Thursday, November 5, 2015

Five Things About Elementary 4x01, "The Past is Parent"

In this week's episode, the dynamic duo are back and better than ever, Joan and Sherlock take a mandatory break from the NYPD, and Gregson and Bell are still on this show, apparently.

1. The choice to separate Joan and Sherlock from the NYPD is an interesting one. (If, presumably, an impermanent one.) On the one hand, it provides ongoing consequences for Sherlock's relapse and violence at the end of last season, in a way that doesn't completely kill the show (i.e., jail time). It's also a novel driver of story, which is vital for a procedural entering its middle age. On the other hand, Elementary already has a hard time working Gregson and Bell into stories. How are they going to manage it at all, now?

2. "You offered me a job. I didn't take it to work with the police. I took it to work with you." After season three, which was all about redefining Joan and Sherlock's relationship, it's nice to see the two of them on solid ground again. Not that I didn't love the character work last season; Joan and Sherlock seem to be more partners, and more supportive partners, than ever before. Whereas last season, we saw a lot of role reversal, with Sherlock shoring up an emotionally fraying Joan, in "The Past Is Parent," both of them work to protect each other--Sherlock by trying to keep Joan employed, and Joan by trying to hold Sherlock's father accountable. Even if both of these missions were conducted in secret (this is Joan and Sherlock, we're talking about) that's a level of mutual healthy support and dedication that wouldn't have been possible, at the beginning of season three, or indeed at any other time in the show's history. Joan's words in the kitchen, in particular, represent a real step forward in the relationship--an acknowledgement that both parties are committed to each other. They sound like the writers declaring their intention for the season. Joan and Sherlock are platonic married, now. They're working as a unit again, and I imagine that whatever's to come in the next half-season, they'll be taking it on more-or-less together.

3. It's interesting to note the way that various characters handle Sherlock's actions at the end of last season. Sherlock, now a true believer in the program, is mature about it: I was baited, but I made a choice, and it was a bad one, and the consequences I'm currently facing are both reasonable and to some degree deserved. Joan is a sort of middle ground: You made a choice, it was a bad one, but the circumstances are more extenuating than you claim. Bell focuses on departmental politics: Whatever decisions Sherlock may have made, the department is making a bad one, now. The narrative seems to be mostly on Sherlock's side, as it often is with matters of addiction these days, but everyone gets a moment to say their piece.

The most interesting reaction, though, is Gregson's. He alone frames what happened as entirely something that was done to Sherlock, rather than done by him. Gregson and Sherlock have a troubled past--in some ways, more troubled than Bell and Sherlock's, and Sherlock once got Bell shot--so Gregson's actions in this episode indicate that that relationship has undergone an astounding rehabilitation. He drops by the brownstone! Socially! It's not completely out of nowhere; I believe that at the end of last season, Gregson did refer to Sherlock as a "friend." But Gregson and Bell were so sporadically present in season three that it's not entirely clear how that turnaround happened. Elementary only has four series regulars. How hard can it possibly be to spread the screentime around?

4. Classic Holmes References: "The Past is Parent" is loosely based on the Conan Doyle story "The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge," in which Alicia Garcia Bloom is Aloysius Garcia, San Pedro is the Central American country he's from, and Maribel Fonseca is "Mrs. Victor Durando," an English widow who teams up with him to kill "The Tiger of San Pedro," the dictator who killed her husband. The Tiger and his associates escape to Madrid, where they're murdered by Nihilists. I guess that's a less satisfying conclusion than this episode.

5. Random Bits:

  • Case of the week was fine, I guess. The reveal was even more obvious than normal, not just because the only suspect was played by a well-known actor, but also because anyone who's taken Spanish 101 can probably put together "El Gato" and "Novena Vida." What kind of dumb-ass criminal names his restaurant after his cartel nickname?
  • Elementary acknowledged the NYPD's image problem, albeit briefly. That's something of a turnaround from last season's "End of Watch." It's not the first crime show to do it, either; Brooklyn Nine-Nine built a whole subplot around it, a few weeks back, and even Blue Bloods has dealt with it cursorily. This smells of a trend. It'll be interesting to see how longstanding procedurals--and even more, new procedurals--deal with the changing mainstream perception of the police.
  • It's rarely mentioned, but Elementary is very pretty, as procedurals go. It's got a really lovely, drab color palette. (That's not sarcastic. The colors are lovely in a drab kind of way.) I can't say why that hit me so strongly in this week's episode; maybe it's just the time away.
  • Moriarty watch! They're never giving up on getting Natalie Dormer back, are they?
  • I am, naturally, pumped to see John Noble. The man never plays uncomplicated fathers, does he?
  • "Justice is like an orgasm. It can never come too late."
  • "You're not going to prison." "A week ago, you'd have said I'd never relapse." "No, I wouldn't."
  • "Unfortunately, I've got a no-sadists policy."
  • "Bloom left an impression on me last night, not to mention some grey matter."
  • “I’m gonna make us some celebratory leftovers, and then we’re going to talk about all the women that you don’t have to write to.”
  • "You know me. I make friends expeditiously."
  • "My compliments to the virgins whose blood you bathe in."
  • "What's the hardest you've ever been hit?"

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