Home > TV and anime > Elementary: Season 2, Episode 13. All in the Family (2014)

Elementary: Season 2, Episode 13. All in the Family (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 13. All in the Family (2014) has us back in the saddle with the problem of Detective Marcus Bell (Jon Michael Hill) who continues to lurk out of everyone’s sight in Demographics, this rather strange counter-terrorism unit established by New York state. Somewhat surprisingly, Captain Tobias Gregson (Aidan Quinn) prefers to stay out of all the politics surrounding Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) and Dr Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) as they consult with the NYPD. He’s the man who brought in Holmes and defended him to the hilt. It doesn’t entirely run true he would now be acting indifferently to their plight. This leaves our dynamic duo working their way through all the detectives in the department, serially falling out with each of them. In their latest case, they instigate the arrest of a guard at the Aster Museum and, when they dramatically prove he done stole the golden egg, the detective throws them out of the interview room and takes all the credit for the arrest. I’m probably alone in wondering how this consulting exercise is paid for. After the judicial inquiry into the lead-up to Bell’s shooting, the powers-that-be must be aware of the pair’s activities. There must be regular performance reports whether money changes hands or not. So even if the pair are public spirited and donate their services pro bono, the Commissioner must be satisfied as to the quality of their work otherwise he would have thrown them out on their collective ear. What this or other detectives may claim in the clearance of crime seems slightly irrelevant. If the Commissioner continues to authorise payment to them, this confirms he attributes the high clearance rate directly to the pair’s activities.

Putting this speculation to one side, one thing is clear. Holmes and Watson would have a better time if Bell would return to Gregson’s department and resume working with them. Hence, this is the episode to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. So when Deputy Commissioner Frank Da Silva (Peter Gerety) sends Bell (and armed sidekick) to an oil recycling facility to investigate a report of strange behaviour, Bell quickly finds the only barrel out of think-of-a-high-number that contains a dead body. It’s a knack or flair or just what the script requires to get Sherlock and Watson involved. And to maintain our quota of coincidences, it turns our Watson is an expert on the Mob and can recognise Handsome Bobby even if his hands and head have been removed. Fortunately, there’s nothing sinister in her being able to recognise a mobster’s naked leg. He was notorious for showing it off back in the day. Yes our Joan grew up in Queens and so knows everything there is to know about local criminal celebrities. When Papa Pardillo (Paul Sorvino) comes into the mortuary, he’s able to confirm the scars belong to his son. Now it looks as though an old feud is returning to haunt the New York families. In due course, Scalice (Fulvio Cecere), one of the men employed by the rival Big Teddy Ferrara (Vincent Curatola), is killed by a car bomb.

Holmes and Bell resume a working relationship

Holmes and Bell resume a working relationship

After the last couple of episodes, I would like to be able to confirm this as equally impressive. But it isn’t! In fact, it has almost no redeeming features at all. People move around, say things and do stuff mechanically. Stereotypically stupid detectives and Italian American mob types dominate. All that’s required is a crisis which gives Holmes the chance to talk with Bell again. There are minor confessions: Holmes was an addicted but has recovered. Bell is trading on his tremor without giving rehabilitation the chance to work a miracle. Sigh. Whereas the last episode was full of interesting ideas about the psychology of the characters, this is threadbare. I really don’t believe Bell would be influenced by such an attack on his motives. And the whole plot to incite a mob war is laughably unlikely and a horrendous coincidence given Bell’s arrival in this unit (or are we supposed to believe Bell was recruited so he could be used in this way?). Whereas the story arcs to advance Holmes, Watson, Mycroft and Moriarty have been significantly impressive, this is pure contrivance to get our fourth lead back into play. He even gets his old desk back. Well that saves having to place new camera angles into the set. Production can just resume as if nothing happened.

So let’s take a moment to think about the plot. Bell did the entirely human and instinctive thing when he put out his arm to “save” Homes”. For all the rocks in the road of their relationship, he cannot stand by and watch the man shot. So what does he expect as the reaction? Bell is always pushed as a good detective. He’s even supposed to have the Holmes imprimatur as one of the best in the department. Although, truth be told, we’re never really shown any signs of startling initiative and insights. In his brief appearances, he’s presented as a nuts and bolts guy who gets the job done when he’s told what to do. But let’s take this “good detective” thing and run with it. He should understand Holmes. He can’t avoid noticing his indifference to others. Although Holmes was very helpful when Bell’s brother came on to the scene, nothing changed in the relationship between Holmes and Bell. There never has been anything “special” on display. Bell has been just one of the sheep Holmes shepherds around when he consults. So Bell should not be expecting Holmes to follow him to hospital, lurk by his bed and gush tears of gratitude and guilt when Bell regains consciousness. Bell should be expecting what he gets, i.e. after a period for reflection, Holmes comes in with a once in a lifetime offer of treatment at the best clinic in the world. So we’re supposed to believe Bell would punish himself (and so punish Holmes?) by turning down this incredible offer? And then wallow in self-pity when his arm didn’t immediately get better? Is this an intelligent and dedicated officer or what? In fact, I’ve never thought Bell’s behaviour following the shooting to be rational. Which means this tepid “be true to yourself” appeal should sink like the proverbial lead balloon. Overall, this makes Elementary: All in the Family implausible and rather boring.

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 12. The Diabolical Kind (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 1:02 am

    I also found the story to be too contrived. However, at least for me Bell’s attitude–while not the most intelligent–has always rung true in this situation.

    Bell is not brilliant (and is obviously a bit jealous of the way Holmes shines so apparently effortlessly), but he is competent and methodical, and professional enough to yield to Holmes’ prima donna behavior in the name of getting the job done–he doesn’t let his pride get in the way, and that is what Holmes most appreciates.

    While Bell is willing to work with Holmes, he doesn’t have to like him, and he even resents him on a professional level. When he was injured saving Holmes, and Holmes both failed to be immediately grateful and even got defensive about his reaction, it simply confirmed Bell’s resentment. Since Bell is not a naturally resentful man, this means that every time Bell sees Holmes now he has to deal with both his resentment and his self-judgement over his resentment (yes, we can dislike ourselves because of our bad reactions to others, a psychological double-whammy).

    So Bell took steps to remove himself from the environment that was grinding on his battered psyche–and turned down Holmes offer, which would have doubled his load of resentment by adding the necessity of feeling grateful himself (and yes, he would have beat himself up over not feeling grateful, too).

    Holmes’ version of the “So you don’t like me. Man up and do the job.” speech was manipulative, and both he and Bell knew it. But by saying it, Holmes gave Bell “permission” to resent him, thus relieving the Bell’s guilt-burden; Holmes is unlikable but he knows it, has apologized yet again in his own way, has told Bell he doesn’t insist on forgiveness and doesn’t mind the police detective not liking him, etc. So Bell is back where he wanted to be.

    Could Bell have been smarter about this? Yes, and normally he is, but we shouldn’t be disappointed; it’s always easier to see how someone ELSE should be reasonable.

    • January 14, 2014 at 1:09 am

      That’s an excellent interpretation. Sincerest thanks for sharing.

      • Marion
        January 14, 2014 at 1:24 am

        I have no idea if that is what the writers had in mind, of course. I may simply be imposing motivational consistency because I want it to be there; to really decide, I’d have to go back and carefully watch several episodes–which I’d love to do, but can’t without blowing a hole in my writing schedule.

      • January 14, 2014 at 1:38 am

        Join the club of the one-shot reviewing brigade. We see, we write the review; we watch or read the next thing without seriously looking back. Life’s too short to have regrets about what we thought in the moment.

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