Elementary season 3 episode 11 review: The Illustrious Client

Ophelia Lovibond is a class act in this week’s tense, involving, Kitty-focused episode of Elementary, the first of a two-parter…

This review contains spoilers.

3.11 The Illustrious Client

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On a second watch (more or less demanded by this week’s cliff-hanger twist) Elementary’s cheekiness in The Illustrious Client was in clear sight. The ‘previously-on’ recap of Sherlock saying “the man who hurt [Kitty] is here in New York” cut straight to Del Gruner showing Watson around her swanky new office. You’d have needed the mind of Sherlock himself to spot the clue though – even if Del did come over a bit iffy – thanks to the monstrous Simon de Merville serving as such a useful red herring.

That was nicely done, as was Gruner’s full name being withheld until the episode’s final moments. Had a surname been provided for Watson’s new boss before then, anyone who’d prepared for this week’s case by revisiting Doyle’s The Adventure Of The Illustrious Client would have immediately spotted the nod to the culprit in the original story – Adelbert Gruner.

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It should have been obvious of course. Elementary has ever been consistent in its mistrust of corporate wealthy types, making Watson’s move from independent crime-solver to white-collar company man a real head-scratcher.

Now, it all becomes clear. Despite being out of character, the show needed Watson to take up with Gruner as preparation for what’s likely to be an unmissable conclusion to this two-parter. Watson working for the murderer who raped and tortured Kitty puts both of them – and Sherlock too, seeing as Gruner knows all about him – in danger, which is exactly where viewers need all three to be for a thrilling conclusion to Kitty’s story. We’ll forgive the contrivances it took to get there (why use Speakerphone when you’re alone, Joan?) in exchange for a belter of an ending to this particular thread.

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Discarding the outlandish possibility of coincidence, it appears that Watson’s sadistic new boss engineered this whole shebang. He tracked down “the one that got away”, hired her pal, coincided Watson’s first day with the discovery of the corpse-a-gram message to Kitty, then used Watson’s deductive prowess to track down de Merville and permanently silence him. What’s the next step in Gruner’s plan? And what makes him so confident that his crimes won’t be revealed that he’s expressly taunting the very people able to discover him?

Next week’s Robert Doherty-written episode, The One That Got Away, will tell. Let’s hope that title’s in reference to Kitty, and not her tormentor.

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Because after a frustrating start, Ophelia Lovibond’s character has won me over entirely. Watson revealed this week that she thinks of her as family, and that’s exactly what Kitty has become to the show, all credit to Lovibond. Her traumatised performance in this week’s closing scene was showy proof of her ability to move viewers, but perhaps more impressive has been Lovibond’s portrayal of Kitty’s repressed emotions since her arrival at the Brownstone.

Combine the powers of that performance with writing that reveals a bit of human truth (and a great deal of wit, as was threaded throughout Jason Tracey’s script this week) and you’re onto a winner.

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Sherlock’s empathy may have been clouding his deductive judgement when it came to his new partner’s predicament, but it was also misfiring. As Kitty told him in the strongly acted morgue scene, he doesn’t know anything of how she’s feeling. Why would he? His addiction is no corollary to her rape and torture. He hurt himself, but someone hurt her, hence Kitty’s passion for revenge (something she shares with her literary counterpart – though no spoilers on that here).

Will that urge for revenge be the end of Kitty on Elementary? We’ve already seen her – just as Sherlock was in season one – removed from consulting with the NYPD for taking the law into her own hands. I’m crossing everything that she sticks around. Now that she’s literally and figuratively shown us her scars, just as Watson said, she’s family.

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Read Frances’ review of the previous episode, Seed Money, here.