This Elementary review contains spoilers.
Elementary Season 4, Episode 21
Even when Elementary is bad, it’s good. But when it’s good? It’s phenomenally good. Season 4, Episode 21, “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing”, was certainly the latter. Full of strange twists and murderous intent, this week’s Elementary took viewers on a morbid Sherlockian drama that even dedicated canon fans could feel good about.
“Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing”s main story arc drops viewers into one quagmire of a murder case: Two men dead on a side street, apparently shot by one another in a carjacking gone wrong. Then the writers throw in the wild card: A third party murderer who walked onto what turns out to be a staged crime scene and opened fire, seemingly out of malice for both men.
One of the deceased, Jared, is a land developer who co-owns a business with his friend, Davis. The second man, Butch, is a war vet with a few petty misdemeanors to his name. Davis soon becomes a person of interest, after Joan and Sherlock discover that he and Jared’s business had been failing, but that Davis had continued to refuse the sale of one of their properties up north — a parcel of land near Lake Placid that Davis describes as useless. After investigation (and a long trudge through the mud on Joan’s part) Sherlock figures out that the property contains a rare species of ginseng plant that, in total, could fetch Davis around $20 million — and it turns out that Davis was planning on taking it all for himself, cutting Jared out of the picture.
Of course, Davis didn’t take out a hit on Jared in order to eliminate him from the picture. That would be too easy.
The killer isn’t Butch’s girlfriend Roxanne either, despite the fact that Sherlock, Marcus, and Joan believe Roxanne had found out Butch was planning on leaving her for a new life. Nope — it turns out that it was Jared who was planning on faking his own death to leave his wife and move to Tahiti (arguably the worst way to break up with someone). When Jared’s wife finds out about his plan to drop everything and run, she confronts him at the fake murder scene, shoots both men, then attempts to make it look like a carjacking gone wrong, accidentally leaving behind the diamond from her wedding ring in the process. Case closed.
At least one of the cases. Did I mention there was another?
The week’s subplot follows up on Joan’s attempt to outmaneuver the perpetually shifty Morland Holmes by planting a mole in his ranks, in order to find out about his business transactions. Emile, one of Morlands associates, hands Joan paperwork containing information about wire transfers to Russian parties, all of which eventually leads to a recently escaped convict named Krasnov, the mercenary that killed Morland’s former flame, Sabine, during an attempt on the former’s life. Midway through this week’s episode, Joan scores an unexpected visit from the elder Holmes himself, who claims that he was searching the brownstone while she was out to dig up an item from storage (which Joan wisely questions later). It’s a bit of a maze from there, but the gist of it is that Emile, who had previously feared being found out by Morland himself, winds up dead in a quadruple homicide (which is most definitely not a quadruple homicide, but more of an assassination with a lot of careless collateral damage).
How all of this week’s subplot fits together will be figured out in next week’s episode — but the fact that “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing” was twisted wasn’t what made it so good. This week, the perfection was in the minutiae.
Moments like Sherlock’s deduction series, where the consultant feverishly talks himself and Joan through regional mineral deposits and dragonfly wings to figure out where Davis had gone on the day of Jared and Butch’s murder; Joan’s exasperation with Emile’s cloak and dagger document exchange (classic Watson); Morland’s unique brand of evil — quietly and terrifyingly threatening in all the things he refuses to say; All of these things came together in one fantastically crafted episode. Then the writers, producers, and showrunners packaged it all up nicely, stamped it with a “Do not open ‘til Christmas” label, and let the holidays arrive a bit early.
There’s something so satisfying about an episode that could have so easily become a self-congratulatory, boring romp in the hay for a team that’s seen success when it arguably shouldn’t have, but instead turned into one chock full of classic throwbacks and colloquialisms that Sherlock Holmes fans everywhere could appreciate. For a filler episode, “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing” certainly earned its stripes.