Thursday, May 14, 2015

Five Things About Elementary 3x24, “A Controlled Descent”

1.  Elementary is about to tell the last important story it will ever tell. Or, more accurately: Elementary may be about to tell the last important story it can ever tell. The threat of relapse has been looming over Sherlock’s story since season one, but it can only be deployed effectively once. This is the last major shift that can happen in these characters’ lives organically; after this, it’s almost inevitable that Elementary will have to work harder and harder to raise the stakes, as nearly all procedurals eventually do. On the other hand, Sherlock’s relapse has the potential to be a phenomenal story. Elementary has always shone when it dealt with addiction, and never more so than in season three. I am excited (and anxious) to see what happens in season four.

2.  After the first half of this season’s return to strong arc-based storytelling, the second half has been a disappointment. Andrew’s death and Joan’s subsequent emotional upheaval were promising (if not particularly original) narrative ground, but though Elementary never exactly abandoned that thread, it never really went anywhere with it, either. I had hoped that Joan’s story would come to a head in the season finale, but it was never mentioned at all, so I guess “One Watson, One Holmes” is the end of that arc. That’s unfortunate, since it was the clearest serialized story of the back half of season three, and without a connection to it, Sherlock’s relapse seems to come out of nowhere. Or, not exactly nowhereElementary has been laying a lot of character groundwork for it this season, mostly while the audience was looking in the other direction—but it does feel disconnected, which draws away from the impact of what is otherwise a good story decision. For instance, Alfredo’s abduction would have worked a lot better as a motivator if he’d been in more than two episodes this season.

3. Just so we’re clear, Sherlock’s relapse = the original Holmes’ Reichenbach Falls. Obviously. I mean, the episode is called “A Controlled Descent.” Elementary is not the kind of show where the main characters can fake their deaths, so they had to get metaphorical about it. I was so sure we were going to get Moriarty when I saw the title.

4. Speaking of which: MORIARTY MORIARTY MORIARTY MORIARTY MORIARTY. Come on, Natalie Dormer, what’s Game of Thrones giving you? Prestige? Cable salary? Awesome clothes? Elementary can give you the 5,000 people in the world who scream in joy when they hear your voice.

5. As a standalone episode of television, “A Controlled Descent” is good, but doesn’t break the top five of the season. (In chronological order: “Bella,” “The Illustrious Client”/“The One That Got Away,” “For All You Know,” “One Watson, One Holmes.”) I haven’t tried watching them back-to-back yet, but I’d bet it’s exquisite if viewed as a distant sequel to “For All You Know.” Together, they form a two-sided view of Sherlock-as-addict (the harm he did to others, and the harm he and others did to himself), and provide an emotional context for his relapse.