kitty, being the victim of physical abuse herself, enlightened the captain with something most men don’t even think about women having to deal with: the cost of perception. If Gregson’s daughter presses charges she fears that she’ll forever be branded as a victim by her peers, but handling the matter civily outside the law seems like a failure of both personal justice and professional duty. As the captain reminds his child, “I put guys like him away all the time.” Kitty’s perspective, however, allows for Gregson to understand that sometimes the right thing to do is to respect the autonomous decisions of those you love, even if it’s not what you’d want for them. The perspective Kitty brings is nothing less than telling Gregson, “Hey, sometimes it’s not about you.” As we all prepare ourselves for the coming weeks that promise awkward interactions with less-than-progressive family members, I think that’s as good a lesson as any to impress upon others.
I hope you had a delicious and gastronomically-wondrous Thanksgiving. When you finally wake up, chat me up in the comments. Until next time, friends!