Saturday, April 20, 2024

Elementary Season Premiere Causes Me Infinite Pain and Excitement

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It’s been nearly an entire year since the Elementary season finale. I have waited and suffered, and now, at last, we’re BACK!

Last season ended with Sherlock’s health hanging in the balance. Hallucinations and memory issues, among other symptoms, finally motivated him to visit a doctor. You have no idea how worried I’ve been about this fictional detective. The writers know dang well what they were doing: the title of the episode is “An Infinite Capacity for Taking Pain” and the show opens with Sherlock lying on a morgue slab. Raise your hand if you feel personally victimized. But don’t worry, our boy isn’t dead, just waiting for test results that we don’t get to hear yet.

Elsewhere, an unfamiliar man is watching a video online with the title “Sophie Bishop Sex Tape.” The man in the video is him. He sends the website an angry message asking for them to take the video down, then heads to bed. He wakes later that night to find that his living room is covered in plastic sheets. As he stares in confusion, someone comes up behind him and hits him over the head. Mystery time!

Joan is at the precinct chatting to Bell, getting in some helpful exposition. She’s there to meet a client. Sophie Bishop herself. The sex tape was uploaded against her will and she needs Joan’s help. A moment later, Sophie walks in, along with her husband, who a) is not the man from the tape, and b) is played by my most hated Agents of SHIELD character.

The tape was filmed five years earlier, before Sophie married her current husband, Ryan Hayes. The man in the tape is Sammy Olivetti. Back then, Sophie was a party girl and tabloid darling. They broke up when Sophie got sober. But Sophie is positive he isn’t the one that posted the tape. Now, she finds that she can’t get in touch with him and he isn’t at his home. Hmm, almost like he got murdered or something.

As Joan interviews Sophie and Ryan, Sherlock sidles in. Sophie intends to sue the website that posted the video, but Sherlock asks on what grounds. In her party girl days, she did plenty of salacious things. Isn’t it too late for modesty?

I was surprised that Sherlock would ask that. Regardless of whether Sophie has been scandalous in the past, it’s a violation to post a video of that nature online (and I’m no expert, but I believe it’s also increasingly illegal to do so). In the past, Sherlock has been sympathetic to victims of sexual violation. I suspect that the writers simply had him ask so they could reveal an important plot point.

Sophie is from a wealthy family and is potentially the heiress to an enormous fortune. But due to her party girl ways, her grandfather wrote a provision that she would be cut off if she embarrassed the family publicly one more time. On the release of the tape, her brother triggered that clause, causing Sophie serious damage.

Joan asks Ryan if he’s bothered by seeing a tape of his wife and her ex. He profusely denies it. Maybe a little too much. No one, including me, is convinced. (Bet he’d say the same if you asked him if he’s in HYDRA.)

After the meeting, Joan coldly asks Sherlock to explain his behavior over the past few weeks, including the room he destroyed last season. Sherlock agrees on the ground of doing it at the brownstone rather than the station.

Back home, Sherlock breaks down his symptoms and the tests he’s undergone. Joan is upset that he didn’t come to her, a doctor, with his medical symptoms. At long last, Sherlock reveals his diagnosis. The MRI didn’t show anything abnormal (Sherlock is indignant to be told he has a normal brain). I went into this season fully expecting a brain tumor, so…huzzah!

But that doesn’t mean everything is okay. The doctors concluded that he has something called Post-Concussion Syndrome (PCS). When Shinwell beat him up last season, that was probably the final blow, but Sherlock’s rough lifestyle contributed. The doctors can’t say for sure when or if his symptoms will subside. Maybe a few weeks, maybe more. As well as hallucinations and memory loss, his symptoms include headaches, drowsiness, and increased sensitivity to light and noise.

Sidenote here that PCS is a real condition. Considering many shows will turn to fake illnesses when they need a dramatic medical situation, I appreciated that the writers chose a real one. It’s cool to see a TV show acknowledge that uh, actually, repeated blows to the head can be…bad for you? So many shows have characters get injured, tortured, and take blows to the head as if it’s no big deal (cough Supernatural cough).

After sharing the bad news, they both lapse into silence, until Joan abruptly comes around the table and demands a hug. At long last…after years…a Sherlock/Joan hug. Ignore me while I wipe away my tears.

Sherlock finds out from a contact at a phone company that Olivetti’s phone never left his house. They head over to investigate. The house looks ordinary, but both Joan and Sherlock smell the scent of plastic. When Sherlock finds tape marks on the wall, they deduce the plastic sheeting we saw before. Sherlock finds a drop of blood. Things aren’t looking good for Sammy.

As they leave his house, Sherlock receives a call from someone using voice-disguising technology. He offers them a million dollars to step off the case. Sherlock agrees…for five million.

Of course, Sherlock is up to something. The call was from a burner phone. The money transfer into Sherlock’s account gives the police another way to track down the person that’s probably the killer. The five mil also gives Sherlock another idea for a suspect.

At a construction site, he tracks down Sophie Bishop’s brother, Drew, who is overseeing the work. He’s a grade-A jerk who speaks of his sister with utter contempt, and he’s rich enough that five million would be nothing to him. Sherlock points out that cutting Sophie off leaves the inheritance for the rest of the Bishop family bigger. Drew denies the charges, but…remember the symptoms of PCS? One of them is increased sensitivity to noise and light. A construction site has plenty of both. The noise begins to drown out what Drew is saying, until at last a visibly distressed Sherlock has to leave. Considering that Sherlock already naturally has increased sensory sensitivity, it must be torture for him.

At the same time, Joan is speaking to Sophie. She angrily shuts down any suggestion that her family might be responsible for the tape and Sammy’s death. Trying another tack, Joan mentions that Sammy was attempting to figure out who uploaded the tape. He had discovered that it was uploaded from a coffee shop in New Jersey. This obviously means something to Sophie but she won’t say what.

Sherlock heads to an NA meeting. Nice to see him dealing with his problems in a healthy matter! After the meeting, another man approaches Sherlock and introduces himself. His name is Michael, and several years ago, something else that Sherlock said at a meeting helped him with his own sobriety. He tells Sherlock he’s always available to talk.

Joan and Sherlock regroup at the brownstone. Sherlock reveals that although he couldn’t hear what Drew Bishop said, he was able to read his lips. It turns out that it’s not as simple as Sophie being cut off from her inheritance for scandal. Instead, she’s been given a “buyout.” Rather than three mil a year the rest of her life and a stake in the family business, when she was cut off she was given one lump sum of sixty million. Drew Bishop, a terrible human being, was in the process of trying to remove that clause from the will when the tape was released. He has no motive to have released the tape.

Joan asks Sherlock if he wants to talk about what happened at the construction site, but he deflects and refuses to address it. She receives a call from Bell. Sophie Bishop’s dead body just turned up. Just when I was starting to think maybe she released the tape herself!

According to Sophie’s husband, Sophie received a phone call from a mysterious person and ran out of the house, never to be seen alive again. But no one’s buying it. Sherlock and the captain bring him in for interrogation. They think that he was the one to post the tape in order to trigger the buyout. They can prove he was in New Jersey when the tape was uploaded. Hayes has also been talking to a divorce attorney but killing Sophie instead would ensure he got the money.

Hayes denies it, mostly. He admits to posting the tape, but says that Sophie was in on it with him and that he hasn’t killed anyone. The detectives are sure it’s him, but have no proof and have to release him.

At the brownstone, Joan walks into a room to find Sherlock standing there blankly. He can’t remember why he came into the room. For all he knows, he just solved the mystery and then forgot. Joan gently points out that lots of people walk into rooms and then forget why (#me). But Sherlock says angrily that he doesn’t.

Earlier, Joan said that she thought he was dealing with his diagnosis well. But he’s more upset than he’s let on. When he first realized he was sick, he did his own research into possibilities, sorting the results into “quick death” and “impaired cognitive abilities.” Of the two, he preferred the first. He’d literally rather die than be unable to work. Dear Elementary writers, can we please discuss Sherlock’s depressive and self-destructive tendencies?

Joan reminds him that the doctors said that he’ll most likely recover. But Sherlock, on the verge of tears, explains that he’s afraid of how this recovery might interfere with his other recovery. If he can’t work, he’s not sure he’ll be able to stay sober. Joan is unable to comfort him, and after a moment Sherlock composes himself and deflects the conversation away again.

Sherlock returns to the precinct to work. He’s there when a woman shows up claiming she knows who the killer is and that she’s the next victim. Turns out she’s another ex of Sammy Olivetti’s and that she too made a sex tape with him. She thinks that a third ex is out to kill everyone that Sammy made sex tapes with out of jealousy. Apparently that’s quite a few people. She shares her tape with Sherlock. It’s the evidence he needs. He can prove who the killer is.

It turns out Sammy was quite fond of making sex tapes, regardless of whether his partner in question wanted to do so. In order to feed his habit, he had set up a camera in his living room that automatically began recording when the front door was locked. Hey, you know who likes to lock doors? Murderers, that’s who. The murder of Sammy is on tape. That’s pretty conclusive evidence.

The episode wraps up with Joan hiring a contractor to begin work on the destroyed guest room. She proposes they turn it into a meditation/exercise room. She’s done research on PCS and both those activities can facilitate recovery. She gently reminds Sherlock that he’s not going to go through this alone.

Inspired by Joan’s kindness and love and general perfection, Sherlock pulls out his phone and calls the man he met earlier at the meeting, Michael. He invites Michael to go to a meeting with him, and Michael gladly agrees. As they end the call, the camera cuts to Michael in the woods and slowly pans out to reveal him…digging a grave. A dead girl lies on the ground. Uh oh.

Get you a bff that looks at you like this


  • Last season had some ups and downs, but this felt like a solid start to me.
  • Good, solid mystery. I had guessed who the murderer was practically from the start and I was so right. I love being right. I liked that this episode was really more about proving whodunnit than figuring out whodunnit. Even though the final twist was a little abrupt, it also made sense with all the information we had been provided up till that point.
  • Does Brett Dalton just have a guilty face?
  • For me, the heart of this show has always been Joan and Sherlock’s relationship. I loved the dynamic between them this week. Without it ever being explicitly stated, there was a lot of intense emotional communication going on between the two of them. Sherlock wanted and needed to be comforted in the wake of his diagnosis but didn’t know how to communicate that. Joan wanted to provide him that comfort but didn’t know how to do so in a way that worked for him. The hug, although absolutely lovely, was probably more comforting for her than him. A lot of the episode on a subtextual level was them figuring out how to cope and reach out to the other. In the end, the simple gesture of Joan researching Sherlock’s condition worked to heal the breach between them that formed since last season.
  • Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu are such fantastic actors. Sherlock and Joan are both characters who feel things deeply but aren’t especially emotionally expressive. Both actors manage to convey huge depth of feeling in simple gestures and facial expressions. Where are their Oscars??
  • Michael being a murderer or serial killer will definitely provide some fascinating storylines, but why can’t Sherlock just have nice things for once.

Images courtesy of CBS

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