This review contains spoilers.
3.16 For All You Know
This week’s Elementary tapped into a practically unmined seam of dramatic potential in the history of this particular Sherlock Holmes: events during the worst excesses of his addiction. During this period of blackouts, paranoia and hallucinations, what did Holmes miss, and more importantly, whom did he hurt?
It was a great hour, one that put Jonny Lee Miller centre stage not as an amusing motor-mouth eccentric, but as a man tortured by his past. What it lacked in Elementary’s enjoyably offbeat sense of humour, it more than made up for in strong performances and thoughtful character drama. This sombre episode probed Sherlock’s guilt, shame and self-hatred, and opened a window onto a period of his history previously closed to the show.
Of course Sherlock was innocent of Maria’s murder – the audience were as steadfastly convinced of that fact as Watson – but making fiction’s most rational mind consider the logical possibility that whatever his “moral maths”, he may have killed an innocent woman made for a satisfying character examination. This week saw the great detective take both a physical and psychological beating.
Miller was excellent, which at this point is more or less like remarking that the sun rose on any particular day. Watching the character’s transformation from his default settings (outlandish pots-and-pans-based public nuisance/justifiably arrogant deductive genius) to the shame and pain of his irresponsible past was deeply affecting. Elementary is driven by Miller’s magnetic performance, whether he’s being twitching, sarcastic Sherlock or still, self-loathing Sherlock. He’s always convincing, always entertaining, often touching and every so often, heart-breaking.
The plot was also a damned clever idea that would only work for this specific incarnation of the character, a man whose drug use wasn’t just a casual hobby, but a life-eclipsing catastrophe. “When you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth” is Sherlock Holmes’ famous methodology. In this instance and this only, because of his addiction, Sherlock was unable to eliminate the impossible about himself.
It may have been a sombre episode featuring a glum, reflective Holmes, but Peter Ocko’s script still found room for wit. Sherlock’s reply to his attacker’s “Do I know you?” that they had “a brief physical relationship” was as sharp as Watson’s wearily sarcastic “I enjoy hospitals, especially in the middle of the night”, her “Olympics in self-pity”, and Oscar’s jokey t-shirt slogan-style “rehab’s for quitters”.
In terms of the culprit, Councilman Berkeley was the only sensible candidate given Elementary’s political sensibilities. As noted week after week, the show’s criminals are almost exclusively white-collar and corrupt. It was this one’s white collar that incriminated him in fact, his shirt cuffs and inlaid buttons providing Sherlock with the clue that exonerated him.
We weren’t left with a sentimental happy ending, which was also poignant. Oscar refused Sherlock’s amend-making offer of help and prophesied his ex-pal’s relapse, the dark cloud that has been hovering over this series from the very beginning.
All in all then, it was a strong instalment with rewarding callbacks to previous stories (Joan’s guilt over being struck off, Sherlock’s administrative hearing…). Putting Sherlock himself at the heart of the mystery paid real dividends, and it’s immensely satisfying to see Watson back where she belongs, solving crimes and fighting her partner’s corner.
Read Frances’ review of the previous episode, When Your Number’s Up, here.
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