“I’m saying I’m better.”
When we last left off in Elementary, Sherlock (Jonny Lee Miller) and Joan (Lucy Liu) had finally come face to face with The Woman: Irene Adler, played by the gorgeous Natalie Dormer. For the past two years she’s been held captive by someone called Mr. Stableton. Mr. Stableton had disguised himself with a mask every time he spoke to Irene, so she is unable to identify him. He also played mind games with her by making her believe seven years had passed when really it had only been two years since she was taken.
We flash back to two years ago, when Sherlock and Irene first met. Irene was working as a painter in London, primarily in restoring classic paintings for art museums. Sherlock consulted with her for a case involving artwork that Sherlock suspected to be fakes; Irene confirmed his suspicions then effectively shoos him out. However, Sherlock was so intrigued by Irene’s intelligence and beauty that he goes on to make an awkward attempt at flirting with her by pointing out several obviously stolen paintings that were hung around her apartment.
Somehow the pick-up line worked; Irene explained that she kept some of the art she was commissioned to restore and gave back fakes instead, for various romantic-sounding reasons, and she and Sherlock play a game of “guess which one is the fake” before retiring to the bedroom for some sexytimes.
Back in the present, Irene has been taken to the hospital. Sherlock, Joan, and Captain Gregson (Aidan Quinn) wait anxiously outside her hospital room until the doctor walks out and reports to them that physically, Irene is fine, but she’s undergone a severe amount of stress. He tells them that after Irene was abucted, she was moved to at least five different locations and subjected to “advanced psychological pressure tactics” in order to systematically destroy her personality and sanity, including leaving white peonies by her bedside during the night.
Once the doctor leaves, Sherlock expresses feelings of guilt over what happened to Irene – he thinks that Moriarty only hurt her in order to get to Sherlock. Joan does her best to comfort him, suggesting they go track down some more clues, but Sherlock tells her he won’t be consulting on Irene’s case. Besides wanting to have the time to take care of Irene, Sherlock has lost faith in his abilities and now believes that Moriarty is smarter than he is.
Irene is discharged from the hospital and Sherlock and Joan bring her back to the house and help her get settled in. Sherlock and Joan convene in the kitchen for a quiet conversation of where to go from here – and though Sherlock doesn’t have any answers on how to help Irene get better or how to fix this situation, he does know that he wants Joan to continue with her detective work, starting with Irene’s case. Joan is doubtful that she can do it on her own, but Sherlock has faith in her.
Despite her worries over Sherlock possibly relapsing into his addictions, Joan follows his advice and goes to consult with the police in the house where Irene was found. There, she discovers a rare type of yellow paint that had been given to Irene by one of her captors. They are able to use it to track down the few art stores in New York that sell that particular shade of yellow.
Another flashback to two years ago shows us an amusing scene with Sherlock pleading for a second ‘date’ with Irene. Their first one went extremely well, so he was confused as to why she wouldn’t wanna tap it again. Irene explained that it was because their first date went so well; she didn’t want to ruin her good memories with a lackluster encore.
Sherlock asked her to give him another chance, promising another unique and eventful experience. He then proceeded to take her through London’s underground tunnels, showing her a section of the tunnels that hadn’t been seen or explored in thousands of years. Irene, won over by the adventure and by Sherlock’s charm, agreed to continue spending time with him.
In present day, Irene wakes up from a nightmare, screaming. She’s disoriented, confused about where she is and why Mr. Stableton didn’t tell her that he was “changing the rules” again. Sherlock runs to check on her, but quickly makes an escape when Irene begins asking him what his life was like for the past two years; he doesn’t want to tell her that he spent a good part of it struggling with a heroin addiction.
Joan returns from her detectiving and has a short conversation with Sherlock before Captain Gregson calls with some good news: her tip about the paint jars has paid off! The cops have tracked down who bought the paint, a man named Dwayne Proctor who has recently been released from jail and is currently staying with his brother.
Gregson, Detective Bell (Jon Michael Hill), and the other cops head over to the Proctor residence to interrogate Dwayne, but they quickly realize they were investigating the wrong brother when Isaac Proctor uses their distraction to shoot a police officer and escape out the back.
The police put out a BOLO (Be On the Look Out) for Isaac Proctor and take Dwayne into custody, but he has no real information for them about who his brother Isaac really is. Irene is taken into the station as well, but she doesn’t recognize Dwayne’s face or voice. Sherlock takes Irene back home.
Once they’re alone, Gregson and Joan talk about the case; the weapons they found in the Proctor home were modified, which suggests that Isaac Proctor is a pro. We then cut to Isaac, who has changed his appearance entirely. He gets a phone call from an unknown person who informs him that Moriarty has heard of his situation, and will help him as long as he does an errand for Moriarty first.
That night, Sherlock watches over Irene as she flicks through TV channels, her mind obviously on other things. He flashes back to one of the post-coital nights they had spent together years ago, where he admired one of her birthmarks, then used his skills of deduction to figure out that she was working on an original painting and hiding it from him. Irene listened to his speech with a little smirk on her face, then let him know that she would show it to him when it was ready.
Sherlock snaps out of the memory, then sits down with Irene to haltingly tell her about his addiction. He tells her how important she was and is to him, and how badly he’d taken her supposed murder.
Irene tells him that he might have been broken, but he managed to fix himself – and he gives her hope because if he can do it, so can she.
Their conversation ended, Irene leaves the room to go back to her bedroom – and lets loose a scream when she finds a white peony on her pillow. Mr. Stableton somehow got into the house and knew exactly what room Irene was staying in, but how?
Then comes the final flashback of the episode: Irene left a message on Sherlock’s answering machine telling him that her original painting was finally ready, and invited him to come over to view it with her. Sherlock went to her apartment carrying a bottle of wine with him so they could celebrate… only to find Irene’s place empty, a note taped to the wall reading “I understand Ms. Adler was to show you a new piece of art this evening. Tell me: what do you think of mine?” and a pool of blood, what he presumed to be Irene’s blood, on the ground.
Once again back in the present, Sherlock is taking Irene to one of his safe houses. She’s worried that Mr. Stableton will find her here too, but Sherlock assures her that he took every precaution to ensure they weren’t followed.
Sherlock tells Irene that the flower was a message from Moriarty to Sherlock; that Moriarty wants him to understand that as long as Irene is in Sherlock’s life, she can and will be used against him. Sherlock wants to send Irene far away, to someplace where she’ll be safe. Irene asks him to come with her instead.
Meanwhile, at the precinct, Joan, Gregson, and Detective Bell are watching the video surveillance tapes around Sherlock’s home that show Isaac Proctor breaking in to leave the flower on Irene’s pillow. They speculate that Isaac must still be operating on Moriarty’s orders, then wonder out loud where Sherlock has gone off to.
Right on cue, Joan gets a secretive text from Sherlock to meet up with him. When she does, he explains that though he trusts Gregson and Bell, he’s unsure of the other people in the precinct, because it’s now clear that Moriarty’s operation involves a great number of people and informants. He informs her that he’s leaving New York with Irene, and he’s saying his goodbyes to Joan. Joan tries to get him to stay, but his mind is made up.
Elsewhere, Isaac Proctor meets up with one of Moriarty’s men, who gives him keys to a truck and cash to help him escape the city. Isaac, however, is not easily fooled – when he sees an oil drum in the back of the truck, he realizes they plan to kill him and dump his body in the river. Isaac kills two of the lackeys, but leaves the Head Lackey alive so he can report back to Moriarty. Isaac intends to kill Sherlock, outright disobeying Moriarty’s standing orders never to harm Sherlock. Wait, what? Why would Moriarty not want his nemesis harmed? Hmm…
Sherlock returns to the safe house, where Irene has just finished with her shower. He begins to tell her his plan for their escape from New York as she gets dressed, but the words end up stuck in his throat as he sees something strange: part of Irene’s birthmark, the one that he had compared to a constellation, is missing.
He starts having a bit of a breakdown, confused about who and what to believe. When Irene asks him what’s wrong, he explains that her one of her birthmarks had been surgically removed, probably because it was pre-cancerous – but that she couldn’t have possibly been able to get such an operation if she was being held captive by Mr. Stableton. He deduces that she must have been working with Moriarty the whole time, a thought that causes him great emotional pain.
Irene tells him that he’s wrong, that when he starts looking at things too closely he imagines things that aren’t there, but Sherlock doesn’t buy it. Angry that Sherlock doesn’t believe her, Irene takes her things and leaves, warning Sherlock that he’s going to regret this later. This entire scene is incredibly intense and amazingly acted.
Sherlock returns home and calls Joan to let her know he’s changed his mind about leaving New York. As he moves about the brownstone, he catches a glimpse of Isaac Proctor’s reflection – the man is standing right behind Sherlock with a gun pointed at his head. Sherlock tries to run but is shot in the back. He’s able to break off a piece of wood from the stairway banister defend himself with, and makes a break for it upstairs, where he tries to barricade the doorway.
It doesn’t long for Isaac to break past the barrier, and just when things are looking very grim for Sherlock, Isaac is shot and killed by some unknown person just outside the camera’s view.
And then Irene walks into the room, looking absolutely impeccable, holding the gun that just killed Isaac. Thaat’s right folks, Irene is Moriarty! BEST PLOT TWIST EVER.
Moriarty calmly explains to Sherlock that she’d gotten involved with him because he had interrupted several of her evil assassination plans in London, but that the more she’d learned about him the more curious she became. She had left him alive because he seemed to rival her in intelligence, and she didn’t want to destroy something so beautiful and complicated. Through further “analysis” of Sherlock, Moriarty had deemed him to be inferior to her, and so she “concluded her experiment” and left London.
When she heard about Sherlock’s recovery from his addictions, she wanted to see how far he’d come. Sherlock, however, calls her out on her bullshit, saying that returning was a risk that she only would have taken if he was about to thwart one of her plans again.
Moriarty warns Sherlock to leave it alone, because even though she’s not going to kill him, she’s not averse to hurting him to keep him from meddling in her plots. She then leaves Sherlock on the ground, still bleeding from his gunshot wound.
Some time later, Joan finally returns home to find Sherlock sitting in the living room clutching at his bleeding shoulder. She uses her surgical skills to get the bullet out of his shoulder and stitch up the wound, as Sherlock updates her on what he’s just found out.
The morning after, Sherlock and Joan go to the police station to tell Gregson and the others about everything they’ve learned. Gregson is very slowly (and hilariously) taking in the rush of information, and they begin their new task of figuring out why Moriarty is in New York. As Sherlock is inspecting some of the items that used to belong to people who are now dead and in the morgue, he discovers modified phones similar to Sebastian Moran’s – suggesting that the dead men who owned those phones must have worked for Moriarty. Sure enough, the phones contain coded messages exactly like the ones Moriarty had traded with Moran, and Sherlock is able to quickly decode them and figure out that the message refers to a container ship called the Macedonian Sun.
Sherlock believes that the ship is smuggling something into the country that Moriarty must want, so everyone arranges to catch them in the act. When they get there, however, they only find a pair of lemurs being smuggled into the country – not weapons or personnel like they thought. Also, Moriarty is nowhere to be seen.
Sherlock, Joan, Gregson and Bell continue to investigate the owner of the ship – a man nicknamed The Narwhal (Arnold Vosloo) – who denies knowing anyone named Moriarty. They don’t have anything on him besides smuggling the lemurs, which he explains are a gift for his animal activist daughter. Though she’s away on vacation and can’t corroborate his story, Narwhal suggests the cops interview her husband for the truth.
Sherlock and Joan plan to do so, but Joan gets a phone call about her mother, who has apparently slipped and fallen. Joan heads out of the building, intending to visit her mother at the hospital, but the phone call was just a trick to get her away from Sherlock, because Moriarty is waiting outside for her. Moriarty’s lackey holds Joan at gunpoint, and Moriarty orders Joan to get in the car.
She brings Joan to a super classy restaurant, where the two trade thinly veiled barbs. Moriarty is taking an interest in Joan because she wants to understand what Sherlock sees in her – but from what she can tell, Joan seems to be merely a “mascot” for Sherlock. Ouch. Moriarty tells Joan to talk to Sherlock and get him to stop his investigations, and Moriarty will leave him and Joan alone.
Joan notes that Moriarty must be afraid of Sherlock, to be going to all this trouble to get him to stop, which leads to Moriarty trying to correct her: “My dear Watson. I’m afraid of what he’ll force me to do.”
Meanwhile, Sherlock and Bell are interviewing the Narwhal’s son-in-law, who supports his father-in-law’s story and explains that his wife is away on business. Sherlock can tell he’s lying, and uses his powers of deduction to figure out that the Narwhal’s daughter must have been kidnapped to use as leverage against him.
Back at the precinct, Joan tells Sherlock and Gregson about her afternoon. Sherlock expresses his worry by being extremely pissed off – he tells Joan that she’s fallen behind on her self-defense studies. Gregson interrupts their arguing to tell them that they’re both getting security details until this all blows over, whether they want them or not. He also reports that the Narwhal has made bail and subsequently disappeared.
Detective Bell then updates Joan and Sherlock on what he’s discovered: the Narwhal made a new email account about a week ago where all correspondence with Moriarty has taken place. One of the emails includes a picture of a man: the favored son of a speaker of Parliament for the Republic of Macedonia. Moriarty’s plan is to have the Narwhal – a Greek man who has been notably vocal about his nationalistic beliefs – murder the man who is, among other things, a surgeon working in New York who also serves as an unofficial diplomat for Macedonia when needed, thus upsetting the delicate balance between Greece and the Republic of Macedonia, who is trying to gain entrance into the European Union. Yeah, I know, that bit of story required multiple rewatchings for me too.
Moriarty, who has bought many, many millions of shares of the Macedonian’s current mode of currency (the Denar), knows that if she prevents the Republic from joining the E.U., she can get the value of the Macedonian Denar to skyrocket, thus netting her a hefty profit.
Even though they’ve figured out the plot, they’re not in time to stop it; Narwhal successfully breaks into his target’s home (with the help of the security guard who’s supposed to be protecting them) and murders both him and his wife. He’s allowed to hear the voice of his daughter, alive and safe, before he lets himself be shot in the head by the guard.
When the guard is brought into the police station, he spins a tragic tale of trying to rescue his employers, only to be overpowered by the irate Narwhal. He says that it was only by luck that he managed to get the drop on the Greek. Sherlock isn’t buying it, though; he can tell that the guard is under Moriarty’s employment. However, his line of questioning comes off as vicious and paranoid instead of insightful, and Gregson questions Sherlock’s clarity of mind. Joan does so as well, in a less harsh fashion: she tells Sherlock that maybe it’s better for him to just let Moriarty win, and to stop beating himself up about it.
Dejected, Sherlock returns home, where Detective Bell shows up to chastise Sherlock for dodging his protective detail prior to arriving home. Sherlock brushes Bell’s concerns away and goes upstairs. Bell is still shaking his head in minimal despair when he gets a phone call from Gregson – a drug dealer had been mugged less than an hour ago, and the suspect’s description included “British” and “had his arm in a sling.” Uh-oh. That description is a dead ringer for Sherlock.
Sure enough, when Detective Bell runs upstairs he finds Sherlock’s body collapsed on the bathroom floor with a needle in his arm. Sherlock is immediately carted off to the hospital for treatment. There, Irene is able to sneak in to visit him, and again asks Sherlock to run away with her – that she can show him the wonders of losing his inhibitions, becoming a criminal, and joining her in ruling her empire.
That’s when Sherlock reveals that he hadn’t overdosed at all – it was all a ruse to get Moriarty to show her face so they could record her confessions and arrest her for her crimes. To top it off, the whole thing was Joan’s idea! Moriarty’s expression when she sees Joan is priceless.
Irene is taken into custody, and the case is solved. The aftermath/long term effects of these events on Sherlock’s mindstate is unknown (and will hopefully be delved into during Elementary‘s second season), but for now he seems to be dealing with it admirably. In the last scene we see of him, he’s showing Joan a rare new species of bee that he was able to cultivate, and tells her that he named the new species after her: Euglassia Watsonia.
Irene: Consulting detective? Is that different form a P.I.?
Sherlock: There’s considerably less clandestine photography of cheating spouses, so yeah.
Sherlock: It’s been several weeks since our meeting turned interrogation turned sexual marathon. Memorable afternoon… and evening, I’m sure you’d agree. Yet each time I’ve tried to arrange for an encore I’ve been politely yet unmistakably rebuffed. As is your right, of course. Although I admit, I’m not accustomed to rebuffings.
Irene: You’re not accustomed to being on the receiving end of rebuffings.
Sherlock: Quite so.
Irene: You’re better now?
Sherlock: I’m sober now. I’ll always be an addict.
Moriarty: You talked to one of my lieutenants. He has, over the years, played the role repeatedly and with great conviction. More often than not he’s done so to protect my identity. Other times, it was because I suspected a potential client might… struggle… with my gender. As if men had a monopoly on murder.
Moriarty: It makes the world quite dull, no? Looking at a man and knowing all his secrets.
Sherlock: So you’re saying we’re the same.
Moriarty: I’m saying I’m better.
Moriarty: Same old Sherlock. You look at people and you see puzzles. I see games. You’re a game I’ll win every time. […] I would never kill you, not in a million years. You may not be as unique as you thought, darling, but you’re still a work of art. I appreciate art.
Sherlock: Might I remind you that I am a recovering addict?
Joan: Might I remind you that there’s such a thing as non-addictive pain medication?
Sherlock: How good can they be if they’re not addictive?
Joan: Okay. Irene is Moriarty. You think she’s here to do something terrible. You have a hole in your shoulder, and we have a dead assassin on the third floor of our home. So, where would you like to start?
Joan: You’re slamming your hand into your bullet wound?!
Sherlock: I was having problems staying awake and I tried reasoning with my hippothalmus but in the end it required corporal punishment.