Elementary season 3 episode 3 review: Just A Regular Irregular

This week's Elementary is much more like it: funny, a bit bonkers, and with plenty of character work...

This review contains spoilers.

3.3 Just A Regular Irregular

In any other Sherlock Holmes adaptation, a tangle of maths-based murders potentially masterminded by an anonymous genius known as “Mo” would lead us straight to Moriarty’s door. Not Elementary. Natalie Dormer was nowhere near Just A Regular Irregular, which dusted off shirtless number cruncher Harlan Emple (Rich Sommers) for a satisfying episode about the messy boundaries between Sherlock’s friends, colleagues and ersatz family members.

To my mind, Elementary’s story-of-the-week cases are at their best when dealing with eccentrics and their nutty, nerdy obsessions (remember last season’s nano-dino fun?), so this week’s was spot-on for me.

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Funny, revealing and engaging, the high-end mathematics puzzle-turned-revenge hunt unravelled entertainingly, driven along by the engine of Sommers’ endearingly neurotic mathematician. The rich kid may have been a prime candidate from the moment he walked in (we all know how Elementary feels about people who like money), but enough threads were left dangling to keep it fun until the end.

Like the paintwork covering up that valuable mural in Watson’s B-plot though, the maths murders were really just coating on top of what the episode was really about: Sherlock struggling to define his social relationships.

We saw Gregson make it clear in episode one of this season that he and Sherlock are not friends, just colleagues. When Sherlock tried to do the same with Harlan this week however, things got messy. What Sherlock had idiosyncratically seen as signs of Harlan’s neediness were overtures of friendship from a peer of sorts. Both men are brilliant, both men are isolated, but only one – Harlan – cares about the other’s opinion of him. Whatever Sherlock’s social diagnosis is, it hadn’t occurred to him that it might be important for Harlan to be treated as more than – as the title says – just a regular Irregular.

Until the end of the episode that is. That’s when Sherlock’s empathy switch flicked on and he extended a hand of, if not friendship, then at least something to the star-struck maths genius. Personal growth badge achieved. Plus one social skills.

Instrumental in that switch flicking on was Kitty, who pushed Sherlock to the idea that Harlan/Mo could be a peer, or “fellow typist” rather than merely a resource. Her helping him tied in neatly to Watson’s understandable concerns about Sherlock exploiting, rather than aiding Kitty, an undeniably vulnerable person. (Elementary was all about complex emotional insights this week.) His confused parenthood analogy in response to Watson’s concerns proved that Sherlock still doesn’t have a firm grip on what Kitty is to him.

Which isn’t particularly surprising, considering that Kitty – as discussed here last week – essentially is Sherlock, just from two years ago, give or take the deductive genius. One thing’s certain though, she’s making much faster progress than he ever did, and after what is certainly a more traumatic ordeal. Despite thinking them “bollocks”, Kitty submitted to Watson’s support group suggestion and asked for her help in week three. Sherlock’s shields were still very much up at the same point in his antagonistic pas de deux with Watson.

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What else? We learned that Kitty isn’t motivated by cash, thus gets our and the show’s approval. That the missing adventures of Sherlock in London included a run-in with the Fibonacci sequence and a cyber-terrorist. That Choker Hell Moss and Mo Shellshocker are both anagrams of our lead’s name. That Bell owes his life to Sherlock again, hopefully erasing that whole injured hand business. That Watson is still seeing Andrew in her “utterly pleasant” (ouch!) home. And that not only does Sherlock hold kind of sexist views on the respective attritbutes of fathers and mothers, he also eats crumbs out of dead guy’s pockets.

Aim for the “head and heart”, Sherlock instructed the show’s incongruous celebrity football cameo (hello Phil Simms!) in this week’s pre-credits sequence. Those are the same places that Elementary needs to get us, and on the basis of this episode, it’s not far off hitting either.

Read Frances’ review of the previous episode, The Five Orange Pipz, here.

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