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Elementary: "No Lack of Void" (S02E20)

About the time Sherlock ended up covered in "anthrax," I was largely prepared to write the episode off as yet another instance of the small slump that the show has found itself in. Thankfully, the show zagged where others would zig, and Sherlock did not spend the episode potentially having anthrax and solving the case inside a quarantine bubble. Because, really, the show's better than that. It's not prone to those overly heightened moments that are hollow of all meaning since we know that Sherlock (or Bones or Castle or Benson) aren't going to die by the episode's end.

So while the case still suffered from that "Hey! It's that guy!"-itis, wherein you know whodunit because you recognize the name from the credits or the face once (s)he appear on screen -- in this case it was Garret Dillahunt (who needs to find himself a new show and stat since Raising Hope is over) -- but the end result, intending to kill the cows to collect the livestock insurance money, was novel enough that I didn't really mind that it was another "to collect/hoard/keep the money" motive. It could've used a little more color than Joe Bey and his anti-government rantings, but after you're coming off the search for a killer with dentures identical to eight other people or a woman growing an ear on her back, you have to up the color game a smidge.


Thankfully, the "personal demons" subplot of the week was better than last week's "Joan is randomly guilty about this thing that happened 5 years ago that she's never mentioned before now." The basis for this week's story was the death of Alistair, a character we haven't seen since SUPER EARLY in Season 1, in episode 6 to be precise, "Flight Risk." Sadly, it's an episode I barely recall, and I didn't even remember that Alistair and Sherlock knew each other, having firmly locked in Roger Rees as the guy who posed as Sherlock's dad and nothing else. For whatever reason, I had forgotten all the other stuff about the character, including his own drug use and his nursing of Sherlock when he was higher than even a paper kite.

In any case, at least there was some foundation laid for Sherlock's actions and arc within the episode, even if it was a long time ago for us as an audience, and as such as a teensy bit out of left field. This helped to give it all a bit more meaning, and returned us to the notions of Sherlock developing empathy -- he admitted to his imaginary Alistair that he loved him very much, and will miss him -- and his addiction struggle. As a result, Sherlock's way of dealing with Alistair death was to figure out what drove a man 30 years drug-free to suddenly relapse and return to the needle.

As is often the case with the show's handling this aspect of Sherlock and its narrative, it handled it well and maturely. Sherlock's actions had repercussions that in turn led to Sherlock explain himself (and funny plate breaking), namely giving voice to ever-present fear of an addict of relapsing. What sets it off? What causes it? Sherlock's only been clean for almost two years now. That's nothing compared to 30. It's a real concern, and one I'm always glad to see the show visit, especially with as solid acting as Miller and Liu delivered in that scene.

It does make worry that we could face the real possibility of Sherlock using again before the season is out, however...thoughts on that, and anything else in the episode that struck you?

***

Elementary is off next week, so it'll be back with "The Man With the Twisted Lip" on April 24. Oh, and will you look at that: Mycroft's back then, too! I guess we're settling in for a run of episodes to bring us to the conclusion of whatever it is that Mycroft started scheming waaaaaaaaaaaay back in November.

Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 2/19/2017

Season 5 : Episode 14

Next Episode

AIRS ON 3/5/2017

Season 5 : Episode 15

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I had completely forgotten about the mysterious phone call Mycroft had after Sherlock decided to not go back home to London...we know he isnt talking to Daddy cuz he ripped up the letter Sherlock wrote for him...my only hope is that show does not use Mycroft and Joan relationship to hinder Sherlock or to force his return to addiction..but since the is rarely any originality in the world left I foresee a silly conflict in the coming weeks
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I like the way they moved around Alistair's death, with Sherlock trying to find a reason for his relapse
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I am grateful they made no attempt to explain Alistair's inexplicable relapse. That is the real quandry of addiction -- it makes no sense and cannot be explained. The way they honestly, simply deal with the tone of addiction and the addict is one of the reasons I am drawn to Sherlock's character.
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It was ok - the "ghost" was a bit of a stretch to cover another mundane case of the week.
Hopefully Mycroft returning will establish an arc for the rest of the season
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I'm guessing that the "ghost" was put in to remind the viewers who the character was, since we only saw him one other time and he never shared screen time with Sherlock in the entire epsode. To be honest it's really hard to believe that Sherlock was that close with the man since we've never EVER seen them hang out together, and Sherlock hangs out with most of his "friends" at least ONCE outside of work. It would make more sense if Sherlock's sponsor Alfredo died, since at least they're relationship was shown onscreen!
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Rewatch Episode 6 from Season 1and then you'll understand. Allistair was Sherlock's friend since Sherlock was 10 years old and they never lost contact. I think he was closer to being his dad than Sherlock's real father. He was the one who told Joan how to get through to Sherlock. You can maybe even say he handed her the key to Sherlock's soul.
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I did rewatch it, but there is a difference between TELLING the relationship and SHOWING it. Alistair in the long run was nothing more than an exposition dump. Compare his relationship to, say, Moriarty, which was shown in flashbacks so we actually got to SEE how Sherlock fell in love with her. If Alistair was so important in Sherlock's life, we should have had at least one flashback of the two of them together or at least have them hang out in an episode. Instead we're merely told that they were best buds andwe're supposed to believe it. Why, Sherlock doesn't even have a PICTURE of them together, the most cliched sentimental device used in TV and movies.
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I enjoy the show as a whole and this ep was no exception. I do, however, feel they're moving too far away from Sherlock's deductive abilities. It's all research and dumb luck, nowawdays.
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This show had so much potential but it has missed its mark. Can't believe Miller's accent. I can barely understand him! Sounds like he has marbles in his mouth. I've seen him in other shows and movies and he speaks clearly and is easily understood. Loved the idea of making Watson a female, very clever. But, Liu is one dimensional in her acting and therefore, she is boring.
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Given that he is actually a Brit I think that possibly reflects more on your ability to understand English accents? Despite popular belief he's not Scottish.
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I am neither from america nor england, but I can understand Miller better than most actors from the states. But I can also unterstand drunken irish people^^
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Me too, but It depends on how drunk they are. ;-)
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For me it is the other way round. I have difficulties in understanding the American actors. I sometimes have to guess what they are saying, but I have no problem whatsoever to understand Jonny Lee Miller. His English is absolutely flawless. There are not many people who put so much effort in pronouncing every vowel and consonant correctly. I think if you are more used to hear American accents then these are easier to understand for you. And if you mostly hear British accents as I do, it is the other way round.
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One-off guest stars really do shine a neon light over their head, screaming "I did it. I did it." It's kinda funny because when I saw him, my first thought was "Simon, you're not dead. Someone needs to call Michael Westen and tell him."

I much more appreciate this show when it's handling topical cases. Anthrax was a big scare a couple of years ago, but it felt more like the writers were reaching too hard for a great big "This city needs you, Spiderman" moment. No one seriously noticed all that lab equipment being taken into a storage container or someone who keeps visiting it every 20m? There are many credible threats available the writers could have Sherlock deduce without coming up with something so ridiculous.

I was sorta glad they brought back Alistair, if only briefly. Sherlock's circle of friends, close friends, is rather small so it makes alot of sense that Alistair's death would hit him very hard, especially if it was by overdose. The interesting question isn't that Alistair had been using but how long. Could that have been why they had Sherlock not meet him face to face? More than likely, he would have seen the signs that Alistair had been using and ratted on him to get help. I could easily see him and Joan staging an intervention to get him clean again.

If anything, Alistair's heroin death felt more topical than the anthrax scare (Phillip Seymour Hoffman isn't that far back.) It also illustrates how being an addict of any sort means you are never really free, never able to say you will never, because the more likely you are to make that statement, the more likely you are to relapse. Does that mean Sherlock is going to relapse, probably. But that just makes him like any addict, it gives him a more human element that the people around can relate to. Sherlock is going to need to relapse a few times just to break that illusion that he isn't as far from his past as he would like, no matter how intelligent he is.

In fact, Sherlock's rational approach to figuring out Alistair's relapse was typical Sherlock. Not everything in life is a rational decision. Sometimes its chemical, sometimes its emotional, sometimes its a bit of both. No addict ever forgets how good the high seemed to be. You can rationalize it, understand it, suffer the consequences of chasing it, but the full body memory of that first hit never leaves you. And maybe 30 years of domestic bliss has its rewards but I can bet Alistair kept feeling that discrepancy between the happiness he had and that ghost of the happiness he once had. You can't reason or rationalize away that feeling.

Sherlock is an addict. And unlike Alistair's partner, Joan has a much better understanding of what that means to Sherlock. How many clients have relapsed on Joan, more than she can count I bet. So, when Sherlock relapses, Joan will understand better why she is actually with Sherlock and why Sherlock is so accomodating to her. He loves Irene but he needs Joan, and I bet she needs him almost as much. So close to co-dependent but in a good way.
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I liked the idea of a case about killing cows with anthrax LOL - I like the scene when Joan's mom calls and she remembers that the milk is expired LOL. I don't want to hurt anybody's feelings about addiction by saying this, but for me there is too much of that in this show. And it doesn't quite get to me. Like in this episode, for example, I didn't see why so much stress was put on how his friend died. He lost a dear friend. Death on its own has importance enough. But no, he could not just be beaten down by it or trying to find a secondary explanation to his friend's death just because he was dealing with sad feelings, no, it all had to be about the addiction again. So answering one of Noel's questions at the end of his post, yes, I think they are doing this for a reason. They cannot be bringing the subject back if they don't intend to get Sherlock to use again. Which I'm very sorry about, because it will be a big deal that I don't look forward to.
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I have a couple of thoughts about the addiction...

* Doyle's Sherlock also had a drug problem, but only when he was bored. He went a bit crazy when there was no case to stimulate his mind. So, I think they're tying into that, with this show -- albeit a bit too in-your-face for me, too.

* I think writers often struggle to give their protagonists meaningful and interesting weaknesses to balance out their brilliance, and here they've chosen to focus on Holmes' two main weaknesses: lack of social skills and drug addiction.
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Well explained, I agree. His addiction is also what made Watson necessary in the first place (in this show). And now that she is necessary for other more professional reasons, the addiction is still, indeed, the weakness that he needs to have so that there is balance.
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I liked this ep better than last one!
Miller's acting for me is always impeccable and I am sure that Liu's task to react to him is far easier! Again, I would've never believed they could develop such interesting chemistry.
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I liked this episode. Again emphasizing my preference for episodes than focus on some personal stories about the main leads.

First time we saw Sherlock talking to a "ghost" of dead person. Interesting.

From the pickpocket who died in the jail cell to the attempted murder of cows, there were enough zig and zag for me.

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the sadness in his voice as he talked about Alistair was so subtle and powerful and convincing - and the mystery of why? Why would he do it? Why is it so seductive? why is it so close to seizing me?
JLM is amazing to watch perform his craft.

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Considering the things that the ghost of Alistair said to him, Sherlocks actions in the van might have even been a suicide attempt.
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You are absolutely right. It was gut-wrenching. You could notice in his voice that something was utterly wrong the moment he entered the hospital. I even didn't get some twists in the main story, because I was so moved by the background one. Luckily I watched on the internet so I could go back. I hope JLM gets the Prism Award this year. He really deserves it.
I think the stunt in the van was written to express that in the state Sherlock was in, he didn't care anymore if he died or not.
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i was disappointed that they did not say what drove him to use after 30 years clean, i was still hoping it was foul play, i mean his hubby even said he was happy
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I was,too at first. But then I thought if it blind-sided even Sherlock and Alistair's partner then he must have kept everything to himself and so nobody will ever know what drove him. Like it is often the case when somebody commits suicide what I think Alistair actually did.
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still it would have made a good story to find out what made him fall off the wagon like that
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Good episode, as always. I don't mind when the culprit is obvious to me, because watching Holmes and Watson get there is what matters. Sherlock's ongoing struggle with addiction is well-presented, and it's entirely possible he could relapse, but I think having Joan with him reduces that chance.
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When Joan finally drops the truths on him—Allistair was an addict, so is Sherlock, it’s one day at a time for the rest of his life, and that’s that—it’s a powerful statement, sharply delivered, and Sherlock handles it gracefully:
“I took the passing of a dear friend and twisted it into an indulgence in narcissism… My tantrum upset you, and I apologize… I assure you, I’m no closer to using than I was yesterday, or the day before that, or the day before that. If I was, I would tell you.”
Joan's character grows more important in every episode - and often very subtly - again, kudos to the writers from me.
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Joan's character grew more important especially since Episode 9. That's at least my impression. Sherlock has been mentally unstable ever since and she has to support him and see him through so that he doesn't crack up completely.
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And Sherlock's fear is totally understandable. When someone who is considerably happy ("joie de vivre") relapses after more than three decades without drugs then what about a person who suffers from clinical depression and is haunted by dark thoughts most of the time. How can he manage not to relapse.
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This episode had some kind of 24 vibe as they were jumping from suspect to suspect within the time frame. As said, we now always know soon enough who's guilty, just by the way the guilty one is presented to us. So the rest of the episode should be able to carry it on its own. This one was pretty good in the way Sherlock was struggling with these question son his addiction.

I only wonder why they made Jeremy turn up at his door. if he was just a reason for Sherlock that might have caused the relapse, he didn't need to turn up at his door. I expected to see him back in some way but it didn't happen.
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I think Jeremy showed up because he didn't like Sherlock insinuating that he was responsible for his father's relapse/something shadier. Prior to the heroin reveal, the show pitches it as a bit of a murder suspect.
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Noel, you asked what struck us about the episode. Well, I am wondering if Sherlock's brother might be visiting in the next episode, because Joan contacted him and told him that Sherlock is suicidal?
Because I think that's what he is when I am considering the title of the episode, the incident with the van and the comment of Alistair's ghost that if Sherlock and his state of mind would be a role he would refuse to play it.
I know it's mere speculation, but still...
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I think it's fairly specutaltive, but I also don't think Joan thinks Sherlock's suicidal, certainly not after their conversation with the plates. If Joan thought he was suicidal, I think she's in a position to be far more pro-active about it than she was even last season.
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You are right. Didn't think about this conversation. But Sherlock reassuring Joan that he is not nearer to using than before, doesn't mean he is not suicidal. Suicidal people often try to make the persons around them believe that they are alright. And I think that's what Allistair did with Sherlock and his partner.
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I got that part, if only it were a real life situation. I was looking for the added value in the tv story and there it didn't make sense to me. It added nothing to the suspect he was made, even with the heroin reveal. That's why I thought it/he would come back to bring the value/make sense to that door action after all. I was just surprised as Elementary usually built up well.
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From a TV story perspective, he's just there to fill Joan in off-screen so she can confront Sherlock about it. That its value: providing that narrative step.
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Ah, yes,thank you Sir. Why did I miss that? Back to school for me.
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We finally got that Elementary - Helix crossover we've been waiting for such along time. Let's hope he will bring Ilaria down.


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Dillahunt is in Amazon's new Hand of God pilot with Ron Perlman. If that counts for anything.
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I missed that news! And...sure. Let's say it counts for "something" since I'll likely forget to watch the pilot and it won't be selected by whatever bizarre process Amazon uses (never minding it has a really solid cast already lined up...)
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