People ask me why I watch Elementary, a show I really don't like. And my answer is always the same: I'm a Sherlock Holmes fan. Bill's review of the second season premiere would have had me watching the show, even if I had given it up entirely sometime last fall. But I doubt my reaction would have been any different.
Obviously, I didn't revel in the plethora of Canonical references, as Bill suggested I might. Everything that surrounds them just goes against my Sherlockian grain far too much, which is why I have such a very hard time seeing things from the Elementary Sherlockian fan's point of view. "It's had to enjoy the icing when the cake is bad," a fortune cookie I saw recently read, and I agree. A Sherlock Holmes story, to me, has always been a positive experience. Elementary has a decidedly negative spin, with unpleasant and unlikeable folk at every turn. Even Joan Watson is only there because she has to be, having killed a patient. And she seems lukewarm about the role she's been placed in.
“We get along, basically,” Joan Watson explained her relationship with Mr. Elementary this episode. I expect something more from an exemplary friendship that has shone brightly in our culture for over a century. Lucy Liu's Watson is steady, but perhaps too steady, given the partner she has to work with. If Mycroft has to blow things up to get Mr. Elementary's attention based on her advice, why don't we see her blowing up more? She certainly has good reason to. And we know that Lucy Liu has it well within her most enjoyable acting range. Joan's quietly tolerating this jerk is one of the hardest things for me to believe about this series . . . well, other than the fact that the guy is supposed to be Sherlock Holmes.
Lucy Liu's Watson does remain the sole delight in a dismal Elementary world, so I will give Bill that. While Mr. Elementary continues to dress like Jethro Bodine or a twit from Monty Python, Joan Watson has some very nice togs. I just wish they'd give her more to do.
Like the whole series for her own.
Bill Mason's Counterpoint:
“Art in the blood, Watson. It takes the strangest forms.” Thus spoke Holmes in the closing line of Elementary’s premiere—another of numerous homages to the Canon.
The art of adapting Holmes to a modern setting is akin to what contestants do on Chopped. Familiar ingredients, breaking them down, repurposing them, presenting something wholly new but still fundamentally true. Elementary places new emphasis on familiar points: Lestrade’s credit claiming becomes an addiction to fame he cannot lose; Mycroft doesn’t preserve 221B during a hiatus, he transforms it; Mycroft rivals Sherlock in more than just intellect. Transforming Sherlock’s occasional use of cocaine into addiction has been a running theme. Brad objects to this repurposing, at least inElementary, but if you really want reality and mystery to mix, this is essential. This repurposing doesn’t insult Holmes; it keeps him alive. Just as we in “the game” insist.
Brad has singled out Elementary’s use of Langdale Pike for criticism, but this transformation not only works, it's clever and believable. Instead of gathering information “in the bow window of a St. James’ Street club” (3GAB), Pike does so through London’s surveillance cameras. This is just the sort of informant a modern era Sherlock Holmes would need and utilize. Well done.
I share to some extent Brad’s discomfort with the arrogance and obnoxious rudeness of Holmes. Perhaps, in television versions, this is a device (unneeded in a short story) to set an incomparable Holmes apart from the rest of humanity. Miller, however, has not taken this to a Mr. Data/Sheldon Cooper automaton extreme. Like the Canonical Sherlock Holmes, he does indeed have real emotions, though tightly controlled. That he doesn’t suffer fools gladly is a positive rather than otherwise.
The Elementary chemistry between Holmes and Watson is pitch perfect. I cannot agree that the show “hates” Sherlock Holmes; it clearly treasures him.