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Review of Elementary Episode 2.24 The Grand Experiment: "The Grand Illusion"



The finale of season two of Elementary neatly wraps up the Mycroft Holmes (Rhys Ifans) plot that has dominated the last few episodes while also opening up new possibilities. Therefore, the episode provides a satisfactory degree of closure while also putting new balls in the air for next season--an effective strategy, I think.

The episode picks up where we left off last week, with Mycroft in the crosshairs of the real MI6 mole, facing a carefully-orchestrated frame-job for murder and treason. Given the animosity between Mycroft and Sherlock (Jonny Lee Miller), it is perhaps surprising that Sherlock never even entertains the possibility that Mycroft is either a murderer or a traitor. Nevertheless, he clearly takes some pleasure in demonstrating that Mycroft is being set up by using Mycroft's remote car starter and thereby blowing up his brother's Jaguar. He exposes the car bomb intended to kill Mycroft while also getting some payback for Mycroft's bombing of Holmes's stored possessions way back when we first met Mycroft. That echo is one of the episode's early indications that things are coming to a head.

The Sherlock/Mycroft antagonism remains front and centre in the episode, along with further exposition about Mycroft's background. The show makes one of its rare excursions into Conan Doyle's original stories when it displaces Sherlock's description of Mycroft from "The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter" to Mycroft himself, recalling Sherlock's description of Mycroft to their father, when the two were teens. Evidently, Sherlock's contempt for Mycroft has been a spur for him. Indeed, Mycroft's desire to make amends with his brother  is the episode's most effective and affecting element.

But all the character development and revelation must balance against the frame-job plot, as we learn that Mycroft's handler, Tim Sherrington (Ralph Brown) is the genuine mole, now trying to frame and murder Mycroft in order to save himself. The attempt to save Mycroft while nailing Sherrington provides for powerful work from Miller and Lucy Liu (Watson), as their relationship--working and otherwise--develops. One scene in particular marks a clear turning point. Holmes contradicts a claim he made earlier in the season--that he would never change--by acknowledging to Watson that she has proved to him that he can do so, and that he will do so: for her. Miller's performance is subtle and affecting, as he sits on the floor, ostensibly to contemplate the evidence before him but also thereby placing himself in a subservient position, almost a pleading position, before Watson. The frank vulnerability in his eyes is perhaps the most overt look into the interior Sherlock the show has provided to date, even though he can't directly face her while engaged in the dialogue.

Tellingly, the scene takes place in the empty apartment of a murder victim, with Watson on the perimeter of the room, hovering by the door while Holmes is surrounded by empty space (and the reconstructed blood spatter he has painted on the wall). Their separation and her need to establish her own space are reinforced, even as her dialogue both acknowledges that coming into Holmes's orbit has been the best thing that has ever happened to her but also asserts that unless she finds her own literal space, she will always only ever be in his orbit.

Nevertheless, her ability to handle herself plays out well in a scene in which Sherrington turns up at the brownstone when she is home alone. When he threatens to hold her down and take out her eye with his thumb, she turns the tables on him by noting that Everybody is there; she has opened up several chat screens on the computers, innocuously visible in the background until she activates their screens and shows Sherrington that he has an audience. Everyone has become almost  a character in "their" own right on the show by this point, but now we see Watson rather than Sherlock using them--and unlike Sherlock, she is able to do so without having to humiliate herself in exchange for their assistance.

At any rate, the situation between Watson and Holmes is complex and lays significant groundwork for next season, when it seems extremely likely that Holmes will be living alone again, though still working with Watson. He also "loses" his brother in the episode, albeit only metaphorically, as Mycroft ends up having to fake his own death to get out from under Sherrington's set-up. Mycroft insists that the past year, in which he has reestablished a connection with Sherlock, has been "a gift," before leaving, presumably forever (though if we don't see Mycroft again, I will be very much surprised), while hugging Sherlock and asserting his love for this most abrasive of brothers.

The season ends, therefore, with Holmes effectively abandoned by both his brother and by Watson. The heroin we saw him conceal last week becomes a factor now, as he fishes it out of hiding, hinting that  a fall off the wagon might be in his future. The final moment, though, gives us Holmes offering his services to MI6, which could very well materially transform the show next season, though I suspect that this development will ultimately be no more transformative or permanent than Bell's change of jobs was at the beginning of the season. Nevertheless, the structural echo can hardly be an accident, especially given the moment of connection between Holmes and Bell (Jon Michael Hill) when Bell finally returned to full active duty a few weeks ago.

Overall, this was a satisfying finale, and I find myself curious to see where the show will take Holmes and Watson come the fall. How did you like the wrap-up? Did the show deal appropriately with Mycroft? do you think he's really gone forever? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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