Here’s my review of Elementary season three episode “The one that got away.” Please note that this isn’t a recap of what happens. I’m assuming that you’ve already seen the episode. There are spoilers in this review.
I once had a college professor who cautioned against using flashbacks in our writing. The idea, I think, was that there are better ways to convey your characters’ backstory than with just an info dump all at once. And to some extent, I agree. A flashback can mess up the narrative flow and momentum of your story if placed in the wrong spot. And it can ruin tension if you reveal too much at once.
But I would argue that flashbacks work wonderfully in a visual medium like television and movies. As opposed to written words that can set the scene, television gives us the story in pictures, in motion. There’s just something different about seeing a scene instead of reading it. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, after all, right?
So what I’m saying is that “The one that got away” really made excellent use of its flashbacks. In fact, the story opens and closes with one. Throughout the episode, we see the story of how Sherlock and Kitty met and came to work together.
It was an excellent choice to show us this story instead of something like Kitty’s time spent as a victim of Del Gruner. By this point, we already know what happened to her and who did it. There would be no point in showing, for example, Kitty breaking Gruner’s fingers when she escapes. What would it add to the story? Nothing new really.
Instead, we get to see what Kitty was like after her ordeal and how Sherlock was after he fled to London. The contrast between Kitty eight months ago and the Kitty we’ve seen all season was excellent. (Ophelia Lovibond continues to do some phenomenal work in these scenes) Sometimes it’s more fascinating to see the aftermath of something instead of the actual incident. Flashback!Kitty couldn’t even look the police detective in the eye and she could barely speak. Despite her struggles, she was still determined to help find the missing little boy. Compare this to the Kitty that we’ve seen all season helping Sherlock and Watson. She’s more confident and provides a lot of support to the cases. She’s also been branching out on her own, attending support meetings and investigating her own cases.
And because the audience now sees the progression of her character, Kitty’s actions in this episode become all the more interesting. She starts to head down a dark path of vengeance with every intention of killing Gruner. The terrified, hurt Kitty of eight months ago is long gone. And it’s great to see her recovering, but has she gone too far?
This is where Sherlock steps in. I love the parallels to season one’s episode “M” again, but also Sherlock’s acknowledgement that he doesn’t quite understand it and it’s not the same as his experience with Irene and her subterfuge. What’s most important is that he gives Kitty a choice so that she can decide how things play out. Being a victim is essentially about not being able to have control over yourself, but now Kitty is clearly back in control. And the characterization in flashback makes that control all the more satisfying.
But returning to the topic of flashbacks, Kitty’s not the only character we see. There’s also insight into how Sherlock is spending his time away from New York. When he left at the end of season two, things were spiraling out of control for him as well. Joan was moving out, Mycroft was going into hiding, and unbeknownst to everyone, Sherlock was struggling with his sobriety and keeping a small dose of herion with him just in case.
When we first see Sherlock in flashback, he seems just like his usual self. He’s a bit brusque when he tells Kitty she’s standing in the way, but that’s pretty typical for Sherlock. Even later when we see Sherlock teaching Kitty how to lockpick, that’s standard for him too. He taught Joan how to do that as well.
What we see in that last flashback, however, is different. We’re given a glimpse of Sherlock that is rarely seen. He’s crying. But the return of Kitty to learn from him gives Sherlock a new hope. And we see him let go of his tiny drug stash by tossing it in the fireplace. He doesn’t need it anymore. It’s an excellent scene full of emotions, and a necessary flashback to show the change in Sherlock’s character. Even if the rest of the episode had been a bunch of crap, I still think this final scene would have an emotional impact. I know I felt like both crying and cheering when I watched it.
So, in the end, I guess my professor might have been a bit too harsh on flashbacks. Sometimes they work perfectly.
Additional Case Notes
- My unanswered questions from last week were resolved in this episode. Gruner was framing Simon de Merville of course. Makes sense.
- It was a nice change of pace to see the gang investigate something other than a murder. I wish they’d do that more often. Sometimes episodes fall into the routine of “let’s follow the chain of bodies,” which gets old after a while.
- This episode gives Kitty a great sendoff. I’m really gonna miss her because she was an interesting character who shook up the status quo. Wonder how everyone will react to the new normal in the next episode. (Kitty leaving also means that Joan needs more lady friends. Someone give her more lady friends.)
- I mentioned the lack of humor last week, and it’s not as prominent this week either. But it didn’t seem as noticeable this episode. I’m not sure why. Maybe because this was a two-parter and so the serious tone was already established? If you have any thoughts on the subject, please leave a comment.
- Did anyone else think of Kill Bill when Joan threatened Gruner at the fundraiser dinner as he grabbed her arm? Because I did. I miss Lucy Lui in action movies.
- Speaking of Lucy Lui, again this week the costuming was excellent. I want Joan’s hat. It is stylishly amazing.
- Why are there so many abandoned warehouses and how are they always so easy for tv characters to break into??
As always, feel free to leave a comment and discuss what you thought about the episode. In my personal opinion, it was one of the best this season. What did you think?