Previously on Elementary: Art in the Blood.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt so ambiguous about an episode of Elementary before.
Speaking in terms of narrative, it’s refreshing that the classical detective story doesn’t always end with a happy ending and society’s mores restored. That’s the core of the Classical English Detective story, and it’s not happening here, far from it.
I wasn’t sure what to think about Joan and Mycroft so impulsively getting back together in Art in the Blood, but then again: John forgave Mary in His Last Vow on Sherlock, for lying, for deceiving, for hiding — because her reason for doing that, same as Mycroft’s, was love. So I have to ask myself, why does Joan forgiving Mycroft make me more uncomfortable than the other? Is it a knee-jerk reaction because a female character has been given a male love interest and I get antsy about such things as clichés and agency? Then again, can’t it be possible for a female character to be in love and to want that romantic connection and base her decisions on who she loves and still have her agency? Is it because a woman made a cognitive decision based on her feelings for someone in a situation where we believe that the idiot is not worth her time or her forgiveness, is that the clincher here? Is it because with John and Mary it’s a man doing the forgiving? And because women don’t usually get the “I was a highly trained intelligence operative and assassin” origin story? Perhaps it’s the introduction of deep-seated feelings into what started out as the single healthiest depiction of casual sex I’ve ever seen on TV? Perhaps that’s what sucks about it, that it ended up being about love when, hey, people can just care about each other very, very deeply even though they’re just friends who’ve had sex and might have sex again, but no pressure?
I know that there is a lot of dislike, in fandom, for the Joan/Mycroft ship — perhaps because the introduction of gender and power dynamics into that situation make it so that we tend to see the “woman forgives man being a complete asshole because she loves him” as a trope that is so persistent in our culture (and which potentially fosters rape culture to boot). Perhaps it’s because Joan didn’t clarify that she’s still mad at Mycroft for lying, the way she would have done with Sherlock, because she doesn’t ever let Sherlock’s crap slide, but here she just… gives in after an emotional revelation? Even though she’s had dozens of emotional revelations from Sherlock and still reminded him that he’s an idiot? Then again, her relationship with Sherlock started out as professional and then progressed to best friends. With Mycroft, she’s on completely different footing. But then again, Joan never gives up on her common sense, ever. So it seems uncharacteristic for her not to give Mycroft some real talk. Perhaps it’s because by centering the narrative around Mycroft’s actions — from the very moment of Joan’s kidnapping, which wasn’t only down to her connection to Mycroft, but to her independent investigation into the case as well — we see a slight against her agency as a character.
I’m honestly not sure.
Sherlock going to work for MI-6 can be read as a childish, knee-jerk reaction to Watson standing by her decision to move out — “I’ll leave you before you can leave me” style. But, no, I don’t think that’s it. He promised Mycroft to fix this, and he is perfectly aware that his ever-toiling conflict with his brother is what contributed to Joan’s desire to leave, and more importantly he realises how deeply saddened she is by Mycroft having to go into hiding. He promised Mycroft freedom, and he’s furious at his brother for taking matters into his own hands by faking his death. So now, instead of shrugging and moving on, he will fix this. His methods, his rules. He will get Mycroft back for Joan, he will give his brother his life back, and he will get past the fact that Joan left their shared living arrangements, but not him.
I love that Joan so clearly expresses that she’s thrilled to be his colleague, and that her life changed for the better when she met him, but that she still stands by her decision to move out and get her own space. She’s right, she has to, and just that Sherlock is too obstinate to understand that it doesn’t mean she doesn’t love him anymore can’t affect her decision. He’ll get it. Someday. Hopefully, soon.
Next: Enough Nemesis to Go Around.
A lot of food for thought this episode.
It really is, not just in terms of what the show is doing with its characters, but in terms of how the meta deals with it, and why.