This week’s Elementary is all about the bees and Sherlock’s desire to protect them. But where do the bees originate in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s canon?
Since Elementary‘s inception, bees and Jonny Lee Miller’s Sherlock Holmes have gone hand in wing. These tiny creatures fascinate the detective keeping him busy writing books in his head, experimenting with cross breeding, and researching ways to end colony collapse disorder. The last note is of particular importance for this week’s episode, “Absconded,” which takes Sherlock to an entomologist and leader of New York’s beekeeping society when a member of his online bee community is murdered.
What was it that sparked the Elementary creators to give Sherlock this particular fascination?
You could say they followed the trail of honey left by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original work. When the famed detective retired from the busy life that kept him running in and out of 221B Baker Street, he took to a cottage in Sussex and picked up bee-keeping. The exchange is short and if a reader skimmed His Last Bow they might even miss it.
Watson says, “But you have retired, Holmes. We heard of you as living the life of a hermit among your bees and your books in a small farm upon the South Downs.” Not only did he retire to watching bees as he once watched London, but Sherlock even wrote a book about his studies entitled Practical Handbook of Bee Culture, with Some Observations upon the Segregation of the Queen. A note that Elementary‘s writers slipped into the first episode of the series where Sherlock introduces his beekeeping hobby to Joan.
Elementary‘s Holmes keeps his bees in a special apiary on the roof of his brownstone where he spends his idle hours monitoring a society that depends upon order and assigned roles. Outside the brownstone, Holmes’ mind is pulled in a million different directions at any given moment. The bees provide a calming combination of strict mental focus, patience, and keen observational skills without the social interaction.
Bees have come and gone in Sherlock’s day to day activities. Their most notable appearances were when Sherlock took a few to unleash upon the contract killer, Sebastian Moran in case he was allergic to the insects. The bees are not called upon for violence often. But they do serve as a safeguard for a matter most near and dear to his heart, his correspondences with Jamie Moriarty. With those letters tucked away in their apiary, Sherlock places his heart in the care of tiny winged subjects.
Over the course of season 3, colony collapse disorder arose a few times and this week fans will be rewarded for paying attention to the subtle clues. We’ve seen him throw verbal attacks at the CEO of AgriNex in episode 10 “Seed Money,” blaming their insecticide for the bee genocide. And witnessed Sherlock’s disputes with BeeBeeKing17. Finally, Sherlock’s failed attempt to bring the hives indoors for study left Watson cast outside the brownstone for an evening.
You can relive the case of gravity and the apiary here.
If colony collapse disorder does not sound like a case for Sherlock Holmes, think again. Imagine, if you will that this mystery fell into the hands of Gregory House, M.D. That particular incarnation of Holmes would be ripe for solving a case where a wide variety of symptoms in no particular combination all lead to the same result. (No, it’s not Lupus.)
Sherlock’s penultimate case tackles and interest as close to his heart as any nonhuman interest will get before the finale puts his emotional resolve to the test.
Watch Elementary season 3, episode 23, “Absconded,” Thursday, May 7 at 10:00 p.m. ET on CBS.