[This is a review of Elementary season 3, episode 7. There will be SPOILERS.]
One of the ways in which Elementary capitalizes on the often-exhaustive 22-plus-episode schedule of network television is by allowing the writers to alter the tone of Sherlock slightly from episode to episode. There's still consistency to it, but, in an interesting way, it feels as though the writer's voice is coming out through Sherlock in the form of a particular (sometimes prickly) mood. The result, then, is an episode like 'The Adventure of the Nutmeg Concoction,' where Sherlock is ostensibly bored throughout. But that doesn't make the episode boring at all.
Instead, the desperate-for-a-distraction Sherlock seems to be getting his kicks from any source he can, and at any moment such a potential pleasure (no matter how miniscule) might present itself. The result is an episode that, like the titular concoction suggests, deliberately goes heavy on the spice to cover up the more utilitarian aroma of its plot, which relies substantially on the show's procedural aspect. Mostly, that means Sherlock underlines every sentence with a hint of how the case benefits from his "volunteering" to help, and how he cannot be bothered to do menial tasks when he has an apprentice like Kitty on hand to do them for him.
The episode runs the risk of making Sherlock too obdurate and grating for his own good, but Jonny Lee Miller has a superb handle on the character at this point, and can imbue him with various vocal inflections and physical mannerisms that seem to indicate the level of seriousness with which Sherlock speaks. For example, there's a hurried insolence in the way he addresses FBI Agent/media maven Blake Tanner that suggests Sherlock was done with the would-be superstar investigator before the meeting even began. That's in sharp contrast to the way he continuously prods Joan about her tricky romantic life with Andrew, and then begins to peel away the layers of her personality, finally resorting to calling her a "romantic terrorist."
Although the words seem harsh, it's Sherlock's unwillingness to engage with Blake Tanner that better demonstrates the unforgiving nature of his personality. As he explains to Joan, her desire to seek less conventional relationships is actually what makes her interesting. And although it would have been desirable for Joan to come to that conclusion herself, instead of Sherlock telling it to her, there's something reassuringly Holmesian about the remarks that suggest how deep his fondness for her goes. Sherlock constantly operates without a filter, but his words to Joan, even when they are biting, sound carefully chosen to express his affection – even if it's in the most roundabout manner possible.
The same can be said for Joan's reaction to Sherlock's inevitable arrival on the case she lands. After inserting himself into the investigation of a missing woman, whose disappearance, like several others, was marked by the suspicious aroma of nutmeg at her last known location, Joan seems to welcome the distraction her former mentor and Kitty provide, as she wrestles with her long-distance relationship with Andrew and the arrival of a former lover named Chris Santos. Like Sherlock, Joan is experiencing the pangs of boredom, but given their personal nature, they go undisclosed for much of the episode.
And that's too bad, because while the primary investigation of 'The Adventure of the Nutmeg Concoction' is engaging in its own way, Elementary once again demonstrates how it can find even more engaging threads by looking into the emotional needs of its characters. It's a difference that makes you wish the episodes were weighted differently, placing less focus on investigation and more on things like Joan's romantic confusion. A few extra minutes with Chris might have better underlined the idea that Joan was possibly considering future encounters with him, rather than have Sherlock spell it out. Then there's the fact that Chris' sudden arrival briefly suggested something sinister. Admittedly that probably had more to do with the fact that Christian Camargo was once the Ice Truck Killer from Dexter, but the guy just radiates the sense that, underneath his too placid exterior, there lurks something incredibly dangerous. In this instance, the danger just seemed to be relegated to Joan's personal life. Perhaps Chris isn't a one-and-done character, but if he is, then, the message was received.
In the end, the mystery of the titular nutmeg concoction turns out to be an appropriately twisty affair with each of the three detectives playing a crucial role in its resolution. In that sense, the episode is as satisfying as any other. Sure, it lacks the beguiling ambiguity of the rather stellar 'Bella' episode from earlier this season, but what this effort lacks in challenging the conventions of the narrative it makes up in establishing an interesting entanglement for Joan's personal life that may yet pay dividends.
Elementary continues next Thursday with 'End of Watch' @10pm on CBS. Check out a preview below: