Elementary Season 2 Finale Review: Moving On, Moving Out

By Noel Kirkpatrick

May 16, 2014

Elementary S02E24: "The Grand Experiment"

Before I sat down to write this review, I did what I normally do for season finales here: I looked back at a list of Elementary's Season 2 episodes and asked, "Which ones were my favorite/the season's best?" Which isn't to imply that just because something's my favorite makes it one of the best, but rather to indicate the arbitrariness of "best" in these sorts of subjective evaluations. As I went through the episode list and past reviews, I flipped through thinking, "Oh, I liked that idea or particular idea surrounding a case, but how much did the whole episode work for me?"

For example, I liked "Dead Clade Walking" because the murder ended up being about dinosaurs and textbook sales—but is that enough to say, "Really top notch stuff there!"? I enjoyed "We Are Everyone" for its timeliness, but beyond the Snowden stuff, I don't really remember it all that clearly. I know I didn't care for Moriarty's return, and while the idea of growing an ear on one's back in "Ears to You" was weird and wonderful, the episode itself wasn't something that stuck with me.

I could chalk all this up to the nature of procedurals and the way they often blend together, but I don't think's entirely fair. After all, I can list the installments from Elementary's first season that would earn spots on a list of best episodes without hesitation ("M.", "A Giant Gun, Filled with Drugs", "The Woman"). And so I think it's far more likely that the show's second go-round, while solid and entertaining on the whole, and with stellar work from Jonny Lee Miller, Lucy Liu, and Rhys Ifans (when he appeared), just never managed to come together. Which isn't great for an episode like "The Grand Experiment," as it was intent on shaking up the show's status quo.

A lot of the episode's faults stem from narrative shortcutting and Elementary's half-hearted commitment to ideas that were "resolved" in the finale, namely Joan's decision to move out of the brownstone. I'm now going to distance myself from my earlier support of Joan wanting to leave, and my reasons for doing so, but I'm also going to rationalize that distancing because of how the scene in Nadir Khadem's apartment played out. 

Previously, I said that I approved of Joan's potential departure because it ignored the contortions that shows like this typically engage in to keep their characters locked in place. But in the end, Joan's decision felt contorted in and of itself. I get where she was coming from, and while Liu is the reason that a lot of the apartment scene even worked as she discussed feeling both lucky and frustrated over being in Sherlock's orbit, the build-up to that moment just wasn't there in the narrative. For me, Liu's performance filled in the story gaps, which is why I was willing to go with it last week but also why I'm retreating a bit now. It was honest deflection on Joan's part when she ignored Sherlock's query about her change of heart regarding Mycroft, but it was also an unanswered motivation on Elementary's part, like the writers may not be completely sure themselves. As a result, I couldn't fully reconcile the performance and the narrative dissonance. Joan moving out is justifiable, but is it a strongly constructed justification? In the end, not so much.

It's the same general issue we've run into with Mycroft. I'm glad that Mycroft turned out not to be a traitor, and that Sherrington was framing him. I even liked the nod to British classism factoring into Sherrington's motivations ("I'm simple. Like a hammer") to sell out his country and set up Mycroft to take the fall, though I'm not sure how big a deal it actually is (U.K. readers, please feel free to enlighten me on this front). Outside of the case, however, Mycroft as plot device ended up floundering. He was a catalyst for Joan's change in attitude, yes, but like with the other elements of Joan's supposed arc this season, he was never fully fleshed out in a way that allowed Joan's decision to be motivated by a consistent and meaningful chain of events.


However, if there's one thing that was consistently well-executed this season, it was Sherlock's development and his desire to change and to grow. I've been harping on this for months, I know, but it's something that Elementary has returned to time and time again, so it's worth revisiting at least one more time! It's not surprising that Sherlock's ambition to better himself was more developed than any of the show's other character elements—he is the main character—but the writers managed to get some nice mileage out of it. Even if some of this growth was ultimately dropped (his sponsoree, who's name I cannot even remember) or just half-baked (his tensions with Bell, which were all too quickly fixed for my liking), Sherlock's presence at AA meetings and his relationships with Joan and Mycroft kept the arc from falling victim to the same fate as Joan's did this season.

Mycroft represented the test of Sherlock's 18 months with Joan as a sober companion, a partner, and a friend. Could he, in his quest for growth, help his brother? The answer, of course, was "Yes." Not only would Sherlock help Mycroft, he would do it as an apology (of sorts) for his past mistakes in putting Mycroft in such a position. Sure, he stalled on making amends because he wasn't at that step in the AA program, but the intent was clearly there. 

That's likely part of the reason that Sherlock was so furious with Mycroft for going to the NSA instead of just waiting for Sherlock to solve his predicament: It reaffirmed Sherlock's notions of Mycroft while also proving that Sherlock's experiment wasn't a complete success, as the people he was trying to connect with ended up turning away from him. Hence Sherlock's turn to the heroin (did he use it?) and his decision to take that job with MI6.

That the two big moments connected to this—his and Joan's conversation and Mycroft's hug—were the finale's two most successful moments, as the narrative development behind Sherlock's arc gave those scenes meaning and emotional heft. Indeed, they went beyond what the actors involved in the scenes were doing, which was, of course, great work. Even if the conclusion wasn't particularly satisfying, and I don't foresee it being all that permanent, it at least made sense because of the time the show invested in it.



ADDITIONAL CLUES

– "Make yourself at home. Don't touch the first editions. Or Joan." 

– "There are always 'forces at play' with you." Speaking of short thrifts, Gregson and Bell sort of disappeared after the show emerged from its Winter Olympics hiatus. I like the notion that there's some potential for fallout due to Mycroft being mixed up with a murder and now a potentially suspicious kitchen fire, but do you really think it'll matter too much? I don't.

–  We discussed this in the comments of some review a while back, but it's worth mentioning again: Jonny Lee Miller is doing fantastic work (I can't stop watching his hands now), and it's a shame that it's happening in the current television climate because 10 or 15 years ago, he could've snagged an Emmy nomination for this season. Emmy voters just don't go for this sort of thing these days, and it's really too bad. His performance does deserve some recognition.

– If I must pick a favorite/best Season 2 episode, I think I'm going to go with "The Marchioness" and call it a day. Though, again, a murder over textbook sales and dinosaurs tickled me silly.


What did you think of "The Grand Experiment" and Season 2 as a whole? Got any predictions for Season 3?


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  • nullnull2654 Jun 10, 2014

    Rewatched the first scene in the library because something came to my mind and I wasn't sure if I noticed correctly, but I was right. We were shown for the first time why Sherlock keeps his hands in his pockets.. When he talks to his brother why he told the MI 6 about the prints he gesticulates with his left hand. He forgets to put the hand back and you can see that it is trembling. When he notices that he immediately puts it there again.

  • Graeccus May 28, 2014

    If you could describe a show with a taste, this was bland.

  • IndianaMom May 19, 2014

    I've lost some interest in the show this season. There were several episodes I started to watch and didn't finish, including this one. So, either the show is slipping, or my attention span is. Or both.

  • DavudFW Jun 10, 2014

    It's not you, or it's us both. I enjoyed the review because it pulled together all the doubts I had during the season that I could have never stated with such precision. While some shows are bringing their "A" game for their sophomore season, "Elementary" did not. I like the fact that that Miller and Liu still can do their individual roles justice but the interaction is lacking, at least to the degree it had in season 1. And I'm so glad someone else felt the Holmes/Bell scenario was rushed and I might add Bell has been effectively benched, well the entire NYPD for that matter and though not quite remade into, "Keystone Cops", their lack of up front presence certainly has them headed in that direction. No, there were several times throughout the season where I found myself counting flowers on the wall so it's not just you.

  • nullnull2654 Jun 10, 2014

    It is just the opposite with me. I liked the first season, but I comsidered it an ordinary crime drama like most of the others. But when season two started I got more and more intrigued by the elaborate dialogues and the psychological and philosophical discourses that were made. I didn't focus on the cases though, I was more interested in the background story. I really love that there is nearly no action in this series but that the focus lies on the communication of the people. Elementary is a chamber drama and that is quite uncommon for TV series. I can understand though that if you are used to and like to watch action and case based series that you don't like the new path the writers have chosen for Season two, because it is significantly different from the first one.

  • ripleyisabadass May 18, 2014

    For a season finale this was as flat as a pancake.

  • Phaedraphelan May 18, 2014

    phaedraphelan

    This season's ending was one that left you wondering. Joan and Mycroft had no chemistry. If, as Mycroft himself said, Joan is the person Sherlock 'loves more than anyone on the world,' why did he systematically go after her sexually the way that he did. He knew from the beginning Sherlock's reaction when he concluded that they had been together. " You had sex with my brother!" Mycroft came into his brother's house and went after her! Is this the way he shows Sherlock that he appreciates the past year of reconciliation? I did not like the ambivalence of Mycroft's character. He goes behind Sherlock's back, cultivating Watson with emails, etc, and then expects us to believe that he wants to be close to his brother? He truly was the "fly in the ointment" here.

    As for Joan, her act of capitulation to Mycroft seemed to be so illogical as to be the result of PTSD which Mycroft took full advantage of in a most ungentlemanly way.

    Could Joan not have sought out someone of those close to her --Gregson, Marcus, the therapist she had sessions with in the past, even Mrs. Hudson for helpful advice before jumping into bed with Mycroft?

    I would like like to think that Joan will see the need to support Sherlock. She thinks that they can work together without living together. She loves being "in his orbit" but wants to live outside it. They are a "couple" and the reason they get the results that they get is to a great degree because of the way they live.

    I think they needed a two hour finale to tie up some of these loose ends more efficiently.


  • nullnull2654 May 18, 2014

    "There are as many forms of love as there are moments in time." (Jane Austen)
    Sherlock loves Joan but he isn't in love with her. He loves her for her ability to deal with his many problems and to help him cope. Mycroft loves Joan as a woman and he loves his brother.
    As the father doesn't seem to be a very warm person Sherlock and Mycroft probably never learned to show affection.
    For me it was clear from the beginning that the brothers had a bond. There was a line that gave that away even before they met in the Series. When Sherlock found out that Bell had a brother, with whom he didn't get along for a while, Sherlock said quite sadly: "But I am me."

    As for Joan, why shouldn't she like a person who was really nice to her and who is intelligent. Just because he isn't exactly good looking, doesn't mean he is not lovable.

  • amf9933 May 17, 2014

    I liked that the writers focused more on the main characters this year, I enjoyed the shows with Mycroft the most. I think Jonny Lee Miller does merit Emmy nomination for his great acting. I still think this show can do more, and have some more interesting crimes/arcs to solve. This show still falls under Person Of Interest to me though. It has great potential, and I hope the writers can have more involving cases next season.

  • current May 17, 2014

    Fave ep's, erm, ooh, the kidnapped woman that wasn't, missing but not, Moriarty and her daughter, the cancer cure one. Oh it's all a blur when I try to separate them on the fly with a procedural, such as this has turned out to be. I do like Mycroft turning up as the snip factor goes RED but in this variant Mycroft is a screw up which rubs against the grain.
    And the Joan and him arc and sniggering in bed at Sherlock really peeved me to the point of not wanting to see him any time soon.
    I'd like for Elementary to go much darker next season with Sherlock in 'functional drug addict' mode for a while - a bit like House did when he went full-on off the rails. We've heard lots about how he was this or that but haven't got had a good old "Blimey!" airing. Whether this would be too daring and/or a death knoll to the show who knows but I want it!

  • peterspoor33 May 18, 2014

    Yeah kind of disappointed that this Mycroft is not the intellectual equal of Sherlock but someone who gets in over his head, even if it was out of love for his brother. Worlds greatest detective doesn't have to be some supernatural genius, there are people who would surpass him in their specific fields, think the writers get a little too precious to keep him some almost superhuman brain.

  • bballer151 May 17, 2014

    My theory, probably wrong BTW, is that when Sherlock took the heroin from the book and put it in his pocket is that he will probably relapse as a ploy to get Joan to stay and help stay sober having her think he just relapsed by her leaving.

  • current May 17, 2014

    That's too child-like/desperate. A bit like someone who sais they're going to commit suicide and leaves umpteen messages, started pill bottles and/or cuts their wrists sideways with the sort of size blood pool we see on network TV!
    Some addicts keep alcohol, drugs and favourite track pages etc. relatively on hand, as a kind of comfort that they're there, though never to be used. Dangerous, yes, but all the same un-needed and yet needed. Why he took it out, though, perhaps as an act of disposal now his safety net is leaving. And, maybe, why he took the MI6 job to further fill his time without Joan. His acts smack (!) of attempts at separation to me. But we'll see. And I find comfort in being able to say we'll see, as is all too unusual, a series I adore is coming back!

  • nullnull2654 May 17, 2014

    I think he put iit in his breast pocket to remind him that using drugs must never happen again, because of the consequences it had for him as well as for his brother.

  • drmayeda May 17, 2014

    I'll ;have to look again but I thought he handed it to the person from MI6 in one of the last scenes. I think his role in MI6 won't change much. He was supposed to help them with casework like the agent that was killed, to see if it is what it seemed. Coming up with cases for British Intelligence every week sounds odd. How he's going to clear things up with Gregson might be interesting.

  • current May 17, 2014

    These are not the drugs you are looking for, officer!
    His role in MI6 is unclear at present; even though Control wanted him, he looked unsure as to how he'll fit in. But at least he won't be a lame duck like in 24 etc. as a Brit to make look stupid in American's excellence.
    All that's happened thus far is way above Gregson's pay grade and one may assume that he'd be told to stow any inquisitiveness away. However, whether his personality will override such is open to debate to a limited degree but the series will depend on it ultimately subsiding.

  • current May 17, 2014

    I doubt he needs a reminder on his person that can land him in jail and prevent him from ever working with American law enforcement.

  • current May 17, 2014

    This comment has been removed.

  • nullnull2654 May 17, 2014

    I just remembered that in his review to "The Diabolical Kind" Noel wrote that this season of Elementary doesn't have a plot arc but an emotional arc and here we are again: Love
    in all its many forms. You can find the topic in nearly every Episode of this season. It started with the two brothers who obviously cared for each other (just remember Sherlock's statement when he found out that Bell had a brother in the first season) but couldn't get out of the the old habit of fighting, went to the letter Sherlock wrote to Moriarty, Gregson seperating from his wife and ended with Mycroft hugging his brother, maybe for the very first time, and telling him that he loved him. A thing he maybe should have done twenty years ago. I think I will create a seperate post for this, because it is too much to mention everything here. Just one more thing. In the letter Sherlock wrote that he thinks 'love is a game he fails to understand and so he opts not to play'. But during the last episodes he had to realise that this isn't a decision you can make. You love or you don't love and you have to deal with it, if you want it or not.

  • michaelcwiak May 17, 2014

    This has got to be one of the most romantic, non-romantic couples on tv. They are so much of a couple it's like not being a couple is seriously screwing with their heads.

    Sherlock so much reminds me of House (I know it was based on Holmes, but let me finish) and his adolescent fixation on angry sexual references to hide his own jealousy and insecurity. I don't think the original had that adolescent grasp of sexuality that both House and Holmes have, perhaps because the sexual openeness of the 21st century brings it out more. In either case, I'm beginning to believe that Sherlock has deeply repressed feelings for Joan beyond that of a peer. it's why I think he was so adamant about not seeing his brother for who he was. When you hate someone that much for stealing your girl, you really don't want to see them for anything else.

    And if there was any clue that brought that point home, it was his tortured discussion towards his brother that Mycroft silenced just by hugging him. That moment immediately connected the previous moment of Sherlock first seeing Joan after her abduction. I don't think he just wanted to hug her, I really think he wanted to kiss her, but with all the kerfluffle that's gone on between Joan and his brother, I can understand how he could be so conflicted. And the fact that Joan may indeed hate him or reject him because of who he is (even beyond destroying any chance she had with his brother) is probably why he wanted to take the MI6 job. He's doing to Joan what Joan did to Mycroft: you hurt me so I'm going to completely cut you out of my life. It's why I say they are the most romantic, non=romantic couple on tv. They act like bf/gf but really aren't.

    And there is NO WAY that Mycroft is simply going to vanish anymore than Moriarity is. The writer's just needed a reason to keep him from becoming a regular. it's like they were saying "You want Mycroft back, too bad. He's in Witsec and we don't know where he is." But he's a Holmes brother which means no stinking criminal organization is going to keep him down. He'll keep a low profile but it won't take much for him to stick his head back up.

    In addition, I think Sherlock working for MI6 is doing exactly what Mycroft did: trying to use his influence and proximity to bail his brother out of trouble. Not for one moment is Sherlock going to let pass that a criminal organization threated both his brother AND Joan, although it will be interesting if Moriarity is also behind Le Millieu (however you say it.) Granted, Mycroft's team took out the actual perpetrators but that still leaves the head of the organization, and Sherlock has a long, detailed memory of people who offend or threaten him. Would be nice to see him use some of that single stick prowess after he infiltrates the gang (possibly allowing himself to be kidnapped to get to the head.)

    Is this permanent, I doubt it. They might do Season 3 like they did Season 2: have a few cases in London, Sherlock misses NY and then hops back. it might also give Joan the space she needs to contemplate missing Sherlock. Sometimes, you don't appreciate what you have til its gone, and I think Joan is in that place right now. Finally getting a glimpse of what the actual keyhole of Holmes detective work can entail is really going to wipe the honeymoon cobwebs off her eyes. She knew his work was dangerous, now she KNOWS what that means. And eventhough she thinks she can have a normal life and play detective on the side, she's going to have to learn you can't do that, if for no other reason than criminals don't take holidays. In some ways, police work is like the mafia or a gang: once you get in, its really hard to get out.

    Can we get a nod to Sherlock and have Holmes say to Watson "This is the kind of person you are, who you're attracted to. So accept it?" Watson is alot like Watson in BBC's Sherlock in that she doesn't yet understand why she is with Holmes. The whole orbit speech was good but it was also a lie. She likes revolving around Sherlock's sun a little too much and like all real awakenings, the truth is scary when you begin to admit it. So Sherlock being in London and Mycroft being away is really going to make Watson realize just what she is missing. The orbit and the happiness...he is connected, yes?

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