Elementary, Season 2: Episode 6 – “The Marchioness”
Written by Christopher Hollier and Craig Sweeny
Directed by Sanaa Hamri
Airs Thursday nights at 10 on CBS
“The Marchioness” begins with a fantastic shot, directed by Sanaa Hamri, that creeps up in front of Sherlock as he is discussing what life would have been like at a different time in front of his fellow addiction recovery members. Maybe in an era in which the general noise of life – mostly the technology that has made it impossible to take a quiet walk anywhere in a city – was less of an issue, Sherlock might not have picked up his addiction. But that noise exists, whether he likes it or not, and when an interjection from Mycroft, who is sitting in on the meeting to support his brother, acts as the supreme example of that distracting noise, the vulnerability of Sherlock shatters as he leaves the room, embarrassed.
The season two premiere of Elementary may be the best episode of the series so far, and I feel like I didn’t give it its due back when it aired. Even considering the Irene/Moriarty episodes that concluded the first season, there is something special about Rhys Ifans’ presence as Mycroft and how it affects Elementary as a whole. Unlike Irene, Mycroft has the capacity to be a regular on this show, and specifically a regular in a way that Gregson and Hill are not. Those detectives are perfectly fine supporting characters – much like Fitz-Simmons in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – who don’t need their own stories, because Elementary doesn’t call for them to have their own stories (that said, last week’s focus on Gregson was wonderful, as was S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s most recent episode that focused on its underdeveloped characters). In Mycroft, Elementary has found a character that is physically capable of being on-screen with Sherlock and Joan and – much, much more importantly – gives that dynamic that we spent a full season seeing being built complications and nuances. It’s not that Mycroft and Joan sleeping together makes Joan and Sherlock’s relationship different; add to that that Mycroft makes each of those characters more interesting individually. Of course, if Mycroft ever were a series regular, there’s no way to guarantee that he would remain as great as he has been in these two episodes, but Elementary so often feels like a two-person show that if Mycroft isn’t that other key player, it leaves us wanting someone to fill that role – someone who can be a part of Sherlock and Joan’s intimate circle, not just a part of Elementary.
And these feelings are all evoked in spite of the central plot of “The Marchioness” being pretty standard Elementary fare. The titular character is none other than Mycroft’s ex-wife, with whom Sherlock had slept with. It makes for some great banter when they all sit down together to discuss Nigella’s current predicament, but that banter is really just vacuous entertainment (given how great the writing on this show usually is, seeing Sherlock spew out petty remarks loses its charm in the face of genuine character moments between Sherlock and Mycroft). Nigella, as could be predicted, ends up not being the innocent victim, but the Holmes’ bros. let her off the hook at the episode’s end with certain stipulations. What follows is perhaps the highlight of the week in a surprisingly strong collection of episodes of TV (Arrow and American Horror Story: Coven also had standout episodes): the quiet conclusion of Mycroft and Sherlock trying to figure out what it is they should or want to talk about. It’s amazing that this relationship has been so utterly established in such a short amount of time, and it’s very easy to take that for granted when watching that final scene with a delicious smile on your face. As I’ve mentioned in these reviews before, the quality of Elementary as a procedural is so good that it’s a tease to think of what it could do with a 13-episode cable television arc, a la Justified. In a world of overly-long network seasons, though, “The Marchioness” is a blessing to behold and sets a high standard for the next mythology episode of Elementary.
– Sean Colletti