Elementary S2 Ep6 – “An Unnatural Arrangement”

Holmes, Watson, and Bell investigate a break-in at Capt. Gregson's home.

I will openly admit I cried a little bit during parts of this episode, which can only mean it was really good, because, well, partnership. Sherlock questions the relevancy of marriage, and yet, when it comes to partnership, he finds it is much more complex and rewarding than he initially thought.

Captain Gregson takes the stage this week, when a masked and armed man targets him, threatening his wife Cheryl (played by guest star Talia Balsam) with a gun.  After Cheryl grazes him with her own gun and calls the police, we learn that Gregson is in fact no longer living in the house and he and Cheryl have been informally separated for a month. As the hunt for the intruder progresses, it’s revealed that their separation is due to the Captain’s neglect of his marriage in favor of his work. Aidan Quinn does a great job as the sullen and slightly confused Gregson, while Balsam’s performance as a tough and smart police officer’s wife is completely convincing.

Captain Gregson would be a fool to let this awesome, badass lady go.

Captain Gregson would be a fool to let this awesome, badass lady go.

The Gregsons’ aren’t the only ones who are going through a rough patch. Sherlock also earns Joan’s irritation when he thoughtlessly undermines all her efforts towards improving her detective skills by calling work on the case “a fool’s errand” and later taking over a separate case she had been working on her own and solving it without even breaking a sweat.

The main case goes along similarly easily, with Sherlock quickly realizing that the man who broke into Gregson’s house, did so by accident, because of a faulty “Google Maps” equivalent. His real target was Gregson’s neighbor, who was a soldier tasked with protecting his estranged wife while she oversaw an archaeological dig in Afghanistan and was also part of her plan to smuggle millions of dollars worth of ancient artifacts out of the country. After the artifacts were safely in the States, the newly-reconciled husband and wife team saw no more need for the soldier and had him killed in order to keep his share of the spoils.

What’s really great about this show, and this episode in particular, are all the superbly written relationships. They’re complex and nuanced and compelling, and the writers were able to show that all relationships have problems without demonizing either party (specifically the ladies, as many mainstream television shows are apt to do).

Mrs. Gregson one cool customer, barely even blinking when she fires four bullets into the door that is the only thing between her and the intruder. She’s kind and thoughtful, bringing out coffee to the men assigned to protect her after the break-in, and very confident. Even though it’s clear that she’s tired of coming in second place to her husband’s work, she never even comes close to being seen as needy or desperate. Her desire to see more of her husband and spend more quality time with him is framed as perfectly legitimate (which it should be, because it is).

Joan argues with Sherlock about the case he solved under her nose.

“I don’t want busy work, thank you very much. I want to be useful.”

Similarly, Joan is totally in her right to be upset at Sherlock for not letting her grow and work at her own pace. The show has been very careful in treating Joan and Sherlock as equals in their partnership, but in some respects, they are not. Sherlock has way more experience than Joan does in solving crimes and making deductions, and if they approach their cases as “equals,” it means that he will almost always end up solving the case before she does, leaving her in his intellectual dust. Acknowledging the fact that Joan simply hasn’t had as much training as Sherlock, and then allowing her to get that training in is what is going to make them real equals.

Joan and Sherlock and the Gregsons’ are all really arguing over the same thing, and it’ not about who is right and who is wrong or which of them is at fault for their partnership problems. They’re arguing because they are two different people who are in a committed relationship, figuring out that they each want different things and function in different ways. If they want their relationships to work, each is going to need to keep the needs of the other in mind and support the other’s decisions and work methods, even if they don’t agree with them.

The writers do a really great job at showing the people in two different partnerships taking steps towards being more thoughtful towards each other. In a moment between Gregson and his wife, he acknowledges and respects her request for space, but also tells her that he wants to work on improving himself so he can give her what she’s been wanting from their relationship. I’m really hoping there’s some sort of resolution to the state of their marriage (because Cheryl is just a very cool lady and I’d love to see her again).

Sherlock shows his own vulnerability by giving Joan a crate full of his very own cold cases. For a man who prides himself on his ability to do whatever he puts his mind to (recall his intense disappointment with himself last season when he told the story of him relapsing the day after entering rehab), giving Joan the opportunity to improve her detective skills on all the cases where he has failed is like letting her wander around and poke at all of his insecurities. It’s incredibly touching and shows just how much he trusts and believes in her.

Other reviews have discussed the fact that this week’s murder mystery case follows the pattern of being underwhelming and/or not as fleshed out as it could have been, and while I agree that the case was not very complex, the character development makes up for it. Would I mind a more concerted effort to have the cases tie in with or reflect the changes in the relationships of the main characters? Definitely not, but for now, I’m satisfied with learning more about them and watching them grow.

Next week, we see the return of Mycroft!

Mycroft and Sherlock enjoy dinner and an interrogation at the same time.