Everyone ready for a real, meaty, plot-driven episode? I sure am! Quick recap: last week’s episode ended with Hannah Gregson, the captain’s daughter, finding her roommate, Maddie, murdered in their home. Coincidentally (but probably not) this happened shortly after the two women met Sherlock’s creepy new friend Michael.
This week, even though Sherlock is struggling with a bad headache, he and Joan dive right into the investigation. Maddie was a teacher, well-liked, and didn’t have a boyfriend, so no obvious suspects there. But both Hannah and Sherlock think the body has been posed. None of her clothes match or look like the kind of thing Maddie usually wore. There’s blood on some of the clothes even though Maddie was bloodlessly strangled, and the earrings she’s wearing were forced into her ears even though she didn’t have piercings. Sherlock believes each item of clothing comes from a separate murder victim. It’s a serial killer’s announcement of his existence.
Based on the clothing, the detectives are able to identify all but a few of the original victims. The clothes are linked to murders and missing persons across state lines and several years. No one had realized until now that the murders were linked and unfortunately none of the cops on the cases had a primary suspect. But Bell finds something interesting. Most of the cases linked to the clothes are still open, but the watch that Maddie was wearing has DNA that links it to a closed murder case. A woman named Ashley Jenkins was strangled, much like Maddie, and her husband was charged with the case despite his insistence that he saw another man running away from his wife’s body. Gregson has Joan and Bell track down the few remaining unidentified clothing articles as he and Sherlock meet with Ashley Jenkins’s husband.
As Gregson and Sherlock wait in the prison to meet with Jenkins, Sherlock asks after Hannah and warns Gregson that a trauma like this could be a trigger for her alcoholism. Gregson, in turn, asks after Sherlock, noting that he looks sick, but Sherlock brushes it off.
Jenkins does his best to be helpful, but doesn’t have much new information. He thinks the man he saw running from his wife’s crime scene was tall and white, but it was such a traumatic moment and he’s since thought about it so much that he is no longer sure. That’s a small detail, but I appreciated the acknowledgement there that memory is tricky, especially in tense moments like that. Jenkins wants to know if Maddie’s murder and its link to his wife’s case is enough to reopen his case, and Gregson promises to do what he can. There’s one more significant thing. A few years after he was arrested, Jenkins received an anonymous letter from the killer apologizing for Jenkins taking the fall.
Meanwhile, Joan and Bell try to track down the earrings forced onto Maddie’s body. That leads them to a small boutique jewelry store. On the positive side, the store has a small staff and only sold a few pairs of the earrings around Thanksgiving time. The bad news is that the store is so small it doesn’t keep detailed records and doesn’t have security footage.
Joan returns home to find that Sherlock has set up a proverbial, and also, in this case, literal serial killer wall. Unfortunately, he has yet to see a pattern in the information. The victim profile is all female but otherwise all over the place. Jenkins’s letter was too mishandled to have forensic evidence, although, interestingly enough, it’s postmarked from Vietnam. Joan doesn’t have much else to add, except that a bank down the street from the jewelry store had exterior footage. Maybe the purchaser of the earrings walked by. Sherlock looks exhausted and Joan sternly demands he go rest in the sensory deprivation chamber.
She wakes up a short while later to find Sherlock, still dressed in the same clothes, watching the security footage. She’s angry he’d waste time like that when he could be resting, but it turns out it was no waste. He’s found the victim in the security footage and he recognizes her. It’s Polly Kenner, the young woman that Michael asked him to look for several episodes ago. You know, the woman that we saw Michael bury out in the woods.
Sherlock visits Michael at his home to break the news about Polly. When previously working on her case, Sherlock had assumed that she was simply in hiding after a relapse, and he’s visibly shamed as he explains he was mistaken. Michael plays shocked and grief stricken, but asks totally innocent questions like if they have a suspect and if they can keep him updated on the investigation.
But don’t worry. Sherlock isn’t fooled. As he leaves Michael’s home, Joan joins him and Sherlock says confidently that Michael is the killer.
Unfortunately, as they explain to an angry Gregson, they have no evidence. Michael is tangentially connected to two of the victims but he also has no history of violence, so it’s doubtful they can get a warrant on him. Joan has a file of basic information on Michael and when she hands it over, Gregson recognizes Michael’s car as being the one that clipped Hannah’s in the previous episode.
The next step is to bring Hannah in to interview her about the incident. A disturbing new detail comes out. The day after the “accident,” Michael called her and asked her out on a date to get coffee. Hannah had gone, only to receive a text that he couldn’t make it after all. She returned home to find Maddie dead. Michael had lured her out of their house to kill Maddie.
That’s still not enough for a warrant, sadly. But Sherlock has his own methods and he reaches out to Everyone, the hacker collective he’s dealt with in the past, for information on Michael, including credit and phone records. This proves Michael was in Vietnam when the note to Jenkins was mailed. Too bad it’s illegally obtained evidence.
But other evidence has to exist. Michael collected trophies from his victims and he probably didn’t leave it all on Maddie’s body. There might be more trophies in his house, so Joan and Sherlock decide it’s time for a stakeout. As they wait outside his home, Joan notes that Sherlock looks terrible and asks if he’s been taking his meds. No, it turns out he hasn’t; in fact, he threw them all out because he thought they were interfering with his work. Sherlock feels as if Michael took advantage of his vulnerability and blames himself for the resulting deaths. Joan leaves then and there to refill his script.
That’s a mistake, of course. Sherlock momentarily dozes and wakes to find Michael beside the car. Joan returns moments later to find no car and no Sherlock.
Sherlock wakes in a hospital bed, but looks unharmed. Michael is there and tells him that Sherlock tried to attack Michael in the car and instead passed out. Now, kids, gather around as its time for Scary Serial Killer Story Time!
Michael did not, as I theorized in a previous episode, start killing solely to attract Sherlock’s attention. He has had murderous urges his whole life, and in fact began using drugs as a way to try and self-medicate. When that failed, he entered recovery, where he heard Sherlock speak on the importance of using one’s work to help recover. Michael decided to do exactly that, although I found it a little unclear whether or not he had already started killing at that point or if Sherlock was the inspiration for him to begin.
However, when he re-encountered Sherlock and heard he was struggling, he really did pass on the Polly Kenner case in an effort to try and “help” Sherlock. In fact, he thinks they can help each other. Lately the high of killing hasn’t been enough for Michael and he’s felt tempted to use again. He wants to spice things up and thinks that having the police on his tail will do just that. Michael believes that he and Sherlock can help each other stay sober. You’re a real creepy dude, Michael.
Once Scary Story Time is over, Michael leaves without hurting Sherlock. Joan uses her pull at the hospital to check Sherlock out, but she’s not happy about it. He’s physically fatigued and in bad shape. But he still refuses to rest, because he thinks there’s a clue in something Michael said to him. He mentioned that the first time Sherlock called him, he had his “hands full” with Polly Kenner. Sherlock obtained Michael’s phone records from Everyone and Joan and Sherlock are able to use that to geo track where Michael was at the time.
The police, along with body sniffing dogs, check out the location. They almost instantly find Polly Kenner’s burial site. But she’s not there anymore. Instead, a creepy wooden mannequin is unearthed. Michael knew they were coming.
Sherlock, clearly upset, tells Joan he’s heading home to finally rest. Instead, he heads to some sort of club and meets with a shady dude. Everyone knows that anyone with an Eastern European accent in a crime tv show is shady. That’s definitely not a negative stereotype! Sherlock gives the man money and the man hands over—pause for me to yell angrily—heroin.
But don’t worry. It’s not for Sherlock after all. Joan returns to the brownstone to find Sherlock waiting with the heroin, untouched. He wants to dose Michael. After all, it’s not often that you know your enemy’s greatest weakness. It’s a horrific idea, and they both acknowledge that, but Joan is in.
The two stakeout Michael’s place once again, this time carefully checking to make the house is empty before Joan heads in. But as Sherlock keeps watch, he receives a call from Michael. He knows they’re breaking it, but it doesn’t matter. Michael has left New York. He wants to give Sherlock time to rest and get better before they resume their game of cat-and-mouse. Michael promises not to hurt anyone else until Sherlock is ready, and Sherlock vows to put Michael in prison. As Joan searches Michael’s home, she finds it completely empty except for a camera. He’s really gone.
The episode ends with Sherlock leaving the brownstone, bag in hand. He’s finally taking his doctor’s advice and taking a rest to try and get better…although he doesn’t seem optimistic about it working.
- It felt good to sink into a very plot heavy episode this week. I think episodes like this prove that Elementary doesn’t have to completely follow a procedure format of murder > investigation > solution each week. It can sustain an episode that creates tension and story without necessarily having the clear cut solution of catching the villain in the end! I wish we could see that more often. I like a good filler episode too, but these plot heavy episodes are always the best.
- Sherlock tells Joan at one point, “I’ll sleep well knowing you’re on the case.” That’s the good stuff, man, that’s what keeps me coming back!
- Sometimes I think that Michael is too creepy and that surely someone in his life would think to themselves, “This dude is so creepy, he’s probably murdering people, right?” But you know what, actually, I think Michael is a great casting choice. He does ooze creepiness, but he’s also such a quiet, bland, soft-mannered white dude that in real life, no one would ever suspect him. No one would even look at him twice. Before this episode, even in this episode, I had moments where I wondered if it would turn out it was a misunderstanding and he wasn’t really the killer. That’s exactly what you’re supposed to think.
- The idea of serial killer and detective playing cat-and-mouse is a little cliche. Elementary has actually dismissed the idea of the ingenious serial before, way back in the early seasons. And yet, I’m still excited and curious to see where this goes. Sometimes, it’s not about doing something new, it’s doing something old in a fresh, new way.