Elementary Review: “For All You Know”

Photo credit: @ELEMENTARYstaff

Photo credit: @ELEMENTARYstaff

Here’s my review of Elementary season three episode “For All You Know.” 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.

Once again, the writers try to shake up the show’s usual procedural routine with “For All You Know” where Sherlock finds himself as a murder suspect and the group has to work to solve the case without access to their usual tools and methods. I liked this idea, not because it made the case more interesting (because it didn’t) but because we got a chance to delve into Sherlock’s ongoing recovery from addiction struggle. In that aspect, this episode yielded great results.

The core of this series has always been about addiction. I’ve always thought it was a fascinating interpretation of Holmes to focus on his drug addiction as a major facet of his character. I also think it was a good decision to pick up the series from the point where he left rehab. It’s much more fascinating to watch the struggle of living with sobriety than it is to watch the struggle of finding your next drug fix.

This episode jumped back into Sherlock’s struggle, highlighting the guilt and shame he still feels from his stint of drug use. Even if Sherlock is a productive and functioning person on most days (and most episodes) he still has trouble occasionally with the consequences of being an addict. And as this episode begins, we see that the possibility of being a murderer throws all those emotions back in his face again.

I don’t know much about acting but I think Jonny Lee Miller does a superb job in each episode and this one in particular. Miller always brings his character to life with details, always fleshing out his performance to make Sherlock feel real, despite the character’s larger than life quirks. One aspect of this is Miller’s voice. I’m not even really sure how to describe what I mean about it. He just inflects his lines in a believable way. I thought the low gravelly tone he used when he yelled at Joan (“You did not know him“) was especially effective. As for physical acting, it’s particularly unnerving when he gets in Oscar’s face to try to force a confession. These are aspects of Sherlock we don’t normally see. This episode was a showcase of Miller’s acting skills and I really enjoyed it.

As the episode continues, we see Sherlock quickly attach to the idea that he may have killed Maria Gutierrez while high and that just tears him apart. Not only does he regret that part of his life, but on top of that, he think he’ll have to live with the guilt of ending someone’s life and the shame of not being in control.

It is obvious that Sherlock thinks he did it and is punishing himself (like in the scene when he offers to let Maria’s brother break his hand). He’s quick to think the worst of himself. But fortunately for him, Joan assumes the best of Sherlock. She doesn’t believe for a moment that he did it. The conflict between their point of view is good for the episode. Because Sherlock has already come to his own conclusion, Joan is the one who has to push the investigation forward. The whole episode demonstrates the balance of their relationship. When Sherlock is down, Joan picks up the slack. She’s supporting him just like he supported her through the tough times during the last couple episodes.

“You think this is an exercise in self-pity?” Sherlock asks.

“I think it’s an Olympics in self-pity,” Joan retorts.

Joan is never afraid to call Sherlock out on stuff when necessary and this exchange was golden. We’ve seen time and again in several episodes that Sherlock needs people, especially during his dark times. It’s a good thing he’s got Joan there to be one of those people. There’s a later exchange where Sherlock says a jail cell is a “good place for bad people” and Joan just sarcastically replies “Is that what you are now? A bad person?” She never stops to let Sherlock wallow in his pity because she knows that he shouldn’t.

Being a recovering addict means having to face your mistakes, and sure, being accused of murder is a little heavy-handed for the episode, but it works well here. Sherlock’s whole life revolves around solving cases, after all. Why not have him solve a case about himself every now and then?

And I believe the most important part of this episode was the end when Sherlock goes to see Oscar, his former drug dealer. Throughout the whole episode, we’ve seen Sherlock slowly come to terms with the fact that he’s forever changed his life by doing drugs and also discovering that the consequences could have been more horrible than they actually were.

So it means a lot when Sherlock goes to convince Oscar to go to rehab. Even if he hates Oscar, he shows compassion and concern for him. And instead of tearfully accepting his help and advice, Oscar throws the offer back in his face in what is a very real moment. Not everyone is going to listen when you try to help them. It’s disappointing and, like I said, real. And the moment serves to perfectly contrast with how Sherlock is now living his life. When Oscar shouts that Sherlock will end up coming back to him, it’s sad. But it’s sad for Oscar, not Sherlock. We, as the audience, have followed Sherlock’s journey of sobriety through three seasons and that makes Oscar’s words ring hollow. He’s not going to relapse. Oscar’s threat just sounds like the desperation of an unhappy man. The audience doesn’t fear for Sherlock’s future, they worry for Oscar’s. It’s this emotional moment that completes the episode and also continues Sherlock’s journey. The writers did an excellent job and so did Miller.

It’s episodes like this where we get to explore Sherlock’s struggle that make this show worth watching.

Extra Case Files

  • I don’t think there was ever any doubt that Sherlock didn’t do it because I don’t think the writers would continue the show as Sherlock’s adventures in prison for murder. But if they did, wouldn’t it be fun to watch Sherlock solve cases in for various inmates in return for shivs or something? …or am I getting carried away with my imagination here?
  • The dialogue in this episode was fantastic! There were so many quotable moments. (“Time flies when you’re on heroin” is a particular standout) Kudos to Peter Ocko who was credited as the head writer for this episode.
  • My only complaint is the same thing as always: not enough Bell (or Gregson). I realize that Sherlock and Joan are the focus of the series, but I’d really like to see future episodes incorporate them more into the storyline. Because it’s sad to see their characters under-utilized. (And also I just really would like to see more of Jon Michael Hill)
  • I really enjoyed that bit at the beginning with Sherlock trying to wake himself up with the pots and pans, just like Salvador Dali. And as a bonus, I liked that later in the episode, Joan was casually just trying to untie a pot she needed to cook with from the pile.

So what did you think about the episode? Love it or hate it? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!

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