[This is a review of Elementary season 2, episode 19. There will be SPOILERS.]
‘The Many Mouths of Aaron Colville’ has, first and foremost, a mouthful of a title, but as a late-season episode of Elementary, it also demonstrates a great many of the series’ strengths with regard to character interaction and, especially, in drawing a more complete portrait of Holmes and Watson, as they are presently. For the most part, the episode conveys this by demonstrating the manner in which a troubling past event during Joan’s days as a young doctor (complete with the kind of unglamorous hairstyle one would imagine an overworked surgeon to have) became the framework for the woman she would eventually become.
There is casualness to the episode that, despite its inherent procedural qualities, makes it read as more genuinely interested in examining the characters’ interpretation of their situation, rather than a perfunctory examination of the case at hand. Outside of a brief reference to Mycroft and a few welcome mentions of Ms. Hudson, there’s not a great deal of serialization going on either, or any real hint of the story that will eventually wrap up season 2. While the inclusion of those elements (or something similar) have normally generated some of the strongest Elementary episodes to date, and helped to more fully construct the unique parameters that make up the world of the series, their mere mention here is all that’s really required.
The crux of the episode deals with an old case that Joan was tangentially involved in long before she crossed paths with Sherlock Holmes and became a consulting detective for the NYPD. In it, a murderer – the titular Aaron Colville – found his way to her hospital with several stab wounds. The attending physician, Dr. Flemming (Bruce Altman), failed to save the man after speaking with him briefly, rousing suspicion in Joan that her supervisor had taken justice into his own hands. Once Watson is made aware of an ongoing investigation into a string of new murders that fit Colville’s MO, she begins investigating her former colleague, as a way of managing the lingering guilt she felt over the manner in which the patient died.
As far as the case goes, it fits nicely into the standardized structure of what the audience has come to expect from a procedural. What sets ‘The Many Mouths of Aaron Colville’ apart, however, is how the episode deftly inserts smaller character beats that establish a greater sense of how Sherlock and Joan’s particular dynamic works. The exemplary interplay between the two begins with Sherlock’s obvious eagerness to be joined by his partner in the search for a ship that went missing in 1909, which is followed by his willingness to shelve the shipwreck, and dive headlong into the Colville case, simply because of it’s importance to Joan.
There’re other details, too, like Holmes’ affinity for appearing in Joan’s bedroom, having selected her wardrobe for the day, his repeated strategic placement of Clyde (in his own Ms. Hudson-crafted knit cap) for the purpose of their shared amusement, and the return of Everyone – the Anonymous-like hacker group that offers Holmes favors in exchange for his publicly humiliating himself, which, in this case involves performing songs from Frozen in a prom dress (off-screen), and holding a sign requesting to be repeatedly punched in the arm by passers-by. It all adds up to a surprisingly fulfilling, character-centric episode that helps make up for previous missteps like the unnecessary backstory tacked onto Joan’s plotline in ‘Corpse de Ballet.’
As the season pushes into its final episodes, it will be interesting to see if any of the elements presented here, afford the characters and their setting even greater definition from which it can then build stronger stories.
Elementary continues next Thursday with ‘No Lack of Void’ @10pm on CBS.
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