Recap and review of Elementary – Season 2 Episode 3 – We Are Everyone:
Last week, I talked about how Sherlock (Jonny Lee Miller) and Joan (Lucy Liu) are each the person best qualified to understand the other. There’s an insularity to the lives these characters lead, an isolation from the regular world, from normalcy itself. To outside observers, it’s weird. But to Holmes and Watson, it’s simply life. However, “We Are Everyone” goes to great lengths to address just how unusual their lives are, and posits the question of whether Sherlock and Joan will be able to find meaningful points of connection outside of their own relationship. It’s a tremendous little episode of Elementary, more for these character insights than for the Edward Snowden-type case that serves as its basis.
The episode centers on the hunt for whistleblower Ezra Kleinfelter, who leaked government information and committed a murder in the process of his escape. It’s a fairly rote case, as Sherlock and Joan track Kleinfelter, but learn they can’t hold him since he’s threatening to leak the identities of 14 CIA field agents currently in deep cover unless they let him go. Kleinfelter is a surprisingly solid villain, because, like all great villains, he has the conviction that what he’s doing is right. It’s a story that also has relevance in a week where the government remains shutdown, prompting the question among many citizens of the government’s right to govern. That said, it’s hard to justify his methods, even if one might be able to understand why he felt he needed to commit murder in order to avoid justice for his classified leaks. It’s all very compelling stuff that keeps the episode moving, even if I ultimately didn’t feel it was as strong a case as, say, last week’s P vs. NP mystery.
As Kleinfelter leaves for his plane to Venezuela, where he’ll seek political asylum, Joan discreetly pickpockets a watch from the suspect. Turns out she lifted the watch as a way of obtaining a DNA sample to tie Kleinfelter to the victim’s murder, and Sherlock is fittingly impressed with his protege, since they hadn’t exactly gone over pickpocketing. It’s kind of trite to have the mystery ultimately solved from Joan’s fast hands, but that’s more or less what happens here, as we learn that Kleinfelter has been arrested and has confessed to the murder in exchange for the U.S. government not pursuing the death penalty. Once again, while Sherlock does a lot of the heavy lifting, Joan has become a seasoned investigator in her own right, proving every bit as valuable to a case as her mentor. I suspect it won’t be long before Joan proves capable of solving cases without Sherlock altogether. But the case isn’t really this week’s main point of interest. After all, Joan is getting out there on the dating scene!
A friend of Joan’s sets her up with an online dating profile, and it’s this act that serves as a window into the complicated, insular lives Joan and Sherlock lead. They don’t really engage meaningfully with people other than each other, and it begins to show when Joan proves unable to even spend time at the park with her friend without constantly solving the little picture-text mysteries Sherlock keeps sending her. It’s to keep her fresh, and Joan proves with each correct answer that her skills are slowly sharpening. But no one else really understands her compunction to solve crimes, nor do they really understand the way she goes about things with Sherlock, since not everyone gets picture messages of staged crime scenes with dolls, after all. And so Joan gives the whole online dating thing a try, and while it doesn’t go the way she expects (one concerned guy tracks her down to check on her when it becomes apparent to him that her profile has been hacked), it mostly proves to be a worthwhile venture, if for no other reason than for how it keeps Joan from being entirely engulfed by the zany life and world Sherlock has created for them.
Of course, it’s that very world that Joan is keen on exploring, as we discover that she’s been keeping a manuscript of her time with Sherlock. To what end she’s writing this isn’t made immediately apparent, whether she intends to publish it or if she’s simply keeping it as a personal journal of sorts, but it’s interesting to theorize that she could perhaps be maintaining this record as a way of helping others to understand Sherlock the way she does. Outside observers can never really get the full grasp on him, nor could they really understand the necessity of his quirkiness, as he has to remain hyper-vigilant and acutely aware of his surroundings at all times — a collection personality traits that could easily rub people the wrong way, and often do. However, while Joan is looking to explore the social world and rediscover herself within it, Sherlock resists. He’s still wounded by last season’s business with Irene Adler/Jamie Moriarity (Natalie Dormer), poignantly explaining to Watson early in the episode that he’d spent most of his life knowing about the inherent falseness of romantic love. However, Irene nearly ended up changing his mind — that is, until he learned she was a criminal. He now says he’s liberated of the need for love and feels free to pursue a more meaningful life, and it’s tragic, in certain ways, that Sherlock feels that such connections can’t be part of a meaningful life. Sherlock remains a raw nerve of a character, and Jonny Lee Miller continues to do remarkable work in the role, imbuing the emotionally-fractured deductionist with great depth.
Yet, as we see at episode’s end, Sherlock hasn’t entirely let go of the specters of the past. In one of the past editing tricks of the series, we hear a voiceover of Sherlock, presumably while writing a letter to someone, explaining the reasons for his insularity: “For a long while now I’ve suspected that connection with another person, real connection, simply isn’t possible. I’m curious if you disagree, although I suspect you feel as I do in this, as you do in so many other things. So tell me, is it possible to truly know another person? Is it even a worthwhile pursuit?” As we slowly fade in on Sherlock, we discover that he’s not writing a letter, but reading one. “Yours is the only opinion I’ll trust, the only point of view that holds even the faintest interest. I find my diversions, as I always do, but the days are long in this grey place.” The voiceover slowly transitions from Sherlock’s narration to that of Moriarty’s, and there’s a certain diabolically sing-song quality to her voice that genuinely calls into question just how heartfelt her letter is. Could she actually still feel something for Sherlock? More tellingly, could he still feel something for her? “I dearly hope you’ll write soon,” the letter concludes. “Ever yours, Jamie Moriarty.” And while Sherlock is sitting right beside a fireplace, he doesn’t cast the letter into the flames. Instead, he simply folds it, keeping it for his own purposes. That simple action tells us more about where Sherlock is at in his life, emotionally, than tossing the letter away ever could. Despite the progress he’s made with Joan, and even with his brother Mycroft, he’s still not entirely whole. And whether or not he ever will be remains a mystery.
“We Are Everyone” is an episode that is better for its B-story than for the Case of the Week that constitutes its A-story. But both plotlines have their individual merits. However, the series continues to prove compelling largely thanks to the elements of character study embedded within each hour. Such material is great on its own, but it’s elevated by the work of Miller and Liu in their respective roles, making Elementary one of TV’s best procedurals, full stop.