Elementary, Ep. 2.13: “All in the Family” – where Sherlock and Watson hang out with the mafia

Elementary - 2.13

Elementary, Season 2: Episode 13 – “All in the Family”
Written by Jason Tracey
Directed by Andrew Bernstein
Airs Thursday nights at 10 on CBS

Okay. I might as well quote this whole thing, because c’mon:

“What is it with you!? Huh? I won’t forgive you, so you want to send me on a witch hunt? Wreck my career?”
“Oh, your career. Is that what you’re calling it, is it? Sitting behind a desk, analyzing data?”
“Oh, I’m sorry. Wasn’t it you who just two days ago told my boss you wanted a piece of the action?”
“I was attempting to get a rise out of you. To remind you that no matter where you go or how tedious the work you undertake, it will not change what you are: a detective.”
“I am a detective.”
“Well, you still carry the title, yeah. But it’s more than that, isn’t it? It’s a calling. It’s your calling. You are not an analyst. You are not an assessor of data. You transferred from Major Crimes either because your pride would not allow you to occupy the same space as me or because you’re feeling sorry for yourself. In either case, a pathetic excuse.”
“I have a tremor in my hand. I can’t shoot, can’t get out on the street and work cases because of you!”
“Bollocks! You could have stayed at Major Crimes until you completed your rehab!”
“You’re assuming my rehab can be complete!”
“Because I have faith in you! I have faith in your perseverance! Be my friend, don’t be my friend! Whatever! But don’t be so foolish as to confuse punishing me with punishing yourself!”
[Pause]
“You know what I thought the first time I met you? ‘Man, it comes easy for that guy.’  Well, I’m sorry. It doesn’t come that easy to the rest of us.”
“I am a drug addict, Marcus – a drug addict. And it might seem like a distraction to you, because I have been sober since I made your acquaintance, but two years ago, I was as pitiable a soul as you will ever meet. With help, I fought back and I got a little bit better. I know what I’m supposed to do with my life. Do you?”

Cancel the Golden Globes. Cancel next year’s Emmys. Heck, cancel the Oscars just because. And give all the awards to Jonny Lee Miller, Jon Michael Hill and Jason Tracey for acting in and writing “All in the Family” – and this scene, specifically. If it’s ridiculous to clap while watching something by yourself, then call me ridiculous. In an episode of Elementary that couldn’t possibly live up to last week’s epic Moriarty adventure, the CBS Sherlock Holmes procedural returns wearing its two hearts on its two sleeves. The whole mafia crime plot to this episode is outstanding – and I’ll get to that in a little while – but it’s the show’s stubbornness in making sure it explores its characters fully that continues to floor me so unexpectedly. Again, this is stuff that has no right to exist on a show like Elementary, but – as Sherlock says – whatever. What’s most impressive is that this has been building up for weeks. The Bell injury began in a rather light-hearted cold open before that courtroom episode took it to its first emotional peak. Since then, we’ve seen Sherlock and Bell mostly apart or at-odds, which is how they spend the  majority of “All in the Family.” Procedurals usually have story threads that continue for seasons and seasons, but it didn’t feel like Bell’s injury was going to be a problem for our main characters any longer than that episode given that Bell has been such a background character. Yet here we are, looking on in awe as Bell and Sherlock air their grievances with one another in a stunning display of presence.

It’s a difficult scene to step away from and look at, because Elementary doesn’t take a firm stance on which character is more in the right. And when Sherlock bears his all, bringing up his previous addiction, his questioning Bell – “Do you?” – seems even more risky on his part. It works out in the end, though, after Bell puts aside his feelings and does good detective work (which partially relies on a natural intuition, confirming that yes, this is his calling) to find out that Sherlock and Joan are right about the deputy commissioner being dirty. The writers are creating expectations for the viewers now that a decent portion of this season has been devoted to fleshing out the recurring people on Elementary who aren’t Holmes and Watson, and I’m actually not very confident that those expectations will be met. This seems like the renaissance of character development in this series so much so that I can’t imagine it getting much better. But then, I didn’t expect any episode that followed “The Diabolical Kind” to be this good, so I’ll be prepared to suffer the embarrassment of being totally wrong if and when that happens.

If character development does drop off, at least Elementary can hang its hat on the fact that it can still do ridiculously entertaining stand-alone plots. I didn’t know I needed a mafia-centric episode of this series until I got it. Joan gets to be the center of a few good laughs, as her background growing up in the area helps out with identifying and tracking down some classic New York mobsters, but it’s the whole self-awareness of the potential mob war and how stupid that idea is in the 21st century that gives the plot its integrity. And man is it a lot of fun. Sherlock makes a Godfather reference here and there, Watson orders from the slowest pizzeria in the state and we get to see a very violence-light episode unfold (the murder happens before the episode begins; the car explosion (!) doesn’t produce any blood and guts, just a piece of a bone), all of which culminates in a set-up that takes place at a harbor where the deputy commissioner gets arrested. If that’s not entertainment, what is?

Now, excuse me while I go re-watch Sherlock and Bell’s tête-à-tête a dozen more times.

– Sean Colletti




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