Here’s my review of Elementary season three episode “The Best Way Out is Always Through.” 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.
So Detective Bell finally got an episode more focused on him (hooray!) but we didn’t really get enough time for it to be fully fleshed out. Along with that, the case relied on the usual procedural practices (i.e., it circled back around to where it started) and it was a little more on-the-nose than usual. It wasn’t a bad episode (there’s never really a bad episode of Elementary in my opinion). It was more like just a less-developed one.
Let’s start off with the case before we get to Bell’s love life. It had a lot of interesting elements to it. While I don’t usually like the trope of random people discovering the body, I did like the opening with the two guys in the subway. Perhaps it was just the shock of finding the judge with a screwdriver in his chest just barely alive, but that was more interesting than just finding a body stashed away somewhere. Along with that, I thought the twist that Nikki Moreno had been killed instead of escaping was an unexpected one. That one detail changed everything they assumed about the case, leaving the audience to suddenly switch gears as well. In a mystery, it’s always good to keep the audience on their toes and these elements of the case worked well.
But on the other hand, this didn’t feel like a very Elementary-esque case. It felt like it was ripped from almost any other CBS crime show on right now. The crime itself was not at all unusual (which would explain why Sherlock was hanging out separately for a lot of this episode). And as they continue to explore the mystery, Sherlock and the crew swing the investigation back to one of the original subjects. While the lady they talked to twice wasn’t the murderer, she was crucial in helping them figure out that the CEO, Mr. Franklin, of Reform Enterprises did. A lot of crime procedurals will circle back around to someone seen earlier, someone previously dismissed. It’s frustrating to see Elementary rely on this technique, sometimes too frequently. Why can’t we have more cases like the one from “Enough Nemesis to Go Around,” the opener of this season. Elementary functions best when it steps out of the box and kicks it clear away.
Another problem with the case- albeit a minor one- is that it felt entirely too preachy. Is preachy the right word? The whole story is clearly against privatized prisons. And while I agree with the point because they’re apparently pretty horrible, it would have worked better if they hadn’t beaten the idea over our heads with a blunt object. A subtler approach would have worked just as well. Rarely does Elementary fall into this trap, but this was a classic case of telling instead of showing. If you just tell the audience something, it’s easier to ignore and lessens its narrative impact.
The good parts of the case were when Bell got to take the lead, like he had in the opportunity in last week’s episode too. It’s really nice to see him participating again and getting to do something. Along with that, it was great to see some of his personal life this time. He’s been secretly dating another detective for a few months. I enjoyed seeing the conflict when he finds out about her other job- Internal Affairs. I just wish it had been explored more. Just like the episode with Gregson’s daughter, there wasn’t enough time spent for emotional resonance.
What’s even more interesting in this story is Sherlock’s observation that Bell is lonely. It’s an intriguing suggestion but one that isn’t really supported by anything else we’ve seen in the show. Since we see so little of Marcus Bell outside of cases, we really don’t know if he’s lonely at all. For all we know, he has tons of friends he hangs out with on the weekends. But since we’ve been presented with this idea and since Bell doesn’t really dispute it (he does spend his Friday night with Sherlock and the Stanley Cup after all), I hope to see this idea explored more in future episodes. Will Bell make an effort to be less lonely? Will Sherlock try to understand more about why his friends end up alone like him? (and will he try to fix that?) If we don’t forget about this narrative thread, it had a lot of potential for the future.
Extra Case Files
- I love that all four leads got to confront the murderer as they arrested him, but I still have to ask: why is Gregson even there?? He’s always showing up for these things. What does Gregson ever actually do? I’d love to read the job description for his position.
- Thoughts on Bell’s (ex)girlfriend, Seana Scott? I liked her and I respect her decision to start working “out of the shadows” so to speak. I wonder if she’ll pop up again.
- The Stanley Cup mystery was completely unrelated to anything but gosh it was just so absurd that I loved it. I wish it had been the main case.
- So many excellent quotes for this episode but Sherlock cheerfully saying “the love of my life is a homicidal maniac” was my favorite. The runner-up was Joan snarkily saying “We get Netflix” when the prison guard explains what SHU means.
- Next week there are bees!!! I’m overly excited about this.
So what did you think? Like it or hate it? Just want to build a full-scale model of a prison to plot your escape? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!