“This is clean beyond me, Mr. Holmes. We saw you when we returned from Tunbridge Wells last night, and you were in general agreement with our results. What has happened since then to give you a completely new idea of the case?”
– The Valley Of Fear, 1914
Sherlock Holmes is a tough man to kill.
When Arthur Conan Doyle sent Sherlock Holmes over the Reichenbach Falls in 1893, there was public uproar from devoted readers. “Keep Holmes Alive” clubs popped up across England, and apocryphal stories abound of crowds in mourning armbands chasing Doyle’s carriage, or the furious woman with an umbrella who assaulted the author in the street. Ten years later (after a prequel that only whetted the masses’ appetite), Doyle gave in and published “The Adventure Of The Empty House,” complete with explanations about how the clever detective had outsmarted death itself, so that the Sherlock Holmes stories could continue after all.
Unrelated: Elementary is back!
Elementary has had its ups and downs—a stellar first season it never quite matched again, arcs of varying efficacy and emotional impact, a tendency to prioritize cool case particulars over character depth—but overall, it was a fairly steady ship to sail, gently deconstructing some tenets of the Holmes canon from within the familiar framework of the weekly procedural.
And despite a renewal from CBS two episodes into the sixth season, things must have felt uncertain for the show itself, as things took an autumnal turn into questions of legacy and endings. The finale (originally meant to cap the 13-episode season) felt like the series’ farewell; events pushed our detectives out of New York, and it all ended with a nod to the original canon—Holmes and Watson wandering off into the London bustle, from the threshold of old 221-B.
But this Holmes is as hard to kill as any other, and with “The Further Adventures,” our two consulting detectives are back on the case. Well, two cases. Well, three cases. Well, three cases and Lucrezia Borgia’s poison ring.
At this point, you know the overall shape of what you’re getting. Joan and Sherlock will solve a crime that’s more than meets the eye and often dances around any dark underbellies (those deliberately-vague “zealots” responsible for many of those 200 other acid attacks conveniently have nothing to do with the case at hand). They’ll be joined by a familiar face (Kitty, now the level-headed liaison between a pair of disasters). Obviously, all is not quite well in London; obviously, sooner rather than later, something beckons them home.
But if you’re here, it’s probably not for the overall shape. The best moments of this show are still the small things. Tamsin Greig (as a world-weary DCI) and Saffron Burrows (a genteelly vengeful tabloid maven) are clearly having fun, and are both the useful sort that Joan and Sherlock might have reason to call on again. In the absence of our heroes, Marcus and Gregson have been forced to talk to each other–Marcus’ transfer to the Marshals has been conveniently postponed, which gives Jon Michael Hill and Aidan Quinn the chance for a decently chewy scene of Marcus dropping the bomb that he knows who really killed Michael Rowan.
And, of course, there’s Joan and Sherlock, who have a nicely bitter fight as their months of determined case-solving in London give way to some much less cozy truths: Sherlock might be happy to be home, but Joan sure isn’t, and each of them is harboring plenty of blame.
There are quibbles, of course. Of course Joan is prickly about having thrown in her lot with Sherlock (throughout the years we’ve gotten hints she struggles with issues of connection and obligation almost as much as Sherlock does), but her resentment at being so far from family and “all my friends” would hold more water if we had seen those family and friends enough to think of them as recurring characters. Otherwise, honestly, skip it and keep her truth closer to home. There was a time she was going it alone and the partnership was slow to rebuild; keeping secrets again would be enough of a sign that there’s trouble.
But as always, the center—Joan and Sherlock’s relationship—holds. They have the intimacy of long acquaintance (Joan knows something is wrong as soon as Sherlock starts being nice), and Lucy Liu and Jonny Lee Miller are always great together. It brings a welcome immediacy to this fight. Joan snapping “Then what the hell is this?” is one of the most honest moments of anger we’ve ever seen from her, but in a way that suggests intimacy as much as frustration. (The two of them always struggle to be honest about their fears, even in the middle of a fight; the fact that she cut the shit so early is practically progress.) Sherlock closing the episode with a touching apology is a more familiar rhythm than Joan getting to be angry, but Joan’s anger gives this one more weight; Sherlock offers nothing but the truth and the awkward shrug of a man who’s avoiding thinking about the worst-case future.
Hanging over this reconciliation is the unresolved question of how much pressure there really is on Joan to stay, especially on top of Sherlock throwing himself on his sword to save her from getting framed for murder. It’s neatly positioned to create an obligation that Joan can’t get out from under without a fight. (She’s certainly quick to wonder if Sherlock is planning to “hold it over my head for the rest of my life,” which takes him more aback than it probably should.)
But here, in another familiar rhythm, Elementary offers more plot; with the literal call from New York (where Gregson lies unconscious in a hospital room), the question of obligation sounds like it will soon shift back with them to other shores, where another case is waiting, just like always, for the detecting only the two of them can do.
- “If only you hadn’t committed a completely unrelated crime just one day later.” If I had a nickel for every time I heard that one.
- I’m so glad Kitty talked about Joan’s hair as a cry for help; this is a very out-of-character change for Joan and I appreciate they made it a plot point. Better a plot point than the I Thought My Contract Was Up wig.
- The “Abbey Grange” case that Sherlock references in passing feels like a story that Elementary should do more with than just a mention; here’s hoping.
- I like the shot in the interrogation room that’s an infinite hall of mirrors of our two heroes and DCI Jones, who I’m going to miss. Maybe she can fly over and arm-wrestle Gregson over which one of them is more long-suffering.
- Ah yes, sending an obvious stool pigeon into a building and loudly discussing the outcome 50 feet from the door: Sherlock Holmes, the best detective on either side of the Atlantic!
- “[My father] used to host orgies here for his decrepit friends. Like Eyes Wide Shut but with more ear hair.” Saffron Burrows enjoyed that one.
- If the show plans to continue the premiere tradition of seeding one or two seemingly-innocuous statements that come to inform the season’s designated emotional arc, let it be this: “Watson doesn’t run to anything. Let alone me.”