Here’s my review of Elementary season four episode “All My Exes Live in Essex.” 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 was very excited to see more focus on Joan for this episode since the first couple of the season has been very heavily focused on Sherlock and his relationship with his father. Unfortunately though, Joan does not get a storyline outside of her work with Sherlock and the NYPD. As such, this doesn’t give her a lot of room for character development. This is a bit disappointing, but Lucy Liu does good work with the material given to her. “All My Exes Live in Essex” started off with potential that fizzled out before the episode was over.
Joan’s problem starts off very interesting. It was nice to see her friend Emily pop up again to remind us that Joan has friends outside of Sherlock and Bell. As it turns out, a Det. Cortes is investigating Joan for some unknown reason. It makes the audience curious. Is there something dark about Joan we don’t know about? Is she being set up by someone who has a vendetta against her? But as the episode continues and Joan confronts Cortes several times, we find out that the detective is simply upset that Joan is not a real police officer and that she’s doing work she has no business doing, such as investigating her friend. The disappointment comes from the fact that this reveal doesn’t really do or say anything about Joan as a character. Her reactions are interesting—by the end of the episode, she’s almost stalking Cortes back—but ultimately, the investigation is more about Cortes than anything Joan actually did. Perhaps in future episodes, there will be more focus on developing Joan’s character, but this attempt fell flat.
Even if Joan’s b-plot didn’t work, this episode could have been better with a quirkier case. But while the story started off as strange as their usual cases—the body being passed off as a lab skeleton, the victim being a part of a group marriage—it devolved into just a normal case where the murderer ended up being the first person they interviewed and the motive was simply to cover up what the victim had uncovered. This wasn’t the kind of unusual and strange case that they typically investigate and the interesting group marriage part ended up not having anything to do with the murder. This felt like a case that could have been solved by the cast of any procedural show, not something for Sherlock and Watson to deal with. (With that in mind, Cortes’ comment about real cops not needing consultants is sort of a valid one.)
Elementary can do better than this. It was not one of their best, but the season is still young and there is still time to do better things with Joan’s character development. The final scene where Sherlock is helping Joan recover from the aftermath of her boxing match with Cortes was probably the best of the episode. It is always nice to see the two of them simply interact with each other. This episode may have been a step back, but hopefully the next episode will be two steps forward.
Extra Case Notes
- I feel bad for Abby’s other husband Branford by the end of the episode. His wife’s been murdered and his husband’s going to prison for it. Poor guy.
- “There’s a mystery about dogs and who may have let them out.” Best joke of the episode
- “I will handle it, okay?” Joan says while holding a very large kitchen knife. Every time Joan threatens someone, I think about her role in Kill Bill and every other action role she’s ever done.
- The interview with the exes was nicely done. But none of them seem like they would actually be married to each other. (Or was that just me?) I was disappointed that they didn’t have more to do with the case considering that the title of the episode was “All My Exes Live in Essex” after all. (A+ reference to a George Strait song, by the way)
- Since it was a holiday, I actually watched this episode with some of my extended family who was visiting. I don’t think they liked it very much. I wonder how well this show does with attracting new viewers randomly throughout the season.
- No new episode next week, so reviews will return in two weeks. The preview looks fun!
So what did you think? Like it or hate it? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.