Liss and Ana Talk About Elementary

[Content Note: Violence; harassment; misogyny. Spoilers for the most recent episode of Elementary.]

image of Sherlock and Joan standing beside a table; Sherlock is gesturing toward a window
"Elementary, my dear Watson! This show has obviously gone right out the window!"

Liss: All right, I just need to start this entire thing by saying I HATED THE ENTIRE SUBPLOT ABOUT SHERLOCK AND JOAN'S FRIEND. I hated it SO MUCH! Everything about it was terrible! And Sherlock DOESN'T WEAR CONDOMS?! WHUT. Nope. No. Nope. Fail.

Ana: OMG, lady, the Friend Subplot. I was going along really side-eying the whole thing because it seemed like we were supposed to be proud of Joan for forging her own path, etc. except that I was wondering if Joan has any friends who AREN'T terrible stereotypes of women, because Friend A makes a match-making profile for her and Friend B has her track down a one-night stand in a way that was setting off my stalker- and privacy-alarm bells right after an episode arc wherein Joan got to find out how it feels to be hacked and tracked down and victimized?? Like, remember when it was creepy because that Nice Guy showed up on her doorstep and I wanted to give the writers cookies for (maybe) recognizing that it was creepy? I TAKE IT BACK. I WAS TOO CHARITABLE. "Hi, I'm the girl you slept with; I had my detective friend find you" is NOT OKAY. Give me my cookies back, Elementary.

And then the Reveal that it was Sherlock All Along was SO awful. He was spying on her? We're going to retcon that in now, even though they were so rarely apart that it was a HUGE plot point and her friends staged an intervention and NOPE NEVERMIND JOAN DIDN'T NOTICE HIM BEING OUT ALL NIGHT LONG WHILE HE WAS SLEEPING WITH HER FRIEND! AND MAYBE DRINKING, EVEN THOUGH SHE WAS TESTING HIM AFTER EVERY ABSENCE! I did sorta cheer a little when she said an apology wouldn't smooth things over (because if they're going to serve us a shit sandwich, I want Joan to at least point out that it's stinky as butts), only I guess she was lying to us, because that seemed to smooth everything over perfectly. *that face*

Liss: It was so bad. SO BAD. And I hate that every time we see Joan with one of her female friends, they're talking about Some Dude. It's like the writers of Elementary are deliberately laughing at the Bechdel Test. "What completely contrived interaction can we conceive in order to make Joan talk about nothing but a dude with any lady to whom she speaks?"

Ana: YES. Have we even passed Bechdel this season?? Even the conversation about the dead dolls revolved more than a little around Sherlock. And, hey, Liss? Remember when ALL YOUR GIRLFRIENDS did these wacky match-making and sex-finding shenanigans? Because I don't remember doing that to you!! I sort of remember you and me and my other lady-friends having conversations that weren't lifted straight out of Sex In Sherlock's City. Huh! (I hope Friend C will show up soon to ask Joan to track down her baby's Sperm Donor! Won't that be THE BEST EPISODE EVER?!?)

Liss: Which brings us back to the HA HA TRICK Joan pulls on Sherlock at the end of the episode, which strongly implies he doesn't have protected sex, because it seemed eminently plausible to him that he could have impregnated Joan's friend. That just utterly pissed me off, because just no. Given Sherlock's intimate familiarity, ahem, with the sex trade, no less his general Sherlockness, he would definitely wear a condom during any casual encounter.

Ana: I was so puzzled at ALL OF THAT. Like, whut. The only other way I could make it work would be if… she supplied the condoms… and we were going with the Conniving Woman Pokes Holes in the Condom thing…??

Liss: Except that his reaction was clearly OH SHIT, and not BULLSHIT—I wore a condom.

Ana: Everything about the ending was just awful and weird and wrong. BUT I DID LAUGH AND LAUGH very bitterly because remember last week when I said to you that I was tired of every episode being about when/if/how often Sherlock gets his dick wet? HA HA, I AM ON TO YOU, WRITERS OF ELEMENTARY.

Liss: I can barely even remember what the rest of the episode was about, because I hated that subplot so much, lol. All I remember is Iain saying, "Meh, this mystery's all right," and my saying, "It's just a standard procedural now. All of the charm has gone out of it," and Iain saying, "Yeah," and then surfing the web on his phone while the show was on, because it doesn't command attention the way it did in Season One. Sadface.

Ana: Is it weird that I was sort of relieved that this episode was so much LESS BAD than the previous ones in terms of the actual crime? But I agree with you that it's just another procedural; I feel like I'm watching CSI now. When Sherlock was listening to the bees and he told Captain Gregson that there was a Third Person on the Grassy Knoll, I said to Husband, "Well, it's gotta be the wife, because she had too much screen time" and LO AND BEHOLD IT WAS.

Liss: I also figured out it was the wife really early in the episode. Like, as soon as she was onscreen, basically. Because she was talking about Jesus, so naturally I knew that would make her the killer. Ain't no white-ethnic ladies talking about Jesus in police procedurals who didn't dunnit!

Ana: Yeah. I mean they can't all be winners, but (a) remember when this show found a dead guy in the wall and it wasn't the wife because this show was about turning those stereotypes on their heads, and (b) this is HOW MANY EPISODES this season where the scheming woman turns out to be the conniving killer?

Liss: Eleventy million?

Ana: We had the Lady Mathematician who tried to frame her boyfriend, the Wife Who Tried to Kill Her Husband (Apparently for His Money Because She Didn't Know about the Sexual Assault, and Wimmin Are Greedy Amiright?), and (in the same episode) Sherlock's First Love Who Totes Murdered Her Dad. Now we have the Foreign Wife who has mob connections, because OF COURSE all Russian women know how to contact the mob when they need to get rid of their husbands. I just… this feels so formulaic and not subversive and clever like it once was.

Liss: Totally. And all of this Shady Lady stuff, combined with Joan's Dippy Girlfriends subplots, conspires to create an implicit Exceptional Woman narrative for Joan. Because there aren't any other women around besides those who are obsessed with men to kill them or fuck them!

Last season, Joan interacted with professional women with whom she had conversations about things other than dead or desired men. That centered her in a universe in which she was a person among people, not an Exceptional Woman among men-people. WHAT HAPPENED TO THAT?

So many pop culture writers wrongly imagine that the Exceptional Woman trope enhances a female character—but it doesn't. It diminishes her. And that is all the more stark when it's a woman who used to a person in Season One. Frown.

Ana: Also, when men are the killers, they seem like an afterthought to the larger plot. Like, Episode 1 was CLEARLY about London and 3D printing. The killer was incidental. And that Snowden/Assange episode was CLEALRY about whistleblowers and people who read Ayn Rand being terrible. So it's not just that the lady killers outnumber the men—it's that they're more memorable as Terrible People as opposed to an accessory to a neat idea. I feel like it reinforces misogyny and stereotypes about Terrible Women while making men-who-kill-women even more invisible than they already are.

Liss: YES. The difference between the first episode of the season and this one in that regard is stark. "Whoa, 3-D Printing and Guns and Shit!" vs. "Bitchez, Amirite?" And, relatedly, I was expecting a reveal that the wife had some amazing secret background as a spy assassin or something, but nope! Turns out she's just bitter so she turned his ass in to recoup her investment in their business. Sad trombone.

Ana: The only thing I really, truly, genuinely liked in this episode was the administrative assistant to the psychiatrist giving Sherlock *THAT FACE* because he was being a shit. (An arguably justifiable shit Because Murder Investigation, but he was still being a shit in about a dozen different shitty, shitty ways, and she let him know it.) I LOVED THAT ONE THING. I LOVED HER SO MUCH. And I loved her for reminding me of better times when we had a lovely snowplow driver and a snerky Joan and Sherlock gave stolen cell phones to a homeless man. I loved the administrative assistant THAT MUCH. I want her to have a show, just doing administrative assistanty things and making *THAT FACE* at people like Sherlock. SIGH.

Liss: Ha ha! P.S. I am pretty sure Sherlock would have cooler sunglasses than this. The end.

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