“Risk Management,” the penultimate episode* of the first season of ‘Elementary’, can be divided into two parts. Part one is the first 38 or so minutes of the episode’s 43-minute runtime, a slow-paced slog through a boring and ultimately meaningless case buoyed only slightly be the continued presence of Moriarty. Part two is comprised of the final five minutes, a gorgeously-shot, expertly-crafted sequence with a shocking ending that sets the stage for next week’s two-hour finale.
So let’s focus on the good, because those last five minutes are much more interesting than anything that came before it. After solving a case at Moriarty’s request, Holmes is given the choice of abandoning his search for answers and never hearing from Moriarty again, or finally learning what happened to his former lover, Irene Adler.
Now, whether ‘Elementary’ has laid enough track with this Irene Adler story to make it connect here is debatable. It has absolutely been explained in prior episodes, as has the fact that Sherlock is still holding a candle for her. But there have been LONG stretches this season with nary a mention of Irene Adler, and while that could be explained by the fact that it’s not an open case and Sherlock is usually pretty good at hiding his emtions, I feel like ‘Elementary’ has dropped this particular narrative thread a couple times. For it to suddenly be used as Holmes’ sole all-encompassing driving force as the season wraps up feels like a bit of a cheat to me.
But either way, Holmes’ obsession with Irene Adler led him to a seemingly-abandoned mansion that Moriarty pointed him to, where Joan Watson surprisingly met him. Watson suspected Holmes would cut her out of the loop, which he did, and took precautions to ensure she’d be there as well.
So our two leads enter the creepy mansion, and a very slow scene unfolds with them carefully inspecting the ground floor. With no talking and only the subtlest hint at music, the scene had a palpable creeping intensity. It was transfixing, and the slightest movement – Holmes raising his arm to signal Watson not to go up the stairs just yet – tremendously heightened the scene. The two find their way to what appears to be an art gallery, and slowly make their way through it to the back.
First we see a woman’s bare foot. That’s followed by Holmes’ face as he begins to sob and calls out her name, followed by a startled Irene Adler, paintbrush in hand, turning to see him.
It’s a big moment in the series, one set up so nicely in the episode, if not necessarily in the season that preceded it. It also serves as a pretty great cliffhanger for the finale, as I’m sure Sherlock will have quite a few questions for his former love.
Unfortunately, the rest of this hour failed to rise to the level of its conclusion, and was a mostly-mundane trip through standard network crime-procedural territory.
At Moriarty’s request, Holmes and Watson investigate the murder of mechanic Wallace Rourke. They determine that the circumstances are fishy, and are led to Darren Sutter, CEO is a risk management company. Holmes immediately identifies Sutter as the culprit after reading his autobiography, which goes into detail about the unsolved murder of his sister, Leah. Sutter eventually turns himself in, explaining that he finally tracked down his sister’s killer, Rourke, and subsequently took justice into his own hands.
The case appears to be solved, but Moriarty insists there’s more to it. After much consternation from Holmes and Watson, they come to the conclusion that Sutter’s wife, who it’s revealed was having an affair with Darren at the time of his sister’s murder, as actually the only eye-witness, and fed the description of the suspect to Darren to tell police. With her husband locked in a grief spiral, she lied and convinced him Rourke was the man she saw.
The whole thing, as Sherlock explained, was designed to teach Sherlock an episode about not striving for revenge, or whatever. All I know is that there was very little intrigue, no action, and no mystery at all. Sutter and his wife are literally the only characters introduced in relation to the case, so obviously they had something to do with it. The stakes of the case itself were low – just solving a cold case – and the outcome itself revealed nothing new about any of our recurring characters.
I’m disappointed that at this late date in the season, ‘Elementary’ couldn’t construct a more interesting episode-specific case, especially with Moriarty in play. But this hour was largely redeemed by the reveal at the end, and the finale should be an interesting one.