I just watched the penultimate episode of Elementary before its triumphant renewal after the Super Bowl. With that in mind, I wanted to respond a little to my earlier comments on the subject. As in the post cited, I’ll be comparing the show to BBC’s Sherlock, as I feel the two are indelibly linked – particularly to those who consider themselves “hardcore fans” of one or the other.
I am a huge fan of Doctor Who, Steven Moffat and Sherlock. That said, Elementary has been renewed for another season, and I have been thoroughly enjoying it. I don’t think it’s impossible to like both programmes at the same time. In fact, I know it isn’t, because I do.
On the one hand, Sherlock has a more cinematic feel, as each episode is a self-enclosed TV movie. Although more pleasure can be garnered by watching them all in sequence, it stays so close to the source that’s it’s really no trouble to pick up anywhere.
That leads me to my second point; it’s closeness to the source material. Sherlock Holmes is an eccentric, brilliant detective who has a close and unlikely relationship with a retired army Doctor who has an eye for the ladies. Moriarty, Baker Street and everything else you would expect from any other Holmes adaptation is present and correct.
What Moffat and crew add to this adaptation is not only a real love for the original, but also a charm, style and attention to detail which really makes Sherlock stand out from anything else on TV, even the genetically-linked Doctor Who, which must strive to vary its style every week to keep things varied.
On the other hand, we have Elementary. Not quite so slick or stylish, it comes across to begin with as a relatively normal police procedural drama with the mandatory atypical lead. After a few episodes, though, I found that Johnny Lee Miller’s Holmes really began to grow on me. I even stopped noticing his oddly migratory accent.
His relationship with Lucy Liu’s Watson is as interesting as that of Cumberbatch and Freeman, I think, only with less sexual tension. While fans of Sherlock enjoy the potential subtexts of Holmes and Watson’s relationship in the BBC show, it is unthinkable that they should be anything but platonic in a male-female interaction. Although it is kind of illogical, I have to say that I agree, if for no other reason than that it would be nice to see an entirely platonic male-female relationship on TV. It rarely happens unfortunately.
The mysteries in Elementary are all gloriously unconnected to either Moriarty or each other, and in that way are a little closer to Doyle’s original, where the Napoleon of crime only appeared on two occasions. That said, the episode guide on Wikipedia does rather suggest that that might be about to change.
The drug addiction angle they’ve taken with Holmes is very interesting. It makes sense in terms of his addictive personality in the books, but on it’s own merits it give Watson a reason to stay with this awful man until she can see through that to the man he really is. It also give Watson something to do other than be confused with Sherlock is being brilliant. In a very acute way in many episodes, she carries the heart and finds the happy endings where Holmes’ nihilistic logic might let it too often lie on a dark note.
So, yes. For fans of cop shows, Sherlock or just good telly, I’d definitely recommend giving Elementary the time of day. And if you don’t like it, I think Sherlock will be back again in six months or so…