Yay!! Bell is back with the team! I am such a fan of this episode and everything that it did for the characters. When it comes to the case-of-the-week plot, I'm slightly less certain... but let's slow down and take a closer look.
Here's the short summary: Bell finds a dead body in a barrel and Gregson is brought in to investigate, which means Bell has to work with Sherlock. The victim is a member of the mob, and that starts them down a path which eventually leads to the arrest of a police officer who was dirty, and in cahoots with the mob. Actually, this guy was blackmailing mob members. Bell struggles to work with Sherlock, but eventually he manages to put aside his anger. He takes his old job back by the end of the episode.
So. I'll start with the stuff that I didn't love. The case itself. It was rather... simple. It was a bit cliche. Basically, you've got the mob stuff, and then you've got the dirty cop stuff, and it was all sort of obvious where it was going. I guess the case was really just a vehicle to hold more interesting character stuff, but I can normally expect a bit better from this show.
But everything else? Great! I loved Joan's heavy involvement in the case. Her knowledge of mob drama was actually what helped them ID the victim and put together a lot of the pieces along the way. What I love about Joan is that she really is intelligent in her own right, and her genius isn't belittled just because Sherlock is smarter. In this case, her information was extraordinarily important.
And of course the focus of this episode really was on Bell. I loved seeing him in his new job, which he was obviously good at, but that he equally obviously did not enjoy as much as his detective work. The episode did a good job of showing this with just the atmosphere and the expressions on Bell's face. And then we can see how much he's struggling with Sherlock around. It's hard for him to be a professional when his feelings about Sherlock are so confusing to him.
The highlight of the whole episode was undoubtedly when Sherlock and Bell have their confrontation. Earlier, Sherlock had maneuvered himself into Bell's department, trying to force a confrontation and reconciliation. Bell calls him out on it, and the two of them talk - Bell says that there's no guarantee his rehab will even work, and Sherlock insists that he believes in Bell. Bell expresses his irritation with Sherlock, and says it must be so easy for him, but that it's not easy for everyone. At this point, Sherlock reminds Bell quite angrily that he is a drug addict. Things are not easy for him, but he fought through the tough times and now he has a support system and a life that he loves. He thinks the same is possible for Bell, and he wants him to have it.
See, what's great about Elementary is that they don't shy away from the more difficult aspects of character relationships. I loved this episode because it really explored Bell's pain and his reluctance to forgive Sherlock. It wasn't a straightforward issue, and we really saw all of its complexities.
So, there you have it! A good strong week for Joan's deductive skills, and a nice look at Sherlock and Bell's complex relationship. Even if the case wasn't the strongest, this episode was still a great one.