In television, reaching 100 episodes has always been a reason to celebrate. Elementary did so in style with a season five episode that beautifully symbolized just how far our little ragtag team of investigators has come since episode one aired in 2012.
As a longtime fan and follower of the show it is refreshing to see something so consistently and wonderfully written continue to thrive on network television week after week, season after season. There is hardly a more deserving cast than Jonny Lee Miller, Lucy Liu, Aidan Quinn, and Jon Michael Hill, who bring warmth and vibrancy to the small screen with every episode.
As Rob Doherty said at New York Comic Con, they could not do anything huge or flashy for the 100th episode since it was only episode four of the season, and it would have tossed a wrench in their overarching plans. However, he held true to his promise that the script was “a lot of fun,” as the 100th episode definitely brought together a lot of thematic strings that have been played with throughout the entire run of the series. There was also a space vest, which is always, always, fun.
Through the 100th episodes plot the growth of the team was summarized. It is easy to talk about the change Sherlock has gone through, and there will be time for that, but even the supporting characters have changed for the better.
Marcus Bell’s willingness to submit himself to Sherlock’s strange reenactment of a scene is telling, since Bell was initially against Sherlock’s involvement in cases, and struggled to be anywhere near him. Yet the opening scene of the episode showed the two working together, Bell with his straightforward and oftentimes humorous demeanor, and Sherlock in all of his odd quirks, able to piece together an important fact about the case.
One of the most admirable things about Elementary is its willingness to portray realistic relationships, and deal with them in healthy and productive ways. This was best demonstrated by Joan and Sherlock’s argument over the Unit Citation in the 100th episode.
Whereas seasons ago this type of argument may have not even happened and the two would have done whatever they saw fit without bringing the discussion into the open, now the two can come together and passionately disagree while still working through and valuing each other’s opinions. No longer is Sherlock Holmes emotionally distant from those around him, and Joan Watson does not have to be as defensive as she once was.
The greatest part about it, is that neither character has given up their personal essence in order to reach this kind of comfortable, securely attached relationship. Everyone in the show has continued to be themselves, sometimes a better, more open version of themselves, but their core “them-ness” always remains steadfast.
The characters did not have to give up key personal traits in order to reach this sense of unity and family, like it is so often portrayed in television and movies. None of the characters have ever been asked to lose themselves in one another. Rather, they continue to be their own individual systems able to interact in better, adaptive, and healthy ways with the larger systems around them.
As a social worker, Elementary is my catnip, and a symbol of what television that looks at people’s stories should be. Akin to Parks and Recreation, which I have discussed at length in the past, Elementary grapples with interpersonal relationships, substance abuse, survivors, families, and an infinite number of other important relational themes in a way that does the stories justice.
There has rarely been misplaced drama, or a situation used solely for the shock value of it, because the show’s dedication to the integrity of people’s stories will not allow that to happen. The show chooses to shine a light, instead of throwing its characters into eternal darkness just to marvel at the decay.
The final scene of the 100th episode, with Captain Gregson addressing his unit, really hit home the overarching theme of “family” that the writers and cast have cultivated over the past four seasons and continue to work on in the fifth. As Rob Doherty has said time and again, the theme of the show has always been “people in repair,” and through the process of repair relationships are born and continue to grow with each passing day.
When the scene pans out, audiences just have to look around and see where the repair has happened, from Gregson advocating for Sherlock and Joan’s involvement and recognition, to Sherlock’s willingness to put aside his reservations and admit he is part of a team, everyone has grown into the family Gregson addresses.
“This team, this family, you guys are what keep me going,” and in that, Gregson summed up the heart of Elementary.