Spoilers for all of Season 2 ahead.
Due to the episodic/criminal of the week nature of Elementary‘s setup, it’s hard to say that there was an overall season plot a la Arrow‘s S2 plot, “defeat Slade”, or Supernatural S1’s plot, “find Dad”. Mostly the really overarching development came in the form of character development as people grew and changed. Season 2 allowed Joan, fresh off her defeat of Moriarty, to really start stretching her investigative muscles. It showed Sherlock advancing in his treatment and becoming another addict’s sponsor, but it also threatened us with his own potential for relapse. It also introduced Sherlock’s brother Mycroft as a restauranteur and businessman.
The two major plot arcs that spanned multiple episodes involved Detective Bell and Mycroft; the former centered around Bell getting shot as a result of Sherlock’s rudeness, the latter around Joan’s relationship with Mycroft (and, relatedly, her desire to move out of the brownstone).
I really appreciated the way the show went through the conflict and resolution of Bell’s injury. Firstly, although the healing process probably was still too quick to be realistic in actual real life, the show did show Bell being disabled by the gunshot, being forced to work through the physical and psychological issues that came along with not being able to do his job the way he was used to, and actually not forgiving Sherlock for his involvement for quite some time. It takes several episodes of Sherlock trying to redeem himself to Bell before Bell relents. I thought this was great, honestly, because if Bell had immediately forgiven him it would have smacked of the writers drastically hurting a character of color as a way to help their white character achieve instant character growth. Instead, Bell got to be a character, too, instead of a prop for Sherlock’s manpain.
The show also continued to paint Joan as a sensible and independent woman; when it becomes clear that Sherlock’s doing (apparently) fine without her as a sober companion, and, more importantly, that she will not be able to make independent decisions about her own personal romantic relationships while sharing living space with Sherlock, she begins looking for a place of her own. She makes it clear to Sherlock that she’s still his friend and still his fellow consulting detective, but that she needs to have her own space and he needs to respect that. She also refuses to be swayed by his desire to make her decisions regarding a romantic relationship with Mycroft entirely about how uncomfortable it would make him, Sherlock, feel.
While I respect Joan’s right to sleep with and/or date whomever she chooses, I found myself overwhelmingly bored by Mycroft. Even the reveal that he was working for MI6 didn’t make me more interested in him. His story seemed to dominate the end of the season, pushing Joan and Sherlock to the side, and I’m not particularly sad that he’s going into deep cover.
One thing I was sad about was the lack of Moriarty in this season; on one hand, I understand it because I’m sure Natalie Dormer was very busy being flawless on Game of Thrones, but on the other hand, the show couldn’t hope to come up with a more compelling villain than her. Elementary‘s take on Moriarty is, like, the Arkenstone of lady villains in media right now, and I need more of her in my life ASAP. That said, there was one part of her minimal role in this season that I was kind of iffy about: her motherhood.
In “The Diabolical Kind”, Moriarty is brought out of lockup to consult on a case involving one of her former henchfolk, who’s gone rogue and kidnapped a young girl. Eventually, it’s revealed that the girl is Moriarty’s daughter. Moriarty manages to get to the kidnapper alone, and, in a fit of Molly Weasley-esque “Not my daughter, you bitch” rage, breaks out of her electroshock restraints, hurting herself profoundly, and kills all her daughter’s assailants. This expression of protective instinct for a fellow human is seen as her first step on the path to redemption, but it struck me as vaguely sexist. Moriarty can be a calculating and nigh-sociopathic criminal mastermind, but her redeeming factor is that she’s a really devoted mom? Yikes. I honestly don’t think her character needs a redemption arc—I’m all about powerful, non-sexualized female villains—but I’ll take it if it means she’ll be on the show more. I just wish that they had chosen a less stereotypically gendered way to begin redeeming her.
Also, Elementary does continue to be one of the most racially diverse shows on TV right now, but I was sad to see that Ms. Hudson still only made a few guest appearances in the season. Trans characters being played by actual trans people is so important for representation, and, in a show that’s done so well with representing people of color, I hope that we begin to see more sexual and gender diversity as well. (I won’t say I’m staking my hopes on the show introducing a female Mary Morstan character as a love interest for Joan, but I am deeply, deeply devoted to that idea. Please, show, give me bi!Joan Watson in Season 3.)
All that said, I do still really love Elementary. It’s one of the few shows that I can tune into every week without a grim fear that they’ll fridge one of my faves or perpetuate some nasty stereotype. I think they’ve done great things with the characters so far, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.