Welcome back, friends, to the penultimate episode before Elementary goes on mid-season break! Ah, mid-season. That wonderful time of year when instead of our favorite shows, we get old reruns, holiday variety specials starring Carrie Underwood, and lots of football games. Yawn. But let us be thankful, in the spirit of the holidays, that we are still getting new adventures with our dear detectives, instead of yet again being forced to watch Charlie Brown whiff the football and grumble fatalistically with morose self-doubt that no child should ever possess. Snoopy, maybe, as canines don’t have a lengthy lifespan, but that dude is as chipper as they come. You would be, too, if you were a dog with your own biplane.
I first want to make a clear declaration to hopefully delineate any confusion the rest of this review may cause; I really liked this episode, I thought it was almost entirely frivolous and silly, and the two of those things have nothing to do with each other. I’ve enjoyed this show in its grimmest moments, and I’ve been put off by its occasional frothy vapidity, so I’m as surprised as anyone to have found this trifling bit of procedural an enjoyable hour of television; nevertheless, I did, so keep that in mind in the context of the proceeding criticisms, because there are several. Most glaringly, this show’s continued insistence upon the facade of Joan and Sherlock’s separate lives — I suggest falseness because at this point it has become a difference that doesn’t make a difference — has become a laughable conceit that must each-and-every-week be excused or handwaved away in order to reestablish the old dynamic between them from seasons past. As much grousing as the two of them have done in the last dozen episodes or so regarding the nature of their association, Joan still manages to find herself working with Sherlock at the Brownstone every week, and Sherlock manages to still horn in on Joan’s personal life and force unwelcome moments of introspection upon her, this week likening her to “a baboon with inflated genitals” as he pointed out his theory on his partner’s repressed nonconformist tendencies w/r/t romance (and everything else). Our boy is nothing if not tactful, n’est ce pas?
So I suppose my greater question regarding all of this convolution to bring us back to the baseline is, “Why?” I mean, I don’t get it, really. Why spend so much time going over the nuances of Holmes & Watson’s fractious friendship if the show doesn’t have a structural concept that acknowledges this? It would be like if, say, in a sitcom where a pair of lovers broke up and went their separate ways, but every week somehow managed to be in the same house doing the same things with each other as they did before (watch No, Really, We’re Just Friends . . . Tuesdays this fall!). This week is probably the most egregious effort so far of pairing the two back together, as Sherlock simply inserts himself (and Kitty, and Ms. Hudson(!!)) into Joan’s case because of sheer boredom; the obvious problems there is A) it feels like a really lazy shoehorn to put Joan and Sherlock back to working together, and B) it makes Sherlock look like a jerk who doesn’t respect his friends’ privacy or their time. He even alludes to “scut work” being beneath him, siccing his protegé and his irregular/housekeeper on menial processes of investigation simply because he doesn’t want to do them. Of course he remains witty and charming and endearingly batty throughout — that’s why we watch the show, is it not? — but it’s hard to reconcile his oblivious pomposity with the assertion that he’s still a nice guy and a decent friend. Maybe it’s like they say, and Sherlock is great, but not very good.
Those criticisms aside, the episode is charming, and perhaps the most enjoyable of the season, much of which is due to that very same pomposity and swagger that Sherlock exudes, which makes me wonder if this show isn’t simply formatted incorrectly. Instead of Sherlock and Joan passively jockeying for stability in their relationship, maybe putting Holmes at the forefront as force of nature for Watson and Kitty to bounce off of would be more suited to the type of dynamic the show seems intent upon this season. Having Joan in the role of caretaker/biographer and Kitty in the role of understudy fits this triumvirate far better than what we’ve seen so far with each episode having to come up with some reason that Sherlock and Joan are working together yet again, so if the writers could just start working that out, that would be great, m’kay? But gosh, this episode! So fun. So funny. A very classically Doyle scenario where Sherlock quickly discerns that the original mystery is being thought of from all the wrong angles; while the FBI hunts fruitlessly for years chasing down “Pumpkin,” a serial abductor they’ve concocted to explain the rash of crime scenes marked by a distinctive nutmeg smell, Holmes points out that the most logical conclusion isn’t that a master kidnapper goes around leaving autumnal spices as his or her calling card, but rather several unrelated murders are connected by a common fixer who does a very thorough job of cleansing murder locations with his proprietary cocktail of solvents — which happens to contain a decent quantity of nutmeg. It’s a very silly sounding crime, and it’s one of the things that makes the episode work with such effervescent pithiness, as this episode borders on farcical folly. It’s actually quite adorable. Not to mention, we got Ms. Hudson back this week! God I love her. We need more of her. Also we got a Mycroft mention! It may be the first time this whole season this program has consciously acknowledged prior events and characters, and was it ever the better for it. Still, the season hasn’t begun to heavily invest in an overarc, other than perhaps the ongoing exploration of Joan’s love life, though that definitely seems more like C-plot material than B-plot. There’s still a lot of show left, obviously, but we’re a third of the way through now, so it needs to pick up the pace.
See you next week!