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Saturday, 17 of April of 2021

Elementary – “M.”

“I am not an average man.”

Based on last week’s preview, I expected “M.” to deal directly with the infamous Moriarty. And, based on the preview, I expected the character to be played by Vinnie Jones.

Wrong again.

Well, technically I wasn’t wrong, per se, more like 50/50. I just didn’t see all the steps that led to my conclusion finally being correct. I pulled a Sherlock and deduced based off what I knew instead of all the evidence there was and came to an erroneous, but not useless, conclusion.

I had assumed – as I’m sure others did – that the M of the episode title was Moriarty. Instead, M was a stepping stone to Moriarty.

While part of me is pleased that we don’t get any face-to-face time with Moriarty yet – plenty of time for that later – part of me is also a little disappointed that Vinnie Jones wasn’t Moriarty. True, his role as hired assassin fits much more within the parameters of the characters he normally plays, but I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t been excited to see what the show might do with him as Moriarty. I’m chuffed that they didn’t do away with him but kept him around and, not only that, they made him both beholden to and reliant on Sherlock. I will hope that means we’ll see him in the future.

It was a clever trick the show pulled, setting me up like that. It made the revelation that our intrepid villain was not, in fact, Moriarty all the more delicious. And I love that it wasn’t a huge “aha!” moment type of revelation either. The entire episode was a slow build to the truth – both for Sherlock and the audience – and to more mystery. In truth, this entire season has been a slow build to this episode. Facts about Sherlock’s addiction, about his nature, about Irene – we never got any large pieces. Instead it was a trickle building to this point, building to the point where everything comes together for Sherlock, for where everything comes apart.

Jonny Lee Miller does some absolutely amazing work in this episode. From his subtle but telling reaction upon arriving at the crime scene to his closing moments with Watson, the emotions he conveys – and the way he conveys them – were simply stunning. It’s a study in control – clinging to it, losing it, pulling it tight like a shield. Sherlock, for all his wild and eccentric ways, is a very controlled person, and from the time he realizes that M is in town, that control begins to slip.

It all circles back to Irene. Her death (and its investigation) is what drove Sherlock past the point of control with his drug use. His addiction made him, as he says, “useless to the police” in assisting with the investigation thus, by his estimation, allowing M to go free. Then M appears in his life once more, and all the control Sherlock has built up begins to fade.

I’ve mentioned before how much I enjoy and appreciate the humanity of this Sherlock, his capacity to care and to be hurt. It is this humanity that allows him to lose control the way he does. He plainly admits to Watson that his plan is not for justice, but for revenge. He will capture, torture, and kill M. Revenge is not something a controlled person goes after. Sherlock‘s hero, for example (a supremely controlled individual), is far too detached for something as base as revenge. But Elementary‘s Sherlock isn’t. The desire for revenge comes from anger that comes from a deep hurt. And while Sherlock’s actions to get that revenge are very calculated, he is not in control of himself.

The change in Sherlock due to the events of this episode is amazing. As he prepares to go off after revenge, he finally gives Watson all of the information she’s been slowly pulling out of him all season, and he does so like he’s giving a book report, despite the clearly painful and emotional things he’s describing. It’s a brilliant scene and JLM (and Liu, as witness to the degradation) plays it beautifully. He’s driven by a slightly manic desire – born of the need for revenge and not a little for the guilt he feels at leaving Irene’s death unavenged due to the downfall of his addiction – and it can be seen in how everything else falls away in light of it. The walls he’d kept up, the distance he’d kept between him and Watson, the secrets he’d saved: he lets them go.

His entire focus is on finding and killing M, and that focus is the only thing holding him together. So when M starts chipping away at his steadfast belief that M killed Irene, Sherlock starts coming apart at the seams. You can see Sherlock breaking down as the truth of M’s claims becomes clearer and clearer. JLM does a fantastic job in this sequence, shifting from calm, righteous anger as he begins his torture to aching, resigned despair as the validity of M’s assertions hits home. He bends over the table, face quivering, fighting back tears, before pulling himself together through sheer force of will and once again approaching M. You see Sherlock losing control and him realizing that he’s doing so. He then centers in on what he can control: his actions. And he stabs M in the stomach.

It’s a great moment. I’m glad the show isn’t shying away from the darker side of Sherlock’s personality – his capacity for cruelty and ruthlessness, for example. I am also interested at what, if any, impact this will have on Sherlock’s relationship with Watson. Because, of course, Watson is staying.

Everything has been building to Watson making the decision to stay with Sherlock because she wants to. Sherlock told her she wanted to. Her mother told her she wanted to. At the beginning of this episode, her therapist even tells her the same. Watson claims to love what she’s doing “right now.” As her therapist points out: “Short of your client falling off the wagon, your ‘right now’ is coming to an end.” Watson finally even admits it to herself – and Sherlock – when she tells Sherlock at the morgue that she is going to miss working with him, a confession that garners the best wordless reaction from Sherlock.

After the events with M, Sherlock and Watson have a moment at the precinct that mirrors the one at the morgue. Sherlock control once again slips as he talks to Watson about being wrong about M, about the discovery of Moriarty. So Watson sits beside him and puts her hand over his. It’s a simple gesture, but it’s enough. “I’m going to miss this,” Sherlock admits to her, using near enough the same words she had previously used on him.

But Watson stays. Maybe not entirely because she simply wants to, maybe partially because she feels she needs to, but she stays. And when Sherlock’s father advises that he does not wish to extend her services, she lies to Sherlock about it and stays anyway. I am positive the absence of Daddy Holmes’ patronage will become an important point in the future. I wonder how long it will take Sherlock to notice.

I’m still processing everything this episode gave us, everything it did to the characters. And I’m still getting over the performances. And I cannot wait to see what happens next.

 

 

Extras:

  • Sherlock was going to use bees on M. For some reason, I found that both hilariously ridiculous/silly and a little disheartening. Why would you kill bees that way, Sherlock?
  • “I’m staying. I go where he goes, remember?”
  • I found Watson’s reactions to both the possibility of being targeted by (or in close proximity to a target of) a serial killer and Sherlock’s sudden chilling dedication to torture and murder a little odd. She’s a little too nonplussed by both situations and. Though, I’ll admit, there may have been more subtleties there that I did not pick up on because I was too distracted by JLM’s performance.
  • I’ve always been kind of on the fence about JLM, but he has completely won me over here. Superb work. The last scene in the precinct alone was heart-stoppingly good.
  • “That’s the beauty of deductive reasoning, I suppose. It makes a science of almost anything. Not this.”

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