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"?