‘Elementary’ Season 5: Shinwell’s Revenge & Holmes’ Dilemma

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In the final run of episodes of Season 5 of “Elementary,” Shinwell’s sad tale came to a close, as Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) dealt with a surprising and decidedly unexpected development. In my last TV chat, we primarily discussed the Bell (Jon Michael Hill) arc, but, as expected, the Shinwell (Nelsan Ellis) drama moved to the forefront in the season’s final episodes.

In “Moving Targets,” Shinwell’s quest to bring down SBK came to a head when he found himself in the position to take down a leading figure in the ranks of the gang, and potentially fill the role himself, thus putting himself in the lead to take down the gang entirely. The one thing eluding him was the name of the primary leader, though he had his suspicions.

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Knowing he needed help to pull it off, he reluctantly called Watson (Lucy Liu) for an assist. Given Shinwell’s treatment of Holmes, she was hesitant, but went anyway, sensing something was wrong. To make that right, Shinwell proffered a written confession of his admitting to having killed Jamel, thus confirming it to be true in the process.

Watson meets with the lead detective on the SBK case and gives him a tip on the man Shinwell was looking to take out of the equation, which proves to be on the money, leading to the man’s arrest. Naturally, Holmes figures out early on what Watson is up to and warns her against getting herself too involved with it all, fearing for her safety.

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This proves to be all too true, as the episode ends with Watson going to meet with Shinwell and discovering him dead on arrival, much to her shock. In the following episode, “Scrambled,” she calls Gregson and the team meets her at the scene, and she declares that the time has come to bring down SBK once and for all, to ensure that Shinwell didn’t die in vain.

Sadly, had Shinwell simply asked Holmes and Watson for help, his death might have been avoided, as the two manage to do what it took him months to do in a matter of days- get to the bottom of who the real leader of SBK was and take him- and by extension, SBK itself- out once and for all.

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Of course, it’s not as easy as all that, as there are some twists and turns along the way. Their main suspect is a man named Bonzi (Al Thompson, “The Royal Tenenbaums”), who never seems to leave his well-guarded apartment building. How is he communicating with his gang in the first place?

Holmes and Watson are finally able to secure a meeting with Bonzi, who points them in the direction of the man he claims to have done the deed of killing Shinwell. While there, Holmes spots an anomaly amongst the mostly high-tech stuff there: an old-school typewriter.

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Realizing Bonzi is using it to create and decode messages to and from his gang, a la Alan Turing and his team in “The Imitation Game,” Holmes is still at a loss as to both how he is doing so and how Bonzi would have thought to have come up with such a method in the first place.

Watson realizes Bonzi is using his social media accounts to do so, hidden in seemingly innocuous pictures posted on the site. The messages are hidden within the computer codes of the picture files’ names, which is pretty clever. (I found myself thinking of the elaborate methods adopted by gang leader “Stringer” Bell in “The Wire.”)

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Along the way, Holmes has met with Bonzi’s brother, Tyus Wilcox (Stephen Rider, “Daredevil”), a computer analyst, and he realizes that Tyus all but had to have come up with this scheme himself and passed it along to his brother. He suspects the two are in cahoots but that Tyus is a “silent partner” that no one really knows about, save Bonzi, of course, who claims that he and his brother have nothing to do with one another, as does Tyus himself.

Meanwhile, the man that Bonzi fingered for killing Shinwell is brought in and admits to the killing, but he refuses to turn on Bonzi himself, even to save himself. Just as Watson cracks the codes Bonzi is using, he changes them up altogether, leading to yet another dead end, much to her frustration, though she thinks she has evidence of at least four ordered hits by Bonzi on particular individuals.

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Alas, it isn’t enough to bring Bonzi down, so they put pressure on Tyus, but get nowhere as he continues to deny his involvement. Shortly thereafter, Bonzi seemingly overdoses on drugs, and Watson suspects foul play, likely on Tyus’ end. He is clearly closing ranks. Watson coldly confronts him at the hospital and Tyus makes a thinly-veiled threat against her in front of Bell.

While all this is going on, Holmes is strangely checked out of a lot of the proceedings. We discover that a case he worked on and likely falsely accused an innocent man of committing led to that man killing himself. Holmes blames himself for it, as well as the whole Shinwell thing, realizing Shinwell’s death might have been avoided if he’d ignored Shinwell’s threats and put his mind to bringing down the SBK anyway.

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Holmes goes to a 12-step meeting to help deal with all this guilt, where a seemingly obsessed woman confronts him, making threats and claiming her love for him. Who is she, and what is going on? Has Holmes been seeing a new woman on the side? Or is he the victim of a stalker? We don’t find out just yet.

In the season finale, “Hurt Me, Hurt You,” everything comes to a head. An all-out war seems to be breaking out between the SBK and rival gang Mara Tres, which you might recall, Holmes had dealings with earlier in the season, specifically Halcon (Jon Huertas, “Castle”). To that end, Holmes reaches out to Halcon, passing along a message via a local priest Halcon has been using to launder money, using his church to do so.

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Holmes informs Halcon that he and Watson are on the case and are in the process of bringing down SBK, so there’s no need for a war. In a matter of days, it should all be over. However, it seems there is another reason for the Mara Tres attacking the SBK so openly, and it’s not just a matter of turf.

It seems that Halcon’s sister was abducted, tortured and killed, and her body left at his lawyer’s house, with a video included of his sister making it clear that SBK was responsible. Halcon says that he doesn’t care if Holmes brings down SBK, as he is planning on killing every last one of them, and Holmes needs to stay out of his way.

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Holmes and Watson attempt to try and get Tyus back down, to no avail. He just continues to make threats. But eventually, Gregson makes him an offer he can’t refuse- he’ll make a deal with Tyus to let him off the hook for his involvement with the SBK and he won’t be prosecuted if he stops the war.

Tyus finally admits his role in the gang “theoretically,” but claims he had nothing to do with ordering the hit on Halcon’s sister. He will, however, try and find out who was responsible. He thinks SBK is being framed for the crime, and most everyone agrees, especially after Watson talks to the sister’s roommate and she points out that the man who kidnapped the sister didn’t seem to be a gang member at all, having no tattoos and seeming a bit uncomfortable with a gun.

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Apparently the conversation with Gregson gave Tyus ideas, as he shows up at the station with a lawyer in tow, and says he is willing to name every member of SBK he knows about and testify against them if he is exempt from prosecution and put into the witness protection program. He also knows the name of the man responsible for killing Halcon’s sister.

Obviously, this will effectively stop the war with Mara Tres in the process, so the police take him up on his offer. However, the man Tyus fingers for the crime has tattoos and Watson knows from her conversation with the roommate that the kidnapper did not. She and Holmes think that he is using the deal to completely cut ties with the gang and get immunity for himself, realizing that the walls are closing in.

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Watson suspects that Tyus actually murdered Halcon’s sister himself, as he doesn’t have tattoos and wouldn’t be familiar with guns, most likely, as a “straight” businessman. She goes to the DA involved with the case and tells him her theory, but he doesn’t much care, preferring the “win” of Tyus’ confession and naming names.

Tyus can’t resist calling Watson and taunting her, pointing out that Shinwell’s death was on her in the first place, as they found her number on his phone and have known for some time that he was working with the police. A dumbfounded Watson goes to Shinwell’s funeral, where Holmes was supposed to meet her, but he never shows. No one but Watson does, in fact.

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This is because he is still dealing with the aforementioned mystery woman from his 12-step meetings. She shows up at the Brownstone one day and tells him he needs to “do the right thing” or he will never see her again. Watson gets home and calls Holmes out on how absent-minded he’s been lately, accusing him of using again, or at the very least, holding a grudge against Shinwell for beating him up.

He insists neither is true, but she knows something is off, because he has been sleeping in late, which he never does and acting erratically. (Were you, like me, hoping that Watson might use these golden opportunities to at long last get even for all the times he woke her up in unruly ways?)

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Watson storms out, and in her anger, sets up a meet with Halcon, telling him she knows who really killed his sister, but she needs his help to prove it. If he allows her to inspect the body, which he has refused to turn over at this point to the police, she will make sure Tyus ends up in prison for what he did, which would make him vulnerable to Halcon’s people, as he has people on the inside. (Shades of that case last season in which Holmes arranged that one guy to be thrown to the wolves when he also got away with it. Never cross Holmes and Watson!)

Later on, Watson, Bell and Gregson meet with Tyus and his lawyer, as Holmes conspicuously remains absent. Watson tells Tyus that they can prove he killed the sister, as his blood was found lodged in her throat after the two of them had an altercation, which was inferred on the video, where Watson spotted blood on the sister, and suspected she had tried to attack Tyus and it was his blood, not hers.

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As Tyus lied about that in his confession, he perjured himself and the immunity deal is null and void. The gang will still go down, but now they will know who did it, and he will be in prison with a bunch of people who will not be too happy to see him. Watson viciously notes that maybe if he is lucky he can get himself put in solitary and evade retaliation. Or not. Either way, he’s going to prison for a long time.

Meanwhile, Holmes gets a call from the mystery woman, calling him to say goodbye. He hears a noise within the Brownstone, and realizes she is calling from inside the house, and that she has set the place on fire. He rushes to try and save her and fails miserably. And yet, when Watson returns, she finds evidence of Holmes smashing stuff up- but no fire.

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We realize that the woman is, in fact, a figment of Holmes’ imagination, a sort of personification of his guilt in the form of none other than his mother. Holmes realizes it, too, and takes himself to the doctor for an MRI, knowing that he is in danger of losing his most valuable asset: his mind. That is where we leave things for the season.

Needless to say, I’m glad the show was renewed for another season, as that would have been a perfectly awful way to end things for the entire run of the show. Obviously, the show hedged its bets, hoping for renewal, but if they had come up on the losing end of things, this would have been the end of the show as we know it, which would have been a tremendous bummer.

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Thankfully, such was not the case, and the show was renewed, so we won’t be stuck with that downer of an ending. That said, this last run of episodes, including the ongoing Bell storyline and the resolution of the Shinwell drama, were easily amongst the most effective of the season. Special props to Hill and Ellis for turning such commanding performances throughout the season, and Liu was particularly effective in these last few episodes.

“Elementary” has an odd habit of saving the most compelling episodes for last, which makes sense in theory, but can also be sort of counterproductive, in the sense that, it’s taking a big risk, in case the show doesn’t get renewed, and thus, certain plotlines never get resolved. I mean, don’t get me wrong, both the Bell and the Shinwell stories were, in fact, wrapped up quite neatly, so there’s that, but it’s entirely possible the Holmes’ one wouldn’t have been, which would have been really unfortunate.

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In addition, by saving the best episodes for last, the show risks losing viewers to the extent that it doesn’t get renewed, which, like I said, is tantamount to shooting itself in the foot. Don’t get me wrong: I quite liked some of the earlier episodes in the season, particularly the return of Kitty arc. So, it’s not like the show hasn’t been doing ongoing storylines all season.

But I also think that the show could do so in a way in which the ongoing storylines, which are often abandoned for stretches of episodes at a time, are maintained throughout the season as more continuous than they are. Yes, it risks alienating viewers that don’t keep up, but I think that it would also make for a better show. Besides, CBS does that, anyway, by constantly shifting the time-slot of the show and not airing it for long periods of time.

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I’d almost prefer a sort of compromise in which CBS ensured that the show would run for an interrupted chunk of time in the same time slot for an extended period of time, with breaks on occasion, than what it does now. Think of the way “Agents of SHIELD” has been doing things lately.

For those unfamiliar- ABC adopted a three-pronged “pod” of a season, in which three distinct plot-lines were followed for three uninterrupted periods of time, with brief interludes in between. In addition to this, the show maintained ongoing storylines throughout the season, counting on viewers to maintain them, and thus providing something “extra” for hardcore fans that were paying attention, while at the same time doing things in such a way that one could pick up at any given one of the three intervals and be able to follow along with what was happening.

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Now, I’ll allow that the show’s ratings weren’t exactly stellar and “SHIELD” also only got renewed by the skin of its teeth, but it was also the best-reviewed season of the entire series, and my favorite thus far as well. “Elementary” already knows that each season is a crap shoot, in terms of whether it gets renewed or not- why not go for broke, approaching the next season almost as if it WERE the last, and really go for something ambitious?

Another possibility, as I think I’ve mentioned previously, is to adopt an approach similar to the BBC, in which the season is intentionally abbreviated in a shorter run of episodes, thus allowing them to run uninterrupted and for the story to be that much more concise and concentrated. I’d rather see a more focused story that allows for more intensive character moments for a shorter run of episodes than a scattershot entire full season with a lot of typical “standalone” cases, anyway.

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Don’t get me wrong. I know that CBS’ main reason for keeping the show alive is its success in syndication and the amount of money it makes abroad. I get that they don’t want to rock the boat. But if the show is already on the rocks, and we all know it’s managed to evade cancellation time and again over the years, why not shoot the works for once? It might just pay off, not only in terms of ratings, but in terms of pleasing the fans, who have been through a lot with all the time slot changes and the like. (Might I suggest a big final showdown with Moriarty, for instance?)

Just a thought. That said, I did enjoy the season on the whole, and it had some great moments, even if a lot of them were back-loaded at the end of the season. Better that it have them at all than not, so I can’t complain that they’re not at least trying to do some ambitious things. I just wish it were more consistent on the whole, especially since I know the show is capable of great things.

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But the good news, obviously, is that it was renewed, so I can’t bitch about it that much. I don’t think any of us assumed that it was a foregone conclusion that it would be. I just would hate to see them take it for granted. Go big or go home, Holmes! You have the perfect set-up for a truly great season, what with Holmes’ current issues, now it’s up to you to take advantage of what might well be the final season. Please don’t let it go to waste- your fans are counting on it.

What did you think of the latest season of “Elementary”? What was your favorite ongoing plotline? How about your least favorite? What were your favorite episodes? Do you have any ideas as to how the show could improve? Do you agree with my take on things? Or do you actually prefer the whole “standalone” case thing? (Hey, if it ain’t broke, some might say…)

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Sound off down below and be sure to join me next season, assuming I’m still doing it, that is. Thanks for reading!

  • ptjackson

    I am so relieved the show got renewed. I wonder/hope that it will move from Sunday night, though, since it is torture there during sports season – which is year round.

    I really enjoyed the last few episodes, and now am wondering what is going on with Sherlock’s brain. That is probably a great fear of most people – to lose your ability to think while still being physically capable. But of course, for Sherlock, that is probably the worst case scenario!

    • Mark Trammell

      Not sure about where Elementary will go. It’s not on CBS’ fall schedule as of yet, and may not return until late in the year or early next year. I’m hoping they’ll get wise and move it anywhere else, save maybe Mondays (bc of MN Football). That way, if it does fail, it will fail on its own, not bc of time delays and the like, at least.
      Also, since it’s coming back late, I hope they heed my advice and go for a more straight-through season, with little time off, so that they can tell an ongoing storyline without any of the typical interruptions that get in the way of such things. I’d also hope that they might come up with a “big” storyline, as this might well end up being the last season. Better to go out on a creative high than hedge your bets and hold back.
      Hopefully, CBS will let them know a little sooner this time, so they can at least prepare if it is going to be the end, and have a proper ending, you know? We’ll see.
      I am definitely interested to see how they handle the Sherlock’s brain scenario. I’m blanking on what it was (no pun intended) but there was another show that tackled a similar scenario with a main character- I think it might have been “Rizzoli & Isles”- and they kind of soft-pedaled it and ultimately backed off entirely and didn’t really go for it the way they should have. Hopefully, “Elementary” will do a better job with it.

      • ptjackson

        Totally agree with you re scheduling – from your pen to CBS’s ears!!

        and, yes, it was Rizzoli and Isles – Maura had some brain issue – related to her assault maybe? And, yes, it ended up being kind of a dropped story – or a resolved without much ado. We shall see if elementary does a better job!

        • Mark Trammell

          I thought that was it.

  • august2004

    Hi Mark. Good to see you are still writing about Elementary…
    I agree with you that it would have been a bummer if the series ended with Holmes going through a period of psychosis and getting a brain scan. But now that it has been renewed, the producers have five or six months or so to write some new scripts and possibly re-hire some of the Moriarty arc characters. Like you said, I’ve read the show has been a cash cow for CBS – $80 million profit this season (???). Perhaps they could use this war chest to attract the attention of other characters who have appeared on the show before when it resumes in 2018(?). We shall see…
    Have a good summer and autumn!…

    • Mark Trammell

      Thanks- yep, I’m still here. I write about the show approximately once a month, as per my boss’s instructions, but I did two this month on account of the ongoing Bell storyline. (Just click on my name to find it, if you’re interested.)
      I’m hoping, too, that the writers will take advantage of this extra time they’ve been given to map out an impressive ongoing plot for the next season. I think it would actually be beneficial to approach it as if it were the last season, just in case it is. That way, it has a solid ending.
      They can always come up with a new storyline if the show is renewed at the last minute, as per usual. I think most fans of the show want it to involve Moriarty, for obvious reasons, but so long as it’s not as open-ended as this one (or as depressing), I can live with whatever they come up with.
      You have a great summer/autumn as well!