“I explained that I’m neuroatypical, I told him what it’s like to work with me, what I need from him and what he can expect. That way when we meet, it will be easier.”
“I’m sure he appreciated that.”
First things first: I can’t remember the last time I felt so robbed of a TV heist as in “A View With A Room.” The first half of this episode gives an amazing glimpse into what promises to be a fascinating test of Sherlock and Joan’s skills without having to solve a murder in the meantime—and then hands them a murder instead. The Sparkle Poodle Playhouse layout, the absentminded lockpicking, the rooftop test run with its fairy lights: gone, like sands through the hourglass. Ol’ undercover Dunning ruined everything even from beyond the grave.
It’s too bad; it’s been a long time since they had something to wrangle that didn’t touch on a murder, and it hangs heavy in the air this episode even before Dunning gets shot: Sherlock contemplating his father’s brush with death, the leader of Satan’s Brood announcing his intentions to handle whoever killed Dunning and triggered the raid. Dunning’s subterfuge wasn’t a surprise—as soon as Sherlock expressed admiration for his dedication to the cause, you knew Dunning was up to something—but murder for the sake of greed is one of the things that Elementary has leaned on a lot this season, and watching them plan the perfect crime is definitely the stronger half of the procedural plot. (It seems especially startling that it takes them until the final minutes to realize the staged murder could have happened at a second location—especially given that Joan had already spotted the rug and accurately pointed out exactly how impossible this murder was.)
However, the procedural seemed somewhat in the service of the B-plot, which was much quieter and leaves a lot more to unpack: Sherlock has feelings.
Oh sure, Sherlock has a ton of feelings! (As I’ve documented, Sherlock gets the lion’s share of this show’s feelings.) And early on in this episode, Sherlock offers his respects to a dirty cop and never quite recovers from the misplaced trust. There’s probably no more soothing time for Fiona to show up, bringing her very clear expectations and hidden depths with her; Sherlock might not be used to handling emotional altercations this delicate, but there’s no opportunity for misunderstanding, either.
I’ll admit I thought the execution of it was a little strained in the particulars; when you’re basing the connection between two characters on an amazing conversation they’re both still thinking about weeks later, it might help to show us that conversation rather than just have them reassure each other and all bystanders that it was great. That said, I found Fiona’s place in the episode to be fascinating. Her meetups with Joan actually give us a bigger glimpse of her personality than her conversation with Sherlock; a lot more showing than telling. It also quietly reminds us how much Joan’s fallback appropriateness allows other people to be prickly at her; she’s held on to her sober companion skill of absorbing other people’s problems. It’s a lot more no-harm-no-foul with Fiona than it was with Sherlock, of course, but we get to see that Joan genuinely likes Fiona, she can see through their high-school note-passing shenanigans, and she kind of loves it all. Lucy Liu and Jonny Lee Miller’s dynamic this episode was delightful, a platonic Nick and Nora Charles whose rooftop bickering and lockpicking would be perfect if Sherlock could just stay out of her room for more than four hours. (A bed and a pool table are not the same size! You have several large work tables! Come on, buddy.)
That rapport also comes to bear nicely on how quickly she cuts to the chase with Sherlock; he looked a little poleaxed by how perfectly she nailed him wanting to save Fiona from himself, and how pragmatic she was about the fallout with Irene (still a separate entity from Moriarty to her, even as he insists on the conflation). And Joan’s point about that taps into the emotional spine of the season for Sherlock: the worth of him loving Irene had nothing to with Irene, and everything to do with Sherlock being vulnerable with someone else. In a season that has him wrestling so directly with his father, it’s no surprise we’re getting an episode that forces him to consciously consider opening up to someone without any guarantees and hoping for the best.
If for no other reason than it’s taken us four seasons for him to become this open with Joan, with whom sex has never complicated the proceedings, this seems like a big ask. There is nobody better at destroying the promise of trust than Sherlock Holmes; it’s one of the show’s most consistent threads. Let’s never forget that Sherlock spied on Joan in her early days with him, and managed to sleep with and then ghost a friend of hers in the meantime. The man is primed to self-destruct at a moment’s notice. Moments like Joan’s teasing in this episode feel all the more precious because of how many times he’s come close to losing Joan’s trust—how many times he should have, if the show hadn’t needed her to be so forgiving, and held her anger so much in reserve.
It’s worth noting, then, that Fiona’s emotional forthrightness is as diametrically opposed to Joan’s de facto reticence as possible—why else tell us about her email to her new boss, a mutual forewarning designed to smooth over any misunderstandings? Though Sherlock seems awkward, even off-balance in the face of someone who he knows is without ulterior motives, he responds to the email anecdote like it’s a bouquet of roses; it’s so much easier for him to respond to someone else’s openness than it is for him to take the first step himself. (Some of that forthrightness seems a result of Fiona being neuroatypical, but the show smartly downplays any suggestion that her being on the spectrum controls how she expresses herself; she’s neuroatypical, and she also knows what she wants from a relationship dynamic, and those things coexist with no fanfare.)
And while it would be sad if Fiona only existed to give us another side of Sherlock—something this show has done before, and needs to get better at—it’s definitely interesting to see Sherlock’s edges sanded away somewhat in the wake of someone else’s trust. The botched heist is his reminder that the people you put your trust in will sometimes betray you; his halting sincerity with Fiona suggests someone trying to be the kind of person who can hope for the best.
- Line delivery of the week: Miller, managing to make Sherlock sound just unsettling enough to make Gregson regret calling him when he told the Narcotics captain, “I’m practically engorged. When do we start?”
- I appreciate the brief beat of Joan reacting to this dirty-cop business in the episode’s final minutes; given her big moment in the last episode, it makes sense she’s on alert for people trying to game a system—any system—and I hope that we get to see the toll the cumulative evidence takes on her.
- I loved that the Sparkle Poodle Playhouse came with unicorns and a train; it makes as much sense as anything else. (It also comes with an optional Gender Essentialist Joan extension kit!)
- Line that was better than it had any right to be of the week: Gregson’s “We could have ambushed you like you ambushed detective Dunning.” If there is one thing Gregson doesn’t like, it’s a dirty cop. If there’s another thing he doesn’t like, it’s most other things.
- Joan costume note: That Deco floral dress positively screams “I am thrilled Sherlock has a crush and I am going to make him talk about his feelings if it’s the last thing I do,” doesn’t it?
- This episode marks what is, I believe, the first time Sherlock has ever expressed the slightest awareness of intruding on Watson’s personal space. It was such an anomaly that I should have guessed they’d have him stage her room while she was asleep just to prove their point.
- I do, however, appreciate the meta of the whole room-switch bit, given that they use the same set for both Joan’s room and the media room, especially in an episode where the crime scene is a stage set. Nice touch.