Sunday, February 25, 2024

Redemption is a Moving Target in This Week’s Elementary

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My whiplash on the events of this season’s finale continues. We’re back to Shinwell this week, as I would have originally predicted. As Sherlock and Joan wrap up a case, Joan receives a text from Shinwell asking to meet. She conceals this from Sherlock.

Elsewhere in the city, a woman wearing a body camera and wielding a gun enters an abandoned warehouse. She sneaks through the building, at one point shooting at a noise that turns out to only be a rat. But instead of bullet holes, she leaves behind splatters of red paint. At last, she enters a room to find a man with his back turned to her. She triumphantly shoots him with the paint ball gun, only for him to turn around and shoot her with an all too real shotgun.

The next day, Sherlock and Joan inspect the unusual crime scene. The killer stripped the victim’s body camera and ID, leaving her a Jane Doe. But Sherlock and Bell guess from the no-nonsense way she dresses that she works in law enforcement. That means her fingerprints will be on record. Joan leaves them to check that out, but is evasive about where she has to go. Don’t think that Sherlock doesn’t pick up on that.

The murdered woman turns out to be Nanette Vlasik, the police chief of a small New Jersey suburb. Sherlock and Bell question a cop that worked with her. He has no idea what she would have been doing in New York. In fact, she wasn’t supposed to be in the area at all. She had told the officers in her precinct that she was going on vacation in California for a few weeks. Her subordinate has a hard time believing she’d be involved in anything shady, but says that before she went on “vacation” he’d seen her meeting with her lawyer and looking excited.

Joan meets with Shinwell at their usual place. For those who don’t remember, the last time Joan and Sherlock saw Shinwell, he was beating the daylights out of Sherlock after Sherlock accused him of murder. As you can imagine, it’s not a very friendly reunion. Joan rebuffs any attempt at apology from Shinwell and says she’s only there on business. Shinwell has been getting ever closer to incriminating evidence on the members of SBK, but his progress has stalled out. He can’t get any closer to SBK leadership and is only allowed to report to one lower level lieutenant, DaMarco Bridger. But he has heard that Bridger is involved in some extracurricular activities, including murder for hire. If Joan can tie him to one of those murders, that will clear the way for Shinwell.

Sherlock and Bell discover that Vlasik was a contestant on a new reality show called Moving Targets. Insert rant from Sherlock about the depravities of modern television here. Moving Targets was a game show, essentially a cross between paint ball and hide and seek. Contestants were given a paint ball gun and the name of a target. They had to hunt down and shoot this target, all while avoiding whoever was hunting them. On taking down a contestant, they would then pick up that individual’s target, and on and on until there was only one person left. Vlasik, with her police experience, was doing well.

The prize for winning is a million dollars. People have killed for less. Maybe Vlasik’s latest target killed her to conceal the fact that she’d taken him out of the running. But the show producers aren’t so sure, pointing out that Vlasik’s last target, a Dr. Eriyo, is a doctor and all around charitable do-gooder.

Joan returns to the brownstone to find Sherlock already there. Of course, Sherlock easily figures out that she was meeting with Shinwell. He insists that she doesn’t need to conceal it from him. He’s come to terms with the fact that Shinwell is a necessary evil to take down SBK.

Sherlock has been researching Eriyo. On the surface, Eriyo seems like a paragon of virtue, a boy saved from a Ugandan refugee camp who went on to do only good with his life. But some of the footage from the show reveals that Eriyo has unusual scars. These scars match the description of a Ugandan war criminal called the Ghost of Gulu. Eriyo is actually a former child soldier who lead death squads that killed hundreds of people.

As it turns out, Eriyo and all the other child soldiers conscripted into his militia were granted amnesty for their crimes. And, as Sherlock points out, child soldiers are usually brainwashed, abused, and forced to murder and commit other horrible crimes. Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean Eriyo has forgotten how to be a killer.

Joan meets up with the detective that originally caught the case of one of the murders that Shinwell told her about. She gives him the tip that the murderer might be Bridger, and even gives him enough information to get a warrant on Bridger.

Sherlock and Bell use another contestant from Moving Targets to track down and arrest Eriyo. This is the second episode this season in which a selfie plays a significant role in the plot. It especially amuses me considering how much Sherlock likes to criticize millennials (hashtag me) for our selfies. Not so bad now, are they, Sherlock?

Eriyo willingly admits to being the Ghost of Gulu, but swears that he has spent his whole life since then trying to atone in some way for his crimes. If he won Moving Targets, he intended to use the prize money to build a free clinic in Gulu. But he denies that he would have killed to get his hands on the money. Unfortunately, his body cam video from the night of Vlasik’s death is inconclusive.

However, he does have some interesting information to share. Before the game officially began, he used the skills he learned as a child soldier to track down contestants from the game and try to learn their weaknesses. When following Vlasik, he noticed her entering a strip club and emerging with an envelope of money. The strip club in question is rumored to be a mob front.

Sherlock finds Eriyo’s story to be convincing despite his lack of confirmable alibi. So he, Joan, and Bell go to the strip club to talk to the owner, who is indeed a member of the mob. He more or less admits that Vlasik was in his pocket. He, too, has stories of Vlasik acting strangely. It seems she was a woman of mystery. After suffering a personal tragedy in the last few months, Vlasik threw herself into her work and began investigating a big case. She even asked the mobster to put her in contact with the man who laundered his money. The mobster offers to ask this individual why Vlasik wanted to speak to him.

Sherlock and Joan return to the brownstone for the night. Joan wears fuzzy slippers. The detective she consulted on Bridger stops by to let her know that Bridger has been arrested. Bell comes by with information too; piles of files from the secret case that Vlasik was working on.

Please note the slippers

The case turns out to be a big deal Vlasik had uncovered evidence that dozens of officers in law enforcement across the country had been wired money from an offshore bank account. Sheriffs and chiefs across the nation were being bribed. But by who? And why?

Before they can dive into the files to try and figure that out, Sherlock brings up Shinwell again. He’s accepted that they need Shinwell to take down SBK, but he’s afraid that Joan is still too invested in him. He warns Joan that some people are beyond redemption and that he thinks Shinwell will only hurt her in the end.

Joan counters that some people could have said the same about Sherlock only a few years ago. At first Sherlock lightly says that could still be true (my boy’s got mad low self esteem), but in a rare moment of emotional honesty, he says that part of the reason he continues to struggle to improve himself is precisely so that he doesn’t hurt Joan or lose her friendship.

No matter how much I may criticize this show, Sherlock’s true and honest devotion to Joan is one of the things that will bring me back without fail every time.

After an intensive night of going through Vlasik’s file, and with the help of an old hacker friend – good ole Sucking Chest Wound – Sherlock discovers that the company bribing police officials is called Alpha Hawk. They are a weapons manufacturing company. Coincidentally enough, after they wired money to those officers, the precincts those officers worked in then chose Alpha Hawk to provide their weaponry. It’s an enormous scandal.

But Vlasik, who was clearly not averse to taking a bribe herself, had a more personal stake in this case. Remember the personal tragedy alluded to before? A friend of hers was recently murdered after her bipolar husband purchased a gun. Vlasik felt he was only able to buy a gun in the first place because of loosened restrictions on mentally ill individuals’ ability to purchase weapons. This loosening of the law came about due to lobbying by Alpha Hawk.

Without getting too political, let me say that I’m all for stricter gun control, but I am pretty disappointed they made it about mental illness. It’s possible to have a conversation about gun control without stigmatizing mentally ill people. Especially, one would think, in a show where the protagonist is himself almost certainly mentally ill.

But, plugging forward, Sherlock sets up a meeting with the CEO of Alpha Hawk. Joan gets another text from Shinwell, asking to meet again.

Now that Bridger has been arrested, SBK is offering Shinwell his job. He’ll finally have access to the gang leadership. But first, he gives Joan a signed confession to the murder of Jameel for her to use as she wishes. He wants to take down SBK, but he has no desire to get away scot free from the things he has done.

The meeting with Alpha Hawk doesn’t go how anyone would have expected. The man denies having ever seen Vlasik before, but cheerfully admits to bribing police officials. He has no reason to deny it. The FBI has already proven far more cases than Vlasik found and are working on a plea deal. Vlasik revealing the bribery would have no negative effect on the CEO or Alpha Hawk at all, and he’d have no reason to kill her.

But as Sherlock pores over Vlasik’s files one more time, he realizes that they have already met someone involved in both the Alpha Hawk scandal and Moving Targets that would have reason to want her dead.

The murderer is [NAME REDACTED]. But wow, they actually caught me by surprise this week! I suspected for a moment, then dismissed it. I should have more faith in myself.

Before the episode can triumphantly wrap up, Joan gets one more text from Shinwell to meet. She heads out to his place to find him on the floor in a pool of his own blood. Once again, an episode ends with a body on the floor. But I don’t think this ending will be as happy as Chantal and Bell.

Images courtesy of CBS


  • Veronica

    Veronica is an English graduate who likes to spend her time reading way too deeply into science fiction, murder mysteries, and children's cartoons.

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