Why Elementary Went With That Shocking Death

elementary shinwell joan

Warning: spoilers ahead for Episode 22 of Elementary Season 5, "Moving Targets."

Season 5 of Elementary is coming to a close, which means that stakes are rising, suspense is building, and bad things are bound to go down. Unfortunately, one of those bad things happened in the latest episode, which saw the death of Shinwell Johnson. He's been a key character in the fifth season, and actor Nelsan Ellis felt like he could have been a part of the cast in the long run, so it undoubtedly came as a shock to many when Joan discovered his body in his apartment. Now, executive producer Rob Doherty has spoken out to explain why Elementary killed off Shinwell the way that it did:

From inception, we viewed him as a tragic figure, someone that would come into Sherlock and Joan's world, disrupt it and leave in tragic fashion. This was always part of the plan. We knew that we were going to pull this trigger, so to speak, at some point in the season, but it certainly felt most appropriate as we were approaching the finale. It platforms everything in a more dramatic fashion as we get into the last two episodes.

Shinwell came into the fold as an informant whose background as an ex-convict and gang member made him a valuable resource for Joan and Sherlock. Unfortunately, it seems that Shinwell crossed the SBK in a way that he couldn't wiggle out of this time. According to Rob Doherty, he never really had a chance to survive Season 5, no matter how many times and ways he made up for his past crimes. His connection with Joan and the manner of his death will undoubtedly drive the plot forward for the foreseeable future. Hopefully episodes will be solid enough to justify the tragedy of his death so early.

Luckily, Rob Doherty went on in his chat with TVLine to promise that Elementary won't delay delivering on the tragedy of Shinwell's end. Doherty went on to say this:

As the [next] episode begins, we have a strong sense that he had news to share with her, that something had changed, which could include the possibility that he was aware he was in danger. Unfortunately, he was [Sherlock and Joan's] most important window into that [SBK] organization. So with his murder, Sherlock and Joan are, virtually, starting from scratch as they swivel their own crosshairs to SBK.

The last we know of Shinwell alive, he had texted Joan to ask her to meet him. Unless he found a way to write down or save whatever it was he wanted to tell her, it may be a secret that he takes to his grave. I have to imagine that whoever killed him did a thorough job of stopping him from talking, which would include taking any potential evidence, but we've been watching Joan and Sherlock solving impossible crimes for years now. If Shinwell knew he was in danger, he might have taken steps to make sure that Joan would get his message somehow.

There are still two episodes left in Season 5, so hopefully we'll get at least some closure on Shinwell's death before the end of the season, not least because we don't yet know for sure if CBS will renew the series for a Season 6. Tune in to CBS on Sundays at 10 p.m. ET to catch the final episodes of Elementary Season 6, and join me in crossing fingers that we get word of an official renewal sooner rather than later.

Don't forget to check out our summer TV premiere schedule to discover all your viewing options now and in the coming weeks. Be sure to drop by our rundowns for cable/streaming and broadcast TV renewals and cancellations as well. Our TV season finale schedule can give you all you need to know about your shows ending.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).