This post contains spoilers for the latest episode of Elementary, “Tremors.”
This week’s Elementary started out rather ridiculously. A schizophrenic man was shown into the precinct by an officer who was not alarmed by the man’s odd behavior or the fact that he was carrying a bulky and concealed item. When the young man, Silas Cole, revealed that he was carrying a shotgun, the entire precinct drew their weapons. Sherlock managed to defuse the situation by distracting Silas until the officers could tackle him.
I’m pointing that out because it’s a very glaring flaw in an otherwise brilliant episode. Any trained police officer would’ve noticed Silas’ odd behavior, and most police stations institute a strict No Weapons policy for visitors, which would naturally lead to searches of people who appear to be carrying anything that could conceal a weapon. Why couldn’t Silas have just wandered in unnoticed? Sure, that is unlikely to happen too, but I think it’s more likely than a trained police officer leading him right up to Captain Gregson, don’t you?
This episode was about Sherlock dealing with the consequences of his actions, both in the James Dylan case and in the hearing for the James Dylan case. It broke its usual structure this week, choosing instead to go with flashbacks with added Sherlock “flourishes” which made for great jokes, but also contributed to Sherlock’s bigger problems.
In the aftermath of Silas’ arrest, Sherlock believed Silas was out to kill someone Silas had been calling “The Queen,” who ultimately turned out to be Silas’ ex-girlfriend, Rada Hollingsworth. Rada was found dead from a gunshot wound to the chest, leading Sherlock to believe that Silas wasn’t the murderer. During the investigation, he questioned many suspects, including Rada’s oncologist, Dr. Phineaus Hobbs, and a viatical settlements manager named James Dylan. It was the method in which he went about questioning Dylan that eventually got him into trouble… even though Hobbs turned out to be the murderer.
During his hearing, Sherlock lies on the stand after being questioned about his and Joan’s illegal activities, such as breaking into houses or illegally obtaining evidence. Sherlock believes these things are necessary for a consultant because he is able to work outside the law; the problem is, he does nothing to hide this attitude on the stand, which makes him something of a loose cannon to the people who write and enforce the rules.
It puts Joan and Gregson in the crosshairs, but Sherlock is adamant that his work and methodology is more important than the rules forced on them by society.
Joan: “Why do we get to be above the rules?”
Sherlock: “Because our methods work. And I’m comfortable that our actions are guided by a morality that supersedes any clumsy employee manual. The danger with rulebooks, Watson, is that they offer the illusion that leading a moral life is a simple undertaking, that the world exists in black and white. Welcome to the grays!”
He’s right, in a sense, that morals are subjective according to personal codes, and it’s funny that he questions why we, as a society, choose to follow certain ones even as he works with them. Even during his trial, he challenges the prosecutor on whether she’s ever jaywalked, asking, “So some degree of criminality is acceptable, the rest is just negotiating boundaries?”
It comes out about halfway through the episode that Detective Bell was shot in an incident related to the Dylan case. Sherlock clearly feels some guilt, but to the prosecutor and judge, he appears unaffected by his colleagues injury; the prosecutor even goes as far as sarcastically saying, “Your affection for the man really shines through.” We (and Joan) know him better, and the dead giveaway is Sherlock’s refusal to go visit Bell in the hospital.
Sherlock: “I’ve got nothing to offer the man other than a few banal bromides.”
Joan: “What makes you think that’s not enough?”
Joan eventually has to take the stand, where she keeps to Sherlock’s story about puppies and loud TVs, and Sherlock even cross-examines her about the Rada Hollingsworth case, which is how we find out that the doctor did it. But when his line of questioning is over, the prosecutor asks Joan, “Then what happened?” and Joan is forced to recount the events of Bell’s shooting.
While he was questioning James Dylan, Sherlock asked if Dylan’s employers knew he was a convicted felon. Dylan had managed to keep that fact a secret from his bosses, so he begged Sherlock to keep his secret in exchange for any information he had about Rada. Sherlock kept his secret, but it turned out that he’d talked too loudly in the office, and one of Dylan’s cubicle neighbors had heard the accusation. Dylan had lost his job, which meant he had violated his parole, so he was going back to prison. He ambushed Sherlock in the street, just as he, Joan, and Bell were leaving after having arrested the oncologist, and Sherlock goaded him rather heartlessly until Dylan finally pulled his gun to shoot. Bell reacted quickly, jumping in front of Sherlock to take the bullet to the gut as other bystanding officers shot Dylan.
The tragedy of the story is that Dylan was not entirely a loose cannon. He’s responsible for his actions, but the whole situation could’ve been avoided if Sherlock had been more patient, understanding, or compassionate. Heck, it could’ve been avoided if he’d just used his inside voice while questioning Dylan. Any number of things could’ve gone differently in order to keep Bell from getting shot, and it’s the reason Sherlock’s being investigated in the first place.
Bell has complications during his surgery; a blood clot formed which obstructed blood flow to his right arm for half an hour. The chances of him regaining full strength in his gun hand aren’t high. When Joan visits Bell later, he’s struggling just to grip something in his hand. It is, hands down, Jon Michael Hill’s best work to date.
But he’s not done acting yet! After the judge (who was played by the great Frankie Faison, by the way) handed down a recommendation that Sherlock and Joan be terminated as consultants, the police commissioner, Patrick, visits Bell in the hospital. He puts it to Bell to decide Sherlock and Joan’s fates; are they enough of an asset to risk these kinds of incidents, or is Sherlock too much of a loose cannon to keep around?
At the end of the episode, Sherlock finally visits Bell in the hospital. It’s a beautiful scene between two very talented and nuanced actors. He tells Bell that he and Joan have been reinstated, though he doesn’t know why. (We know: Because Bell did the right thing and recommended it to the commissioner.) Sherlock apologizes for his actions and admits that he should’ve done more to avoid that sort of confrontation, and he thanks Bell for saving his life. Bell remains stony the entire time, not speaking, not smiling, just staring at Sherlock without turning his head.
Sherlock continues to offer services, such as sending Bell to the best clinic in Sweden, or having the doctor fly in to care for him here in the city, at no cost to Bell. But Bell, either too hurt, too stubborn, or too proud to accept Sherlock’s guilt-induced offers of help, refuses the services. The episode ends with him snapping, “Holmes! I don’t want a favor from you. I’d rather not see you around here.”
I’m hoping he reconsiders next week; he has every right to his feelings about Holmes, but it’s in his best interest to take advantage of the very best medical care he can get, and Sherlock is offering that. I get that he probably doesn’t want to owe his recovery to Sherlock, but does he want to owe his persistent injury to him instead? If Bell truly wants to get well enough to be a detective again, hopefully he will reconsider.
Next week: Alfredo’s back! It’s been too long, good friend.
(And yes, I have learned my lesson: Never beg for Bell-centric episodes again. IT ONLY RESULTS IN HIM GETTING SHOT.)