The third episode of Elementary continues exploring how Sherlock’s sudden absence has affected his relationships, and once again poses questions about his ability to have and maintain meaningful friendships. So far the series has, naturally, focused on beginning the rebuild of Sherlock’s relationship with Joan. This episode opens this up a little, and asks whether Sherlock can really have ‘friends’, this time using Harlan Emple, one of his previously-established “Irregulars”.
Rich Sommer does good work as Emple; he is likeable, but it is also easy to see why Sherlock would eventually find him tiresome. His fan-like dedication to Sherlock could easily become grating, and it is obvious that he has completely misjudged Sherlock as a person (“You invited me to a party,” Sherlock says with no small amount of distaste). Sherlock uses the specialists who make up his Irregulars when they will be conducive to his own processes, and has no interest in relating to them on a personal level. Sherlock comes around to Harlan professionally over the course of the episode, and seems to recognise that he’s hurt the man. He doesn’t seem interested in making friends still, but Kitty’s suggestion that he could be a “fellow typist” seems to push Sherlock to see Harlan as more than a tool in his toolkit.
The episode uses this to contrast with Sherlock’s other relationships. Of course there are Joan and Kitty, but there is also a lovely moment (with some excellent timing from Miller and Jon Michael Hill) where Sherlock forcibly pushes Bell away from a door to prevent him being shot, shielding him with his body. Not only does this say something to the respect Sherlock has developed for Bell, it also calls back to the earlier episode where Sherlock was responsible for Bell being shot. It’s a neat moment that summarises the growth of that particular relationship. This is still a relationship of necessity, however – as with Harlan, Sherlock would not spare any thought for Bell if they were not required to work together. With Joan and Kitty, however, he is making an active choice to engage with a complicated dynamic.
One of the complications of this dynamic is revealed in this episode: namely, that Kitty was kidnapped and raped before meeting Sherlock. It is good to see that Sherlock has grown to the point where he recognises that there are some things he is not equipped to deal with, and that he asks advice from Joan. It’s also good to see that his previous experiences have left him with a positive view on the benefits of therapy. The gender essentialism he displays when asking Joan’s advice (where men are logical and rational, and women emotional) was in character for him, but it would have been nice for Joan to shut that down with something more than frustratedly pointing out that they are not Kitty’s parents.
Rape is a painful, difficult topic for Elementary to tackle, one that will require subtlety and nuance. The show has a promising history behind it for this – Sherlock’s drug addiction was handled tactfully – but I am still a little wary. The show was a little too keen for Sherlock and Joan to push Kitty into therapy, with the implication that Kitty doesn’t know what’s best for her. We don’t get Kitty’s view on things, we don’t see her change her mind about therapy – most of her agency in the matter is kept off-screen, whilst Joan and Sherlock talk about her. The theme of recovery, of supporting somebody through a painful and vulnerable time, is an important one, and one the show has dealt with well in the past. I just hope that later episodes will give us Kitty’s perspective on matters.
The mystery this week is fairly weak, even though it as a fun premise involving complex number puzzles, rival eccentrics, and the glorious phrase “The League of Concerned Mathematicians”. The culprit is telegraphed rather strongly when he appears, but at the same time Sherlock works out the details of his guilt off-screen, so it ultimately feels rather unearned. That said, I appreciate these odd, puzzle-piece cases so reminiscent of canon stories like “The Dancing Men”, and this one was at least solid in that it drew all the characters into its orbit and allowed for the natural progression of their interactions. The pieces feel very firmly in place after three episodes: our main characters know where they stand with each other and have settled into a pattern. Now that the foundations are in place, hopefully the show will deliver some stronger cases, as well as giving Kitty some more time in the centre of things.
Fran is a longtime fangirl with a degree in Film and Literature. She works in publishing and is trying to learn to knit, make digital art, and how to cram as many books as possible into one inadequate bookcase.