[This is a review of Elementary season 2, episode 14. There will be SPOILERS.]
After a brief, two-week hiatus that came shortly after its…well, hiatus, Elementary is back with a new episode that operates mostly in the procedural manner of which the show is accustomed – and is slowly but surely relying on less and less – to focus on one of the cases Sherlock was unable to solve, which, in this instance, appears to have been the direct result of his substance abuse problems.
At its heart, 'Dead Clade Walking' could have spun a perfectly fine and entertaining episode out of Watson's resourcefulness in finding a new clue to break open a cold case regarding the unsolved murder of Doug Newberg. The case itself contains a number of twists and turns that may be standard for the typical hour-long TV murder investigation, but the details wind up working to make it a little more interesting (or at least unique) than most. Rather than rely on some salacious crime or mind-boggling twist, 'Dead Clade Walking' is more the standard inquiry that leads to unforeseen clues, which, in turn, leads to an ever-deepening mystery that involves, of all things, a rock containing a nanotyrannus (which, when translated, becomes the equally adorable "dwarf tyrant" or "tiny tyrant") – moving Sherlock to remark: "I remove my earlier skepticism. The dinosaur in Doug Newberg's backyard did indeed escape my notice."
Naturally, Sherlock and Watson are able to solve the case, discovering it entails museum curators using black market dinosaur bones and endeavoring to keep their textbook sales up by helping disprove the titular theory of 'Dead Clade Walking' – which was coined in 2002 by David Jablonski, regarding the survival of some organisms following a mass extinction. But the idea of scientific theories, dinosaur bones, and Joan's resurrection of Sherlock's old case work rather well with Sherlock's ongoing struggles to stay sober, his past mistakes, and his nascent role as a sponsor to fellow recovering addict, Randy.
Sherlock's growth as a person for whom compassion is a positive attribute winds up pulling him in two directions throughout the episode. His desire to work the case with Joan is frequently matched by the needs of Randy, who finds himself on the verge of using again, after his ex-girlfriend shows up unexpectedly, and asks for his help in getting clean. Realizing the dual temptation of drugs and the "allure of a dangerous woman," Sherlock warns his sponsee of the inherent recklessness of social contact with such a person. Sherlock's firm hand in regard to Randy's ex appears to put a schism between the two, but after losing his sobriety, Randy's back, asking Sherlock to attend a meeting with him.
Randy's plight isn't necessarily the most interesting facet of 'Dead Clade Walking' – rather, the interest comes from watching Sherlock develop the skills needed to actually care for and empathize with another human being, while also worrying about the outcome of his actions. This naturally hints to Det. Bell's ongoing recovery, and the recovery of his and Sherlock's tenuous friend/partnership. As Sherlock continually bounced his concerns with Randy off Joan (despite not waiting for much of a reply) the episode also demonstrates how the Sherlock-Watson partnership continues to deepen the emotional core of the series.
Elementary continues next week with 'Corpse De Ballet' @10pm on CBS.