Tonight's episode of Elementary was a bit of a comedown after last week's mid-season return; "All in the Family" is certainly a solid and satisfying episode that moves the characters along, but there was little special or outstanding about the action this week.
The opening scene exists primarily to bring home the fact that Holmes (Johnny Lee Miller) and Watson (Lucy Liu) find consulting for the police at the moment a less than congenial task, in the absence of Detective Bell (Jon Michael Hill), who has transferred to a new counter-terrorist intelligence unit. While they still solve crimes, the scene makes clear that establishing viable working relationships with other detectives is proving difficult--which speaks both to Holmes's prickliness (of course) but also to Bell's own unique skills. The fragility of the consulting relationship is suggested (not for the first time, needless to say), and the benefits of relationships is one of the focal points of the episode. (We also get the pleasure of seeing Holmes and Watson in elegent evening attire, as their latest bust--a one-legged smuggler--has been using a hidden compartment in his prosthesis to steal valuable art, and they apprehended him at a swank event where he was engaged in such a theft).
The plot is basically a "so what?" story about a mobster who has been in hiding for over twenty years turning up dead and dumped in a barrel at a waste disposal site; his body is found because Bell is sent to investigate a report of suspicious activity and uses his own acute observational skills to recognize that one of these barrels is not like the others, leading to the gruesome discovery of a mutilated corpse. Naturally, there is more to events than a simple mob war--though Watson gets to reveal her hitherto unknown detailed knowledge about the mob, traceable to her childhood in Queen's, where following the mob was akin to following soap operas. Instead, the murder has been orchestrated by Deputy Commissioner Da Silva (guest star Peter Gerety) as part of his plot to get out from under the thumb of the mob, with whom he has been colluding for the bulk of his career. There are some amusing moments as Holmes and Watson unravel events, including a visit ot a NSA front, where Holmes threatens to inundate the resident "web designer" with plushie-devoted web sites he'll have a hard time explaining to his superiors if he doesn't co-operate.
However, the mystery is pretty much pro forma, and is rendered less interesting by virtue of its "close to home" factor. Da Silva is after all Bell's new boss and has in fact dispatched Bell precisely to find the body and precipitate a mob war. The cliche of the one instigating an investigation being in fact the guilty party, and of someone closely connected to the investigator being the culprit, is perhaps one overly-familiar plot device too many for any episode. The device does have the beneficial side effect of getting Bell back a sa detective, though, so there's that; the tension between Bell and Holmes seems to be on the mend.
Indeed, and as usual, the real interest in the episode lies in the interplay between the regular characters. Bell's continuing resentment of Holmes comes to a head in a confrontation between the two men. Holmes's machinations to bridge the gap with Bell finally pay off when Holmes is able to get beyond his typical manipulative strategies and tell Bell directly that he has faith in Bell's ability to come back from his injury, and to note that he himself has come back from a debilitating condition, with help. If last week we saw the troubling implications of Holmes's kinship with Moriarty, we see here instead the beneficial ones of his developing connections with other people, notably Watson of course but also the police he respects, such as Gregson (Adian Quinn) and Bell. Much as he might want to, Holmes is not able to do it all himself, and he is coming more and more to realize this as the series progresses. both Watson and Bell make crucial contributions to solving the puzzle this time out. We might also contrast the ultimately destructive relationship Da Silva has had with the mob with th eultimately constructive ones Holmes has been forging. Go team Holmes!
So, how did you like this week's episode? Let me know in the comments below.