[This is a review of Elementary season 2, episode 12. There will be spoilers.]

Ever since the reveal that the love of Sherlock’s life, Irene Adler, was in fact also the criminal mastermind known as Moriarty, Elementary has done well to keep the character emotionally present, even while is she supposedly locked away in a supermax wing of Newgate prison. Moriarty hasn’t been seen for many weeks, but she’s been there just same, under the surface of everything. She is the source of unstated anguish etched in the back of Sherlock’s mind that is undoubtedly one of the recent emotional catalysts propelling the character and the series into the interesting emotional territory it’s been negotiating this season.

Of course, the primary conflict that’s arisen from this situation has the otherwise loveless Sherlock Holmes facing the dual predicaments of not only being in love, but also being met with a mind that is as sharp as his, or perhaps sharper. While there is the rather unique situation of someone actually tugging at his otherwise unsullied heartstrings, the larger, more interesting facet of this otherwise unheard of situation is that Sherlock may actually have more of an interest in her now that her true identity and nature has been revealed; the only question is: to what end?

‘The Diabolical Kind’ is just the sort of episode Elementary should have opened up with following the brief hiatus most network shows go on prior to the holidays. Not only was it another strong entry in what has been a surprisingly strong second season, but the episode also worked to focus on what has been the narrative’s greatest asset so far: the apparent emotional maturation of Sherlock Holmes from a distinctively singular person to one who is capable of expressing emotion for something and, in this case, someone outside of himself. Naturally, this transition began with the introduction of Watson and Holmes’ ongoing recovery from addiction, but the inclusion of Natalie Dormer‘s rather alluring Moriarty succeeds in bridging the gap between who Holmes was prior to the start of the series, and who he is now – which is further highlighted by the suggestion that she, too, is undergoing some sort of emotional change/maturation brought on by her dealings with Holmes and Watson.

There are all kinds of stories floating around within the show’s continually expanding mythology (much of which is admittedly borrowed from what we already know about the Sherlock Holmes character), but Elementary‘s device of looking at its characters through the prism of recovery from a crippling drug addiction grants any connection from Sherlock’s past a varied weightiness. And as the series slowly transitions into a more serialized narrative, visitations from people characters like Moriarty and Sherlock’s brother Mycroft (Rhys Ifans) begin to mean something beyond spotting another of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s creations; they showcase Sherlock’s transformation, by simultaneously demonstrating its significance, while making any threat of its impermanence even more devastating.

With its simple opening voiceover detailing the correspondence Sherlock has been surreptitiously engaging in with Moriarty, ‘The Diabolical Kind’ also demonstrated how the show has managed (with a few one-off exceptions, of course) to better integrate character and plot; the kidnapping of Kayden Fuller (Delphina Belle) and subsequent reveal that she is Moriarty’s daughter only reinforced the real story of Holmes and Moriarty’s difficult emotional connection and where it may take them.

All in all, it was a welcome return for a show that has increasingly demonstrated it has a firm handle on who Sherlock is, and where he’s headed. Now if it can do the same for Watson, Elementary could be one of the best programs on network TV.

Elementary continues next Thursday with ‘All in the Family’ @10pm on CBS. Check out a preview below: