Home > TV and anime > Elementary: Season 2, Episode 24. The Great Experiment (2014)

Elementary: Season 2, Episode 24. The Great Experiment (2014)

Elementary poster

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

“I’m sorry, did you say I was being framed?” asked Mycroft Holmes (Rhys Ifans), “That’s bollocks!” (a British English term of endearment). “You just invented that to break up Joan and I!” (British English speakers are always so precise in how they speak). “Well,” says Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller), “what do you think about your car when we start the engine from up here?” “Oh, well, perhaps you have a point. Could you not just have shown me the bomb? I rather liked that car.” Isn’t it wonderful when brothers get on so well together. So with the injunction not to touch the first editions, Sherlock leaves Dr Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) with Mycroft and gives his permission for them to resume rutting (British English for, “I’m not really jealous, just mildly upset.”). Once they are alone together (again) this actually gives Mycroft the chance to explain why he didn’t follow his father into business and never became the detective Sherlock once thought he might become (deliberate ambiguity). Instead he became a failed restauranteur and sometime operative for MI6, now surplus to requirements. Meanwhile Sherlock has broken into a car because he wants somewhere comfortable to sit while watching the bookstore that may hold the clue to the mole’s identity. Later he and Watson confirm the bookstore owner is an Iranian agent and, once the code on the arms is cracked, they confirm Mycroft’s handler, Sharington (Ralph Brown) as the mole (not really a surprise).

We have to see Elementary: Season 2, Episode 24 The Great Experiment (2014) on multiple levels. First it has to bring this four episode narrative arc to an end. That’s achieved with little mystery element involved. Watson identifies the vital link with a murder in New York. Sherlock understands how the blood splatter was generated (they make a great team even when not firing on all cylinders), and once they have the emails, the blood evidence and the wife’s testimony, they have enough to crack the Iranian spy’s morale. No need to threaten him with water-boarding. Just ten seconds watching Sherlock produce the evidence is enough for him to confess and give up his MI6 link — the Iranians don’t go in for hardening their spies to resist interrogation. They are not the fanatics we in the West believe. I suppose this is mildly successful as the solution to a murder goes in television series land. Let’s pass on.

Sherlock (Jonny Lee Miller),  Joan (Lucy Liu) and Mycroft, (Rhys Ifans)

Sherlock (Jonny Lee Miller), Joan (Lucy Liu) and Mycroft, (Rhys Ifans)

The other two elements plus one contingent question for the cliffhanger are how the triangle between the Holmes boys and Watson can be resolved and what Sherlock will then plan to do. For an American serial, one of the more interesting moments comes in the confrontation between Mycroft and Sharington. It’s making the cultural point that the British are still caught up in the class system and, if you come from the wrong side of the tracks, there’s a glass ceiling. No-one can be promoted unless they have the right family, the right school and university, and right view of the world. Recognition that a worthless member of the aristocracy is valued more highly than a grammar school boy is enough to drive our MI6 operative into the arms of the Iranians. Wow! on two levels. No matter whether it’s true of the British secret service, this is an epic stereotype to place before an American audience. Obviously this is the reason we Brits lost the Empire. The other extraordinary factor is that our slighted spy should have chosen the Iranians. Did they just pay better than everyone else?

So what do we think of this blood-is-thicker-than-water approach to the relationship between Sherlock and Mycroft? I can perhaps see it working from Mycroft to Sherlock. He’s the more human of the two and would be more prepared to act out of sentiment. I’m even quite pleased to see Sherlock considering an apology to Mycroft as part of his addiction rehabilitation step program. But I’m not convinced Mycroft and the NSA would suddenly become best buddies. Even Sherlock is disgusted at the lazy solution to the problem. Watson, of course, is disgusted because she and Sherlock were making good progress toward resolving matters and now Mycroft has to disappear. This suggests he cared so little for her, he would not wait to see how the dynamic duo might be able to solve the problems. You would think he would be strongly motivated to stay around and would work with them to achieve that end. This is self-sacrifice for the plot and avoids the need to keep paying an imported British actor to continue in the show. I’m also pleased to see nothing changes for Watson. Creating her own space is still a good idea. As she puts it, staying in Sherlock’s gravity well does rather lock her into a fixed orbit. But I’m less convinced Sherlock has the temperament to go off with MI6. This almost certainly means breaking up the team with Watson which is bad emotional news for him. From the other side, I don’t really believe MI6 would accept him anyway which gives the scriptwriters an excuse to leave him in New York for the next season. So all of this leaves me reasonably satisfied. Elementary: The Great Experiment was inevitably convenient in the way it ended everything in the time available and had pleasing emotional resonance in Sherlock’s responses to a difficult situation. When the series returns, it will be interesting to see whether Detective Marcus Bell (Jon Michael Hill) and Captain Tobias Gregson (Aidan Quinn) get more screen time. The show has a better balance when Sherlock and Watson have someone to play off.

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 23. Art in the Blood (2014).

  1. May 17, 2014 at 1:45 am

    Good season finale. A couple of notes and a prediction.

    First, I wasn’t as disappointed as you with Mycroft’s quick-and-dirty solution. Getting the NSA’s cooperation was simply a matter of giving them a copy of the priceless Swiss List (and you can bet Mycroft made a copy for himself before handing it off to MI6). Second, Mycroft blamed himself for involving Sherlock and Joan in his mess, which meant it was his mess to clean up. Also giving Sherlock time to try and finesse a more satisfactory solution meant leaving more time in which Bad Things Could Happen; so he took the quickest and surest route to safety for all of them that he could.

    And for the prediction: Holmes has only one interest in working for MI6: bringing down the French Mob, as completely and as bloodily as may be necessary so that Mycroft can have his life back. Since it was his fault that Mycroft got pulled back into MI6 in the first place, he blames himself for Mycroft having to go into hiding and his quest to make amends will fuel next season’s plot-arc.

    He may even enlist Moriarty.

    • May 17, 2014 at 2:10 am

      That’s a singularly ingenious prediction! That would be worth watching but, since it takes us out of our murder-to-be-solved-every-episode format, I can’t see it happening. But you’re right about there being some interesting options to explore. I’m certainly interested to see where they take it.

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