Sherlock Holmes and Joan Watson are back in the season 4 kickoff of Elementary, and it’s all about mistakes, forgiveness, and recovery. Holmes relapsed on heroin in the finale last season, and now he has to cope with the fallout with his daddy issues on full display.

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Ready to brave the many, relentless spoilers to come?

If you haven’t been watching Elementary (and who can blame you since we haven’t been recapping it?), the most important features to get you up-to-speed on the past 72 episodes is that this interpretation has a gender-swapped assistant to the great detective, and takes place in present-day New York. It also features a gender-swapped arch nemesis-meets-love-interest: Jamie Moriarty is also Irene Adler, a role created to distract Holmes after he’d ruined too many of her schemes. Season 3 ended with a former acquaintance from Holmes’ darkest time as an addict psychologically torturing him into going back to heroin.

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The Past is Parent skips the usual fallen-addict narrative of relapse-and-intervene, instead skipping directly to a massively embarrassed Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) openly acknowledging his failings and reinstating his iron will to never use again. While his closest friends—partner Dr. Joan Watson (Lucy Liu), Captain Thomas Gregson (Aidan Quinn), and Detective Marcus Bell (Jon Michael Hill)—forgive his slip, the Powers That Be are far less sympathetic. Holmes and Watson are soon fired as consultants for the New York Police Department, and labeled liabilities by the National Security Agency. What’s a forlorn detective to do?

Why, work on cold cases, of course!

Don’t you hire prostitutes for 1927 crime scene reconstruction?

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Setting the tone by musing, “Justice is like an orgasm: it can never come too late,” over a recreation of a 1927 crime scene, Holmes is soon distracted by Jonathan Bloom (Patrick Page). Bloom is confronting Holmes after having his arm broken the previous episode to confess to two murders while denying the third. This sets Holmes onto the episode’s central cold case. The disappearance of Bloom’s wife, Alicia Garcia Bloom, is a high-profile mystery that Holmes hopes will buy Watson enough public relations goodwill to resume her work with the police department solo (“Operation: Bestow Glory”). Of course Watson refuses to abandon her partner, leading to a touching confrontation where she once again affirms they’re equal partners, and will find a way to deal with the stigma of Holmes’ addiction together.

The case is the usually overly-elaborate affair: Alicia’s disappearance is tied to that of another woman, a childhood friend she trauma-bonded with when their attempt to illegally immigrate into the United States went horribly awry. All grown up, the women found the coyote responsible for the massacre of their entire families. Their attempt at vengeance went sour, resulting in their murder instead. Once they unravel the mystery, the detective duo pass off credit to the local New Jersey police and tease each other about becoming commuting consulting detectives.

Holmes gets the photos while Watson is stuck with reciepts.

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But all this is just a distraction from the looming presence of Holmes’s ever-absent father. Sherlock is financially dependent on the über-rich Holmes Senior, a theme previously explored with Sherlock grappling with the threat of finding affordable housing in New York City. Holmes Senior has stood Watson up one too many times in previous episodes, so when he kicks off this season with yet another no-show she tracks down one of his secretaries to issue a violence-laden invitation either show up or go away.

Proving that being violently direct is the way to go when it comes to the Holmes boys of any age, Holmes Senior makes an appearance in the final moments of the episode. The delinquent son and draconian daddy meet amongst the beehives on the roof, briefly engaging in cold banter with father-dearest holding on to a few more moments of mystery by trading barbs with his back to the camera in an homage to Doctor Claw. When Sherlock demands to know why he’s finally shown up now after years of abandonment and neglect, Morland Holmes (John Noble) whirls around to ominiously-yet-meaninglessly proclaim, “You’ve made a mess, Sherlock. I’m here to fix it.”

Dramatic cityscapes give even the most gentle parental scolding more gravitas.

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So, what’s Morland Holmes going to fix in the upcoming episodes? Assuming it’s earning political forgiveness for his relapse so Sherlock can work with the NYPD again, how is Morland going to pull it off, and what price will he demand for his assistance? If not, are we going to be seeing a lot more cases in New Jersey?

Most importantly, what was the best one-liner of the week? We’ve got some strong contenders, almost entirely from the quotable Sherlock Holmes:

  • Sherlock on a 1927 cold case file: “Justice is like an orgasm: it can never come too late.”
  • Sherlock turning down Bloom with a biting “Unfortunately, I’ve got a no-sadists policy.”
  • Sherlock describing Bloom’s abrupt suicide to Watson as: “Bloom left an impression on me last night, not to mention some grey matter.”
  • When discussing the District Attorney not filing felonious assault charges against Sherlock, Watson celebrates with a deadpan, “I’m gonna make us some celebratory leftovers, and then we’re going to talk about all the women that you don’t have to write to.”
  • Sherlock greets his never-seen father with, “My compliments to the virgins whose blood you bathe in.”

And where’s Clyde the turtle?

Elementary airs on Thursday nights on CBS. All images credit CBS.


Contact the author at mika.mckinnon@io9.com or follow her at @MikaMcKinnon.