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Can Moriarty Outsmart Holmes? Elementary Season Finale Review

By on May 17, 2013

Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes in Elementary. Image © CBS

Elementary’s first season has been so remarkable that one might be afraid the finale would disappoint. In actuality, “The Woman; Heroine” exceeds expectations. Clocking in at an ambitious two hours run-time, it is a roller coaster of a finale.

Beginning the episode with Holmes and Irene locked in an emotionally charged embrace sets the tone for the chaos that follows. Unsurprisingly, Holmes is a wreck about the situation. He feels responsible for the psychological torture that Irene has endured for so long, and cannot even bring himself to work on the Moriarty case. When it is revealed that Irene is Moriarty, we almost feel cheated of an epic romance.

Flashbacks tell the story of how Holmes and “Irene Adler” fell in love, and it is everything that we could have hoped for. Intrigued by each other, the two begin an atypical relationship. This sets the stage perfectly for Holmes’s descent into addiction. Of course he would be a mess after losing something like that – it was unlike anything he had ever experienced. Moriarty planning all of this heartbreak is a nearly unimaginable kind of cruelty.

The big reveal – which leaves Holmes nursing a gunshot wound – kickstarts the second half of the episode. (Good thing he lives with a former surgeon.) While Watson does a great job consulting on the case, it is a relief to see Holmes back on the job. Gregson doubts Holmes’s state of mind after all he’s been through, but Watson astutely observes that Holmes needs the distraction. Holmes finds having a nemesis to be an energizing concept. A ceaselessly arrogant woman, Moriarty plainly states that she is smarter than him, and that he is a game she will “win” every time.

“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?” – Watson

Elementary finds its procedural roots in the latter half of the finale as the team works to stop Moriarty. Despite claiming perfect clarity, Holmes seems a little off his game. Considering his emotional turmoil and physical pain, it would be inhuman if he weren’t. The foreboding fear of a relapse is present, though mostly unspoken. After an awful fight with Watson, Holmes ditches his security detail and goes home to lock himself in his bathroom.

The level of sick suspense leading up to Bell kicking open the bathroom door is nauseating. Elements such as Gregson’s worried phone call, Watson’s absence, and Jonny Lee Miller’s spectacular acting all build up to the powerfully dark climax. It is nothing short of devastating when the door opens to reveal Holmes sprawled out and unconscious on the floor.

Lucy Liu as Joan Watson. Image © CBS

Lucy Liu as Joan Watson. Image © CBS

Remember in the second episode of the season (“While You Were Sleeping”), when Holmes and Watson devised a plan off-screen and sprung it on us later? The writers pull that dirty trick again here, and I honestly did not see it coming this time.

The fact that it is Watson’s calculations about Moriarty that lead them to fake Holmes’s overdose is masterful writing. Under Holmes’s guidance Watson has evolved into a worthy detective, and her personal strengths make her a unique one. Unaware of how shrewd Watson is, Moriarty mistakenly names her Holmes’s “mascot”. It is extremely satisfying to hear Holmes inform Moriarty: “You said there was only one person in the world that could surprise you … turns out there’s two.”

It seems highly unlikely that we have seen the last of Moriarty, which is especially appropriate considering how good Natalie Dormer is in the role. She transforms from a pitiable victim to a frightening enemy in rapid time. Needless to say, her and Miller share a captivating chemistry whether they are about to kiss or are on the verge of killing each other.

A more conventional show may have had Holmes actually relapse, or at least make his fake relapse the cliffhanger of the season. But Elementary is not a typical show, and the bold moves of this finale are extremely refreshing. We finish with Holmes naming his newly created species of bee after Watson, and only someone who knows Holmes like she does could appreciate the flattery in that. It is a peaceful and rewarding final scene. This show does not need a startling or perplexing finish to make us come back for season two – it’s just that good.


  1. Jennifer Griffin

    May 18, 2013 at 7:30 pm

    I loved the finale. I was so disappointed in Sherlock when I thought he had lapsed back into addiction at the end – although it would have made for an interesting set up for the next season.

    One comment – not a criticism really, but did anyone notice that despite mentions all season long of Irene and Sherlock’s great love affair, the audience never actually gets to see them exchange so much as a kiss?

    We have a bedroom scene but it’s all conversation – and slightly argumentative at that. Are we left to presume that the cerebral elements of their relationship were more noteworthy than the physical ones?

    I loved your review Kali, and agree with your sentiments about the nature of the cliffhanger ending and whether we imagine we’ll see Moriarty again.

  2. Kali Nelson

    May 19, 2013 at 11:05 pm

    Wow! I just did a mental run-through of the episode when you said that. I can’t believe I didn’t notice that! I got so caught up in their story. You never know, it could still happen, whether in flashbacks or not.
    I agree on the relapse scene … not very many shows can make me legitimately cry. That one got me. I reminded myself this is a fictional story about a fictional person, hah.

    • Jennifer Griffin

      May 20, 2013 at 9:27 am

      I was shouting “No, No, No” at the TV!

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