The mystery this week is the first one in a while to be of more than passing interest, but even so the usual TV guest star rule means that there's no real mystery about who will end up being guilty, only why. Since we meet guest star Richard Masur, playing holocaust reparations consultant Jacon Weiss, early in the episode, we know he must be the guilty party despite his avuncular and apparently benign presence. What we don't know is how the murder of corrupt and disgraced hedge fund manager Oscar Holt (Thomas Ryan), whose suicide on the eve of his arrest was interrupted by his killer, will end up being tied back to Weiss. The episode tries to beat the guest star guilt rule by giving us a partial view of the killer and letting us hear his voice, so we know he is not Weiss. Instead, he is Nelson Maddox (Lucas Hall) apparently one of Holt's disgruntled investors, since he writes "THIEF" on the wall after committing the brutal murder. However, he's really a confederate of Weiss's, trying to track down incriminating information about Weiss that Holt was planning to come clean with; Weiss has been bilking holocaust survivors of millions, which holt, as his own financial advisor, knows. When the police get on to Maddox, Weiss kills him in turn, but of course Holmes (Johnny Lee Miller) is too much for him and we get the inevitable scene of Holmes explaining how he tracked down the truth.
The murder plot turns on betrayed confidences and characters benefiting themselves on the backs of those they profess to help--Holt by bilking his investors, Weiss by using his charity to line his own pockets rather than to return property stolen by the Nazis to its proper owners. The importance of one being able to trust those in whom one has placed confidence spreads from the professional to the personal in the figure of Chloe Butler (Heather Burns), Holt's private chef and also, coincidentally, Watson's (Lucy Liu) first client as a sober coach. (Where would mystery stories be without coincidences and figures from our portagonists's pasts emerging every two or three episodes to complicate their lives? Elementary has trod this path perhaps once too often this fall.) This places Watson in a dilemma, as
her obligation to keep Chloe's confidence conflicts with her obligation to share crucial information with the police: Watson is able to recognize Maddox as a potential suspect because she knows of his connection with Chloe, but she cannot reveal that without exposing Chloe's past.
This ethical problem resonates with Holmes's own guilt over the debilitating injury Detective Bell (Jon Michael Hill) suffered in the previous episode. Despite being convinced all his actions the were correct, Holmes nevertheless feels guilty over what happened, a fact that, as his sponsor Alfredo (Ato Essandoh) points out, speaks to how Holmes has changed over the course of the series. alfredo may be teaching him criminal techniques, but Holmes uses them in the service of the public good, not his own enrichment. Furthermore, he is beginning to feel obligations to others, not merely using them for his own purposes--in contrast to Holt and Weiss. Indeed, as these venal users are exposed and punished for their crimes, Holmes is coming to terms with trying to find ways to help others. Weiss purports to help holocaust survivors; Holt purports to help investors; Alfredo points out that Holmes has benefited from his addiction
program, and maybe it is time for him to give something back by becoming a sponsor himself. the selfishness of the episode's villains serves as a foil to Holmes's growing sense of obligation to a larger community, not merely to finding justice for the conveniently dead victims for whom he advocates assiduously but with whom he need invest no direct human involvement. Indeed, Watson reminds Holmes of the importance of such networks when she counters his willingness to violate Chloe's confidence by noting that she owes the same debt of trust to Holmes that she does to Chloe, and that some way of reconciling that obligation with justice must be found.
Unsurprisingly, the climax of the episode is not the exposure of the killer but instead Holmes's next step, as he agrees to serve as a sponsor himself, for Alfredo's recommended sponsee, Randy (Stephen Tyrone Williams). Randy's back story remains a mystery at this point, but given Alfredo's as a crackerjack defeater of security systems (we get some humor this episode as we see Holmes's practice at learning to defeat sophisticated car alarms under Alfredo's tutelage continue), we might wonder whether Randy will have his own conveniently useful criminal past. Is Holmes, with Alfredo and Randy, beginning to gather the New York equivalent of the Baker Street Irregulars? Only time will tell, but I rather hope so. Bell, meanwhile, gets an offer to shift his job into counter-terrorism intelligence gathering--another way to serve the larger community, but one which I hope does not mean Jon Michael Hill will be leaving the show. Instead, perhaps this shift will link into whatever mysterious plans Mycroft (Rhys Ifans) has for Sherlock!
How did you like this fall finale? what are your expectations for when the show returns on January second? Let me know in the comments below!