This Elementary review contains spoilers.
Elementary: Season 4, Episode 9
If nothing else, “Murder Ex Machina” wove one seriously twisted web. Between an international hit job gone wrong and the reappearance of Sherlock’s father, Morland Holmes, it seemed that the consulting detective couldn’t bat away the controversies fast enough. With every detail seemingly crucial to the episode’s outcome, viewers nearly needed a map to maneuver through the minefields alongside him.
The episode opened casually enough, with Joan stumbling upon tortoise Clyde in the refrigerator (alive, of course, but in hibernation). Clyde’s traditional winter environment needed to be more closely controlled, Sherlock explained, pointing to the obviously unsanitary fridge situation. This was the best way to do it. Three hundred eye-rolls and a few sporadic interludes later, the consulting partners’ banter finally got down to business. The ominous Morland had paid Joan a visit and she and the elder Holmes would be having dinner together that week. There was nothing for it, no matter how much Sherlock protested.
Elementary is never as straightforward as it seems, of course. While Morland and Joan sparred over wine and gourmet amuse-bouches, Sherlock busied himself with an elusive case of foreign hit jobs and high tech financial scandal. With both Russian and Ukrainian spies loose in the city, battling it out in storms of gunfire, Sherlock and the rest of the NYPD gang were left to sort through the wreckage to figure out who, exactly, had fired off the first round — and their search brought them closer to home than they ever expected. Employing the skills of one exceptionally gifted (and terribly underappreciated) female software engineer, Sherlock was able to boil the suspect list down to one name and bring the man behind the chaos to justice.
The end of the case, however, did not bring with it an end to Sherlock’s problems. Morland still loomed dangerously close by and with Joan working as a reluctant intermediary between them — running a series of strange errands for the elder Holmes at the same time — it seemed highly unlikely that issue would simply resolve itself. Stranger still, when the opportunity arose, Joan was able to uncover a treacherous secret: Someone from Morland’s past was coming for him, and the only people standing in the way were Joan and Sherlock. Would they take up his cause or let him wither on his own?
Elementary’s writers opened up a chaotic Pandora’s box with “Murder Ex Machina” this week. Rather than giving the episode a tidy ending, showrunner Robert Doherty and his crew left things wide open and unfinished, in the best way possible. Elementary is always at its finest when it’s jumbled, and dirty, and messy — sort of like the inside of Sherlock’s brain — and this week’s installment gave viewers exactly what they’d been searching for, following weeks of spruced-up filler episodes.
Perhaps that fact was best summed up in one particular “Murder Ex Machina” scene: As Sherlock and Marcus stood in the middle of a noisy strip club, waiting to seek out someone who potentially had insider knowledge of a violent assassination, Sherlock remarked gleefully that the dancers onstage were relative geniuses in their own right. “In their own way,” he explained, ignoring Marcus’ baffled expression, “they are experts in both deduction and human psychology.”
Sherlock Holmes as a character was never meant to take up a conventional mantle — and in tonight’s “Murder Ex Machina”, his empathetic response to both social and emotional outcast alike proved that he was ready to take the show into unpolished, and uncharted waters — exactly where it should be.