Elementary (CBS): The Woman, The Bee and The Partnership– A Look Back At A Brilliant Freshman Season

Irene is Moriarty.

Has there ever been a more satisfying plot twist? I don’t think so. Elementary spent the entirety of its first season subverting my expectations, but I was still left shocked and impressed by the wonderfully twisted Moriarty reveal that closed out the first hour of the season finale. In retrospect, introducing a shadowy male figure to play Sherlock’s iconic nemesis would have been far too familiar of a move for a series that delights in reinventing the Holmes’ canon to make, but in the moment I was too caught up in the story to see the truth: that Irene, “The Woman” in Sherlock’s world, was nothing more than a construct built by a brilliant, dangerous woman to get inside Sherlock’s head.

And oh, how delicious was Natalie Dormer’s dual performance as Irene and Moriarty? Her ability to seamlessly slip between the two personas was vital. She was equally convincing as the not boring woman who stole Sherlock’s heart, the broken woman he found and the supervillain we’ve been waiting so long to meet.

The chemistry between Dormer and Jonny Lee Miller was mesmerizing– if momentarily wanting Sherlock to ride off into the sunset with a sociopath is wrong…well, as the adage goes, then I don’t want to be right. Their relationship is a destructive, addictive force for the both of them, but it made for awfully good television. Witnessing Sherlock realize Irene was still alive was the knockout moment of the season, but the quieter moments that followed as we watched a man, who is erroneously pegged as being hopelessly self-absorbed, slide into caretaker mode were powerful in their own right. It was important for the series to show us that side of him; so often Sherlock is portrayed as a superhero, but Elementary has always tapped into his humanity. My only quibble is that Moriarty is, at least for the time being, in police custody. The only upside to removing her from the canvas so quickly is that it opens the door for her eventual, epic return.

A clever twist only works if there’s a good story backing it up though and Elementary delivered on both counts. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the series’ freshman season was flawless, but it was certainly one of the strongest first season outings television has seen in quite some time. At its heart, it was an origin story for Joan and Sherlock. They began the season as strangers and ended it as partners. For both characters, this transition is a seismic shift: Joan’s life has been completely transformed, while Irene’s status as the one and only woman in Sherlock’s universe has been usurped by the titular “Heroine” of the finale’s second half– Joan.

The scope of their relationship was summed up quite eloquently in the final moment of the season when Sherlock and Joan sat on the roof watching as a new species of bee–one created from the combination of the extraordinary and the ordinary–emerged. To end the season on a moment of contemplation was a brave choice. It guarantees we won’t spend the next three months mulling over a cliffhanger, but even without a shocking final act, there’s no doubt in my mind that I’ll be impatiently marking off the days until I can get back to watching Joan and Sherlock solve cases because when a season has a much forward momentum and character development as this one did, it doesn’t need to use cliffhangers to buy my loyalty. Moving bee metaphors work just fine.

What about you? Were you as impressed by the Moriarty reveal as I was? Did the finale live up to your expectations? What do you want to see in season two? Sound off on the season below!

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