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Elementary - The Best Way Out Is Always Through - Review



"The Best Way Out Is Always Through" contrasts interestingly with "Under My Skin," last week's episode. Last week, we were given a simply binary between dishonor among thieves and honor among Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) and his friends--complicated a bit, admittedly, by the fact that Homes proved his loyalty as a friend by stealing a bunch of cars. This week, we get contrasting images of honor within law enforcement, as the A plot deals with corruption in the prison system (the private for-profit prison system, to be sure, rather than state- or federal-run prison) while the B plot addresses cops betraying (or "betraying") other cops by working for Internal Affairs.

There is also what I guess might be a C plot, in which Holmes has acquired what might or might not be the Stanley Cup from a sale on the dark web, and is attempting to determine whether he has the genuine article or not. If so, he fully intends to return it to the NHL, of course, but first there is the challenge of testing it in varous ways to see whether it's genuine. It first appears in the shower, when Watson opens the curtain. My wife instantly recognized it, just from the edge of its cup. As the episode proceeds, he subjects it to various tests to determine whether it is of the correct density, the correct metallic composition, and so on--far less easy, but presumably far more fun, than just calling up the NHL and asking whether they were missing a cup. Anyway, compared to some of the other outre things Holmes does in his spare time (practicing defusing live bombs, simulating death), this one is relatively minor. I confess part of me hoped the Cup would turn out to be a counterfeit, as Holmes promised to convert it to a new wading pool for Clyde if it was a fake.

Anyway, the murder plot this episode involves apparent revenge killings by a woman who has escaped from prison. First a judge is killed, with a screwdriver from the prison and with her fingerprints on it. Then, a guard from the prison is murdered, and his wife gets a text from the murder site in which the killer supposedly identifies herself. On the face of it, we are in standard revenge murder territory, with escaped convict taking vengeance on those responsible for her troubles. Except . . . the escapee has no history of violence and was working on an appeal that had a good shot of getting her out, so why would she escape and go on a murder rampage? (Holmes's incredulity that she has escaped at all, never mind committed the murders, rather irks Watson [Lucy Liu], who sees Holmes's skepticism as sexist dismissal of female ability, while Holmes insists it's merely statistics--women almost never escape from prison and almost never commit multiple murders--but their bickering is amusing and, in a way, reassuring that their relationship is back on track.)

Turns out that the woman never actually escaped but was murdered in the prison, her body hidden. (A recent Criminal Minds episode also dealt with murder--including hidden bodies--and corruption in for-profit prisons; if there has been some sort of news story about something similar in the real world recently, I have missed it, but maybe it's just a trend piggybacking on the popularity of Orange Is the New Black, which is referenced in this episode.) She was killed and set up as a patsy for the murder of the judge and the guard in order to discredit the private company running the prison from which she supposedly escaped. The real murderer runs a different for-profit prison company and wanted to discredit the first one in order to get a lucrative new prison contract for his own company; the guard was killed to tie up a loose end, as he is the one who killed the prisoner and provided the fingerprint-covered screwdriver. Holmes comments in the episode on how the for-profit prison system actually leads to an environment in which crime and its punishment becomes part of the capitalist money-mill. For-profit prison companies literally killing to make a killing is both ironic and its own commentary on the greed motive that lies beneath so many murders.

It also models the correctional system itself as open to corruption, especially in a context in which profit emerges as its primary driver. Guards murdering prisoners is of course a significant enough abuse of authority on its own. However, it goes farther here, as supposed representatives of law and order take the lives of other members of their own "team," killing a judge to frame a criminal and then a guard (admittedly himself a murderer) to increase profits from crime. It's a sort of false flag tactic--false flag actions having been referenced, in fact, in another recent episode. These profiteers then actually turn on each other--as in the no honour among thieves last week--as the corrupt guard is  killed by his own confererates: the weed of crime bears bitter fruit, even for those supposedly on the side of the law. (I've provided one corpse image already so will spare you another.)

The B plot also plays on betrayal within the system, as Marcus (Jon Michael Hill) discovers that Shauna (Afton Williamson), his girlfriend of the past several months (though I don't recall seeing her before), in fact works for Internal Affairs--not as an IA investigator, but as a plant. She is a homicide detective but was recruited in the Academy and occasionally provides IA with inside information. Bell is appalled at what he sees as a betrayal of other cops, though as she reminds him, he himself brought down a corrupt cop last season. Bell argues that he had no choice in that situation; Shauna's choosing to spy on other cops is a totally different situation. They may be on the same side in a way, and may both believe that cops should be honest, but their strategies in how they ensure that differ. While the result of this confrontation is Shauna's decision to transfer to IA and be open about what she does, it also effectively ends their relationship.

At the end of the episode, Bell visits Holmes, and the two sit--comparably alone--flicking playing cards into the Stanley Cup (well, occasionally; mostly they miss). They may have the trophy, but neither, really, has the prize. As Holmes has noted earlier in the episode, his own nature and his essential isolation seems to rub off on those around him: Watson is becoming more isolated, Gregson is now divorced, and now Bell, too, is losing his girlfriend. While on the one hand this is a remarkably arrogant assessment of his influence on the world, on the other, the concern he shows for those about whom he cares echoes his concern for Alfredo last week. his reference to the love of his life being a homicidal maniac also makes me hope, vaguely, for a return of Moriarty soon, but Natalie Dormer is almost certainly too busy with Game of Thrones to pop by. Ah well.


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