After Elementary‘s lackluster second season, I didn’t have very high hopes for its third, but somehow, someway Rob Doherty and co have managed to turn the show around. There’s still no sign of a season-long arc (like the first season’s Irene/Moriarty or last season’s bad, bad Mycroft arc), but the show is at least doing its procedural, character-focused thing well. And I’ll take that over any serialized plot points that the show doesn’t really know how to make interesting.
After Sherlock’s sudden departure to London, he returns to New York to pick up where he left off, but this is obviously difficult considering how he left things with Joan. The earlier tension in their relationship after Sherlock’s return has fizzled out with recent episodes, as the two have eased back into a familiar groove. Still there are subtle changes in the ways they interact with one another, especially now that Joan has used her time away from Sherlock to establish herself as a private investigator. There’s more confidence in Joan’s stories now that she’s not just Sherlock’s mentee, and even outside of her cases, seeing Joan’s personal life makes for more intriguing viewing.
“Enough Nemesis to Go Around” has a Joan-centric opening that immediately puts the season on the right foot, establishing Joan as an entity separate from Sherlock, which last season was its biggest failure. Now when Sherlock and Joan are together, working a case, they’re working it on the same level. Sherlock still has his moments of pompous self-certainty, but Joan has her own brand of expertise that don’t require Sherlock’s input. They still work well together and can rely on one another for help, but it doesn’t feel like the Sherlock show anymore. Joan’s her own person and doing her own thing.
This isn’t to say that season three has completely fixed this problem. The premiere was refreshing in putting Sherlock on the backburner and establishing Joan and her life outside of him, but now that Sherlock’s back the show’s returned to showing them more often together than not. This isn’t a bad thing, since the show sails on Joan and Sherlock’s chemistry as partners and friends, and Elementary with the two at odds wouldn’t feel right. But Joan’s still limited, this being most apparent when it comes to her relationship with new boyfriend Andrew (Raza Jaffrey).
Andrew’s immediately better than the show’s attempt at uniting Joan and Mycroft, but he’s shuffled off to Denmark before we even get to know him. His distance puts his and Joan’s relationship in distress, but we never got to see them not being in distress really so them being that way now isn’t all that compelling. It is interesting that Joan may or may not be looking for a less traditional relationship, an option brought up in “The Adventure of the Nutmeg Concoction”, but we won’t get to see how that gets explored until the show returns in 2015. But this option as well as other beats are filtered through Sherlock, while moments shared between Joan and Andrew alone are hard to come by so it’s difficult to see anything about their coupling ourselves,
The relationship between Sherlock and Joan is still central, though now it’s joined by other elements like Kitty Winter (Ophelia Lovibond) who could have been an unfortunate addition to the third season, coming in as quickly as she did as an apparent new Joan. To the show’s credit, the character has been a relatively seamless addition to the show, and she’s become a character of her own, thankfully not hinging on Sherlock or Joan to form her as a person. Kitty’s tragic past gives her momentum and motivation, and it becomes nice to see her progress in her life and her investigative skills. Though Sherlock annoys everyone, including Joan, with the suggestion that they “parent” Kitty, that is the role she plays in the show. She’s not a child of course, and she doesn’t need parenting, but Sherlock and Joan act as her guides. There’s plenty Kitty can learn from both of them, and in her learning she also forms relationships with them.
This is most evident around Joan, who she originally regards with some professional jealousy and then as something of a mentor if not yet as a friend. Joan accompanying her to a support group is one of their best moments together, followed closely by miscellaneous moments of working together and casual conversation (at times making fun of Sherlock). Kitty’s relationship with Sherlock too becomes a strong element of the show, where Sherlock, usually not so eager to get this close to people, manages to be sensitive and even caring in his dealings with Kitty. When she’s pursuing friendships and even a romance in “Terra Pericolosa”, Sherlock plots to keep her busy to avoid her getting hurt, a design that Kitty tearfully admits made her feel protected and cared for.
Elementary‘s other characters haven’t had as much to work with. Joan’s absence from “Rip Off” gives Captain Gregson some time of his own to work through his daughter’s relationship with her violent partner. Bell is always around, and while it’s nice to see him, he doesn’t get much more development himself. Even the NYPD-centric midseason finale “End of Watch” doesn’t do a whole lot to rectify this, aside from giving them more to do in the span of the episode. The season as a whole has been much better than its predecessor, but there are still problems to be sorted out related to characters who are not Sherlock.
“End of Watch”, though not a stellar episode by any means, does include something very interesting for Sherlock. His sobriety, and the show’s interest in reflecting it across the show’s run, is one the strongest elements, and finding that someone’s been using his words in meetings to build a support website is naturally a threat to it. It’s a complicated dilemma Sherlock finds himself in. Though his words are helping fellow addicts with their recoveries, using his private admissions to do so threatens his own, and though Sherlock has his moments of selfishness, this is one that is very fair and even deserved. It’s a dark moment for Sherlock when he threatens to expose the culprit’s extramarital affair not because he really cares but because he’s decided that his sobriety is more important. And knowing how important his sobriety is, and how those meetings helped him, his new decision not to share is a sad one and there’s the lingering sense that perhaps this lapse, despite him getting the situation under control, has inhibited his recovery.
- This season also gives us our first sighting of Ms. Hudson in ages, and she looked great and should definitely be recurring more often.
- I wonder what the season has in store for Kitty since I can imagine the big arc having something to do with her. I definitely don’t want to see her killed off, as some have speculated, but I wonder if there are plans to make her a longterm addition to the show and what that would look like in Elementary‘s future.
- Favorite episodes this season include “Enough Nemesis to Go Around”, “Bella”, and “Just A Regular Irregular”. “Bella” makes this list because it’s a solid episode but also includes Sherlock listing Joan as one of the women in his life that he’s loved (along with his mother and Moriarty).