Before I start the recap, I just have to give props to whoever manages the Elementary writers’ Twitter account for having a playful rivalry with the person handling the Sleepy Hollow writers’ Twitter account. The results have been amusing to watch.
This week’s episode seems a bit of the rehash of the major arc of last season with Irene Adler/Jamie Moriarty with a mysterious woman from Sherlock’s past who has a connection to a current case. It’s a minor quibble because it expands on what is emerging as the major theme of the season: connection and relationships. I’m really excited to see where the show goes with this as it explores the ways our two protagonists connect with others outside of their partnership and how their respective pasts and baggage affect them today. This week’s episode gives us more of a glimpse into Sherlock’s past and it also contains trigger warnings for talk of abuse, both physical and sexual.
The case begins with a phone call Holmes receives after a round in the boxing ring (I enjoyed that) from a dominatrix acquaintance of his who arrived at a client’s house only to find him dead while dressed in a latex bodysuit. My favorite part of the episode was the look on Detective Bell’s face when asked to interview the dominatrix and the look on everyone’s face when Holmes reveals his connection to Mistress Felicia. (I’m imagining there’s a bunch of fan fiction being written right now based on this right about now.)
As stated in pretty much all my previous reviews, the cases follow a very specific set-up most of the time. Holmes figures out that the victim, Titus Delancey, a wealthy CEO, was killed by an overdose of nitroglycerin found in his glass of brandy. The killer is never the first person they question, which in this case was a business associate of the deceased who was videotaped buying the latex bodysuit. He had discovered Delancey dead on the floor of his home and figured out a way to prevent a massive life insurance pay out on the deceased and line his own pockets when he took over the company. The guy went back to the sex shop, bought the latex bodysuit and dressed Delancey’s dead body in it. All this for a morality clause against an “unsavory” lifestyle or practice so he could get a bigger year-end bonus.
So the next suspects are usually the wife and/or the nanny, especially if there is money involved. Wife wants out of a pre-nup and the nanny could have been having an affair with her employer. In the standard formula, it’s never the first suspect OR the second suspect, but since we have an hour to fill, they have to look into everyone. Since the wife has an alibi for the murder, we turn to the nanny, Ann Barker, who is someone Holmes recognizes from a case almost 20 years ago (Omg, plot thickener).
Holmes became fascinated with the case of an Abigail Spencer, a 15-year-old accused of murdering her father by poisoning him with nitroglycerin; the same poison that killed Delancey. Her father was an abusive asshole, and during the trial, Holmes began corresponding with her under the alias of “Shawn Holmes.” He was fascinated by the case since he and Abigail were the same age. Though she was later acquitted, Holmes figured out that she did in fact kill her father, but since she had justifiable reasons and he didn’t see the mind of a serial killer in her, he never reported it. He saw no need as she was covered by double jeopardy. He was grateful to her for giving him a glimpse into the mind of a killer and it set him on the path to his current occupation and calling. For her part, Abigail disappeared after the trial and presumably changed her name and her appearance. The only reason Holmes recognized her is because of the phoenix tattoo on her wrist, an image the pair had talked about during their correspondence. It had seemed that Abigail had shed her identity and like a phoenix, rose again as Ann Barker.
Holmes later goes to Ann’s apartment to reveal himself, since he suspects that someone had discovered her real identity and was trying to frame her for murder. The reunion is heartbreaking. These are two people who made a connection when they were under stressful circumstances and experienced abuse at the hands of others. Holmes later reveals to Watson that when he was shipped off to boarding school by his father, he was brutally beaten and mistreated by his fellow classmates for being different. The pair bonded over shared abuse and neglectful fathers. Holmes insists it wasn’t something as “mundane” as love, but just the caring of another human, even if they were originally a test subject. I don’t buy it though. Jonny Lee Miller has been playing Holmes as a man with excellent composure, but with just enough tiny slivers to show how deeply he feels.
So that second suspect I mentioned earlier is, of course, a red herring. Ann had noticed a car following her on occasion. The car belonged to a private investigator hired by Delancey’s wife. She was trying to catch her husband in an affair with the nanny, but that wasn’t happening. In the course of his investigation, the PI did discover Ann’s past and it seems Mrs. Delancey had a perfect opportunity and the ever-present motive of money to kill her husband and frame Ann. In an interesting twist, the wife was PLANNING on killing her husband and framing Ann for the murder. She just happened to be purchasing nitroglycerin from a doctor when the murder occurred. So she was going to kill the bastard, but someone got to him first.
The third suspect is usually the charm. Holmes moves onto the Delancey’s two sons. The oldest son Graham is 17 and set to inherit a large sum of money when he turns 18 now that his father is dead. Motive! Graham insists he didn’t kill his father, but conveniently has a video showing his father yelling at Ann over a tablet. Seems that Delancey thought Ann had tried to steal it. Ann confirmed the incident later with Holmes at her apartment, though she thought it was a fluke. The logical jump would be to think Ann suspected Delancey had information on her past and she was trying to find it and erase it and then kill him. It’s becoming a bit more evident that Ann may have something to do with Delancey’s death, though she still denies it. Holmes reveals that he knows the truth about what happened and that she did kill her father. Ann is understandably upset and asks Sherlock to leave.
The police and Watson are searching the Delancey home for the tablet since it may shed light on whoever killed Delancey. Bell and Watson find a locked drawer that appeared tampered with, but it was ultimately empty. Watson observes that Delancey’s office has five vents, which is such overkill, and discovers one vent is fake and is a secret hiding place for the tablet. What is revealed on the tablet is horrifying. Delancey was sexually abusing his son Graham and the evidence of the abuse is on the tablet. While Graham had been searching for the tablet to possibly use as evidence or blackmail, he stumbled upon his mother’s files from the PI and decided to kill his abusive father and frame Ann using the same method she had used to kill her father.
As the confrontation is going down at the police station with Graham getting ready to confess, Ann arrives and is told about the abuse. As she’s wracked with guilt over how such abuse could happen right under her nose and knowing the kind of stigma Graham will face as being a killer (even if it’s justified), she confesses to the crime. As she and Holmes talk separately, Ann tells him that his suspicions were right, she did kill her father and was never punished for it. She will take the blame for Delancey’s murder so that Graham, who she cares for deeply, can move on with his life and rise above like the phoenix. She feels it’s time that she paid for her crime.
Finally, in a scene that exemplifies the need for connection and the characters stumbling to find it, Sherlock meets with Graham. After a warning against such extreme measures in the future, Sherlock offers Graham his time as a confidant, as someone who knows his whole story and as someone who also suffered abuse at the hands of his father (though Sherlock states his abuse wasn’t as horrific). The cynic could perceive that Holmes is simply looking for another test subject, another killer whose mind he can analyze for future case reference. However, I think that his whole experience with Ann Barker nee Abigail Spencer changed him and has made him realize that connection and understanding might not be weakness after all. If he doesn’t think that now, I think it’s a start.