This Elementary review contains spoilers.
Elementary: Season 4, Episode 14
Everything’s a little more exciting whenever Morland Holmes comes around — and on this week’s episode of Elementary, things got especially tricky. As Sherlock and Joan continue to try and track down those responsible for an attempt on Morland’s life years ago, the relationship between the elder Holmes and his son only grows more tenuous. And after this week, that connection could either fall apart completely or grow into something much more powerful than either of them imagined.
Of course, business is business. After making their way to Quebec to stealthily retrieve files on Morland’s past lover, Sabine — in the hopes that it might shed light on any potential suspects involved in the years-old hit job that had targeted Morland — Sherlock and Joan end up back in Manhattan, hands full with a case involving enough twists and turns to keep even the most proficient detective running in circles.
This week’s case, which opens with three Chinese gangsters found gunned down in an arcade, starts off simply enough, as police initially suspect rival Triad gang members of being behind the shooting. However, the open-shut case quickly unravels from there, with the eventual killer, mortician Sven Eklund (who also happens to have terminal cancer and was seeking revenge on the men who ran his operation into the ground, donning a lifelike mask to conceal his identity), eagerly ‘fessing up and taking credit for the shootings.
There’s some serious side-drama involving a retirement community and scandalous overdoses, but unless you’re glued to the screen, it’s largely a garnish on an already complicated dish. For all intents and purposes, episode 14’s baffling main arc ends up to be more of a supporting character than anything else.
The real meat of the episode comes in its subplot. With Joan and Sherlock spending much of the episode running around the streets of New York in search of an answer to their labyrinth of a case, it’s surprising that the writers had much time to do anything else, let alone delve into a tragic backstory about Sherlock’s mother — and yet somehow, they found a way to do so with ease.
When it’s revealed early on that Morland holds himself responsible for ex-lover Sabine’s death (she had been with Morland at the time of the attempt on his life and was killed in the crossfire), Sherlock tersely responds that it’s about time he shouldered the blame for a loved one’s death, indirectly referring to his own mother, at which point, Morland visibly bristles.
As short while later, while sitting across the table from Joan, Sherlock begins to disassemble the sad story of May Holmes, his father’s first wife and the mother to both Mycroft and Sherlock. Everything “pure” about his own character, Sherlock admits, came from his mother, who Sherlock recalls as a loving woman. When Morland divorced May and sent her from the family home, Sherlock recounts, May was left to live in a tiny flat in the East End, where she was killed in a fire after the building’s heating system failed.
“You hold him responsible [for her death] don’t you,” Joan replies, breaking the brief silence that follows Sherlock’s admission. “I do,” Sherlock replies, still obviously affected by the account.
However, when it’s later revealed that Morland had divorced May after she relapsed (an addict herself, with Morland wryly remarking that the trend seems to run in the family), and that he had tried for years to keep her clean, checking her into rehab at one point, the atmosphere shifts. Angry, Sherlock begins to walk out.
“I am my mother’s son,” he responds, incorrectly inferring from the revelation that Morland somehow blames May for the relationship’s failing. When Morland clarifies that he never told the boys about May’s addiction out of respect for their mother’s wishes, and that her eventual post-divorce life had weighed on him for years, the moment is left suspended in mid-air, perhaps to be fully resolved in next week’s episode.
Sherlock’s relationship with his father has always been a difficult, albeit fascinating one to watch. It’s still difficult to tell whether Sherlock is more a carbon copy of his father or whether his persona was crafted solely out of spite for Morland. Perhaps it’s a little bit of both. After all, at the end of “Who Is That Masked Man,” Sherlock certainly makes it clear that he’s no fan of the way Morland does business — both professionally and in his personal life.
An refreshing accessory in this week’s subplot — Joan’s in-depth conversation with Sherlock — may prove to be just as interesting down the road. After Sherlock initially mentions his mother in conversation, Joan notes that it’s the first time Sherlock has bothered to bring up May’s name or history at all — a surprising and encouraging moment between the close partners.
Just when fans thought Sherlock couldn’t open up to Joan any more, the showrunners threw in a surprise bit of character development to thank them for their dedication — and it paid off. The continually blossoming dynamic between Joan and Sherlock has always proven to be a crowd-pleaser, and the folks behind Elementary have sensed as much.
For playing to their strengths in an episode that would have otherwise been unnecessarily elaborate and utterly disinteresting, the Elementary crew earns themselves a passing grade going into the season’s pivotal final episodes.