This Elementary review contains spoilers.
Elementary: Season 4, Episode 24
Could it be? Did Morland Holmes just sacrifice his peaceful life of sitting behind a desk and scheming evil things for an even more evil Bad Guy™ life, all in the name of fatherly love? Was he meant to be the overlord of an international crime syndicate all along? Most importantly, did Sherlock actually experience…serious character development?
“A Difference In Kind” went there, and then some. The CBS drama is never one to pass up a puzzle-piece perfect moment, and the Season 4 finale seemed like the perfect time to patch everything back together, setting things up for an exciting Season 5 in an unorthodox way.
To recap: At the end of Episode 23, “The Invisible Hand,” Sherlock and Joan had stumbled on a bomb in the front room of their brownstone (almost literally); Sherlock being Sherlock, he disarms the device by ripping off the detonator, much to Joan’s dismay (and half-amusement). It’s almost too easy.
Almost. If this were any other show, a lumbering plot device like that — a seemingly haphazard, “we don’t know where the hell to go with this, so scratch it” moment that’s resolved with little finesse — most viewers would lose interest and start doing other things, like tweeting about how much they hate the show.
Not so with Elementary. Much of the credit for that otherwise awkward scene goes to Jonny Lee Miller, who’s portrayal of Sherlock in this episode was perfectly petulant and fluid at the same time. It’s with a childlike look on his face that he turns to Joan after ripping the detonator away in one swift motion, almost as if to say, “Did you see that?”
Bomb disarmed, the two are forced to chase down the one responsible for it. On first glance, it seems like Professor Vikner, Moriarty’s associate, who’s taken over her dealings with a certain murderous je ne sais quoi, may be behind the bomb — but as Sherlock points out, he and Joan are protected by Moriarty’s smothering arm. Vikner and his ilk have been given strict orders not to harm the consulting duo. If Vikner were to try and kill either one of them, there would be a “100 percent chance” that he’d wind up dead by Moriarty’s demand.
A bit more digging reveals that Morland’s head of security, a man by the name of Christopher Grey, was mugged and beaten just down the street on the same night that Joan and Sherlock found the bomb in their brownstone. But sooner or later, he too is ruled out. Morland, standing over the dead body of the would-be bomber inside a renovated chapel nearby, tells them as much. Grey had chased the man down after noticing he was making an attempt on Sherlock and Joan’s lives, and after a struggle, shot and killed him.
The dead man himself is of little importance to the narrative, except to note that he was plucked from the aforementioned Dante Test and had been screened out as a psychopath, willing to commit crimes for monetary reward. It’s a neat little mention that might otherwise go unnoticed — but perhaps the Test will come up again next season. And it’s always good to have a regularly scheduled reminder.
It’s at this point that Sherlock and Joan realize that the person behind the bombing at Morland’s and the disarmed device at the brownstone wasn’t actually out for their throats — they were out for Vikner’s. In charge of it all: an Iranian woman named Zoya Hashemi, head of a worldwide crime network that’s nearly impossible to defeat or take down. Zoya was seemingly out to get Vikner killed for the deaths of Joan and Sherlock so that she and the others could implement an outsider as leader — someone with more “class” and understanding of how business works, she explains. Initially, she says, Morland was the group’s first pick. Explosive. (Pun intended.)
In the end, Morland realizes that he’s a danger to his son and Joan, regardless of whether he backs off Vikner; Someone, somewhere will likely try to kill them for gain. However, even after calling up Vikner and trying to broker a peace deal between the two sides, Morland comes up short: It’s too little too late, and Vikner is pissed. “The only thing that will [solve this stand-off],” he tells Morland, “is your head on a pike.”
And so, in a strangely sentimental moment, Morland seemingly gives himself up to protect his son, firing his entire security staff and leaving to meet Vikner for the last time.
No, of course not. This is Morland Holmes. He doesn’t operate that — and he certainly doesn’t lie down and die for a puny crustacean like Joshua Vikner. With Zoya’s men at his side, the group turns on Vikner and kills him, leaving the body for the NYPD, as well as Joan and Sherlock, to find. Taking up the reins as the group’s new leader, a newer, shinier Morland Holmes is suddenly born. (Don’t feel bad for Joan and Sherlock. They get Morland’s fancy old “safe-house”/penthouse to heal their wounds.)
Elementary’s show-runners could have left it there, with Sherlock struggling to cope with another betrayal or his father’s sudden disappearance, the way he dealt with Mycroft. Certainly, any similarly spongy procedural would have likely done the same.
This is where Robert Doherty proves his worth. While a tragic, gothic ending would have perhaps made for more emotional feedback, Doherty and his smart group of writers gave Sherlock the opportunity to actually learn from his past mistakes and push forward with a less-grumbly attitude. Before leaving his son (for what I can only imagine is a stabbier version of the Bat Cave), Morland meets Sherlock on the roof of the brownstone, telling him that the Holmes boys in general are bad luck and that Sherlock ought to leave the one he loves before she bites the dust, the way that Zabine did years earlier.
Sherlock has been down this poisonous path before and isn’t buying it. It may very well be true that Sherlock could spell Joan’s end somewhere down the line, but she volunteered for this life and has stubbornly stood by him for years, both as a colleague and a bosom friend. To ditch her and run, at this point in Sherlock’s character development, would be three steps backward.
Too many shows rely on their finales to set up predictable, recycled plotlines for the following calendar year. Sherlock greeting Joan, promising to help set up two friends, and agreeing to still live together in the brownstone is progress. You can build on that — and as a writing team, you can explore new avenues from it.
(Side note: A word to the wise though, Doherty. You once promised never to hook up Sherlock and Joan. Fans everywhere are waiting with bated breath to make sure you keep that promise next season, despite all your talk of “love” in this episode.)
The A.V. Club this week called the Season 4 finale “rookie stuff”, artfully deconstructing the episode with glee under the headline “Elementary’s finale goes out with a whimper.” Perhaps, in some respects, they’re right: There were plot holes in this episode, moments that seemed too easy and too cloying. But there’s something to be said for growth and maturity in a show’s characters — sure, sometimes it fizzles out. But when it works, it works damn well.
So it’s okay that Sherlock is smiling. It’s perfectly fine that everything seems to picture perfect, that all the pieces slid into place a little too easily. Life’s like that — and a little false sense of security always tends to heighten the adventure later on. Elementary may be comfortable right now, here at the end of Season 4. But make no mistake — it’s nowhere near settled in.
In fact, with everything seemingly on the up and up, it only mean one thing: Everything in Season 5 is going to come crashing down in a spectacular display of fireworks — and the new and improved Sherlock will be there to catch the bits and pieces, wherever they may fall, with renewed character. Literally.