When Joan Watson turned up as the Watson with lady parts on CBS's Elementary, it was obvious that the variation on Sherlock was heading into new territory. But after a hundred and twenty years of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson almost always the same gender, one had to wonder if there wasn't an unintentional reason for that, and it looks like, in Elementary's third season, we're going to again be reminded of why.
The word is out that the Canonically-named Kitty Winter is coming on board, and she's doing so as Watson's replacement/rival, according to the first reports. Think about that for a moment: Watson's rival. A key part of Holmes and Watson lore for the past century has been their great friendship, which was something Elementary seemed to miss from the get-go, with Joan Watson's "hired sober companion" status making the coupling seem more like a bad arranged marriage than a friendship.
The "Will they eventually fall in love/sleep together?" question has haunted the show even when the producers said otherwise, and Joan Watson's somewhat forced romance with Elementary's version of Mycroft Holmes just pressed the question further. Now that Mr. Elementary has had a romantic rival in season two of their supposedly unromantic relationship, it seems that Mrs. Elementary is going to have one as well, even though she's endured the parade of prostitutes and business-like purely sexual encounters in their open relationship thus far.
While it's very possible for a heterosexual male and a heterosexual female to have a business-like alliance, a partnership of many sorts, or a deep meaningful relationship as friends, it doesn't seems like Elementary can get its head out of traditional gender stereotypes to explore one of those. Watson must remain fairly chaste, only giving herself to the closest thing to her room-mate as possible, while Mr. Elementary sows his wild oats randomly across New York (while somehow not being nearly as charming as a Captain Jack Harkness). For all its superficial attempts to be daringly different, it's almost afraid of its own transgendered Miss Hudson.
Joan Watson endured the appearance of Mr. Elementary's ex-lover, Jamie Moriarty, in season one. She found her own new boyfriend in season two. Now, in season three, it sure seems like she's being replaced by another "not really a girlfriend, but who are we kidding here."
While BBC's Sherlock likes to titillate its fans with a little bromance, the friendship between the two men is the solid core of the show. While Holmes might have a few insecurities when Watson's old friend Major Sholto returns for the wedding, they pass quickly, and when Mary Morstan enters the picture, as nefarious as past might be, Sherlock accepts her into their friendship and goes the distance to protect the Watsons when needed. Could the John Watson of BBC's Sherlock been a Joan and things have played out the same? I almost think it could.
While the Kitty Winter shake-up actually gives me hopes for Elementary's entertainment value in season three, the whole reason for her being there seems just another example of the show's issues with dealing with a male Holmes and a female Watson who just can't be friends and leave it at that. And in 2014, I really think audiences are up for something more than that.