Say what you will about Sherlock Holmes, but keep those mean-spirited opinions about Joan Watson to yourself. That, at least, was the feeling I had after watching Elementary‘s latest episode, “Evidence of Things Not Seen.” For some time now, Joan (Lucy Liu) has been panned by critics and Sherlockians alike as being uninteresting or unable to hold her own, but with the premiere of season four, however, Joan has soundly proved that she deserves to be there. In episode two, Joan made that much clear when she beat the pants off of Sherlock’s father, Morland Holmes, in a game of wits. (Who’d have thunk?)
The episode starts interestingly enough: A triple murder, a temporary job offer for both Joan and Sherlock (Jonny Lee Miller) from the FBI, and a perplexing offer from Morland (John Noble). Of those three things, it seems to be the elder Holmes’ offer that’s troubling Sherlock the most.
Morland’s sudden appearance at the end of last week’s episode was unsettling in many respects. For one, it was the first time in years that Sherlock had seen his father, let alone held a conversation with him. If Sherlock was walking on eggshells for the majority of their meeting, he certainly had his reasons. Then, Morland dropped the bomb: While the mysterious businessman, who we learned was something of a “consultant” as well, wasn’t pleased that Sherlock had relapsed, he was enthusiastically willing to reinstate both Sherlock and Joan to the NYPD’s services — no strings attached.
Of course, there are always strings attached when it comes to the Holmes boys and their dicey decision-making. We learned as much with Sherlock’s older brother Mycroft in season two, when it was discovered that Sherlock had managed to stay in MI-6’s good graces only because Mycroft had agreed to join the British intelligence agency to act as a mole. This time around, however, the offer came from within the family ranks — and to be frank, it all seemed a little too good to be true.
Naturally, as has become Sherlock’s habit over the past year, the consulting detective won’t make a move without first referring to Joan, his former sober companion and the person he trusts most to judge his problems impartially. And while Joan seems eager to get back to the NYPD squad room, there’s something brewing under the surface that hints that all might not be wine and roses.
Joan has dealt with Sherlock’s father for years. It’s not surprising then that she’s made a mental note every time Morland threatened to show up at the brownstone and subsequently flaked. Sherlock’s behavior — his body language and his heightened tics — are more than enough to tell her that she should expect the worst when she finally does get the chance to shake Morland’s hand, after all. As Sherlock’s partner, she’s adept at reading him and she’ll stick up for him whenever the situation calls for it.
Such is the case in episode two. While Joan and Sherlock are busying themselves with figuring out how the soft-spoken owner of a research facility killed three people in cold blood, deciding whether a Chinese spy had been involved with the gruesome triple homicide in any way, or arguing with a particularly bombastic professor over the moral potency of monarchism vs. capitalism, Joan is quietly chipping away at the new offer presented to the duo by Sherlock’s father — and as it turns out, it’s a good thing she did.
By unearthing a bevy of scandals surrounding the elder Holmes, including (but certainly not limited to) a glaring violation of campaign finance laws and bribery of elected officials, Joan finally has the leverage she needs over Morland to ensure that he doesn’t strangle something extra out of his son after reinstating the two with the NYPD. “Sherlock didn’t say much about you over the years, but he said enough,” Joan quips after meeting with Morland in his New York offices one evening. “I didn’t think I should trust you, so I didn’t.”
“I don’t know what to tell you,” Morland replies. “There are things that money can’t buy, but fewer perhaps than you’d like to believe. … I’ve always been willing to go to lengths to protect Sherlock.”
“So have I,” Joan counters. (A thousand Joan Watson fans just punched the air celebratorily.) “If you’re going to be a part of Sherlock’s life again, I want to make one thing clear: I’m not gonna let you hurt him.”
For standing up to Papa Holmes himself and coming away victorious, I award you five stars, Joan Watson — but may God have mercy on your soul, because Morland certainly isn’t one to back down. Trouble’s brewing in paradise and it’s only a matter of time before that tension starts bubbling to the surface.