This review contains spoilers.
Had Elementary not received the full season order a couple of months ago, M. would presumably have been its final episode, and what a way to go out it would have been. Tense, revealing, poignant and leaping the ‘what happened in London’ arc forward by miles, it’s the best fifty minutes the already-reliable show has offered up so far.
Written by creator Robert Docherty, the episode left us with a name, an enduring image, and a repeated line, all three immensely rewarding viewing. The name? Moriarty. The image? Holmes clearing away the detritus of his former revenge obsession and replacing it with that single name. The repeated line? “I’ll miss this. Not this, but this. Working with you. I think what you do is amazing”.
Last week, I offered some alternatives for what would cause Watson to stay with Holmes – his potential relapse topping the list – but the best and most emotionally satisfying reason didn’t occur to me: that she would simply choose to. The mystery of the man, the draw of his work, and her concern for him proved too strong for her to leave. Watson’s contract with Holmes Sr. not having been renewed, unbeknownst to Sherlock, she chose to stay on pro bono. Attagirl.
Anyone familiar with all that’s right and good in this world and/or the work of Conan Doyle will have known from the get-go that Vinnie Jones is no Moriarty, though for the briefest of moments, I was forced to wonder. Could Elementary really have given us a Bane-like Moriarty with a taste for lager, exsanguination, and “the Arsenal”? Could Jones the Juggernaut be the virtuoso spider at the centre of a vast criminal web? Nah. (Though he must be something of a genius if, during a seventy-two-hour stay in New York, he could find three separate Arsenal matches to watch…)
Jones was of course Col. Sebastian Moran, an ex-army expert sniper in the world of Conan Doyle, and ex-marine throat-slitter in the world of Elementary. All menacing brawn and business, he didn’t do a bad job to begin with (though you’d think the two Brits in the cast would have at least given notes about his Yankee use of “cell-phone” and “apartment”), but pitting his one-note performance against Miller’s intense, layered display in that torture scene did him few favours.
Because Miller, it goes without saying at this point, was fantastic in the episode. Seething underneath but dangerously rational above, running on pure rage, but ultimately, rueful and melancholy, it was a captivating show from him. Doherty putting Watson’s “I’ll miss this” line in his mouth was clever work too, both a smart recall to the TV quote Holmes parroted at their first meeting, and the only way for him to express his admiration of her without breaking character.
M. was also fun for dropping more Conan Doyle references than any Elementary episode so far. From Moran, to the reappearance of the bees, to the reimagined Baker Street irregulars in the form of Teddy and co., not forgetting Irene Adler and the tantalising introduction to Moriarty, from start to finish it was a canon-fest.
Speaking of Moriarty, a thought occurs… (anyone not wishing to get into speculation territory avert your eyes now). In this parallel universe, could Holmes Sr be Moriarty? It would be a bold move, granted, but considering the evidence at hand, we know that Sherlock’s father is extremely wealthy, well-connected, shadowy, manipulative, and fond of game-playing as we saw from his teasing non-arrival in Flight Risk. It follows doesn’t it, that the DNA whence Sherlock Holmes sprang would be able to match his mental acuity? Might Holmes Sr have been responsible for the death of Irene Adler (if she is indeed dead), and subsequently, his son’s devastation and self-destruction? It would be a meaty twist if so.
Conjecture aside, let’s end with a doff of the cap to Elementary’s makers. If M. was how we’d had to say goodbye to Jonny Lee Miller’s Holmes, it would have been a fittingly strong, if frustrating end. Over the course of twelve episodes, the show has shaken off pre-broadcast criticism to attract a steady 10 million-plus US audience and evolve into exactly what CBS promised us: a new take on the Holmes and Watson characters that quickly disposed of tedious ‘will they won’t they?’ clichés to present an easy to invest-in friendship, brought to life by smart writing and an engaging cast. Long may it continue.
Read Frances’ review of the previous episode, Dirty Laundry, here.
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