Eking out these recommended episodes of Elementary, having found a lot of joy in Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) and Dr. Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) solving mysteries in modern day New York, I’m amazed and mildly distressed to have reached the penultimate season already. What am I going to watch when I’m done?
The overall standard of season 6 wasn’t quite up to the two seasons which preceded it, even though it contains some very good stories. Maybe the sting thrown in at the end of the very first episode was a bit too good, and the show as a whole would have hard a damn hard time living up to it, or maybe it’s just bloody difficult to write 140 episodes of a series of this nature and always maintain the same high quality.
It has to be addressed that some of the decisions made from a character perspective are completely baffling, not least the occasional thread that sees Joan decide out of nowhere that she wants to adopt a child…a doubly confusing and wasteful use of screen time because it’s perfectly established and argued within the show itself that the one thing absolutely not missing from Joan Watson’s life is a kid. And would a woman whose previous boyfriend was murdered by a shadowy international criminal organisation, and whose lover before that had to fake his own death in order to evade the clutches of a completely different shadowy international criminal organisation, really imagine that she exists in a milieu which would welcome nappies and playdates? Joan’s cleverer than that; the mind boggles.
The first tranche of episodes, then, have a tendency to veer into this sort of lachrymose territory, with an occasional soapiness taking over events — in fairness to the writers and show-runner, this season is simply trying to deal with the large supporting cast of family, hangers-on, Irregulars, and past clients who would all still exist in this world, rather than simply dismissing them out of hand — and sometimes upsetting the balance of episodes. And yet it’s still recognisably Elementary, and still wonderful at times, helped in no small part by the excellent core cast of Miller, Liu, Jon Michael Hill, and Aidan Quinn (and semi-regulars such as Jordan Gelber and Robert Capron) who have at this stage the sort of easy chemistry that you wish you could bottle.
So, if you’re looking for highlights, I would suggest…
‘Give Me the Finger’ (6.6, o.b. 4th June 2018)
[Scr. Jordan Rosenberg, Dir. Jonny Lee Miller]
Miller’s directorial debut in the series not only displays some interestingly-framed shots and camera movement, as have Lucy Liu’s episodes as director, but is one of the strongest mysteries in this particular season. A dead body in a burned-out apartment soon escalates up to organised crime and a national security threat through some strong detection and playful humour (“Normally I’d say that game’s afoot; but in this case, I think it’s a finger.”). If I can fault this on one thing, it’s that the key clue used to determine the identity of the killer really should have been introduced sooner…but that’s about it. Elementary is at its best when making the apparently complex and formless events incredibly simple to put in the correct light, and this is a great example of it doing just that (the break-in, for one, is delightfully unexpected). Plus, there’s a superb, brief, emotional head-to-head between Miller and Aidan Quinn that’s exquisitely handled, and makes me hope Miller got to pick up the megaphone again before the show is done.
‘Sober Companions’ (6.7, o.b. 11th Jun 2018)
[Scr. Jason Tracey, Dir. Seith Mann]
An important episode not just for the arc it sets up over the coming series, but for the wider point it makes about the relationship between criminal and detective. After all, the latter needs the former in order to do their job…so what happens when the former discovers that they need the latter just as much? I can fault this on perhaps one coincidence that’s too difficult to swallow in a city the size of New York, but it’s otherwise a fascinating consideration of crime from the criminal’s perspective, rooted in a masterfully cold-eyed performance from Desmond Harrington that really makes you fear for Sherlock’s compromised health in a way that never quite landed for me before this. And the moment that an insight of Sherlock’s brilliant detection leads the police to the site of a crime and they uncover…something unexpected might well be one of the best surprises in the show to date.
‘The Visions of Norman P. Horowitz’ (6.18, o.b. 27th August 2018)
[Scr. Jason Tracey, Dir. Lucy Liu]
The old “someone had predicted some murders” routine, this time reinforced by CCTV footage of a suicide foretold years ago, which pays off with a scheme so neat and intelligent that you wonder how they’ve not conceived of it before. Also does that great thing which is so enjoyable in the short stories, and I’ve failed to acknowledge in the TV show before, of scattering in references to other cases beyond those that are the focus of the episode in question, giving life to the setup and characters alike. I don’t know what to tell you beyond that, really, except that this sort of thing is really hard to make as enjoyable as it is here, and Liu’s direction is once again among the most interesting seen in this show — switching between tracking shots and tight, twitchy handheld camera work effortlessly without drawing attention to itself as perhaps some of her earlier shot construction was apt to do.
‘Fit to be Tied’ (6.20, o.b. 10th September 2018)
[Scr. Jason Tracey, Dir. Ron Fortunato]
In which the show goes Full Procedural, knowing who a killer is and yet faced with the immense difficulty of trying to prove it. Best of all, amid its conviction of guilt it manages to pack in some great surprises, include at least one sequence of pure Suspense, and end on a one-two punch of unexpected revelation and cliffhanger that really leans into the relationships built up over the course of the show to date. Where threads in certain episodes before have hinted at the difficulty that face Holmes and Watson when trying to mesh their manner of investigation into the more formal requirements of a functional police department, these last two episodes of this season bring that consideration front and centre, with so many of the standfasts which have enabled some of the show’s, er, less rigorous plotting — I’m looking at you, Everyone — causing the very problems they’re intended to sidestep. Great writing, so much fun.
‘Whatever Remains, However Improbable’ (6.21, o.b. 17th September 2018)
[Scr. Robert Doherty, Dir. Christine Moore]
Problem of the Week shows often struggle to invest their schemes with any emotional investment because, well, there’s going to be another problem next week, and you need everything to be back how it was so that anyone who skipped an episode doesn’t feel too left out. So it comes as quite a surprise to see the sheer amount of feelings crammed into this season closer, which in many ways comes across as if it was intended to be a finale for the show as a whole. Faced with the fallout from last week’s revelations, this episode lines up kicker after kicker and just keeps swinging until you’re emotionally spent…and then finds yet another swing to throw just when you thought it was over. I’m intrigued to see how this is dealt with in the seventh and final series, and in a way I’m pleased that the sense of resolution here isn’t the final word of the show. Not just because it’s great, but because it’ll be fascinating to see where things go from here.
Elementary recommendations on The Invisible Event:
5 thoughts on “#1047: Five to Try – Elementary, Season 6 (2018)”
This was a really good season, hurt by the fact that it originally had 13 episodes, before needing to be expanded, resulting in the main plot just being ignored in some of the cases. I still enjoyed it though.
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I remember hearing this, which in a way makes it even more hilarious [MILD SPOILERS] that when Holmes goes away for three months to recover they do nothing with it and just smash cut to a “Three Months Later” card.
Like, guys, there was so much potential there…
Really enjoyed your post and you definitely picked all the right highlights as far as I’m concerned. But as mentioned above, Doherty thought it was the last season as they only got an order for 13 episodes hence that killer climax to episode 1 and bringing in old favourites and a generally compressed approach (for more on that, see season 7). Plus, even though 8 more episodes were ordered, this was so belated that they had to build in that pause in the middle to get to that great and so well-judged finale. But I like that so many of your choices are from the episodes made as part of the late order of 8. Such a great show!
I remain very grateful to you for convincing me to give this a go in the first place, because I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it — and that’s as someone who really struggles to enjoy criminous stuff on screen. The creativity and playfulness of so much of the plotting is superb.
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PS And yes, they really nailed that old standby plot of predicting deaths in advance (goes back on screen at least as far as the third Thin Man movie and assorted tales of fortune tellers of course ).