Elementary may have taken some time learning to crawl before it could walk, but there’s no doubt that the show was in full sprint as it approached its exciting first-season finale.
What could be a more shocking way to begin the end than to reveal that Irene Adler, whom Sherlock had mourned so self-destructively, was not dead after all. She had, however, been holed up and subject to psychological abuse. After a brief stay at the hospital, she goes home with Sherlock, who relinquishes the case to Joan, as he feels he is responsible for what happened to Irene and must now care for her.
At the house where Irene had been kept, Joan finds the pivotal clue that will lead them to the masked Mr. Stapleton, who had taken Irene: a yellow pigment that can only be specially bought. The only purchase in the city leads them to Dwayne Proctor. Because Dwayne had already done time in prison, the Gregson and Bell didn’t even think to suspect his brother, Isaac. Just as Dwayne reveals that he bought the yellow paint for Isaac, shots are fired in the Proctor house. An officer is left wounded and Isaac escapes.
As the present drama unfolds, we’re treated to flashbacks of Sherlock and Irene’s relationship before her supposed death. Sherlock had been looking into some art forgeries and had sent some photos to Irene, from which she determined that he was dealing with expertly forged paintings. While in her home, Sherlock realizes she has a famous, original work hanging on her wall and deduces that she forged a copy and gave it back to the museum, while keeping the original. Her reasoning, which he admires, is that she couldn’t bear to alter the painting to remove the bullet holes in the painting, as the museum wanted.
Their bonding over her paintings results in one passionate night together, but Sherlock’s requests for a second date are all rebuffed, until he promises to give her another experience more unique than the first. They become very involved after that, until the day Irene had promised to show Sherlock her first original work of art, and he arrives to find a pool of blood and Moriarty’s note.
And now Irene is practically a shell of herself. She doesn’t recognize either of the Proctor brothers and continues to suffer from the psychological pressure tactics used on her. Sherlock has just revealed to her how broken he’d been thinking she was dead when they discover a white flower on Irene’s bed. It’s the same kind Mr. Stapleton used to bring her. Sherlock takes her to a safe house he’s kept for such an emergency, while Joan, Gregson and Bell go over the security footage at the brownstone. Joan notices that Isaac appears to know exactly where Irene’s room is. Sherlock tells Joan he’s decided to go away with Irene to keep her safe.
But when Sherlock returns to the safe house, he notices something when Irene is changing. A birthmark that had been on her back is now gone. It doesn’t make sense. It had probably been removed because it was precancerous, but Moriarty wouldn’t have cared about that. Sherlock is convinced that Irene has been working for Moriarty. He and Irene fight, and Irene tells him to leave.
Back at the brownstone, notices Isaac Proctor just in time to ensure the bullet he takes isn’t fatal. Isaac, who was the sniper in the last episode, is going off book, aiming to kill Sherlock against his orders. He pursues a wounded Sherlock upstairs and is just about to finish him when he’s shot dead by Irene. Or rather, by Moriarty. Yes, in the most beautifully conceived consolidation of the only two people to truly give Sherlock Holmes a run for his money, Irene Adler was Moriarty all along. The male voice claiming to be Moriarty had been one of her minions, which she sometimes worked through due to clients’ reactions to her gender.
Sherlock knows she must have returned because he had been getting too close to one of her operations, and now he must find out which. Isaac Proctor left behind a clue when he killed off two of Moriarty’s men. The dead men’s cell phones were modified in the same way that Moran and Gottlieb’s were. Sherlock cracks an encrypted text that leads them to a container ship called the Macedonian Sun and Christos Theophilus, a formerly suspected smuggler known as the Narwhal. Sherlock, Joan, and Bell stake out the ship, but find that all the Narwhal is smuggling is endangered animals for his daughter and her husband, who take care of the animals.
Joan is called away from the case for a moment when her brother calls to tell her that their mother fell and is in the hospital. But she finds the call was made by Moriarty, who takes Joan to a nice restaurant to talk. Ah, a Joan and Moriarty scene. It still doesn’t pass the Bechdel test, as they talk mostly about Sherlock, but Joan sees through Moriarty’s cool insults and subtle threats and knows she wants him to give up because she’s afraid he can beat her. Joan Watson is so much more than a mascot.
Meanwhile, Sherlock has learned that Theophilus’s daughter was kidnapped a week ago, making Theophilus a victim rather than an accomplice. In the end, he is actually both. Moriarty is forcing Theophilus to kill a Macedonian diplomat named Andre Becerra, whose mother, a Macedonian politician, has proposed a referendum to name Macedonia New Macedonia, so that Greece will welcome them into the EU, effectively changing Macedonian currency from the denar to the euro. Moriarty has obtained a large sum of denar, and if Macedonia’s favorite son is killed, the vote will fail and the denar will rise in value.
They aren’t able to stop Theophilus from killing Andre and his wife. The Becerras’ head of security was in on it, and was responsible for killing Theophilus once the job was done. Even though Sherlock quickly realizes that the company the Becerras’ security was hired by was formerly known as Sutter Risk Management, which is now one of Moriarty’s shell corporations, this is a breaking point. Joan tells an enraged Sherlock that Moriarty was right when she said that he should give up.
Sherlock storms back to the brownstone where Bell is on security duty. Gregson calls shortly after to tell him that a drug dealer had been attacked by a man fitting Sherlock’s description. By the time Bell kicks down the bathroom door, Sherlock has already overdosed.
This warrants a visit from Moriarty. She comes to Sherlock when he’s in the hospital, but what she doesn’t realize is that Sherlock is just as good of an actor as she is. The overdose was staged. Joan and the police arrive and Moriarty is arrested.
Sherlock commends Joan’s success in figuring Moriarty out in two ways: first by telling Moriarty that she’d been beaten by Joan, who Moriarty hadn’t thought much of, and second, by naming a new species of bee in his collection Euglassia Watsonia. And really, what’s more fitting than that?
We’ve already been guaranteed a second season, so now all that’s left is to wait. Personally, I hope this isn’t the end of Moriarty. I simply cannot get enough of Natalie Dormer in this role. Perhaps, considering the Elementary writing staff enjoys the original stories very much, they will give us a Final Problem-inspired end to the Moriarty arc sometime in the future. Only time will tell.
Until next season, Sherlockians!