Recap: Elementary, “Terra Pericolosa” (3×06)

The growth and evolution of Sherlock Holmes continues. Sherlock’s increasing humanity, introduced so deftly a few weeks ago in “Bella”, turns out not to be a throwaway plot point, but a major character arc for a season focused on the dynamics of the hodgepodge family cobbled together around the brownstone. Sherlock’s attempts to support, trust, and protect Joan and Kitty are a far cry from the man who, at the beginning of the season suggested that the people in his life were much less relevant than the function they served to his process.

I suppose there was a case to solve too, but it was tepid at best, and this is from someone obsessed with old maps. It involved two of the most frustrating procedural tropes: a guest star so well-known that they must be guilty (Mamie Gummer as heiress and murdered Margot Bray) and a sharp left turn at the end of the investigation that involves a lot of tell-not-show exposition and speechifying to fill in the rather large gaps in the investigation.

The path to uncovering the true function of the original Bray map was a clever one, keying into the multiple functions that one piece of evidence could possibly serve: financial windfall, collector’s item, obfuscating forgery, legal evidence. When investigators are pursuing an object whose nature is integral to an investigation, rather than some MacGuffin invented to specifically serve the plot, it injects creativity into the script. However, introducing the Native American casino so close to the end of the investigation meant a lot of off-screen action (just to get us back to the person we all suspected did it anyway) and somewhat diminished the plot’s novelty.

Fortunately, Joan is now back from her “sexcapades” with Andrew in Copenhagen and is back to both investigating and bonding with Kitty. We often witness Sherlock’s intransigence and inability to pick up on social clues, but “Terra Pericolosa” doesn’t completely let Joan off the hook, either. She sees Sherlock monopolizing Kitty only through the lens of her own experiences, grounded in the past, rather than registering that Sherlock’s motivations have changed. Joan can see the changes in herself, with a new apartment, new boyfriend, and independent consulting practice, but doesn’t recognize a difference in Sherlock’s. That doesn’t mean that Sherlock is automatically right – far from it – but first with Andrew and now with Kitty, Joan’s seriously misconstrued his intent.

At this point, Sherlock and Joan’s relationship has blossomed into an almost eerie replica of separated parents. The pair are committed to maturely raising both a child on the cusp of independence (Kitty) and a coddled youngster (Clyde), but unable to easily see eye-to-eye due to the physical and emotional distance between them. Sherlock’s sudden departure for London at the end of last season may have been explained and forgiven, but it all the wounds certainly haven’t mended.

Sherlock may have been jealous of Joan’s other connections at the beginning of their partnership for selfish reasons, but as he astutely points out, Kitty is not Joan. When Sherlock found Kitty, she was broken and barely functional from her attack, and a “dalliance” with a bloke named Zachary from the coffee shop has the potential to undo all the strength and progress she’s made since joining up with Sherlock. As the same time, Joan is correct in suggesting that sending Kitty out for menial task after menial task isn’t the best way to demonstrate concern for his protégé. Sherlock’s desire to protect Kitty is sincere and heartfelt, but he is so uncomfortable with his feelings that he lacks the capacity to properly act on them without a sounding board. It turns out that Joan and Kitty serve two very different functions after all.

So where does this leave the former partners? Joan, for her part, promises to be around more, not to pick up the dry cleaning but for substantive investigative help so Kitty can have free time to test out her recovery on her own terms. Sherlock then apologizes to Kitty, going so far as to suggest that this Zachary accompany them to an entomology exhibit (which Kitty justifiably thinks is a veiled threat at first). As was evidenced by Joan’s absence last week, Elementary is better when they’re together, so this can only mean good things.

And, almost surprisingly, Elementary is turning out to better with Kitty around too. Unlike Mycroft, who came to the show rife with a history with Sherlock and forced a wedge between the partners, Kitty’s relationship with both is fresh and forces them to collaborate in new ways rather than separate. Kitty is also developing into an interesting character in her own right, aided by a confident and subtle performance from Ophelia Lovibond (observe her tone and body language when she tells Sherlock that he made her feel protected and loved). Like our leads, she’s both brittle and strong, but in entirely different ways, and she has a lot of potential for growth, which suggests that the character has longevity. At the beginning of the season, I was terrified that Kitty was only brought in to be an adversary for Joan. Instead, she’s been instrumental in teasing out Sherlock’s caring side and Joan’s nurturing side, two places I’m not sure the show could have so easily gone without her.

Odds and Ends

-Sherlock on catfishing a map collector as Amber1776: “I am an obsequious American history major who has been fawning over his collection. I enjoy water sports and people who don’t suck.”

-Their follow up is even better. Joan: “You are a honeytrap.” Sherlock: “I am a patriot.”

Elementary is so much more engaging when it begs you to look at something from Sherlock, Joan or Kitty’s eyes – like the map drawers at the beginning – than when it’s drowning in exposition like the old-timer map forger at the end.

-Cartographic espionage is a great turn of phrase.

-Sherlock and Joan have to get better at transporting Clyde’s possessions when they hand off custody. What if he gets cold?