Home > TV and anime > Elementary: Season 2, Episode 23. Art in the Blood (2014)

Elementary: Season 2, Episode 23. Art in the Blood (2014)

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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 23. Art in the Blood (2014) starts off by confirming the most probable scenario for the behaviour of Mycroft Holmes (Rhys Ifans). His Diogenes restaurant in London had been in trouble. He was approached by the criminals some ten years ago. Their visit was followed by MI6 operatives who turned him into an “asset” — what a nicely ambiguous word to apply to a human being. Anyway, the new version of reality is that brother Holmes had a flair for duplicity and was also possessed of a highly retentive memory. His collaboration with the first criminal gang led to other contacts. In due course, he was in the first rank of people capable of becoming a supergrass and giving evidence to bring down multiple criminal organisations. His handler had suggested removing Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) from New York, fearing he might queer the pitch. Sadly, the handler’s fears were not unfounded, but now we have Dr Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) back. So is everything alright? She’s remarkably calm about the entire experience. At no point during her kidnapping did she seem unduly worried. Either she had perfect confidence Sherlock would rescue her or, as the director of the episode, she’d read the script. Now the handler has tasked Sherlock with a New York case. It’s a quid pro quo for saving Watson’s life and sweeping the bodies under the carpet in a way that should prevent the criminals from coming after our heroes for revenge.

Lucy Liu and Jonny Lee Miller

Lucy Liu and Jonny Lee Miller

The case is being handled by NYPD as a robbery gone wrong, but the man who died was a retired MI6 agent. He’d become bipolar, hence his rustication. But a week or so before his death, he’d contacted London claiming intelligence (sic). MI6 ignored him as mentally unstable. Now he’s dead, they are worried he might actually have discovered something important. Holmes and Watson therefore insert themselves into the police investigation to find out what’s what — it also gives a fleeting moment of screen-time for Detective Marcus Bell (Jon Michael Hill) and a glance of Captain Tobias Gregson (Aidan Quinn). When our detective duo go to the mortuary, they find someone has removed the arms from the dead body. It seems there are no good locks on mortuary doors these days. Anyway, with an hour gap in the surveillance tape, we’re into the devious world of spying and, after interviewing the ex-wife who wasn’t wholly ex, Sherlock has a theory about why the arms were taken. This leaves us with a refreshing moment between Watson and Mycroft. He wants humbly to apologise and seems to hope they can go back to where they were before. In what represents a quite impassioned speech from Watson, she considers the full extent of Mycroft’s dishonesty and, for all his faults, explains why Sherlock is preferable. Later Sherlock offers a lengthy sharing (about five seconds) about how it feels to be deceived by someone “you” love. Yes, our platonic couple are just about to have an intelligent conversation when the ex who wasn’t turns up. She didn’t want to say anything in front of the police but she has photographs and, potentially, they explain everything. Now all we have to do is rerun the dancing men decoding game to solve the case and keep British secrets safe. Everything would be just dandy if Watson did not chose this moment to tell Sherlock she’s going to move out of the brownstone. Life never runs smooth for these couples in television series.

Lucy Liu and Rhys Ifans

Lucy Liu and Rhys Ifans

Let’s treat all this as the set-up because, after this point, the episode takes off into higher levels of ingenuity. Keeping this slightly hypothetical, let’s assume there’s a mole inside MI6 and that, despite his mental disorder, the dead ex-agent had come up with a way to identify him or her. There might be suspicion about a particular New York bookstore but no evidence. Now more people know about the death of the ex-agent (the theft of the arms does rather elevate the profile of the case), there’s a chance to resolve matters. Holmes could identify the mole, or the mole could frame Mycroft. If the latter was a correct supposition, this would give Sherlock an interesting dilemma. This is the brother who has consistently lied to him, tasered him when he might have interfered too much, and the man who might take Watson away from him. Should Sherlock listen to the title of this episode, act as if blood is thicker than water, and save Mycroft (assuming he’s innocent, of course)? In the meantime, let’s assume Watson has discovered more about the lies Mycroft has been spinning. If he had previously been inside MI6 and then got out, what might persuade him to return to the fold? The answer, of course, is a threat to Sherlock. If we can believe Mycroft this time, it seems he might just have been his brother’s keeper, i.e. keeping him out of jail. Such a disclosure might persuade Watson to forgive Mycroft and get back into bed with him. Quite how Sherlock would react if he discovered their resumption of sexual activity is uncertain in the long run.

When I wrote the review of the last episode, I confess to scepticism the scriptwriters could get out of the corner into which they had painted themselves. I humbly admit I was wrong. The way this episode plays out is beautifully judged and represents a new high in the series. Everything is left poised for the season conclusion next week. Only seven more days to wait to see how the script ties up all the loose ends. At this point it’s appropriate to commend the acting from the three principals. Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu haven’t been given a great deal to do in the early part of the season, but this episode sees both of them demonstrating a significant emotional range. In part, this is due to the chemistry with Rhys Ifans who has proved outstanding in all the episodes in which he’s appeared. It’s also interesting to see two MI6 senior officials in Jim Norton and Ralph Brown. These are very experienced British actors and it shows. The only slightly false note in the episode was the establishment where the British agents were hanging. Does such a place exist in New York? It just looked too like an old-fashioned London club to be convincing. Other than this, Elementary: Art in the Blood was outstanding.

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 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 24. The Great Experiment (2014).

  1. May 10, 2014 at 12:54 am

    Yes, such places do exist in New York (older men with money like their own spaces). Who is responsible for the murder and frame-up? My money is on Mycroft’s handler. Why? Why not? The victim’s dismemberment was going to raise the profile of the investigation anyway, and MI6 would certainly hear of it and launch their own investigation. He may have believed that Sherlock’s antipathy for Mycroft would lead him to accept the evidence against his brother at face value. He despises them (let slip with his comment, “Ah, the Holmes brothers.”), and when you despise someone you underestimate them.

    • May 10, 2014 at 3:28 am

      Yes, everything flows from the initial failure to understand where the paranoid one had hidden his suspicions. If the mole and his cohorts had simply killed him and disappeared the body, this problem would not have arisen. He was nuts. He wandered off. What a shame. Being forced to dismember him does rather give the game away. I agree the handler looks the more likely candidate. I suppose the reason for including Sherlock in the investigation is that you keep your enemies closer. If the handler feels Sherlock is getting too close, British snipers can always appear and bring season 2 to a rousing conclusion.

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