Previously on Elementary: Dirty Laundry.
This is where it gets interesting.
This is the day Sherlock has been waiting for.
Irene Adler’s death was what let Sherlock’s recreational drug use escalate—it wrecked him, emotionally, mentally, and physically. Ever since he hit rock bottom, ever since he was forced to go to rehab, ever since he relocated to New York, he has been waiting for a chance to catch Irene’s murderer, and take him to hell.
I have detailed my qualms with how this sidelines Irene’s character unnecessarily before: she was special in that Sherlock was in love with her, wasn’t boring like all the other women in his life; and now her significance to the plot is a conversation between men—Sherlock and Moriarty, aided by the appearance of contract killer and ex-Royal Marine Sebastian Moran. (This was cleverly done: making him fan of the Gunners, Arsenal London as a further reference to his military background.) She’s not given a life of her own the way the other woman that can hold Sherlock’s interest does, Joan; and that’s a pity.
Still, this episode stands out in its depth of emotion that it reveals in Sherlock, and in the brilliance of the performances given by Lucy Liu and Jonny Lee Miller. Sherlock’s pain and slow-burning hatred that is, carefully masked by a calm exterior, erupting in a devious plan, reveal a darkness that thrills in its sinister simplicity. It’s the calm before the storm. He’s willing to do this, he is going to do this. Sherlock Holmes may be on the side of the angels, but you should never, ever assume him to be one of them. And it can’t be. It can’t not be Moran.
Except the storm is unexpectedly cleared up as Moran manages to tell Sherlock the truth just in time: he’s not merely a copy cat; Moriarty hired him to continue his work in New York, having committed all the murders back in England himself. Including Irene’s, upon realising how close Sherlock had come to catching him; after the two had been together for seven months.
Unwittingly, and without either of them realising, Joan’s efforts to get Sherlock back on track prepared him for this, for his revenge. He won’t relapse, he knows how to be stronger than that now; he knows himself and his powers better than ever before—and it’s not only made him better at his detective work, but it has sharpened his rage, and strengthened his will should the opportunity for revenge ever arise. He had no way of knowing that it would happen this way, but he’s been preparing himself for this, underneath everything else, alongside his recovery.
I’m going to miss this, working with you. I think what you do is amazing.
He repeats Joan’s words back to her, because that’s just what’s even worse about this whole thing. Just when he realises that he has to do something that will definitely take him away from her (either by going to prison or becoming a fugitive for murdering Moran—because he knows she would tell Gregson), she admits that she enjoyed her time with him, and that she admires him. You can see that it kills him in the morgue; and it kills him at the station, when he apologises to her for their last days together being so disagreeable; again on the verge of tears.
And he knows that she lied. He knows that his father doesn’t care that she’s worried; and he doesn’t want this. He doesn’t want her to stay because she’s worried about him, he doesn’t want her to stay because of Moriarty, the man who’s destroyed his and Irene’s lives, and so many others’. He doesn’t want Moriarty to have any kind of pull over Joan’s life as well; and now he knows that she’s staying because she’s afraid for Sherlock’s well-being. That particular confrontation will no doubt be interesting.
Plot twist: Joan is in therapy—and less resistant to her therapist’s advice than some Watsons I know… The trouble is that she still thinks that the detective work is a bonus to her successful work as sober companion. When, in fact, the two have since switched roles. It’s the detective work that makes working as a sober companion with Sherlock so enjoyable. Sherlock’s right: once you start, you can’t stop. Any other client would bore her now. There’s no harm in changing careers again, Joan. Embrace it.
For now, however, the game is afoot.
Next: The Red Team.