Elementary S2 Ep5 – “Ancient History”

I guess everyone has their slumps, even the great Holmes and Watson. After a week without a single murder case, Holmes decides to start digging around in the precinct’s morgue for a body that might have been incorrectly classified. Luckily for Sherlock, he realizes that one body, that of a man named Leo Bannen, was not a victim, but a murderer, a Polish assassin to be precise, and he killed someone shortly before he himself was killed when his motorcycle hit an oncoming car.

Meanwhile, Joan’s friend Jen asks for her help in locating an ‘amazing guy’ that she had a fling with a year ago. Holmes is appalled that Watson is taking the case.

“I urge you to have a little professional pride,” he says.

Sherlock urges Joan to have some professional pride.

“Have some professional pride,” says Sherlock, as he sits in the pajamas he hasn’t changed out of for a week and admits to not having showered for the same amount of time.

And honestly, I can sympathize a bit. Because, really? We’re tracking down lost connections? Hardly compelling stuff compared to their earlier cases. According to the Elementary writers’ Twitter account, the idea for this episode sprouted when they were writing the first season and were running out of ideas, and it really shows in the episode, which comes off rather bland overall.

The same could be said of Joan’s friends in general. It’s nice to see she has a life outside of Sherlock, but her friends’ appearances are hovering in that weird in-between spot, where they’re not seen frequently or for long enough to grow into interesting side characters (a la Alfredo and Ms. Hudson in season 1), but they do appear often enough to start getting annoying. C’mon now, Joan’s friends! Either get in the picture and make me like you, or get out and stop using up time that could have been used to develop someone else’s character or make the case-of-the-week more interesting! It certainly could’ve used it this week.

Though conceptually sound, is not executed very well. It turns out the Polish hitman, who had apparently turned over a new leaf and was trying to build a nursing home with his wife, was killed by his wife when he found out she had worked as an adult film star in her younger years and wanted a divorce. (She forgave him for being a contract killer in his days as a wayward youth, so it seems fair that he should forgive her, right? Guess not.)

Sherlock’s quote is rather rich, considering that he later confesses that he is the one Jen is trying to find. He admits to and apologizes for following Joan early in their relationship, when they hadn’t yet built up the trust they have between them now, and initiating a conversation with Jen in order to learn more about Joan. Jen was extremely interested in him and, well, one thing led to another. Joan is rightly angry at him for not telling her sooner, and gets him back later when Jen admits to sleeping with Sherlock again after he met with her to explain the situation.

Sherlock reacts to the news that he is going to be a father. Just kidding!

Wait. Wut?

“I just want you to know that I think it’s really great, you doing what you did today for Jen so she can finally have a baby. I don’t think  I’ve ever seen her so happy! She did tell you she was ovulating, right?”

The look on Sherlock’s face before Joan lets him off the hook is almost makes up for the fact neither the Polish hitman death case nor Watson and Holmes’ personal side story were very compelling. Usually the show does a really great job at balancing or combining the case and the character growth, but I think what happened in this episode was that both things were competing against each other and ended up bringing each other down and neither case managed to communicate what I think the episode might have been trying to say, that one should leave people’s mistakes – their “Ancient History” – in the past, and accept them for who they are now.

But, like I said, the message isn’t entirely clear. There are a few instances of resonance, when we see Sherlock continuing to work on healing after Moriarty’s betrayal and Joan continuing to improve her detective skills. Sherlock admits to the assassin’s wife that he knows from experience the pain of discovering the one you love “has a dark heart.” Joan is hot on the trail of the “one-night stand,” about to crack the case wide open, when Sherlock finally admits it was him.

In the end though, we learn nothing more about Sherlock or Joan or their past and the strength of their current relationship is only weakly referred to. Joan’s friend Jen seems sweet, but nothing about Joan’s relationship with her changes or  is emphasized. The suspects in the murder case fail to evoke sympathy, or any other type of emotion. Even the wife, who has every right to be upset, but still ends up being a killer. Nothing done in this episode has any real repercussions! Which is why it feels rather pointless.

On its own the episode was alright, but considering the history the showrunners and writers have had with keeping a storyline interesting and tight, it was a bit of a disappointment. I really hope that Elementary isn’t heading into sophomore slump! There’s a light in the tunnel ahead, however, since next week ‘s episode falls on Halloween and it looks like we’re going to get to see some of Captain Gregson’s, and I’m all for more grumpy sarcastic police chiefs.

A promotional shot of Capt. Gregson.

Tell us what you thought of the episode in the comments below!