Recap and review of Elementary – Season 1 Episode 16 – Details:
Detective Marcus Bell (Jon Michael Hill) has been the most underdeveloped character in the lean roster of Elementary. From what little we’ve been able to surmise of him, he appears to be something of an apprentice to Captain Gregson (Aidan Quinn), who regards Bell as his right-hand man, much like how Sherlock (Jonny Lee Miller) seems to regard Watson (Lucy Liu). We also learned pretty quickly that he doesn’t seem to have much of a sense of humor, though it’s hard to say that anyone who regularly interacts with Holmes shares his sense of humor. For well over half the season, Bell has been little more than a cipher for a proper police detective. Perhaps this is because he’s the only character in the series who isn’t an analogue for a character from the Sherlock Holmes canon (although he could be a reference to Joseph Bell, the man reportedly said to be Arthur Conan Doyle’s inspiration for Sherlock Holmes). For whatever reason, he’s gotten short shrift from the narrative, which is why it’s so heartening to see an episode that is largely dedicated to fleshing him out. “Details” introduces his older brother, Andre (Malcolm Goodwin), an ex-con with whom Marcus shares a troubled relationship, and the resulting storyline is among the best cases of the week that the show has yet produced. In fact, “Details” is among the series’ better episodes, allowing for rich characterization nested within a compelling crime story.
When Marcus is nearly killed in a drive-by shooting, Holmes goes down the list of suspects from Bell’s past cases to ascertain the identity of the assailant. When a victim turns up dead with footprints similar to Bell’s trademark shoe, it becomes apparent to Holmes that a frame-up job is being set in motion against Bell. The investigation is vintage Holmes, as he deduces the location of a planted firearm in Bell’s apartment, meant to implicate him in the earlier murder. Marcus confronts his brother, Andre, who’s only a few weeks out of prison. Andre is upset by the power imbalance of their relationship. As the older brother, he feels he should be the one looking out for Marcus, not the other way around. He violates his parole by contacting his old gang members in order to assist Marcus in the investigation. Marcus comes to suspect that Andre is involved, and the brothers get into an argument at the police station resulting in Andre clocking his brother across the face. Instigating a conflict between the brothers is merely another component to the frame-up job by the real killer, as Andre is gunned down in his home in an act meant to implicate Marcus. However, before losing consciousness, Andre scrawls “Was not Marcus” in his own blood. Though Andre pulls through, it becomes clear just how far the perp is willing to go to get back at Marcus.
Again, this is one of the better cases in the series, made all the more compelling by the familial component, as Marcus and Andre are both understandable in their positions. Because, really, what was Marcus supposed to do? Join a gang, like Andre? Meanwhile, it’s not like Andre was really going to risk his (and his family’s) safety and roll on his fellow gang members just to get an early parole. Both Jon Michael Hill and Malcolm Goodwin give remarkably lived-in performances. They might not look all that much like brothers, but they feel like brothers. There’s a familiarity between them that comes through in the performance and gives their story that much more weight. It’s tremendous work, and I hope Goodwin returns at some point down the line, as he was a welcome presence here.
As for the case, it’s revealed that Bell’s ex-lover, Officer Paula Reyes (Paula Garces), was behind the frame-up as revenge against Marcus for blowing the whistle on her corrupt boss, with whom she’d been conspiring. This is all revealed in an exceedingly long “parlour scene”, in which Holmes lays out everything he knows about the criminal…to the criminal. He essentially regurgitates Reyes’ own plot and motives
back at her, while also explaining how he solved her crime. It goes on for so long that it starts to feel a bit uncomfortable, which I imagine was at least partially the intention. There’s the feeling that the noose is slowly tightening around Reyes, and it’s reflected in Garces’ performance, as her disbelieving smile slowly gives way to fear, and finally to bitter, angry resignation. It’s a wonderfully tense scene that plays out like a car crash in slow motion, at least for the perpetrator. It’s a moment of triumph for Holmes and company, and also for the Brothers Bell, who make amends in the hospital. Marcus says that Andre couldn’t possibly have seen his shooter, so why did he scrawl in blood that it wasn’t him? To which Andre responds that he might not know Marcus, but he knows Marcus, and family takes care of family. It’s a poignant capper to a storyline that gives us a reason to invest in Detective Bell.
The episode also provides us with a fitting cap to the question of whether Watson will ever move on from Holmes, or if she’ll ever come clean to him about her little lie about his father agreeing to keep her on as his sober companion. Watson speaks with her therapist, who suggests that she badly needs to let Holmes go and move on to a new client. Watson seems to begrudgingly consider this, but she doesn’t seem entirely able to bring herself to do it. It all blows up during the investigation, as Holmes reveals that he knows she isn’t technically his sober companion anymore, and hasn’t been for weeks now, since he called his father not long after she told him his father agreed to keep her on. Holmes, in recognition that the two of them need each other, offers Watson a position as her permanent companion. He will teach her all his methods of observation and deduction, and she will remain at his side, helping keep him focused. Jonny Lee Miller is spectacular here, communicating Sherlock’s confusion over what, exactly, it is about Watson that makes him so much sharper and more focused – in short, better. His proposal to Watson reads not simply as an offer, but as a plea for her to stay alongside him. She clearly means a lot to him as a friend and companion, as he states that if something were to happen to her, he’d never forgive himself. This gives us some of the funniest bits of the episode, as Holmes attempts to train Watson in self-defense and hone her reflexes, due to her ineffectual efforts last week against the crooked DEA agent. Ultimately, Watson accepts Holmes’ offer (along with the stipend it includes, from Sherlock’s private funds) under the condition that she lives in his brownstone, rent-free, until she can find a new place of her own. In addition, he must also continue attending group meetings each week with her for as long as they’re partners. Holmes agrees, and we’ve got ourselves a partnership. And I couldn’t be happier to finally have the matter settled.
“Details” is one of the best episodes of the series so far, owing to the rich character work from nearly everyone involved, along with the engaging storytelling at its center. It’s particularly heartening to see the entire ensemble getting fleshed out, so that the show has more to recommend it than simply the dynamic between Holmes and Watson. That said, if that was all the show had going for it, I’d still consider it worth watching. Episodes like this, then, would simply be the gravy.