Elementary 3×14, ‘The Female of the Species’: A horse of a different taxonomy

Elementary-season-3-episode-14-holmes

Elementary’s got lady problems this week, y’all.  Dead boyfriends, angry dads, existential crises, jailhouse femmes fatale, pregnant zebras . . . the whole shebang.  I mean, even the word “shebang” is rife with female allusion!  Joan takes a break in the wake of Andrew’s shocking and untimely demise, using the time to reflect on what’s best for her personal and professional life in the aftermath; Sherlock respectfully gives Joan her space and enlists an off-duty Marcus Bell to help him with the mysterious case of the missing zebras (or zeb-rahs, if you’re of the anglophonic persuasion); Several past acquaintances makes their presence felt, excitingly; and Joan makes yet another big decision.  Because that’s what Joan does.  She’s big on big decisions.  And announcements.  Girl loves her some dramatic announcements.  Oh, by the way, this is a really great episode.  So check it out.

source: CBS

source: CBS

The femme-centric throughline comes a bit on the nose in this episode, right down to the title, but I really can’t overemphasize how good this episode is, and much of that I credit to forcing the show outside of its box a little.  Sure, the old bones are there; we have Sherlock investigating a crime with the NYPD and a dead body turns up and yes of course the villain is the evil white yuppie.  The differences in protocol, however, is what really sells this episode for me.  On the superficial level Sherlock and Marcus are simply investigating a crime, but it’s the subtext of the history and weight of the various relationships that motivates the episode.  As much as I love the continuity of plot points driving the narrative (and that also happens here in surprising and satisfying ways), it’s the continuity of character and their dynamics with each other that really makes this show stand out from your bog-standard crime procedural, especially when done as well as it was this week.  The banter between Holmes and Bell isn’t just investigatory jargon here, it builds on the history between these two (not all of it pretty) and the beats organically derive from those past exchanges.  Marcus isn’t quite 100% over Sherlock getting him shot, and Sherlock obviously still sees an obligation owed to the young detective for the very same.  One of the minor running threads in this show since very early on was Holmes’ fondness of Detective Bell’s drive and intelligence, periodically trying to bring him into the fold of the same matriculation he gave unto Kitty and Joan.  Here Holmes gets his wish in whole, but disappointingly discerns that while young Marcus is indeed a viable candidate for a career in consultancy, he will seemingly always be a police officer first.  Still, their dynamic together was a refreshing change, and I hope that we’re not yet done seeing their teaming up; as Sherlock remarks in their final exchange, Marcus is a man of hidden depths.  It would be wonderful to keep digging.

source: CBS

source: CBS

Joan, meanwhile, is putting together the thesis statement that the last year or so has been building up to, and I think we’ll see her realization at episode’s end as a watershed moment for the character.  It’s the long-coming acknowledgement of her rejection of a “normal” life, an admission that she never really wanted the fairy tale, and a vow to no longer seek it.  She’s finally embracing her atypical desires instead of repressing them, and at last she may be free to be who she really is.  Again, this show has started to become very deft at this type of sly subversiveness, and deeply exploring the middle-age existential crisis of “who am I really?” is something that rarely happens on mainstream television, and certainly not in the procedural format.  It’s not just about the cases and the work, it’s about why these people are attracted to them, what makes them want to solve them, and how they forge their lives going forward.  For Sherlock and Joan now, it’s not about finding ways to live outside of their profession, it’s about incorporating everything they are into a single value of existence.  They are Detectives, not people who work as detectives.  It’s just a shame that such a traumatic event such as Andrew’s murder had to be catalyst, and I really hope that in her redoubled vigor for the job Joan doesn’t cocoon herself to protect others from the dangers inherent in being a successful solver of heinous crimes.

source: CBS

source: CBS

And let’s talk about Andrew’s death, shall we?  What a great bit of continuity mining this episode wrought!  It turns out his life was taken mistakenly in an attempt on Joan’s by the mob heiress played by Gina Gershon in this season’s premier, the high-class drug runner with all kinds of connections, sent to prison indefinitely by Watson’s investigation.  That didn’t sit well with Doña Gershon, who put a hit out on her using an assassin skilled in poisons, and unfortunately poor Andrew drank from the wrong cup of coffee.  While Andrew’s father let Joan off the hook for the responsibility for his son’s death, he placed a load of guilt upon her for not having the foresight to predict such an inevitability, and this more than anything was likely the catalyst turning Joan away from aspirations of normalcy.  You can only imagine my impossible delight when that letter arrived in the final scenes, and Natalie Dormer’s voice read over the shot of our mafiosa matriarch, lying dead on the floor of her cell from a sudden radical tracheotomy. *SWOON*

 

Okay, so dang, I hope this is building somewhere!  This show is gearing up like crazy lately, and I can only hope this crescendos in something extraordinary.  I find myself doing something I haven’t in a while with this show: anxiously awaiting the next episode.

Ugh!  Okay.  See you next time!  Find me in the comments or on Tumblr!

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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