Elementary: The Games Underfoot Review

Alfredo has returned and he’s got Sherlock’s back, as usual… but who’s really helping whom this time around?

This Elementary review contains spoilers.

Elementary: Season 4, Episode 5

Buried video games, environmental scandal, and a killer on the loose — all these things coalesce to form one particularly strange story arc in this week’s episode of Elementary. In season four, episode five, “The Games Underfoot,” Sherlock, Joan, and Marcus are, at times, literally up to their elbows in garbage, attempting to track down the killer of one Eddie Ross, an archaeologist who thought he had found the key to making millions prior to his untimely death: a stash of old video games, left at a city landfill in the early ‘80s that could be worth thousands of dollars a piece. Of course, this is Elementary, and nothing’s ever that simple.

Questions abound as the case progresses. Where exactly are these alleged video games? If someone has them, who are they and did they kill Eddie for the money?  

The case hinges on the supposed killer’s unique motive. Criss-crossing back and forth between their most viable suspects — one of which is revealed later, when it’s discovered that the particular landfill in which Eddie had been digging was also the site of an unfortunate and illegal chemical dump years earlier — the trio are forced into a corner when it turns out that their prime suspect had an alibi the night of Eddie’s murder. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to kill someone without actually, well, killing them, and the right people are finally caught and brought to justice. Case closed.

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Or so one would think. Interspersed throughout “The Games Underfoot” are a slate of scenes between Sherlock and his previous AA sponsor, Alfredo (Ato Essandoh), who has recently resurfaced after spending some time away to recover from being, you know, abducted at the end of season three. Sherlock hasn’t been at his usual AA meetings lately, Alfredo tells Joan. He’s worried, he insists.

Of course, as Sherlock points out later, there’s no reason Alfredo would know that unless he, himself, had been in attendance at every single AA meeting in the tri-state area over the previous week (that’s an exaggeration, but probably not by much). By the end of episode five, Alfredo admits to Sherlock that he’s been to at least eight meetings that week… and counting. He’s been having problems, but it’s not Sherlock’s burden to bear, Alfredo laments.

Except it sort of is. Sherlock has spent the last few years helping others in an official capacity, while struggling to remain sober on his own, relying instead on others to help him cope. Since the start of season four, however, audiences have seen a much different Sherlock. Joan is largely in control of her career and Marcus has bounced back from his nearly career-ending injury in season two to become the department’s most reliable detective (or so we’re led to believe through the writers’ chosen narrative and Marcus’ buddy-buddy relationship with Captain Gregson). For all intents and purposes, Sherlock has become simply part of a team, rather than the only man in the room smart enough to solve particularly frustrating cases.

So where does that leave his personal life? Sherlock may have relapsed at the end of season three, but it’s quickly understood that he’s not planning on revisiting that failure any time soon, delving headfirst into AA meetings and keeping himself occupied to avoid his favorite substance’s siren song. Sherlock may have only just earned his 30-days sober token (for the second time, that is), but he’s become something of a puritan in maintaining that progress. Alfredo, on the other hand — the man who spent months coaching Sherlock through grittier days — is not looking nearly as polished. It’s now Sherlock’s turn (perhaps even his responsibility) to take the wheel and steer his former sponsor through treacherous waters.

This week’s episode of Elementary may not have been as explosive or intriguing as its previous season four compatriots, but it’s given us all plenty to chew on until next week’s year-end cliff-hanger. Does this sudden role reversal mean that Sherlock is on some new, spiritually enlightened path? Probably not. But don’t dismiss the consulting detective’s newfound capabilities just yet.

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3 out of 5