Sherlock and Watson investigate an old missing person's case while dealing with the looming presence of Sherlock's father.
Credit: Jeff Neira/CBS
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Elementary‘s season 3 finale left off in a dark place. After beautifully and disturbingly framing a violent interaction with Oliver, a former heroin “pal” of Sherlock’s, the episode moved to the rooftop of Sherlock and Watson’s brownstone. It’s days later, and Watson is wondering if Sherlock finally wants to talk. He doesn’t, but she informs him that his father is on his way after hearing about what had happened. The camera pans to reveal Sherlock with his eyes glazed over, clearly having relapsed. Quite a way to end the season.

The season 4 premiere does something interesting in that it skips the traditional relapse narrative. There’s no big scene where Sherlock is confronted by his friends and told to get clean. There’s no heightened drama. Instead, the show goes low-key, presenting a now-clean Sherlock — just days after the events of last season’s finale — as embarrassed and guilt-ridden more than anything else.

Even with all of that weighing Sherlock down, he’s really just trying to get on with his job. He’s re-creating old (very old) crime scenes and trying to solve them, probably to distract himself from the fact that the D.A. will soon be deciding whether or not to charge him with “felonious assault,” a charge that could see Sherlock sent to prison.

As if that’s not enough, while on his way to a meeting, Sherlock is confronted by Jonathan Bloom, the man who allegedly killed his wife, made a few other women disappear, and is an all-around scumbag who Sherlock is more than familiar with. After admitting to Sherlock that he did kill two women, even going so far as to tell him where he buried the bodies, he tells Sherlock that he didn’t kill his wife, Elissia. Then he shoots himself in the face.

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That admission of guilt, followed by the suicide, intrigues Sherlock and he begins to investigate the claim. He tells the NYPD what happened, and they find the two bodies buried, leading Sherlock to believe that Bloom likely didn’t kill Elissia. He discovers, through a crazy amount of work involving his own “personal documents” pertaining to Bloom and the disappearance of Elissia, that a woman named Maribel Fonseca went missing from a motel the same week that Elissia did.

As Sherlock points out to Watson, both women are originally from Honduras, are attractive, and in their early 30s. The connection between the women goes further though. When Sherlock and Watson look through all of Maribel’s things from the motel where she went missing, they find a photo of Maribel and Elissia together when they were teenagers.

After doing some digging, Sherlock discovers that in 1995, Elissia and Maribel were being smuggled from Central America through Mexico with the hopes of reaching the United States by a “coyote” or smuggler. While the girls eventually made it to the United States, they were almost killed by a cartel in Mexico, leading Holmes to believe that perhaps someone involved in that violent interaction had come after them.

He asks Watson to head to a restaurant where Elissia was known to frequent and question the owner. The owner (played by Dexter‘s David Zayas) says he’s never seen Elissia but that Maribel looks familiar. He says she came in a long time ago showing him pictures of a tall, handsome Latino man and asking if he’d seen him. When given this information, Holmes decides that it wasn’t that anyone was coming after Elissia and Maribel, but that they were going after someone — that they were trying to find this man and kill him.

NEXT: El Gato

While all of this is going on, Holmes is informed by the captain that his, as well as Watson’s, working relationship with the NYPD will be coming to an end whether charges are filed against him or not. Apparently the higher-ups don’t have much interest in working with a drug addict who almost killed a man. Oh, and Mr. Holmes (thee Mr. Holmes, as his assistant/sidekick/garbage person, Mr. Cook, pronounces it) keeps saying he’s going to come see his son but consistently fails to actually show. Typical.

Back to the case, though. Sherlock digs into Elissia and Maribel’s phone records and finds a timeline that would suggest they planned a murder, a hunch only bolstered by purchases at a hardware store that would suggest murder: you know, shovels, drain cleaner, all that fun stuff.

Sherlock and Watson go to visit a cartel member in prison. He doesn’t have a lot of information, and is reluctant to give up any in general, but a little threat from Holmes gets things moving. The inmate only knows that all the cartel members from “that night” are dead, but that the coyote lived. He was working under the name El Gato, a.k.a. the Cat, and could be the man they’re looking for.

Moments later, when Sherlock finds out that he’s not being charged with felonious assault and that he’s not going to prison, he tells Watson his true plan: to solve this high-profile case and give her all the credit to ensure that she can continue to work alongside the NYPD. It’s a noble move, but Watson is having none of it and reminds him that she got into this not to work with the NYPD, but to work with him. Their partnership is the priority, and she’ll follow him wherever he goes.

With that good news out of the way, the two can focus on bringing the case home. Sherlock finds records of El Gato, but they all describe him as chubby with a receding hairline, hardly the “tall, handsome” man that the restaurant owner described.

That’s when Watson puts it together. The restaurant’s name translates to “The Ninth Life,” and the owner’s build fits the description of El Gato. Add to that a viral video that shows the owner taking down a man pointing a gun at him, and you have the man who Elissia and Maribel came after for his actions in 1995. As El Gato points out, though, Sherlock himself says that if he killed the women it was in self-defense, as they came after him.

While they can’t send El Gato away for killing Maribel and Elissia, they can put him away on another charge. They arrest him for the murder of another coyote in San Pedro in 1999, and as Watson points out, Honduras and the U.S. have an extradition agreement that extends back over 100 years. That means no cozy American prison for El Gato.

With that case solved, all that’s left is for Sherlock to come home and, because the man has timing, find his father waiting on the roof. Sherlock tells him he’s looking good, in so many words; “compliments to the virgins whose blood you bathe in,” he says. The season 4 premiere is pretty convoluted and overstuffed, but the presence of thee Mr. Holmes ensures that things are probably about to get real interesting.

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