This week’s Elementary is a lovely romp through the delicate world of botany and home gardening. It also features a murderous drug cartel, because what’s a day in the garden without a little homicide? Junior Detective Kitty returns to the forefront after a few weeks on the bench as Sherlock and Joan hunt down clues to solve the mystery of who killed the dude with the really, really primo weed (here’s something I bet you never saw coming: it’s the rich white people again). As well, Kitty gets her own mini-mystery that ties directly into her own haunted past, and comes to a resolution that I’m sure many will find controversial. Is New York about to blow up into a drug war? Will Sherlock and Joan solve the crime before more people wind up dead? Will Captain Gregson ever try to do even the smallest bit of police work himself before calling in his consultants? The answer to all of these lie within! (hint: the answer to all three is “no”)
I’ve had my complaints and concerns as this season has developed, as I’m sure you can see, but lately I find myself impressed with this season’s commitment to examining Sherlock’s personal struggles with both sobriety and navigating the ever-evolving relationship he has with Joan, and this episode follows suit satisfyingly; Sherlock is finally going back to meetings, and he and Joan both find time for some real talk about how their lives are developing. It’s an interesting pairing with the A-plot and C-plot this week, as the story about the murders, Sherlock and Joan, and Kitty’s own mystery all focus upon the toll taken upon those left in a wake of emotional destruction. It’s easy to see individual events as self-contained acts; this person killed another for this reason, this person stole something for this reason, so on and so on. Crime procedural programs generally work this way, with the details all centering on the the hard data and everyone dusting their hands when the culprit is caught. Elementary this weeks reminds us that no act occurs in a vacuum, and every event is the thrown pebble that starts the ripple, repercussions echoing out to places and in ways that aren’t always obvious in the heat of the moment. While I would certainly prefer that this program took a more continuity-heavy approach to its nature, I applaud how much carry-over this show does employ routinely to develop its characters organically, which allows them to be proactive and involved in their own characterization and not simply reactive to externalities. For a broadcast program (especially one on CBS), this is a breath of fresh air.
While the overt details of the A-plot may seem rote, the impetus behind them is the wrath of emotional pain. Our victim, a weed-growing wunderkind, was emotionally abusive to his lovers, and that’s all that really matters — not the drug cartels he was involved with, not the millions of dollars he made, not his future as the world’s foremost creator of high-end custom cannabis in the high stakes world of corporate GMO engineering. His undoing was his inability to see people as anything other than objects, and this repeated offense eventually cost him his life. The collateral damage of his choices were dire; not only did he lose his own life and fortune, but two other innocent people died as a result of his death in a mistaken retaliation, his girlfriend was left without a place to live, the world is now without a very important scientist who could clone extinct botanical life, plus, now that he’s gone all his plants are gonna die. This is the chain reaction of what is essentially the result of one man’s selfishness and objectification of those around him, and these are the very waters that Sherlock, in his self-acknowledged habit of separating the usefulness of his cohorts from any emotional connection he may have to them, must navigate to give fully and fairly to his friendship and partnership with Joan. Both Holmes and Watson drop a bomb on one another this week that brings omens of change to their already tenuous dynamic — Joan announcing that she’s folding her own agency to take a investigator job in the private sector, and Sherlock deciding (rather prematurely I feel) that Kitty is ready for full partnership — though I’m not sure how much functionally different we’ll actually find all this. After all, Joan will still be working with Sherlock on cases, and Kitty will still be there, so it could be little more than semantic changes, but semantics can be important. Semantics is what distinguishes an object from an heirloom, and an acquaintance from a dear friend.
While Shirley and Joan track down the cannabis killer, Kitty takes on a case for a fellow member in her sexual assault survivor group involving a runaway teen. Again, the throughline here is about the wake of emotional devastation, but it feels much more complicated when it involves family dynamics and sexual abuse. Kitty’s missing teen was the product of her mother being raped and only recently found out, having had her mother tell her her whole life that her father was actually a kind man who was forced by circumstance to leave the family. The truth, understandably, wrecked this girl’s world, and since finding that truth she has been in a tailspin of dangerous behaviors such as substance abuse and running away for long periods of time. The controversy I expect is the backlash to Kitty’s response to the teen’s plan to publicly out her father as a rapist; her mother accepted hush money over the issue years ago, and doesn’t want the truth to go public, forcing the girl into the position of choosing her interpretation of justice (exposing her father’s crime for legal prosecution) or her mother’s (letting the tragedy be left in the past and allowing them both to move on with their lives). There isn’t an ideal solution here, as both courses of action will still leave deep scars, though there’s no way some people aren’t going to take issue with Kitty (as a survivor herself) siding with the mother’s decision here. It’s a horribly complicated problem with no clear solution.
Next week: Kitty looks to take the forefront in a very personal episode, and I’m really looking forward to it. I hope they can pull it off! Until next time, detectives!