Home > TV and anime > Elementary: Season 2, Episode 12. The Diabolical Kind (2014)

Elementary: Season 2, Episode 12. The Diabolical Kind (2014)

Elementary poster

This review discusses the plot so, if you have not already watched this episode, you may wish to delay reading this.

Elementary: Season 2, episode 12. The Diabolical Kind (2014) starts in the brownstone world of Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller). He’s happy up on the roof with his bees where, close to his heart, he hides the letters he has been exchanging with Jamie Moriarty (Natalie Dormer). In these letters, he reflects on his own unhappiness and the problems of those around him. If nothing else, this shows an evolving empathy through which he begins to see how unsatisfactory life is for the others in his life. Dr Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) is engaged in a serial dating ritual in which she meets potential mates only to be disappointed. Captain Tobias Gregson (Aidan Quinn) remains in love with his wife, but equally seems tinged with sadness and regret at the way things have turned out. Detective Marcus Bell (Jon Michael Hill) struggles with his disability and so is wrapped up in himself to the exclusion of others who might help him reach an accommodation with himself. While Holmes himself cannot avoid melancholia. Perhaps his inability to stop thinking about Moriarty is a sign of weakness that can only be put in abeyance when the next interesting case comes along, but he does at least feel.

Now we come to the trigger event. High-tech kidnappers abduct a girl and demand a ransom of $50 million. Holmes recognizes the voice as belonging to a man who acted as Moriarty in previous dealings. He therefore discloses the twenty-seven letters from Moriarty, explaining he has maintained the connection out of scientific interest. Now, it seems, he has a reason for actually going to see her. It turns out that, instead of being inside a supermax prison, she has relatively comfortable surroundings in a black site run by the FBI in the Brooklyn Naval Yard. Moriarty has made no admissions of criminal wrongdoing, but has been trading information for “concessions”. Not unnaturally, the appearance of Holmes, Watson and Gregson in her warehouse holding facility elicits a smile and an offer of help in return for more “concessions”. The FBI has a list from which they could choose. Given the seriousness of the case and without asking for Gregon’s permission, the US Government release Moriarty from custody so she can help.

It’s a pleasing set-up even if not terribly credible. So now let’s come to what this episode is actually about. If we go back in time, we have a man who was always on the verge of a breakdown: brilliant but unstable, easily bored and so at risk of addiction to distracting substances. The trigger for pushing him over the edge was manufactured by Moriarty. He spent at least two years scraping the bottom of a physical and emotional barrel and then, to his surprise, a rescue operation succeeded. The mechanism is inherently ironic. He was tipped into an abyss through his love of a woman and he’s shown how to climb out of it by another woman. In contemporary times, these two women therefore hold the soul of the man. He still loves the first and, in a so far platonic way, he’s dependent on the other. Perhaps not surprisingly, the relationship between these two women is strained. The first woman is potentially jealous. The second being an empath, is protective of the man she rescued.

Natalie Dormer is back as Jamie Moriarty  with Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu in oils.

Natalie Dormer is back as Jamie Moriarty with Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu in oils.

In many contexts, both insect and animal, there are lifecycles in which the young go through a metamorphosis. What begins with one shape later emerges into the world with a different shape and behaviour. For these purposes, let’s assume that two individual humans are born with a psychopathic disorder, i.e. with diminished empathy and a general lack of remorse. They meet and form an attachment. I would like to call it love but, in this early state, it’s probably not something the rest of humanity would recognise as love. Then one falls into a pupal or resting form from which he emerges with a changed point of view. He’s now able to modify his own behaviour depending on how others perceive him. We can think of this as being the first step in becoming a more social animal. While it may not be true empathy, it does depend on the ability to observe and understand how others feel and see the world. So if the first can transform, can the second follow in his footsteps?

For these purposes, let’s assume the second individual is a woman and she can be threatened in a primal way. For example, no matter how great the degree of disorder, a woman who has given birth is always vulnerable to a threat to her own child. This is something she would take as a personal threat. She would respond to it in a protective way. Having dealt with that threat, would she run away? Well, here’s the rub. If she escaped, she would have to go on the run and might never see the man again. This might be distressing to her. Now let’s assume she might have enough information of criminal activity to be able to “buy” her freedom. If she sincerely believed the US government would give her freedom, she could also believe it possible to resume an open relationship with the man — assuming he would have her, of course. That might induce her to surrender herself back into custody. She’s removed the threat. Now she can resume planning for the possibility of freedom and a relationship with the man. To perfect this plan, all she has to do is transform herself. She felt for her own child. She feels some emotion for the man. Can she take the next step? He would have to believe a metamorphosis possible, otherwise he would never wait. The one fly in all this ointment, though, is that she’s just slaughtered several men (and attacked the nice gay jailor). So the government has a steeper hill to climb if it’s officially to free her.

Both in the intelligence of the ideas and in the sensitivity of the acting, this episode of Elementary has proved to be one the best pieces of television I’ve seen in the last year. Let’s hope The Diabolical Kind signals the start of a year of not less than good episodes — as a final thought, Marcus Bell was seen but not heard for ten seconds. There’s just not enough room in such meaty episodes for everyone to have a good part.

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 12. M (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)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 1. Step Nine (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 2. Solve For X (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 3. We Are Everyone (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 4. Poison Pen (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 5. Ancient History (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 6. An Unnatural Arrangement (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 7. The Marchioness (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 8. Blood Is Thicker (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 9. On the Line (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 10. Tremors (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 11. Internal Audit (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 13. All in the Family (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 14. Dead Clade Walking (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 15. Corps de Ballet (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 16. One Percent Solution (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 17. Ears to You (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 18. The Hound of the Cancer Cells (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 19. The Many Mouths of Andrew Colville (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 20. No Lack of Void (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 21. The Man With the Twisted Lip (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 22. Paint It Black (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 23. Art in the Blood (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 24. The Great Experiment (2014).

  1. Marion
    January 14, 2014 at 12:36 am

    Nice episode. The only problem I had with it was that I felt that the tension between Watson and Moriarty skated to close to the stereotypical verbal girl-fight sparring over Holmes. The show does, however, do a very good job of showing us just how far Holmes has come since the pilot episode. And something that was said reminded me of Plato’s comments on love: we learn to love humanity by first learning to love a single person.

    • January 14, 2014 at 1:29 am

      Yes it did veer in the direction of a cat fight, but then I thought about their knowledge of the other. Moriarty does not know Watson slept with Mycroft. She may therefore be viewing Watson as a sexual competitor when that’s not immediately on the cards, if ever. From the outset, Watson has known about the affair with Moriarty and the effect her supposed loss had on Holmes. Her response is therefore protective of Holmes because she foresees the possibility Moriarty may destabilise him again. It’s an interesting balance. Both might prefer the other dead but, in the short-term, Moriarty benefits by having Watson keep Holmes safe. Should she secure her freedom, she will have a man to try romancing. She can kill Watson then. Because Watson is uncertain of Holmes’ state of mind, she also benefits from having Moriarty alive. At least that way, Holmes can try to wean himself off her while still alive rather than being forced to go through another “death” experience.

      • Marion
        January 14, 2014 at 1:42 am

        You’re right, and I hadn’t thought that deeply on it; of course Watson is jealous of Moriarty; if this was a teen-flick, she would be Holmes’ female BF–she might be romantically attracted to Holmes on some level, but never intends to act on it, and meanwhile is very protective of his “heart”, which she has seen Moriarty crush once already.

      • January 14, 2014 at 1:49 am

        It’s a triangle but not quite the conventional one and so more interesting.

      • Marion
        January 14, 2014 at 3:07 am

        I think that’s one of the more interesting parts of this series; in a traditional love-triangle the tension would be in the Will They-Won’t They? question. In Elementary we know that Holmes and Watson are adults who have already answered that question, so the drama rises instead from how their close but platonic relationship shapes how they relate to others.

      • January 14, 2014 at 3:17 am

        To use a lawyer’s expression, we are ad idem.

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