I can’t say I ever would have predicted it, but Elementary doing a superhero-themed episode actually makes a lot of sense. After all, Sherlock Holmes is a superhero in a way; though it’s logic and observation that he uses to bring in the bad guys. So, naturally, when a caped crusader ends up shot dead outside of a bakery in Greenpoint, Sherlock is on the case with a fair amount of skepticism turned toward anyone who would try to be a flesh and blood superhero.
The dead superhero in question is the Midnight Ranger. He’s a hero from Superlative Comics, and someone had been infringing on their copyright, dressing up in the full costume, complete with body armor that was shot right through, and walking a beat where he busts drug dealers and small-time thieves. The problem is, there’s no I.D. on the body and nobody knows the true identity of the Midnight Ranger.
Further complicating matters is the fact that there were a number of reasons why someone want the Midnight Ranger dead. He had run-ins with criminals, was infringing on Superlative’s copyright, and a big movie deal was in the works at the time, possibly giving someone motive to “take care” of the infringing party.
Meanwhile, Joan is organizing a clothing drive to benefit a charity close to her heart — seriously, can Joan have one meaningful subplot this season, please! — when she gets a bit of a suspicious donation. It doesn’t come in the form of clothing, but rather in money, and lots of it. She hears that Morland Holmes has donated $250,000 to the cause. As usual, such a good deed doesn’t come without a favor in return. Morland is basically the mafia and it’s fine, totally fine.
It turns out that Morland was hired by a group of Chinese investors to negotiate a deal with the Columbian government in order to dig for oil in the jungle, because of course he was. After a year of negotiating, a competitor came in at the last minute and finalized a deal in a single weekend, prompting Morland to believe he has a mole within his staff. He wants Joan to look into the matter, but she’s not so sure about it. She takes the files he has but says she has to think about it before she really digs into the case.
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While Sherlock is reading through the whole run of Midnight Ranger comics hoping to find some sort of clue, one falls right into his lap — or rather, his roof. He gets a call from a man who says he knows the identity of the Midnight Ranger, and if Sherlock comes up to the roof, he’ll tell him right now. Thus, Sherlock comes across The Standard Bearer, another DIY hero of the city.
Inside the brownstone, and after showing his face out of necessity, The Standard Bearer tells Joan and Sherlock that the Midnight Ranger’s name is Mike Stratton. He suggests that if they’re looking for a lead, they should check his “war journals,” where he kept track of all of his heroic antics.
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As it turns out though, they didn’t even need The Standard Bearer. Mr. Baxter, the editor of the Midnight Ranger comics who the detectives had already questioned, had actually written a check to Mike only a week or so prior to his death. Baxter insists he has a good explanation though. He says that he’s the grandson of the comic’s creator, and that when Mike showed up asking for his blessing in terms of dressing up as the Midnight Ranger and fighting crime, he couldn’t help but say yes. Then, he started sending him money to buy things, like body armor, to keep him safe.
Two things lead the detectives away from Baxter after that. First, they find a belt loop torn from a tactical belt, despite Mike’s being intact on his body. Then a video of a new Midnight Ranger apprehending a thief surfaces, and it’s clear that the new Midnight Ranger is actually The Standard Bearer.
Sherlock tracks down The Standard Bearer, who’s real name is Ben, rather easily, and questions him. He thinks that Ben perhaps killed Mike in order to take over as Midnight Ranger, his favorite superhero. Ben doesn’t seem like a likely suspect though after he tearfully tells them about how seeing Mike as the Midnight Ranger inspired him to be his own hero.
Taking a look through the war journals leads Sherlock to Reny Molina, a small-time drug dealer who had a few confrontations with Mike as the Midnight Ranger. After a few questions that lead nowhere, Sherlock gets Molina to give up a phone that he took from Mike during their last scuffle.
Looking through that phone ends up breaking the case open. The only incoming call on Mike’s phone is from a sergeant’s desk within the NYPD. When Sherlock questions the sergeant, he remembers that a drunk man they brought in called Mike Stratton to come get him. That drunk man? Mr. Baxter, the Midnight Ranger comics editor.
As it turns out, Mr. Baxter harbored a lot of anger toward Superlative Comics and the way they took control of his grandfather’s legacy. A continuous drunk, Mr. Baxter decided he was going to massacre the whole office. Armed to the teeth, he was stopped by Mike. Mr. Baxter then turned around and shot Mike, and in that moment he knew he couldn’t kill anyone else.
With Mr. Baxter arrested for the murder of Mike The Midnight Ranger, Joan closes out the episode by taking care of Morland’s business, despite Sherlock’s warnings that getting involved with him could be dangerous because the shooter he identified escaped from his Russian prison recently. Joan tells Morland that she can’t find any evidence of a mole within his staff, but that’s not the whole truth.
At the end of the episode, Joan tracks down a man in the street and confronts him, saying that he’s the mole that was giving information to Morland’s rivals. Joan doesn’t want to rat him out though. Rather, she wants to use him to get more information. She wants him to continue to be a mole. I don’t know what Joan’s endgame is here, but here’s hoping she gets more to do than run a clothing drive for the rest of the season.