Thursday, January 22, 2015

REVIEW: 'Elementary' - Kitty Deals with the Emotional Ramifications of Her Attacker's Return in 'The Illustrious Client'

CBS' Elementary - Episode 3.11 "The Illustrious Client"

Watson begins her new job as an in-house investigator for an insurance firm. However, her attention shifts to a case that is personal for both her and Holmes when they join forces to eliminate an imminent threat to Kitty.

Elementary did right by Kitty this season in that they made us care about her as a character and not just as a victim. She joined the show at the start of this season as a new proponent of the ever-changing partnership between Sherlock and Joan. She was Sherlock's new protégé who was eager to learn his craft. And then, we learned about her tragic past. She was a victim of a horrific crime. Most of the regular characters learned the details about what happened to her. The show smartly kept those details away from the audience until we got a better understanding of who Kitty was as a person. We knew that she was abducted and raped. We didn't know all the details about her horrific experience. Her past allowed us to see her differently and brought a renewed sense to the healing process that the show has always handled well. And now, with more details, the show is challenging Kitty's role on the series by bringing her attacker to New York City.

The emotions of "The Illustrious Client" are on point - especially when it comes to the bonds of friendship between Sherlock, Joan and Kitty. This case is understandably very personal to Kitty. She has tried to reinvent herself by moving to New York and taking up this profession with Joan and Sherlock. She has gotten very good at it as well - with Sherlock ready to offer her a full partnership now. But she's not able to just run away from her past which is more brutal than what we first imagined. She was held captive for three days and branded with her rapist's signature mark. She luckily got away by breaking his fingers but she's the only one who was ever able to escape. It's a hallowing experience. One that has shaped her as person afterwards for better and worse. She's trying to move forward but she still holds so much anger towards the man who did this to her.

The police had no leads until the man resurfaced in New York City with a new victim - placed so that Sherlock and Kitty would get the message of his arrival. He has been built up as this precise bad guy who has been stalking Kitty. The dead woman looks just like her. The search eventually leads the team to a house that's a part of the local sex trade. It then leads into a manhunt for Simon de Merville, the criminal leader who escaped and who everyone presumes is Kitty's attacker as well.

The specifics of the plot don't always add up in an understandable way. Kitty's attacker is described as a didactic man who was been stalking Kitty. Simon spends most of the time as a man on the run. There is an ugliness to Kitty never getting some grand confrontation with her attacker as she exacts the punishment that he so righteously deserves. Life isn't always pretty and well-put together like that. However, television usually is. Elementary wouldn't have spent so much time building up this experience from Kitty's past if it wasn't going to have some big climatic moment between the attacker and the victim.

Unsurprisingly, that's exactly what comes out of the episode's last moment twist. All of this also coincidentally happens on the same day that Joan was suppose to start her new job as an in-house investigation for an insurance company. She is able to exploit that connection in order to help the investigation. And yet, that's not the sole reason for this new story. No, it's to establish that her new boss, Del Gruner, is Kitty's actual attacker. In context, it does make sense. It was established that her attacker understood her new life in New York City and that included her friendship with Joan. He must have offered Joan this job in order to get close to her in the hopes of exploiting it later.

It's also a bit of a let down because this new job was previously seen as Joan taking the next step in her life. She was moving in a different direction after finding a new balance with Sherlock that worked. She was excited about this new opportunity and what it presented to her. She ended her private business in order to take this position. It will ultimately just be a ploy to manipulate her and her relationship with Kitty. So, she won't be able to escape the status quo of the show simply because her new boss has ulterior motives for hiring her and doesn't respect the quality of work she offers. That undercuts just how great Joan is. And it's all done so Kitty can get the confirmation of who her attacker is and that he is still alive despite the events of "The Illustrious Client." Yes, it's a powerful moment for a character who is equally scared and angry. But what about Joan? The increased focus on Kitty is taking away from the core duo just a little bit. It's not a major problem but it was more noticeable throughout this episode.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Illustrious Client" was written by Jason Tracey and directed by Guy Ferland.
  • Kitty has had a big presence this season. Much more than either Bell or Gregson have had. Is this big two-part episode arc bringing her story to a head for an ultimate sendoff? Or something else entirely?
  • Kitty has also been suspended from consulting for the NYPD. That could make a partnership with Sherlock a bit more difficult to do.
  • I was worried for Joan's safety in that final scene. I never thought Simon was the big villain. However, I'm relieved that it was Kitty realizing that Del was her real attacker. The show has already done the Joan-gets-abducted plot.