Elementary 3×08, ‘End of Watch’: Destruction from distraction | Gotta Watch It!

Elementary 3×08, ‘End of Watch’: Destruction from distraction

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This is last episode of the year for the Elementary team, so it’s nice that they chose their best one of the season to go out on.  The Brownstone Detectives (feat. J-Watz) aid the NYPD in very personal case when there appears to be a serial cop-killer running loose on the streets of Gotham.  Muddying the waters is the evidence that points at the culprit possibly being one of Gregson’s own men as a massive internal affairs investigation gears up to hunt out the rat in their own ranks.  Meanwhile, Sherlock is almost sidelined by the constant distraction of the mysterious website that has suddenly popped up devoted to his wisdom and insight regarding addiction — the problem there being that he only spoke those words in the anonymity of therapy meetings.  Who’s killing the police?  Why is their armory full of toy guns?  Will Sherlock’s distracted psyche jeopardize his deductive skills?  If you watched the episode, you know the answers already!  So c’mon, read the rest.  I promise I won’t bother you again for a whole year.

source: CBS

source: CBS

I’m a little saddened that in what is so far my favorite episode of this season very little attention is paid to Joan or Kitty; sure they have their jobs to do in the margins, collecting clues and doing the legwork of investigation, but nothing in this episode is about them in the narrative sense.  This is not a criticism, mind you, as I think the season has devoted quite a bit of time this season to these ladies, but it does stand to contrast how much more magnetic a presence in this show Sherlock is.  He’s simply a terribly interesting character, and is the only character here capable of driving the momentum on his own.  This week we’re back in a setting we haven’t seen in some time, Sherlock’s sobriety group meetings, and it’s great to finally have the character-driven half of the episode derived from the life of the character.  One of this program’s biggest flaws, I feel, is that it shortchanges Joan in this department, as so many of her struggles are reactionary and external; she can’t find love, or she has family issues, or she has traumatic professional issues that she has to put behind her.  It feels sometimes like Joan is written as this innocent whose life is only remarkable for the way her banal tranquility has be imposed upon by outside forces, where as Sherlock is almost always beset by internal conflict, such as his love for Irene, or his ire at his father and brother, or the way he frets about failing to meet his own standards of excellence.  Or, as this in week, his relationship with drug addiction.

source: CBS

source: CBS

The uniting theme for this hour of television is the complexities of anonymity.  Our initial crime victim, a young officer named Alec Flynn, lived a life of duality to maintain the facade of his moral authority as a police officer, while he used this obfuscation to cover up the fact that he was a drug addict and had dealings with one of the biggest criminal dealers in the city.  Up until the end this false front nearly worked, with Flynn being scheduled for the highest funerary honors and uniformed parade until Sherlock uncovered the truth.  That was Flynn’s fight for anonymity; he was a bad person, a bad husband, and someone whose addiction allowed him to choose time and time again to put his brothers and sisters in blue in mortal danger.  An addict was who he was, but his continued success as an addict depended on the maintenance of his facade of legitimacy.  Sherlock’s struggle this week mirrored Flynn’s in the way that Sherlock has come to feel that his continued success as a detective is dependent upon the lack of restraint afforded him by group therapy; the relationship is inverse however, as Sherlock has come to rely on the artifice of his cultured group identity and the emotional freedom that the anonymity allows.  However, when that assumption of privacy is shattered, our boy has to square the dilemma of how his moral imperative to help other addicts through outreach cannot, in this case, coexist with his own sobriety, as this is only maintained through the cathartic outward expression provided to him by the group’s clandestine nature.  If Sherlock can’t openly talk about being an addict without being burdened by the thought of posterity, therapy will cease to be helpful, and that’s the first step down a very dark path for him — and he knows it.

source: CBS

source: CBS

The timing of this week’s episode was interesting, as it largely dealt with the fraternity and self-protective culture of police departments, a topic that is very much at its apex these days in the light of the Ferguson and Long Island protests, and I would be lying if I said that seeing so much knee-jerking self-aggrandizing didn’t leave me a little uneasy, as for much of the time Alec Flynn’s murder was being investigated the discussion of whether or not he was somehow culpable wasn’t broached until after it couldn’t be denied.  It feels like there’s an underlying default in the mainstream that still treats the police as if they are somehow inherently above questions of morality and judgment until a mountain of evidence argues to the contrary, and I found it darkly subversive that the big bad of this episode had counted on the police to arrange a gaudy display of unity and pageantry in commemorating this young cop who was actually a thief and an addict who ripped off the his own department for drug money time and time again — and while it didn’t work the first time, it did after the second murder.  So while the episode chose to focus on Sherlock’s self-flagellation over not figuring out the armory heist sooner, I found it just as fascinating to see the argument that the police system was just as responsible for that outcome as anyone.

 

 

Have a Merry Christmas, a Happy Chanukka, a fantastic Kwanzaa, and a brilliant Festivus!

 

See you in the comments, and in the New Year!

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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