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18 October 2013 @ 01:08 pm
Elementary: Poison Pen  
An unexpectedly dark episode for me.

It's a terrible thing how the Parent Sexually Abusing Their Child storyline has been used so many times that I've grown largely desensitized to it. So I'm unsure if it's a good thing or bad thing or an not that important a question thing that this storyline cropping up on Elementary really affected me. Particularly given the conclusion of the episode.

I liked the morally ambiguous conclusion of the episode with Abigail essentially paying for the crime of murdering her father by taking the blame for Graham murdering his father. On the surface one can say that justice was neatly served with Abigail's father getting what he deserved and Abigail not being exempt from taking a life, no matter how horrible that life was. Plus, she held herself culpable to some degree that she hadn't seen what was going on with Graham. However, I also saw layers of Abigail essentially rescuing that part of herself that she wasn't able to with the murder of her father, her child-self who was lost due to his abuse and the media circus that destroyed her life. By rescuing Graham, she's ensuring someone who had the same crime inflicted on them survives.

I wasn't as clear on how we were supposed to take Graham escaping, though. He did kill someone and as Sherlock said of Abigail, he killed but he's not a killer. And yet does this mean that sometime in the future he's going to have to own up to it? In terms of justified killing, both he and Abigail had every right. But the show with Abigail's story seems to suggest that no matter how right the crime, you can't necessarily escape your actions forever. I almost want there to some sort of follow up with Graham's story because it felt a little too neat. They also left largely untouched the fact that he was going to let Abigail go to prison for something she hadn't done, despite caring about her which I really wanted to know more about.

The scene when Holmes and Crew confront Graham about knowing what had been going on was painful. The acting levels seemed almost disjointed because everyone was saying their lines while the actor playing Graham just sat there silently with tears running down his face. It's probably a testament to the actual individual acting going on that I wanted the interview to stop so someone could call in psychologist, counselor or SOMETHING rather than just have Graham have to sit there and be interrogated alone, despite him asking for the privacy.

The episode with Abigail going to prison and Graham escaping but clearly with scars was unsettling to me. I can't put an exact finger on why. Perhaps it has to do with the overall feeling that lives were destroyed and there's nothing to be done about it anymore because the people who were the cause of the damage (Abigail's father and Graham's father) had already been killed off before the episode began. All we got to see was the leftover carnage.
aelfgyfu_mead: Very angry indeedaelfgyfu_mead on October 19th, 2013 02:30 am (UTC)
I had serious problems with the episode. First, I don't think that Graham and Abigail really did have "every right." I wish they had reported it! I have not been desensitized enough, I think, because it really upset me. I wasn't confident that Graham wouldn't kill again. He could have had proof, he could have sought help, but he didn't. He killed his father instead. Then he allowed Abigail to take the fall.

I'm not saying that I didn't feel for Graham and Abigail; I really did. But I can't just excuse them or say they had a right to do it. I don't even know that Holmes was wrong to let first one and then the other go. He may well be right that neither will kill again.

A little later, I felt angry about the episode. I feel very manipulated. I did feel pretty much what I was supposed to feel, I suspect. The more I thought about it, the more wildly implausible the whole thing seemed:
- the father drank the poisoned drink without ever noticing that his son had come home unexpectedly and tampered with it
- the victim someone tried to frame as a devotee of BDSM was really morally reprobate
- a woman abused by her own father ended up as a nanny and did not in fact catch any signs of abuse by the father for whom she worked
- the mother and the son both wanted to try the same method, for different reasons
- both the son and the mother were depending on each other for their alibi on the same night
- Abigail was even hired as a nanny in the first place! The family was rich; how did they not do extensive background checks when they first hired her? How could they not know that she wasn't Ann Barker or whatever the new name was?
- Abigail was Holmes's first killer and escaped to the city that was his escape as well
- Abigail responded to Holmes's letters in the first place when she was otherwise miserable and trying to escape her life.
There might be more.

I agree: lives were destroyed, and it seemed for nothing. I feel as though if Graham had found help for the abuse, they could have imprisoned his father and protected his brother without Abigail's life being ruined, and Graham wouldn't have to deal with the guilt. We saw what it did to Abigail, and she didn't even have the burden of knowing that someone else had taken her punishment. If Graham has any decency, the guilt will eat away at him. If he doesn't, then he probably will kill again. Nobody wins.

The writers were messing with us more than usual, and I feel resentful.

I'm also upset that I ever let my daughter watch. I don't want to try to stop her now because I know how I would have reacted to that, and I can only imagine what she might do with the Internet. She might not stop at just watching episodes behind our backs. I suppose it's my own fault. It's a 10 pm show. We time-shift everything; I didn't pay that much attention.

Mostly, though, I'm angry at the writers for manipulating us so much. They're usually better than this.
formerly lifeinsomniacjoonscribble on October 19th, 2013 02:44 am (UTC)
I feel as though if Graham had found help for the abuse, they could have imprisoned his father and protected his brother without Abigail's life being ruined,

The original crimes that set in motion this entire thing, mainly the sexual abuse and the family history was not even remotely expanded enough in the episode itself. Hence, I think I hand-waved a LOT to go with the show's premise that Graham and Abigail both felt murder was their only resort.

I didn't do as much self-fill in background for Abigail but for Graham I largely decided that Graham had the fear that even if he brought charges up against his father, his father's vast amount of wealth and influence would make the case go away and he'd be in even more trouble for whistle-blowing in the first place.

Granted, this fear of Graham's (which I'm fanon-ing in here) may not be realistic but having worked with a few survivors of incestuous child abuse, it's amazing to me what their tormentors got them to believe would happen should they try and seek outside help. So I was willing to go along with the idea that Graham believed killing his father was the only way to insure that he and his brother would be safe. But I did want a bit more insight into him sacrificing Abigail for this end. So yes, DOES he feel guilty? Or is this the beginning of an extremely slippery slope for him?

I agree with you that the heaps of coincidences and a family as wealthy as Graham's not doing enough of a background check to figure out who Abigail was felt completely improbable. Someone pointed out to me that while characterizations and use of the main characters in Elementary tend to be stellar, the actual mysteries are completely rubbish. I half agree but I think my brain tends to half shut itself off when I try and follow the mystery because I will no doubt see huge plot holes.

My issue or rather discomfort with this episode and its tone is that things felt very much unresolved and ambiguous with regard to morals and the nature of justice. When that stuff is done well, the uneasiness feels almost good in a way because you know you've seen something that's disturbed you in a profound way. But in this case as you pointed out, the writers felt more manipulative or lazy with what they could do with the hour.