I was fully prepared to discuss the case and the whole "Sherlock not's going to leave New York, his father be damned" thing. I even had a different picture selected for the top of this review. But after Mycroft's little phone chat, I had to shift gears because I have so many feelings and questions. I mean, just look at that photo! I originally thought he was just sad that Sherlock stood him up again, but in hindsight, the pose is downright supervillain-y.
That Mycroft is playing a long con is certainly something I had considered, but—silly me—I decided to ignore the idea because I was happy with the potential character development for Sherlock as he got to (re)know his brother. Factor in the easy chemistry between Jonny Lee Miller and Rhys Ifans, and we had the makings of a very solid run of episodes that could've explored and expanded Elementary's Sherlock in all sorts of ways, ways that likely would've led to us meeting Papa Holmes himself at some point.
Of course, that possibility isn't eliminated just because Mycroft seems to be and likely is plotting against his brother. Easy chemistry between adversaries is vitally important to selling us on the relationship, perhaps even more so when one of the involved parties doesn't even know they're being played. It's the basic principle behind Alfred Hitchcock's bomb theory of surprise versus suspense: If a bomb explodes while two people are talking, that's surprise. If you see the bomb hidden beneath the table they're sitting at while they talk, and you know it'll explode in a certain amount of time, that's suspense. Mycroft's phone call was the surprise of "Blood Is Thicker"; us waiting for Sherlock to find out about it is the suspense.
I'm excited about the avenues for tension this opens up, because now, every interaction with Mycroft has us yelling at the screen, "Nooooooo! Sherlock! Joan! Don't trust the charming restaurateur! Get out of there!" the same way we yell at the unknowing schmucks with the bomb under their table.
In theory, I'm also a teeny tiny bit hesitant about this storyline, if only because a betrayal from someone close to Sherlock—so close that he probably won't see it coming—is more or less what Elementary did last season with Irene/Moriarty, and for the show to dip back into that idea seems a touch lazy. It's primed to play on those pillars of recovery, and particularly the aspect of structure that Sherlock so nicely explained toward the end of the episode. Structure is more than just having a routine, having order in one's life; it's dependent on having supports that help provide structure, like Joan, Gregson, and Bell. You can see how thinking you're developing a new relationship with your brother, or that the love of your life is so very dead and not a criminal mastermind, could be detrimental.
Irene/Moriarty played on that issue of structure, since the situation rattled Sherlock's pretty severely. He obviously hasn't completely bounced back from it, as he's still reading letters that Jamie's sending him from prison. At this stage, I'm not sure what variation Mycroft's plotting could possibly offer on this theme, but it's still very early in the season's run, and Elementary has garnered such a massive amount of goodwill so far, both in terms of characters and plots, that I can be patient.
In other news about family, secrets, and betrayal, there was the case of the week! The details concerned a Steve Jobs-esque computer industry titan—complete with a life-threatening illness, no less—named Ian Gale (William Sadler) and his connection to the plummeting-from-a-balcony and stabbing of a young woman. Half the fun of the mystery was stripped away, because the episode fell victim to the Law & Order rule of "If you recognize the guest star, they probably did it." Here, it was the very prolific and terrific Margaret Colin as Gale's wife, who, just like Mycroft is potentially doing, played a long game to get her hands on a sizable chunk of Gale's fortune. The plan involved reconciling Gale with his illegitimate daughter to get the necessary blood to aid in his heart transplant recovery, only to then use that blood as the poison that would kill him. Colin's appearance in the episode was a decent-enough non-diegetic clue—though, given the roles that Sadler is often cast to play on procedurals, there was every chance he was faking the whole dying thing—but her medical background all but sealed the deal that she was the killer.
Thankfully, the other half of the fun of the mystery—watching our consulting detectives piece it all together—remained intact. "Blood Is Thicker" did a particularly nice job of handling Joan handling the case. I do really love how serious Elementary is about showing Joan's improvement in the craft of solving crimes, and here, her medical expertise and her inversion of the case to see it not as the murder of Haley Tyler, but of Ian Gale, offered the necessary perspective from which to reconsider the crime and solve it. Sure, Sherlock can deduce that a tree had a dead body under it because of its height, but Joan was the one to crack this case, and I like that the duo's respective knowledge bases are used consistently and, in Joan's case, to demonstrate an increase in skill.
Mycroft's feint about Papa Holmes wanting Sherlock to return to England did stir up some stuff, but Elementary managed to deal with it in a manner that made sense. Instead of dwelling on the idea, or prolonging the decision, Sherlock just explained the situation to Joan, including the fact that he's been paying Joan by dipping into his trust fund, and how he feels about both going back and staying put. Joan's response—"Screw him. We can find a new place to live."—matched Sherlock's own candor. It was an honest and real conversation between two people who trust and respect one another, and it was refreshing to see that sort of conversation play out on TV, where all too often, such conversations are either overwrought events in the final moments of episodes, or things that happen only after one character is forced to spill the beans.
While it's likely too much to hope for, especially if Sherlock notices that his father swung the hammer down him, it also opened up the avenue for yet more different types of cases—paying cases!—for Sherlock and Joan to solve. The nod to their mutual appreciation and desire to solve cases associated with the NYPD does help to explain why the show only trades in murders, but at least between the need for some cash and Sherlock's trunk of cold cases, there are other sorts of mysteries that the show can delve into every now and then.
– I apologize if I missed the mention of this earlier, but Diogenes, the name of Mycroft's restaurant in New York, is the name of Mycroft's club in the Doyle stories. I honestly cannot remember if it's come up before or not.
– "Swedish moose cheese."
– "I'd sooner die." Oy. I can only imagine how difficult apartment hunting with him would be. Also: I hope they never leave the brownstone.
– "My horse finally, literally, comes in, and you arrest me."
– Since he came up again, I got to thinking about who should play Papa Holmes. My top choice—Richard Briers—actually died earlier this year, and I wasn't aware. So I'll settle for Rowan Atkinson playing against type. Who would you pick?
– Elementary reviews will happen on an "If the episode warrants it" basis going forward. The next time something big or exciting happens, we'll be here. In the meantime, you should of course always feel free to discuss the show in the Elementary community.
What'd you think of "Blood Is Thicker"?
AIRED ON 5/8/2016
Season 4 : Episode 24