Elementary, Season 2: Episode 20 – “No Lack of Void”
Written by Liz Friedman & Jeffrey Paul King
Directed by Sanaa Hamri
Airs Thursday nights at 10 on CBS
After a solid episode last week that gave Joan Watson some of her most interesting material this season, Elementary returns with a more Sherlock-centric episode that, barring his interactions with his brother and nemesis, stands out as one of this year’s highlights for the character. Viewers will be forgiven for not remembering Sherlock’s friend, Allistair (Roger Rees), from the sixth episode of the first season. It’s an unusual decision to bring a character like that back in this capacity, but it shows some strong series memory and gives Sherlock plenty to think about in the episode.
Learning that Allistair has died initially seems to not affect Sherlock that much (not that we would know anyway, since Sherlock doesn’t talk much about his feelings outside of meetings). But as the episode continues, we begin to see both the massive impact and the reverberations of learning the news. He tells Joan that Allistair died from a heart attack, but we later learn that the real cause of death is an overdose after decades of sobriety. Sherlock has no reason to lie to Joan other than as a way to prevent her from worrying about Sherlock’s own sobriety, which he says is never in any danger. In fact, Sherlock says Joan would know if Sherlock had been thinking about using, which is something I’m not entirely convinced about given that he still has a lingering distrust of the world and its people that sometimes bleeds into his relationship with his best friend.
This has been an issue for Sherlock in terms of acquiring friends, and he reminds us “No Lack of Void” that Allistair was one of the few people included in that inner circle. His unraveling is interesting to see, and his decisions–not just to lie to Joan but to try and pin the death on Allistair’s son–show a different version of the character that might have existed before Elementary. We get a great, entertaining moment like Sherlock and Watson breaking dishes to see if it fixes anything. But then we also get much more serious, meditative sequences like the visions Sherlock has of Allistair. Rarely do we see Elementary through the skewed vision of Sherlock. It is mostly a series whose camera acts as a third-person narrator. But “No Lack of Void” goes directly into Sherlock’s psyche in an alarming way that asks viewers to consider his stability. That an event could manifest this fully in his mind is something we haven’t seen before, and it’s effective because of it. Sherlock’s final scene with Allistair, as he broods over his grave like a breathing cliche, is especially poignant in giving Sherlock a chance to say goodbye while somewhat breaking down. We may only rarely get these moments in Elementary that use secondary (or tertiary, in this case) characters as a means of interrogating Sherlock and Joan, but when they’re of this quality, it makes up for a small recurring cast.
The investigation in “No Lack of Void” features Garret Dillahunt (RIP, Raising Hope) wrapped up in an anthrax plot. It’s unusual how this crime story has the capacity to affect such a large amount of people compared to the usual handful of lives at stake in a normal episode of Elementary. And it’s made more unusual when Sherlock appears to have been covered in anthrax after a brawl with two of the people involved, since there’s really no use in this kind of tension when we know Sherlock isn’t going to die. But the story mostly works even if Dillahunt isn’t used enough. Even though Elementary usually revolves around its weekly plots, this is one of the few times in which it feels more like the B-story. That reversal says more about the strength of Sherlock’s personal concerns than any weaknesses elsewhere.
Semi-spoiler (?): Rhys Ifans will make a return as Mycroft Holmes next week as Elementary begins to wrap up its second season (four episodes remain). We’ve been waiting since before Christmas for this, and I’m hoping that the events of “No Lack of Void” have some effect over the course of these episodes and in relation to Mycroft, one of the only other people Sherlock has decided to let into his life to some degree. We’ve also yet to see Sherlock’s sponsor and sponsee recently, so there’s plenty left on the table for the series address in the coming weeks and to look forward to.
– Sean Colletti