'Elementary' Is Nothing If Not Discreet

[This is a review of Elementary season 3, episode 6. There will be SPOILERS.]


One of the primary questions surrounding Sherlock's mentorship of Kitty was how long Elementary planned to use it as a substitute for the classic Holmes-Watson relationship that serves as the foundation of the series. Naturally, that's the same affiliation that is explored in every Holmes-related storylines, but there's enough in this particular dynamic to suggest that its absence has the potential to result in a particular kind of character development, which was hinted at in the season premiere. As such, the shifting dynamic and the characters' subsequent lurching attempts at reconciliation come with the expectation that something will have to change once again in order for the status quo to once again be resumed. In other words, as the protagonists once again gravitate toward one another, what will become of Kitty?

Although the series hasn't done much to keep Sherlock and Joan apart (aside from an impromptu trip to Denmark that kept Joan away from an episode completely), it has been made clear that the two characters are attempting to lead separate lives. So far, the most prominent indicator that they actually spend time apart from one another has been their shared custody of Clyde, which actually serves as the catalyst for Joan's concern over the effects Sherlock's demanding personality might be having on Kitty. That, in turn, leads Elementary to take the biggest step in bringing the series' primary relationship back to where it once was; by hinting that Kitty, as beneficial as her tutelage under Sherlock has been, is ready for a little autonomy.

In order to express her need for independence – or, at the very least, a little free time now and again – 'Terra Pericolosa' actually opens with Kitty engaging in various Sherlock-related interactions, but without Sherlock actually being present. This gives the episode another chance to examine the rather fruitful relationship Kitty has enjoyed with Joan. Although it lacks the personal touch that some kind of mention of Joan's trip with Andrew might have yielded, the benefit of Joan recognizing how the menial tasks Sherlock has been heaping upon his protégé are keeping her from getting back out and living her life is sufficient for the needs of the moment. Besides, the brief discussion of independence compliments Kitty's investigation into a stolen map (and her subsequent discovery of a dead body) that drives the primary plot.

That plot is sufficiently twisty, as it begins with the search for the aforementioned map, and quickly turns into a much larger mystery concerning land rights, inheritance, and Native American casinos. The mystery is actually rather compelling, considering the more the detectives dig, the more the motives and concerns of the various suspects shifts from one form of greed to another. This is one of the first mysteries of the season where the concept of murder feels more superfluous than usual. That is, the deaths of various individuals aren't entirely necessary; the intrigue of the stolen map and its potential to alter the boundaries of a particular reservation that would, in turn, be worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the owners of the casino is actually fairly convincing. But with two murders and an obvious suspect in Mamie Gummer (the second Gummer to be on television this week), 'Terra Pericolosa' isn't going to be this season's episode of Elementary that builds a compelling mystery without raising the stakes by putting up a human life.

Nonetheless, there's still the matter of Kitty's independence, which leads to several enjoyable scenes between Sherlock and Joan, in which they assume a parental role in matters of Kitty's wellbeing. Not only do these interactions help demonstrate the importance of Kitty in the larger season 3 scheme of things, but it also plays up on the deep history between the two leads. The depth of their relationship is strong enough and interesting enough that it can drive entire episodes, and make scenes like the living room discussion of whether or not Kitty should answer the call of a young suitor more than just two people arguing – they're fleshing out the boundaries of their new dynamic.

The result, then, is Joan's offer to spend more time helping Sherlock on cases, if that means Kitty is afforded the free time she needs to expand her recovery outside the comforting circle Sherlock has provided for her. But it also suggests that in any given conversation, Joan has as much power and authority over the matter at hand as Sherlock does. There could still be more evidence of Joan's agency and her ability to impact the plot as much as Holmes, but the demonstration of the distribution of power is a good start. Similarly, Sherlock's continued emotional growth helps make the final scene between him and Kitty feel legitimate and earned, especially considering the role Joan played in his coming to the conclusion that, at a certain point, Kitty, like Joan, is going to need to have a life apart from him.

This leads to an interesting question that's similar to the one pondered above. Instead of asking: How long will Kitty serve as a substitute for the Holmes-Watson dynamic, the question becomes: Is this hint toward independence a suggestion that Kitty may soon be moving on to other things, or is it just the next step in her character's development? Here's hoping it's the latter.

Elementary continues next Thursday with  'The Adventure of the Nutmeg Concoction' @10pm on CBS. Check out a preview below:

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