Elementary: Season 1, Episode 12. M (2013)
This review contains more spoilers than usual. If you prefer to watch the episode without expectations, stop reading!
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 12. M (2013) is the best episode so far! In no small part, this is due to the fact the story sticks very closely to the canonical expectations we have of a proper Sherlock Holmes story by Arthur Conan Doyle (even bees make a physical appearance). Although this episode deliberately avoids the strict character arcs from the original “Empty House”, this is actually a particularly good use of Sebastian Moran (this episode’s M). You will recall he’s the second most dangerous man in London. As in this episode, the most dangerous is Professor Moriarty, the man who employs Moran as an assassin. For our immediate purposes, we abandon Moran’s skill as a marksman and instead see him as a rather sadistic killer who hangs his victims up on a tripod, slits their throats, drains all the blood on to the floor, and then dumps each body in the nearest river. He now moves across the Atlantic to the US. Inspector Gregson (Aidan Quinn) correctly suggests this is a criminal following Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller). M is taunting Holmes with his failure in London and offering him a second bite at the cherry.
At this point, we get a resolution of the relationship between Sherlock and Dr Joan Watson (Lucy Liu). Both have independently indicated they are happy working together and regret the approaching separation. Even the egomaniacal Sherlock has been forced to admit that Watson has pointed out key facts he has missed. Indeed, in this case, she’s almost immediately able to suggest where the latest dead body was dropped in the river because of the engine oil she can smell on the body’s hair. We now get the London backstory. When the first in the series of killings were linked together to show the work of a serial killer by a man who came to be known as M, Holmes was advising the British police. In due course, letters were sent to the police taunting them and Holmes because they could not catch M. Holmes then began a relationship with Irene Adler and, after seven months, she was killed using exactly the same methodology. It was a natural assumption this death was part of the series and, because of the letters, a personal attack on Holmes. It was this that tipped him over the edge into drug abuse. With a photograph of M now in his possession, Holmes gets the Irregulars on the job — annoyingly, not the addict we previously assumed would become an Irregular.
Planning revenge, Holmes works out who the next victim is likely to be, interrupts M and takes him off to one of his father’s houses in New York for a one-on-one discussion of world affairs using various household tools and implements. At this point, M played rather well by Vinnie Jones (as an aside, he was a professional footballer but did not play for Arsenal, the team he’s seen supporting in this episode) manages to convince Holmes that he did not kill Irene Adler. He admits all the other killings but identifies Moriarty as both the likely killer of Irene, and also as the man who probably gave him up. Had Moriarty not sent him to New York and given him certain key instructions, Holmes could not have caught him. He also wants revenge and sees Holmes as his best chance of getting it. At this point, Holmes makes a pact with Moran who later denies that Sherlock abducted him and was torturing him. As it were, Holmes comes back from the brink of a murder and is restored. In a genuinely touching scene at the New York police station, Sherlock and Watson admit their preference for continuing the working relationship. The following morning, it’s official. Holmes senior agrees to continue paying Watson to stay. The crime-fighting duo is now formally established.
The reason for the success of the episode is the proper focus on the characters and their emotional development. Although there’s a mystery element with a serial killer on the loose, it’s actually no more than a hook on which to hang the couple’s decision to stay together. This is a proper sense of perspective. It also shows both Jonny Lee Miller running through the range from vulnerable to intensely angry to steady and committed. Lucy Liu also does well in going through her own counselling process and in her final reaching out to Holmes. Vinnie Jones is at his malevolent best. The only sad feature is Marcus Bell (Jon Michael Hill) who has one line which puts him back into the walk-on status he had in the first episodes. All in all, Elementary: M is a triumph.
For the reviews of other episodes, see:
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 1. Pilot (2012)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 2. While You Were Sleeping (2012)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 3. Child Predator (2012)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 4. The Rat Race (2012)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 5. Lesser Evils (2012)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 6. Flight Risk (2012)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 7. One Way to Get Off (2012)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 8. The Long Fuse (2012)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 9. You Do It To Yourself (2012)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 10. The Leviathan (2012)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 11. Dirty Laundry (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 13. The Red Team (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 14. The Deductionist (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 15. A Giant Gun, Filled With Drugs (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 16. Details (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 17. Possibility Two (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 18. Déjà Vu All Over Again. (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 19. Snow Angel. (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 20. Dead Man’s Switch. (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 21. A Landmark Story. (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 22. Risk Management. (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episodes 23 & 24. The Woman and Heroine. (2013).