Elementary: All In and Art Imitates Life Review

Elementary’s double header paid off this week, giving fans a well-deserved and in-depth look at Joan’s backstory.

This Elementary review contains spoilers.

Elementary: Season 4, Episodes 19 and 20

Putting two episodes of Elementary back to back in a late-hour slot was a risky move — thankfully, it paid off. (For the most part.) In Sunday’s marathon-esque double feature this week, Season 4, Episodes 19 and 20, “All In” and “Art Imitates Life”, Sherlock’s unique skill-set took a back seat to some long-awaited character development for Joan, who finally came face to face with her half-sister, Lin Yeun.

Elementary Episode 19, “All In” centers on what initially appears to be a robbery gone wrong, but is eventually discovered to be a complex, albeit clumsy spy plot. When a client gets caught up in the armed robbery of an illegal poker game (which she organized) and subsequently finds herself in the midst of a flurry of accusations, Sherlock and Joan must work to figure out who killed the game’s lookout and why. Bullets fly and threats are made, and in the end it turns out that the robbery was simply a ploy by a foreign spy ring to gain access to one of the poker player’s massive server room — one that holds mammoth amounts of important, confidential data. The NYPD makes the right arrest and the NSA sweeps in tidily to stow the culprit in one of its secret interrogation caves (which, I assume, is where all spies are hidden away).

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“All In” is, for the most part, a bit of a snooze — it’s real purpose, of course, is to serve as a stage for an important familial introduction, Joan’s half-sister Lin (the woman who organized the illegal poker game). A successful real-estate agent, Lin is rightfully curious about her half-sister’s decision to leave an established surgical career for not-so-green pastures, working alongside Sherlock in a dingy brownstone. That curiosity comes to a screeching halt when Lin realizes Joan gives as good as she gets and has figured out their connection. The burgeoning relationship becomes strained when Joan contacts Lin’s mother to find out more about her biological father (it’s important to note that Joan was adopted as a child and never knew him).

After a break in storytelling, the sisters’ storyline picks up in Episode 20, “Art Imitates Life”: While Sherlock, Joan, and their NYPD cohorts Marcus and Captain Gregson scuttle around town trying to uncover the real killers behind two murders that had been pinned on at least one innocent suspect, Joan and Lin engage in a stand-off of sorts, with the latter keeping Joan at arm’s length. “To you [our father] was a mystery,” Lin explains, but to Lin, their father was simply an imperfect man who gave her piggy-back rides and raised her to be the woman she is today.

One Instagram art gallery, two murderous lovers, and a solved case later, sisters Lin and Joan finally come to an agreement, with Joan having a much-needed chat with her biological father’s wife. In order to preserve the fragile, budding sisterly bond they share, Joan tells Lin that she won’t contact the family again until Lin is ready to share tea with them both.

“All In” and “Art Imitates Life” weren’t completely stale, with Sherlock’s droll banter and darkly humorous insight keeping things light (in one particular instance, Sherlock notes to Joan that she’s eating soup out of Clyde the tortoise’s bathing bowl, about which Joan seems visibly disgusted). Captain Gregson and Marcus proved that they were able to figure things out on their own without Sherlock’s help, which benefitted everyone, including viewers at home since it moved the plot along in a more efficient and believable way (as opposed to laying the responsibility for solving the case at Sherlock’s feet, rather than those of a bumbling police force).

Perhaps this week’s crucial selling point was Lin and Joan’s relationship; It’s been weeks since Joan has had a real hand in any major plot line or side story, except to act as a shrewd buffer between Sherlock and his family. “All In” and “Art Imitates Life” may have just helped set up a vital subplot that could (and likely will) come in handy again down the line — more importantly, it’s fleshed out Joan’s backstory that much more, which, for a minority female lead, can’t happen often enough. 

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4 out of 5