Elementary "The Diabolical Kind" Review: Affection Never Was Wasted

By Noel Kirkpatrick

Jan 03, 2014

Elementary S02E12: "The Diabolical Kind"

Loving and caring about other people is a sticky, sticky business. It can leave you caught between competing impulses and make life very knotty in ways that aren't always clearly untied. Yet, here we are, a race of organisms that devotes endless amounts of time and culture to love. We create poems, plays, novels, sculptures, paintings, songs, religious and secular ceremonies, films, TV shows, advice columns, websites, and flimsy pieces of red construction paper adorned with lace, all to think about and signify that we can love. The enduring multitude of these avenues, however, indicates just how little we actually understand it.

It's little wonder, then that Sherlock and Moriarty spent much of their correspondence discussing it, attempting to make sense of this emotion that is as layered and complex as they themselves are. It's the ultimate mystery, and neither of the two can just let something as interesting as love slide away, even if they think it's not for them but end up behaving otherwise.

This season, as I've mentioned time and time before, has seemed dedicated to Sherlock coming to grips with his relationships and his connections to other people. His denied guilt and then attempted apology/offer of assistance over Bell's shooting coupled with his willingness to take on an sponsee in the last few episodes only strengthens this notion for me. The show isn't being subtle about it, and that's fine. I'd rather it be a little obvious than overly muddled, and it continues to offer up interesting ways for the show to explore character dynamics as a man who has eschewed connections, and claims to still be doing so behind occasionally flimsy pretenses like studying the mind of a criminal genius, sudden faced with the occasionally happy burden of many valued connections.

What's been nice about this is that while the focus is largely on Sherlock, Elementary has expanded this idea of connecting with others to its other characters. So while we see Sherlock dealing with more connections, Joan has, all season, been attempting to maintain and forge new connections, only to find them lacking in a number of ways in comparison to the rewards she receives with Sherlock. As he pulls closer to others, she's pulling away. Even Gregson and Bell have their place in this, the former with his wife and the latter with where he fits in on the police force now that he can't always perform the duties required of him. It's rare for a procedural to be as thematically unified as Elementary is, but here we are.

Of course, thematic unity doesn't always pay off dividends in terms of interesting narratives, or, indeed, always feels organic to the show, and such is the case with "The Diabolical Kind." Moriarty's return to the stage offered a nice variation on the season's big interests, but in a decidedly contrived way. 

To be sure, there's good stuff to be had in Moriarty (Natalie Dormer, still having a ball) worming her way in as a consultant on the case, particularly her fascination with and her planting seeds of doubt in Joan's mind about Sherlock's commitment to her. It was one of those "I know you know that I know you know that I'm trying to manipulate you" sort of scenes, and yet it still worked because it ultimately could turn out to be true: Sherlock could become bored with Joan, and then where would Joan be, especially if it happened sooner rather than later? It's a nice thread to complement and complicate Joan's steady disengagement from the non-crime solving world.

That Moriarty had a daughter -- thank goodness it wasn't Sherlock's as I might've destroyed my TV set -- was the niggling issue in the episode. She acts in the interest of protecting her daughter, a daughter she barely knows -- though I imagine she has/had the resources to monitor her as much as she likes -- despite claiming not to have the empathy necessary to do such things. She'll leave false clues in sketches and slit her own wrists to neutralize shock cuffs, all at serious risk to herself. These are the actions of a character who knows love, but still cannot understand why she knows it. That it's for her daughter, one we only learned about this episode and in the last 10 minutes of the episode, however, makes the connection to the season's big theme feel forced, a last minute attempt to jolt some larger meaning in her actions in the episode beyond being a mischief-maker, and to give some urgency to an otherwise rather dull case of the week.

Of course, that Moriarty would act in this way may only strengthen Sherlock's resolve that she will, contrary to Watson's assertion -- "There is no Irene, only Moriarty. And Moriarty is never going to change." -- undergo a metamorphosis similar to the one that he started experiencing upon his arrival in New York, one that he no doubt desires her to experience. It would mean that they could be together again, could trust again. It would also ultimately mean that Sherlock wasn't completely wrong about her, and we all know how much he likes being right. Even her decision not to kill Mattoo (Faran Tahir, who I hope comes back for more) indicates a possible change in her behavior.

The challenge is that, much like the with potential ways Mycroft could swing, Moriarty could be playing a very long game with all of this, a bit of manipulation to see if she can destroy Sherlock and Joan's relationship somehow or some other evil plot that this was ultimately just the first phase of. It'd be a less interesting route than the potential reform, but I also just think reform isn't in the cards for Moriarty, no matter how much Sherlock may want it, and no matter how much he protests that he's not interested in playing the game of love.


– "The woman is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside of an enigma I've had sex with. I would be lying if I said I was the strongest assessor of her motives at this point."

– Bell only received a brief scene this week as he attempted to fire his gun at the practice range. I appreciate that his recovery is being treated as a longterm story, but what about the intelligence task force? Maybe some tidbits about it next week?

What did you think of "The Diabolical Kind"?

  • Comments (126)
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  • TJlive800 Jul 04, 2014

    I just saw this... HOLY SHIT. THIS WAS POWERFUL. I think this is my current favorite episode of the show. It's even better than the M episode.

  • BrandonCimino Jan 10, 2014

    This show is great with its regular cast, but Natalie Dormer makes everyone around her better. I absolutely love her as Moriarty. In fact, I think she's a better Moriarty than Andrew Scott in BBC's Sherlock, and that's saying a lot because I love his portrayal as well. She's fantastic and she turns great episodes into amazing episodes.

  • Jeroenvander Jan 07, 2014

    Bell should use his other hand.

  • marcusj1973 Jan 07, 2014

    I don't know if I'd go so far as to call the story "contrived", perhaps a touch convenient, but given the greater context of Holmes, Moriarty and their connection with the rest of the world as well as with each other, a daughter (which we'd have no reason to know or not know about) seems as reasonable a tie as any.

    Moriarty: "How do you get by being one of them?"
    Holmes: "I don't know that I am"

    I think that little exchange summed up perfect just how different these two are from the rest of the world and how similar they are to each other. What is it they say, the best cops would make the best criminals and visa versa. They're an experience away from being each other which in the classic tale makes them fantastic rivals. But here, Moriarty as a love interest is one of the best spins I can recall in a LONG LONG time. That Natalie Dormer can do no wrong doesn't hurt none either.

    The creators have been very good so far at being original, but I can see them taking the "easy" way out and having Moriarty redeemed (see acquitted as hinted in this episode), rekindle the romance with Holmes only to realize that while she may be able to love, true change and being "good" isn't for her leading to the inevitable betrayal and the chase beings anew. The warnings and "I told you so" from Watson of course go hand in hand.

    It's a little cliche, but frankly, I don't care because watching these three actors feed and play off each other is something I could never ever tire of.

  • Ugmiwatogla Feb 26, 2014

    " watching these three actors feed and play off each other is something I could never ever tire of."
    ditto. the most talented cast !

  • OutrSpaceBonobo Jan 06, 2014

    Anyone know who painted the portrait of Joan from this episode? I thought it was an amazing likeness and that it captured Joan, not Lucy Liu. The painting was also a main character - always in front and often shot physically in between the characters (see first photo capture above). I wish the painter could have been given screen credit up with the other episodic players.

  • phxcowbot Jan 06, 2014

    excellent insight into the human psyche; even better because it is seen through such drastically flawed characters as Sherlock & Moriarty.
    As Sherlock asks in his letter to Irene, “Have we simply failed to find the answers, or can they not be answered at all?” In the end, this episode would seem to argue, this is the threat of Moriarty. She is evil, but she is also human.

  • Samantha_101 Jan 06, 2014

    :) Sherlock is super-smart, and he expects Joan to believe that he corresponds with Mori for cerebral reasons? *hehehehe* Poor, Sherlock!

  • Sabretruthtiger Jan 05, 2014

    Making Moriarty a woman was the final straw for me, i bailed on it.
    It's highly unrealistic, the top geniuses are always men, it's a statistical fact and far more so when talking about criminal geniuses where men predominate in the criminal arena.

    This trend of replacing iconic male characters with women is troubling (Watson, Moriarty, Starbuck off Battlestar Galactica). I know the reason for it and I shall share.

    The globalist elite were behind feminism. The reason that they're pushing feminsim is because men are the biggest threat to their control of the populations. In every takeover or suppression of an enemy throughout history the men were taken out first. Men are more likely to view totalitarian authority as an alpha male threat whereas women are more likely to view it as a protector (related to women liking the 'bad boys'). Men are thus more likely to challenge authority and are physically more dangerous.

    Also the IQ distributions are markedly different between men and women, on average men and women are roughly equal but women's IQs are more grouped around the middle whereas men's are more spread across the spectrum, meaning there are more stupid men than women but a lot more highly intelligent men than women, and highly intelligent people are a threat as they can see through the propaganda.

    Now why not just create female-centric show counterparts to the male characters?
    Because, people of both sexes will just ignore them and gravitate to the more natural male/female characters/shows that ring true with their primal subconscious and sexual identity.
    No, they must REPLACE the male characters with female ones in order to force people to accept and take notice, it psychologically emasculates men as their roles have been supplanted by female ones.

    It's all social engineering to emasculate men, give women the power and make society more compliant and less of a threat.

  • hlk99 Jan 07, 2014

    Wow Sabre.., that's intriguing. I'm pretty sure you bail on anything where a woman is or is considered the stronger sex.

    There are and will always be women who excel but I'm in the belief that most live under the radar. They don't need the fame and gratitude of the masses like most men do. Most men can't live without it.

    And frankly, in most societies, the woman has always been looked down upon as the child bearer or food gatherer. Who's to really know how many women's ideas have been lost down through the ages because of the man's unwillingness to listen. And since you think that most men are responsible for most criminal activities - it begs the question, I wonder how many women were responsible and people just couldn't believe a women was capable of something so heinous.

    So it seems by your comments you really don't respect women and think that they can do or be anything a man is. I myself like Watson being a women who can think and talk for herself. A whole other perspective on things. And being Asian adds another wrinkle.

    And Sabre, if you haven't been paying attention, there are more women in the world now than men. And in most global societies, women are starting to take control just like women in America have been doing. And honestly, over the past few years it seems that most men have been dropping the ball and maybe its time for a change.

  • marcusj1973 Jan 07, 2014

    As ridiculous a notion as I've read in a while. This sort of thinking would lead one to believe that you'd have no interest on the show from the get go with Lucy Liu being cast as Watson...but she's Asian, and Asians are smart, so I suppose that fits into your narrow stereotypical misogynist view.

    Gender and colour blind casting is one of the best things about this art medium. That an Asian woman can play the role historically written for a British man without compromising the story (to anybody by the small minded) is along the same lines as a song covered in a style very different than that of the original musician, that remains as good as the original, if not better.

    If you're feeling emasculated by strong female characters, then that speaks far more about you than it does anything else.

    The vast majority of great works of fiction revolve around white men and I'm sure that's the way you'd like to keep things. Luckily for the rest of us, producers are growing more and more comfortable with casting the best actor for the role, regardless of gender, race, etc. There are plenty of shows that cater to your "old boys club" so perhaps it's best you bailed on Elementary...though the Moriarty revelation happened some time ago, so either you're a liar or you're just here to spout your absurd world views. Either way, perhaps you should get back to your bailing.

  • phxcowbot Jan 06, 2014

    so you 'bailed' on one of the best shows on television because they changed Watson's gender?!? That is really weak. your statements just beg for jokes about your 'masculinity' - But it is so overwhelming that it obvo is not worth the effort.

  • PegHealy Jan 06, 2014

    And good grief again. Historically for the last 2000 years and to the present day women worldwide have been and continue to be subservient to men, except for a teeny tiny group of affluent Western women. And you feel threatened?

  • fleur-de-lune Jan 05, 2014

    Good grief, could you be any more zealous of your own sex? There is nothing in this show suggesting that the writers are trying to emasculate men. All they've done is make Moriarty a love interest. Male or female, they are still EQUALS. Male or female they are still obsessed with each other. All the writers have done is try to get more viewers by making Sherlock and Moriarty lovers.
    It's a good show, just enjoy it for what it is. If so clearly offends your elitist tastes, then watch something else.

  • smithinjapan Jan 05, 2014

    I liked the fact that I thought 100% for sure he would throw the letters in the fire, and that was the contrivance of the fire, but that I was wrong and he tucked them away. Ever-predictable television can still be a surprise, evidently.

  • thribs Jan 05, 2014

    Mentor? I knew she wasn't THE Moriarty.

  • Sabretruthtiger Jan 05, 2014

    Of course the top geniuses are men, particularly in the criminal world.
    It's thoroughly unrealistic.

  • thribs Jan 06, 2014

    I don't mean it like that. She just doesn't seem evil enough to be the Moriarty.

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