Thursday, May 16, 2013

Love. A finale.

Tonight it all comes to a close. The long season of Elementary, the seemingly endless series of scathing blogs on that subject. It has been said that Elementary can do no right in the eyes of some of us, while Sherlock can do no wrong. And that, it must be said, is somewhat true.

Tonight, I have come to understand why, thanks to one of life's curious coincidences. The season finale of Elementary just happened to be on the same night as the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness. One could say it's Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller double feature night, if you time it right, and I was lucky enough to do just that. A 4:45 matinee of Star Trek, followed by an 8:00 showing of Elementary.

So let's talk about Star Trek. I love Star Trek, just as I love Sherlock Holmes. Both mythos are, at their heart, about humanity at its best, facing the unknown with logic, passion, and courage. In Star Trek, we find those qualities spread across a larger cast, true, but they are the same. And tonight, I really enjoyed Star Trek: Into Darkness, despite a few flaws which struck the good Carter more strongly than myself. I think I enjoyed it even more than its predecessor.

And here is why. Among all the story elements, plot twists, sly and not-so-sly references, I got one message from director J.J. Abrams and writers Robert Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Damon Lindelof, and one message alone. That message?

We understand. And we love Star Trek, too.

For all the running, running, running, the constant action, and occasional moment of cheese, that single message touched the very heart of my love of Star Trek.

We understand. And we love Star Trek, too.

If you were to ask me why I don't seem to see the imperfections of Sherlock (Yes, I am not fond of "The Blind Banker," either.), it is because I get the same message from both seasons of Sherlock and its creators, Stephen Moffat and Mark Gatiss:

We understand. And we love Sherlock Holmes, too.

The story of how they came upon the idea to do a modern day Sherlock Holmes story is a story of fans, the sort of story I'd hear from friends of mine, if they worked in television. And those really good episodes of Sherlock showed a fan's knowledge and caring. The use of A Private Life of Sherlock Holmes to build "A Scandal in Belgravia," was sheer subtle genius. Putting Moriarty on trial, as Basil Rathbone did, a true confection. With such beautifully woven bits of reverence to the Master, how could I not forgive Sherlock a few imperfections?

We understand. And we love Sherlock Holmes, too.

And now comes the season finale of Elementary. And, SPOILER ALERT, here comes Irene Adler at last. Irene Adler the painter, Irene Adler the prisoner of a fellow named Stapleton, Irene Adler the princess held away in a modern castle. Joining Moran, the serial exsanguinator. Watson, the sober companion. Miss Hudson, the expert in ancient Greece. And Mr. Elementary.

Canonical references scattered like bread crumbs to pigeons.

There is no love of Sherlock Holmes in tonight's soap opera of Mr. Elementary and painter Irene. This, as with the rest of the season, is that classic egotism of the non-fan who thinks they can rewrite a classic to their own needs (or the needs of the network that's paying them) and turn out a product that's just as good. Or maybe even better, they hope. They're just doing their job, and not everyone gets to work at a job they love.

CBS could have done a little more thorough job search and found someone who loved Sherlock Holmes to create this show. They could have negotiated a little further with the Sherlock folk. But they took the cheap and expedient route and we got Elementary, a show that may be a labor of love to somebody, but it's not the love of Sherlock Holmes.

And personally, I'm not a pigeon who is going to be happy with a few crumbs. Or a mythos where every single character is a victim. As I said before, both Sherlock Holmes and Star Trek are about humanity at it's best and most hopeful. The original Holmes tales were about finding reasonable truths behind the most unbelievable circumstances. Elementary feeds into the culture of fear and victimization, where serial killers lurk around every corner and people do the most evil things to each other. Mt. Elementary literally stands shorter among his fellow man than the classic Sherlocks, and figuratively as well.

Mr. Elementary leaves Joan Watson to deal with Moriarty in this sad, sad world. And that's not the least of it. Irene is Moriarty. Yup. And, I saw this cheap little twist a'coming. Yes, I did. And what's the message I get from one more manipulation of the characters to put a square peg in a round twist hole?

We don't get Sherlock Holmes. And we don't care.

That's the message I get from Elementary, week after week. I know there are those folks out there who enjoy this show for reasons of their own. Maybe they even love it, though I don't seem to hear those words being said a lot, like I do when the subject of Sherlock comes up. But that's for them to describe in their blogs. And I hope they love their show enough to write those blogs.

Me, I love Sherlock Holmes. And I love creators that love Sherlock Holmes, too, even if they're bad pasticheurs who are bravely attempting a character beyond their skills. I'll take those attempts over a corporate-produced ratings fodder like Elementary any day.

So tonight, we bid adieu to Mr. Elementary for a few months. I won't miss him. Forty-five minutes left in tonight's episode, and I think I'll let his fans have those forty-five minutes of content without my commentary as a parting gift. If something turns this whole season of episodes around in that time, you can count on me coming back, but I think it's shot its wad for tonight.

Oh, and Benedict Cumberbatch in Star Trek: Into Darkness?  Amazing.


  1. "We don't get Sherlock Holmes. And we don't care." Yes. Exactly that. Watching the show tonight after a long hiatus (there's only so much disappointment one can take) and hoping to give it one more chance on its season finale, I felt like I have every time I've watched the show--that Elementary doesn't give a crap about plot or character development. It's all about tossing out random canonical references by using character names to legitimize themselves; they don't care about Holmes and Watson, they don't care about the history of the characters, they certainly don't care about the fan base, and they don't even care whether or not they care. It's all bottom line. It's just like any other TV show. And that's not enough for me, not by a long shot.

  2. "We don't get Sherlock Holmes. And we don't care. That's the message I get from Elementary, week after week"

    "I'll take those attempts over a corporate-produced ratings fodder like Elementary any day."

    Well put. Having seen the final episode, I can safely say it won't have you singing Elementary's praise any time soon.


  3. "Irene is Moriarty."

    WHAT?!? You must be kidding.

    Here in Germany they've only shown the first six episodes. Now they're on hiatus for whatever reasons. Ratings...?

    James O'Leary always accuses me of seeing conspiracies everywhere, but I've said from the beginning, and I'm standing by it, that Elementary was created after CBS did some marketing research and decided to do all the things right that some (very vocal) fans claimed Sherlock did wrong.

    Not enough racial diversity? Check. Let's have lots of CoCs.
    Not enough gender equality? Check. Let's make Watson a woman and Mrs Hudson a trans-person.
    Irene has not enough own agenda? Check. Let's make her the ultimate villain.
    Sherlock's too clever, superior and rude? Check. Let's make him a dud.

    And it did work in parts. That vocal minority embraced Elementary and touted it's superiority about Sherlock. I wonder what they'll make of this new development....

    1. Yep, ratings....not only where the critics over here much more negative (the one of the Welt was especially scathing), but the ratings plummeted after the premiere, even more so than they did in the US. Elementary is neither intelligent nor stupid enough to do well over here.

  4. Sorry to bother you again, but in addendum to my last I've just thought that when Sherlock is organically grown, a lovechild of two fanboys who have often enough said they love it so much they would make it just for each other, if they could afford it, Elementary is Frankenstein's monster patched together from the pieces I've mentioned above.

  5. Read your blog even though I haven't watched the last episode yet. Not in to it enough to worry about the spoiler. Hmmm? Irene as Moriarty? Well, women are never to be entirely trusted - perhaps this is where this Sherlock gets that idea?

  6. I'm sorry that you couldn't watch the finale with an open mind. It did several interesting things for modern gender equality. Moriarty is a woman and the female Watson was able to defeat her where Sherlock failed. It is certainly thought provoking.
    Sadly you were duped by J.J. Abrams who on The Daily Show admitted that he was not a fan of Star Trek but certainly fooled you. You must of been amazed by the 3D and forgotten in old black and white cheap sets. Perhaps you need to go see Gatsby.

    1. My mind was as open as the season preceding it would allow it to be. Thought-provoking? Well, it's good of you to be so loyal to the show, in any case.

      And while Abrams was not a true lover of Star Trek, he hired writers who were to fill in his deficiencies. For that, he deserves full marks. The love was there, even if he recruited it. Didn't see it or Gatsby, in 3D, not a fan.

    2. Mr. Sveum, I didn't watch the finale, but, I must say, in this day and age it should take more than simply seeing women successfully execute dominant roles to be "thought-provoking." I had hoped we'd moved further along in our perceptions of gender equality, so I hope what you found thought-provoking went a little deeper than that.

    3. Dick, I did watch the finale with as open a mind as I could muster. I actually enjoyed some of it, because I really like actress Natalie Dormer and was amazed at how well she did an American accent. But Elementary breaks my heart every time I give it a chance. It tempts me with claiming to offer a Sherlock Holmes experience, when it actually is nothing of the kind.

      I came to the show initially with low expectations. I felt that BBC Sherlock did a superlative job for the most part, so it appeared that CBS was jumping on the bandwagon late in the game. Having an Asian woman playing Watson intrigued me, but it certainly wasn't ground-breaking. Of course women can and should play any role a man has traditionally played (and vice versa), but at this point in our social history doing so does not make it "thought-provoking." It's not cutting-edge and makes no social statement. And it certainly does not excuse the show from its lack of attention to detail with regard to plot development. Do you know what might have done it for me? An Asian woman playing Sherlock Holmes. Lucy Liu can say more with her face in 30 seconds than Jonny Lee Miller can prattle on about for 30 minutes.

      Early on I watched the first several episodes and had decided it wasn't worth watching at all if all I could do was find fault. I certainly wasn't enjoying watching it. Plot holes big enough to drive a semi through, disappearing/sometimes-reappearing characters, the frenetic patter of Jonny Lee Miller's Holmes and the premise that a washed-out junkie who had been discarded by Scotland Yard would be at all welcomed or even sought out by the New York Police Department all made it impossible to enjoy, especially if one has been immersed in crime fiction on screen and in print as I have. I set my standards low for network TV, but even that was far above what Elementary has ever offered.

      Adler as Moriarty? Sure. I called it halfway through the first half of the finale. Elementary's "cleverness" has become as predictable as their plots. Rather than spending so much energy on trying to tweak the public's perceptions, perhaps they could spend a little time on giving us a story to watch. My disenchantment does not come from a female Watson or Irene Adler being Moriarty; it comes from the lack of respect for the intelligence of the viewers by the assumption that all it takes to hold our interest is gender-switching and Canonical character names.

      I make no assumptions about you, Dick, nor any of my other friends who enjoy Elementary, nor do I pass any judgment. What you enjoy should never be determined by any opinion other than your own. I wish I could enjoy it as well, but try as I might, there is just not enough "there" there for me. And there certainly is not enough of Canon--nor even good writing of any sort--in any part of the show to make me watch it ever again.

      I'd hoped the season finale might sway me toward liking Elementary. But a predictable two-hour show is twice as bad as a weekly one-hour show. I'm done.

  7. Great comment. Agree with you on all of your points. Especially about Lucy Liu. She would have made a better Holmes than JLM.

    And you reserved your best for the last:

    "But a predictable two-hour show is twice as bad as a weekly one-hour show."


  8. Watched it online last night. Oh, Elementary, you're so classy! It was boring, predictable and the leads still have no chemistry at all. I wouldn't be surprised at all, if, years later, we've got to read an (auto)biography by/of one or the other and found that they didn't even like each other. I was surprised myself at how much I disliked Aidan Quinn as Gregson. *He* doesn't seem to like Holmes at all.

    What a difference from Sherlock were cast and crew really seem to be one big family, constantly chatting on twitter and meeting and hanging with each other outside of work.

    But no wonder with someone like SM at the helm:

    Sherlock-talk starts at 2:05.

  9. Last day of filming Sherlock:

  10. I think they get it far more than you may think. I think they know full well the expectations that a century+'s worth of adaptations have given us, and they play with them and twist them around. Adler is more or less a cypher. But they knew what we expected of her, and what we expect of female characters in fiction generally, and they played us like a violin.