In a slightly tepid return to The Brownstone, the case surrounding the opening episode of season four fails to really excite - but the chemistry between Holmes and Watson is as emotionally satisfying as ever.
In the finale of Elementary‘s third season, a lot was left hanging in the balance. For one thing, the state in which we last saw Sherlock (Jonny Lee Miller) was unfavourable to say the least. Having been tormented back into drug abuse by his slimy former friend Oscar, Sherlock once again found himself facing the long, hard path to sobriety, alongside his worried partner, Joan Watson (Lucy Liu). In light of this, the season 3 finale also promised a long-awaited glimpse at Sherlock’s lingeringly absent father, Morland Holmes (John Noble). Unfortunately, with the opening episode of this fourth season, we are left only partly satisfied by such promises.
In the episode – entitled ‘The Past is Parent’ – Sherlock is confronted by the consequences of his relapse; namely the sudden dissolving of his (and by default, also Watson’s) consultancy with the NYPD, as well as the threat of a potential prison sentence for his savage beating of Oscar. Alongside these inherently worrying themes, the episode also sees Holmes and Watson await the imminent arrival of Morland. And of course – despite their consultancy problem – there is also a case to be solved.
Throughout it’s run, the series has established itself as a contemporary Conan-Doyle adaptation in it’s own right – distinctly different from the BBC’s modern take. Usually, the strength of Elementary is in it’s unusual cases that, though brought to the fore in CSI-like fashion, are solved using remarkable, Sherlockian techniques. Unfortunately, three seasons and 67 episodes in, this formula is getting a little tired. The case in this particular episode seems especially stale – not least because of the absence of favourable characters from the NYPD department, such as Detective Bell and Captain Gregson. While attempting to find a substitutional outlet for their talents, Holmes and Watson attempt to solve the cold case of two missing women, who were assumed to be killed by one of Sherlock’s shady acquaintances. Though it sounds interesting on the surface, the further the investigation gets, the less intriguing it becomes – placating viewers, rather than exciting them.
However, the series’ other unique, fan-favoured selling point – the platonic relationship between Sherlock and Joan – is still going strong. Sherlock is never more interesting than when he admits the flaws behind his impeccable machinations, and in this show’s characterisation of the detective, his struggle with addiction really helps to construct the humanised persona behind his genius. Given that they met and bonded in similar circumstances to their current predicament, the consequences of Sherlock’s relapse also pose interesting decisions for Joan and her part in their partnership. As the two decide on how to proceed without the NYPD (whilst also preparing for the arrival of Morland), their friendship is developed in several rather touching, emotional moments, which are only elevated by the natural chemistry shared between Miller and Liu.
And speaking of Morland, the arrival of John Noble as the formidable Holmes patriarch is undoubtedly one of the stronger elements of the episode. Backed by the unfavourable history that Sherlock has established in earlier seasons, Morland carries an air of oddly mistrustful gravitas when he finally emerges at the end of the episode. Though he seems to extend a helping hand towards Sherlock and Joan, there is something about Noble’s portrayal that suggests this character holds darker purposes behind his seemingly well-meaning promises.
Ultimately, this season did not open with the suspenseful bang that fans may well have anticipated and hoped for. But, with the strength of the cast and the dramatic promise behind Morland Holmes’ sudden presence, it shouldn’t be too long before the series gets back in it’s stride.
Elementary is broadcast on Sky Living on Tuesdays at 9pm.