Best Elementary Episodes Ranked

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Man Elementary was a brilliant show. While it may have accidentally coincided with the BBC’s Sherlock series, Elementary was arguably a more consistent show in the long run. While that’s definitely going to divide fans, Elementary was a fantastic adaptation featuring fantastic performances that I’m definitely going to touch on. So before I get into the list properly, here is some history about the show.


Elementary first debuted on CBS in 2012 and followed Sherlock Holmes, a recovering drug addict and consultant detective for the NYPD, and his sober companion turned detective partner, Joan Watson, as they solve seemingly impossible crimes in New York. One of the biggest differences between the BBC’s and CBS’s shows was the gender swapping of Watson…. which was a brilliant thing as it helped further distinguish the shows.

Also, Elementary rightfully received praise for its portrayal of addiction and the struggles in breaking away from it without ever letting it fully define Sherlock. Also, while the show may have ended well enough, it was an absolute powerhouse in the earlier seasons as the episodes below may indicate. So without further ado, here are the best episodes of Elementary.

10: Child Predator (S1, E3)

Now one thing you have to be aware of about Elementary is how it often handles very dark subject matter. Case in point this season 1 episode. What starts out as an episode about Sherlock and Watson tracking down a predator called the Balloon Man soon turns on its head with a very clever twist. Not only does this twist catch the audience off guard but also it looks like the real predator will get away with his crimes. Also, this is another episode which develops the burgeoning friendship between Sherlock and Watson further and that’s always a bonus…

9: Pilot (S1, E1)

Ah yes the pilot which launched Elementary into being the beloved show it is remembered as now. So what makes the pilot so good? Well for one the refreshing take on Sherlock and Watson’s relationship. As mentioned above, Elementary sees Sherlock portrayed as a recovering drug addict with Watson being paid to be his sober companion. This immediately changes the dynamic as Watson acts as a sort of conduit for the audience when she and Sherlock are investigating a crime scene. Overall this is a very fun episode which sets up both Sherlock and Watson’s arcs throughout Elementary’s first season.

8: The Woman (S1, E23)

Now no Sherlock adaptation would be complete without a Moriarty and Elementary is no exception. Except Elementary’s Moriarty is another clever twist on the source material. Now I won’t spoil who Moriarty is yet but let’s just say Irene Adler isn’t who she seems.

So when Sherlock’s lover, Irene, turns up after years he immediately tries to help her recover from her trauma. Yet soon he and Watson realise it’s not Irene who needs protection it’s them. Also huge credit must go to Jonny Lee Miller and Natalie Dormer as both put in terrific performances. And don’t worry there’ll be plenty of great performances from Jonny Lee Miller yet….

7: Paint It Black (S2, E22)

What do Queen and Elementary have in common? They both have great pieces of media called Paint It Black. Besides that tenuous link, Paint it Black is a wonderful episode which furthers the relationship between Sherlock and Mycroft. Oh also Mycroft is played by Rhys Ifans if you needed any more reason to love Elementary.

Anyway, after Mycroft’s involvement with French crime syndicate Le Milieu gets Watson kidnapped Sherlock enters the fray. Soon both men track down Le Milieu and save Watson but at the cost of Mycroft and Joan’s relationship. While Lee Miller and Ifans steal the show, Lucy Liu more than holds her own in a terrific performance. 

6: The Grand Experiment (S2, E24)

Speaking of Joan and Mycroft’s relationship, The Grand Experiment surprisingly sees Mycroft’s involvement with Le Milieu backfire. This forces Sherlock to enter the world of espionage in order to find the mole within MI6 who is trying to frame Mycroft. Naturally this involves faking Mycroft’s death because let’s be honest Sherlock’s had worse plans.

But as mentioned above, this episode also sets in motion the dissolution of Joan and Mycroft’s relationship due to the whole faking his death and going into hiding. Whilst Sherlock does show some level of care for Mycroft there is plenty of childish bickering that feels relatable to anyone with siblings….

5: The Diabolical Kind (S2, E12)

Good news Moriarty fans because this episode is arguably one of her best. When a girl is abducted and her parents are killed, Sherlock and Watson’s worst fears and suspicions are confirmed when a connection is revealed to Moriarty. What follows is a thrilling episode where Sherlock has to make a difficult choice.

Arguably, this is an episode where Jonny Lee Miller really shines as he seemingly lets Moriarty escape the NYPD in order to raise her daughter. Also, it really develops Moriarty and Sherlock’s relationship as we see that under all the torture and manipulation Sherlock does really care for Moriarty.

4: The Illustrious Client (S3, E11)

Now if there’s a side character in Elementary who is just as loved as Sherlock and Watson it’s probably Kitty. And this episode is a large part of why the audience loves Kitty. Based on an Arthur Conan Doyle short story of the same name, this episode shows us how Kitty and Sherlock meet I. London.

This episode serves to add some needed emotional depth to both of the characters as we see that Sherlock needs someone there to keep him on the straight and narrow. Oh and also that ending where Kitty comes back to Sherlock’s training because she needs it as much as he needs her. Fantastic storytelling all round…..

3: Heroine (S1, E24)

Once again this episode sees Elementary delve into the dark side of Sherlock’s addiction and his relationship with Moriarty. Despite all their best efforts, Sherlock and Watson seem to have failed to stop Moriarty’s plan. This plan involves stopping Macedonia’s ascension into the EU.

Yeah this is a near James Bond level of plan here. Anyway, the episode seemingly has the audience believe that Sherlock has finally relapsed into drugs. However, this leads to a phenomenal scene where Sherlock finally snares Moriarty by faking a relapse. God damn this is a difficult episode to watch at times….

2: Reichenbach Falls (S7, E12)

While many will see this as the best Elementary episode, there is one better in my opinion. But good lord Elementary’s take on the Reichenbach Falls plotline. Not only is this a fantastic example of a cat and mouse plot, but it’s probably the best Sherlock and Moriarty episode.

Centred around Sherlock trying to bring down Moriarty for good, he is presumed dead by his allies in the NYPD. Probably because he fakes his death and runs off. For fans, this provides a much anticipated final fight between the two former lovers turned arch rivals.

1: M (S1, E12)

And the best episode of Elementary is…. M. Now for anyone familiar with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s books, M will be a very familiar name. But for those who aren’t, M is a ruthless serial killer who follows Sherlock to New York from London. Arguably this is the first episode where we see how unhinged Sherlock can be when he captures M. Oh and very nearly beats him to death with a hammer for his perceived crimes against Irene. Not only does Jonny Lee Miller deliver a powerhouse performance but Vinnie Jones matches him with a menacing performance. Oh and also the fact M is an Arsenal fan while Lee Miller is a Chelsea fan makes this episode even better.

What are your favourite Elementary episodes? Let me know in the comments below!