Elementary, Season 2: Episode 23 – “Art in the Blood”
Written by Bob Goodman
Directed by Guy Ferland
Airs Thursday nights at 10 on CBS
Fans of the Sherlock Holmes mythology will not be surprised to see that Mycroft is, in fact, working for MI6. While it is the reveal that many people were probably expecting and one that makes total sense given the hints of Mycroft’s backstory we’ve seen this season, I was still holding out hope that Robert Doherty and his team had something slightly different in their arsenal. Elementary, after all, has done a fine job of loosely adapting Conan Doyle’s work in a contemporary setting, taking certain liberties that have really paid off in the long run. It doesn’t make the decision to use Mycroft in this way disappointing, but I wonder if the character could have remained compelling without having to get the British secret service involved.
While last week’s episode episode had the Mycroft brothers teaming up, “Art in the Blood” separates the two about as far as possible in the aftermath of both Sherlock and Joan responding to the lies that Mycroft has been telling them (or, at least in some cases, the information he’s been withholding, which is sometimes an important distinction). What makes that division more interesting this week is how it doesn’t bring Joan and Sherlock closer together, despite the experience they now share of having a former lover deceiving them to an extreme level–an observation that Sherlock makes. Surprisingly, Joan uses the opportunity to tell Sherlock of her plans to move out of the brownstone, since there’s never a good time to bring something like this up to him, and he reacts about as well as you might expect. If the finale doesn’t do anything to change Joan’s mind, I’m actually quite curious to see what Elementary looks like with its central pairing being slightly altered in this way. On the one hand, there’s no reason Joan can’t be at the brownstone late into the nights before heading to her new place to sleep. On the other, even the smallest of superficial changes to Sherlock’s way of life endangers him when those changes relate to the one person who has the ability to restore and maintain balance in his life. Considering how many times the writers have brought Sherlock’s addiction into episodes, I’m actually expecting–and mostly dreading–a relapse at some point. Though it’s still relatively early in the show’s career, physically removing Joan, however far, would be as good a catalyst as any.
There are plenty of strong sequences of dialog in “Art in the Blood,” and it’s actually a better all-around episode than the last two Elementary entries, but the force with which we’re being told that the Joan-Mycroft relationship is something worth investment is a bit peculiar. Neither seems particularly enamored with the other, which I would sooner point to the material for rather than the performers. Joan has a fantastic speech in which she outlines why she can never be with Mycroft, but by the episode’s end, they are back together after Joan learns a bit more information about why Mycroft got lured back into MI6. It might just be because both Sherlock and Joan have been fairly desexualized over the course of two seasons, but Joan kissing Mycroft and subsequently sleeping with him actually surprised me, because I don’t really buy into that as a relationship that has legs.
In any case, the rest of the episode works perfectly well. Again, the writers find a unique angle on the investigation side of things by having a corpse’s arms removed because of invisible ink tattoos that contain sought-after information regarding a mole in MI6. Even if some of these ideas that have been used in the back half of the season to spice up some of these murders have been used before in detective fiction, they still feel fresh in Elementary. Part of that has to do with the process of analysis that goes on in the mind of Sherlock, who benefits from not having superhuman powers and, instead, has hyper-observant qualities that sometimes get him stuck, which happens in “Art in the Blood.” On top of that originality, the episode concludes in a delightful way by allowing Sherlock to realize that someone is trying to frame Mycroft, forcing him into a position where he has to be his ally again (after he sees that Mycroft and Joan are back pursuing whatever it is they’re trying to pursue). It’s clear at this point that both of the Holmes brothers care deeply about each other in their own ways. Often, it’s hard to hate someone you don’t also have the capacity to love, and I would say that’s been something that these past few episodes have shown. Whatever we get in the finale, all I hope is that it doesn’t mean the end for Mycroft in Elementary, because, issues with the Watson relationship aside, the writers have found a way to bring in a legitimate third lead that can carry material on his own. That’s something you don’t want to lose when the other two series regulars can go through episodes almost completely unnoticed.
– Sean Colletti