Last night’s Elementary was, by far, the best (and most fearless) episode of the series debut season with the intriguingly titled “M.” When helping Gregson (Aidan Quinn) investigate a brutal murder, Sherlock (Jonny Lee Miller) recognizes the earmarks of an adversary he thought he’d left behind in London.
Holmes had been assisting Scotland Yard in apprehending a sadistic serial killer whose signature was to hang his victims upside down and eviscerate them, allowing them to bleed to death. As Holmes had gotten closer to catching him, the killer had gotten very personal, choosing Holmes’ girlfriend Irene Adler as his next victim. Irene’s death plunged Holmes into an abyss of heroin from which he’d only emerged much later, in New York where we, and Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) meet him at the start of the series.
But now he has apparently tracked Holmes across the pond, leaving his mark and further tormenting the consulting detective. Holmes is read, this time, and rather than catching him and turning him over to the police, Holmes is intent on torturing and murdering (who he thinks is) Moriarty. It is a cold and calculated revenge Holmes seeks, vengeance for the murder of Irene and for all the other murders committed.
But can anything be that easy? Not bloody likely (although pretty damn bloody, to be sure).
Last night’s episode had everything that makes this series superb, and what compelled me to both watch and write about it in the first place. The past few episodes had edged into the largely procedural with a few touches here and there of the character exploration that drives the series beyond mere “crime drama.”
When Holmes catches up with the murder, catching him nearly in the act of another evisceration, he brings “M” to a dark, empty building, stringing him and preparing first to torture him, and then to let him die. This is a very bold move for a network television series, and I was wondering how the series would deal with its central character murdering even such a despicable villain in cold blood.
Of course, in the end, Sherlock realizes it’s not really Moriarty, but not easily. The killer, a hired gun, has been dispatched by Holmes’ adversary to torment and terrorize. And while Holmes injures him, he also believes that this murderer will ultimately help him catch up with Moriarty.
Watson is understandably worried about her client, whom she’s about to finish with and move on to another recovering addict. She’s reluctant now to end her time with him, but it’s not only her concern for him and how close he is to the frayed end of his emotional rope. She is also reluctant to leave the chase, the puzzles and the excitement she gets from her affiliation with Sherlock.
Jonny Lee Miller is superb in “M.” It is a controlled, but emotional performance. He is cold and calculating, methodical in intent. His eyes and tightly coiled body language reflect not only the ruthlessness with which he intends to deal with “M,” but also the deep emotions this encounter has brought to the surface. There is a sense that Holmes is somewhere else in his head entirely, frightening to Joan and to us.
Miller is also great in conveying to us his feelings about Watson’s departure. He says little until the emotional reveal to her at the end of the episode, but it is clear that his reticence says more than words can. Holmes’ admission at the end that he truly values what Watson has done for him is a great payoff coming at the end of an emotionally exhausting night for Sherlock.
It is both Watson’s worry about Sherlock’s emotional state and her desire to keep working with him that compels her to phone his father, requesting to stay on as his recovery companion. Although he declines to continue her services, she chooses to lie to Holmes, telling him that his father will continue to pay her. I believe she does that to protect her own conflicted feelings as well as not reveal the extent of her worry about Holmes at this point. Liu also does a great job at conveying Watson’s emotions while trying to keep them in check.
It is a great place to leave the story as the series takes a short break before returning with new episodes at the end of the month. In case you missed last night’s episode, you can watch it on the Elementary official site. Elementary airs Thursday nights at 10:00 p.m. on CBS.