Elementary Review: “All In” and “Art Imitates Art”

photo credit: cbs.com

photo credit: cbs.com

Here’s my review of Elementary season four episodes “All In” and “Art Imitates Art.” 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.

After beginning the season with the aftermath of Sherlock’s relapse and an appearance from Papa Holmes, I assumed that these things would become major themes for the season: another look at recovery and a study in fragile father/son relationships. Instead, these things were dealt with early on and rather briefly. The real theme of season four has been justice. There have been several times throughout the season so far where the question of “has justice been served?” comes into play. For example there’s the episode with the con artist who may just lie her way out of court and out of punishment. Then there’s Detective Cortes who wants Joan to do some underhanded stuff to dole out justice. And of course, there’s also all of Morland’s shady dealings and Joan’s recent decision to leave a mole in his company. This theme has been slow and subtle all season long but it’s raised some interesting questions. How far is too far? Both “All in” and “Art Imitates Art” continue to explore this theme but in different ways and aspects.

In “All In,” our detectives try to solve the case of attempted murder and burglary but in the middle, they stumble into something about spies. That’s when the NSA gets involved and tries to shut down their investigation, even going so far as to cut the power to the Brownstone. Everything about how the NSA works is presented as a negative. They work in the shadows and their power is unchecked, which causes problems for Sherlock and Joan and their investigation. The message in this episode seems to be that justice cannot be served outside the law like the NSA does. In the end, it’s Sherlock and Joan who find the missing piece so that the spies can be caught. Perhaps the NSA’s “above the law” brand of justice isn’t good enough?

The following episode, “Art Imitates Art,” takes vigilant justice further by exploring a case of a man who was framed for murder. But he wasn’t framed by just anyone: it was the district attorney herself along with help from a shady lab technician. This is a blatant example of someone with power taking matters into their own hands. The lab tech purposely falsified DNA evidence to put someone in jail even thought that was the wrong person. However misguided, she did have good intentions. But overstepping her bounds meant that justice was not served until Sherlock and Joan investigated through proper means. Again it is an interesting idea to explore and it made the episode more entertaining.

By the time both episodes ended, as a viewer, it got me thinking about the idea of justice. Can people be truly punished outside the law and where do you draw the line in order to obtain that justice? There have been several instances where Sherlock and Joan have bent (or broken) the law to get what they need. Is that okay because they are the protagonists of our story? There’s not a definitive answer yet but I suspect there will be more on this topic to come. Elementary works best when it has an overarching theme like this to explore. It’s so much easier to engage with the story and stay interested that way. I kept thinking about the episodes even after they were over. I think the missing piece of the puzzle has finally clicked for me. I think the end of the season is headed for something very interesting.

Extra Case Files

  • I really enjoyed the storyline that connected these two episodes: the introduction of Joan’s half-sister Lin. It was nice to see Joan get her own family-centric plot and the complicated emotions were good to explore. I think the writers said Lin wouldn’t make any more appearances this season, but I hope she’ll pop up next season.
  • The bit about falsified DNA evidence in “Art Imitates Art” especially reminded me of the Duke Lacrosse case where intentionally faked DNA evidence was used to press charges against innocent guys. There was a sly reference to it during the episode, so nice job, writers.
  • I loved all the hilarious quirky moments and dialogue throughout. Sherlock on a mini-trampoline was a hilarious visual and “is that my sports bra holding up a flashlight on your head?” was my favorite line.
  • Gregson got out of the office! Whaaaaat??
  • We almost got an episode without a dead body. So close, Elementary, yet so far…

So what did you think? Like it or hate it? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

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