Saturday, December 7, 2013

Mr. Elementary on trial.

Dear fans of CBS's Elementary,
    The following is written for Sherlockian non-fans of Elementary, who like an occasional update of what is going on with that show they don't watch. You might want to do yourself a favor and just close your browser now. I'm really quite a nice person and don't want to ruin your day. Go find another site and write about everything you enjoy about the series. You'll be a much happier person for it.
     The Staff and Management of Sherlock Peoria

I remember a day when a fellow who called himself "Sherlock Holmes" was a consummate professional. The very top of his field. A man so admired by the men of Scotland Yard that if he came down to that London institution the day after a certain case, every man there "from the oldest inspector to the youngest constable" would be glad to shake his hand.

These days, there's another fellow who calls himself "Sherlock Holmes" on the CBS network, who seems to be the very opposite of everything that the name used to be represent. He's not professional. He's not good with people. He's not at the top of his profession, depending heavily on the work of others to obtain successes in most cases. And if that difference was not entirely clear before, this week's episode of Elementary, "Tremors," went out of its way to lay out its main character's deficiencies for all to see.

For much of this season, Elementary seemed content to play out wacky comic soap opera scenarios of its main character, his brother, his partner, and their mix-and-match sex partners. But that light touch has been left behind of late, and this week Mr. Elementary's incompetence actually cripples one of his closest associates. And the NYPD then proceeds to put him on trial . . . a trial which he actually loses. Unfortunately, he doesn't go to jail or even lose his job as a result. Pity.

One might say, "Isn't it great to have a show that explores the premise of Sherlock Holmes being a complete failure at so many things! It makes him so human!" But Sherlock Holmes was very human back in the day when he was created as a successful professional . . . and that is was what made him such a great character. This dismal wretch being trotted out on Elementary each week would have left Arthur Conan Doyle totally dependent upon his medical skills, had he been written this way to begin with.

I understand the show has its fans, a fact I just can't entirely wrap my head around. In fact, it was one of their very positive reviews that inspired me to watch this week's episode, as I was well into considering giving it up for a month or so. We've got Sherlock coming on again soon, and why drive through McDonald's on your way to a favorite cafe?

So if you are wandering the internet, discover one such review and get tempted, you know better. Remember why you're not watching Elementary to begin with. And go spend that hour on something you'll enjoy.


  1. Someone on TWOP stated exactly what you said above:

    "This episode illustrated well why I like this portrayal of Sherlock so much. It had Sherlock being a jerk, and a know-it-all, and right (of course), but it also allowed for Sherlock to realize his callousness and mistakes....Such a nice change of pace from other Sherlockian TV characters who are unrelentingly rude, obnoxious, superior, and always right, dammit."

    To which someone else promptly replied:

    "Of of the Holmes variations, I think this is my favorite, for a the reasons you have so well-stated and more. Such a complex character."

    Sometimes I wonder, is this just social envy of the underpriviledged about someone with superior abilities/education/income etc.? Why do people like supposedly superior characters brought low so much? And what does it - really - say about them?

    What is so complex about all of this? For me it's much the same attitude as big game hunters posing with their trophies, "Look, this lion who could eat me - but I had I rifle and so I now own his pelt!" Wow, big deal, jerk!

  2. I just love your line about driving through McDonalds to get to your favorite cafe. Great piece of writing.

  3. I tried to watch this show a few times because I am a Sherlockian, but UGH I HATE IT! I don't like the Holmes character and I really despise the Watson character. Not because she is a woman, but I feel some significant changes to the character have been made that ultimately change who Watson is at his core. It seems like the show is just a typical network cop show that they threw some ACD names at. Nothing in it says SHERLOCK HOLMES to me! My in-laws love it though, so I'm guessing it's just the right amount of dumbed-down for a typical audience. I know many other Sherlockians love it, but I'm glad to see another review from someone who doesn't! :)

  4. Ha, after I've heard so much about it I just watched that episode - and found I rather liked it! It shows that the police departments of London/BBC and New York/CBS are not so different after all in their disregard of the men they owe their most spectacular successes to.

    How Det. Bell being shot should be considered Holmes's fault is totally beyond me. Did he make the shooter pull the trigger? Yes, he provoked him, but if that's all it takes - humans beware! you provoke me on a daily basis and I cannot be held responsible if I start exterminating you. He was going back to prison for breaking someone's legs, now it's back for attempted murder. Big difference.

    Anyway, this was the first time I felt anything akin to sympathy for that character. The PD knows that he's operating outside the law, doing things they cannot and that's exactly why they use him, for free, I may mention - only to turn around and shake their heads at him the minute anything goes wrong. I'd wash my hands of these philistines and seek meaningful occupation elsewhere.

    1. I don't get the impression that it is the police Holmes works with that are complaining about his methods. Probably someone outside the that dept. if you provoke a response, you should be prepared for anything. No, he did not make the man pull the trigger, but when you are already dealing with the criminal mind, you can't expect a normal response.

  5. My main problem with Mr Elementary is that he is presented to be more intelligent than anybody else by making the police incompetent. In most cases I don't even understand why they would call him (or why they would call him at this point of the investigation).
    Even this case could have been solved without Holmes - maybe the boy in the beginning wouldn't have survived walking into the police station, but otherwise if the police had just done their jobs Holmes wouldn't have been necessary (maybe Watson with her medical knowledge).
    It's Bell who finds the address of the victim, their forensic team finds blood on the weapon that's not from the victim or her boyfriend. So either some police officer will look into it or the boy has a clever lawyer who points this out.
    Even the motive - hiding problems with the trial drug - is not so unusual (at least in regards of Elementary), that nobody would think of it. In fact it was the first thing I thought - something is probably wrong with the drug.

    So, Elementary claims they have a character I loved for his genius for more than 20 years and gives me someone who is just average. For most of the episodes I've seen (about half of them) I have the feeling I've seen them before better executed and not missing the most interesting parts. And I really don't care for any of the characters.

    Every time someone claims that this week's episode has been one of the best I'm disappointed. Because the only thing I see is an average police procedural using the name of one of the best detectives.

    1. But who told the police the boy didn't do it? And if Holmes had not stepped in, the police would probably have shot the boy. Open and shut case, right?
      The episode was not about the mystery.

    2. First of all, I said that the boy might have not survived walking into the police station without Holmes.

      Otherwise you are proving my point. Why does the police need to be told it wasn’t the boy? Because they are once again portrayed as being incompetent. I can understand that they like the straightforward solution to the case, but they still do an autopsy and apparently at some point examine the weapon, so they have everything at their disposal to solve the case on their own. It may take longer (because it already seemed to be solved), but it’s not that complicated that an external consultant is needed, it’s just some basic police work. (Even the medical stuff doesn’t sound that complicated that an experienced pathologist can’t find it. But obviously the NYPD doesn’t employ pathologists since Watson does the examination of the organs.)

      Oh, and yes I noticed that this episode was not about the mystery (as non-mysterious as it was), it was about a man unwilling to take responsibility for his own actions and blaming other people for his problems and shooting them for it. Well, of course not, it was about victim blaming, trying to tell me that the intended victim (Holmes) is responsible for Bell’shooting. And all to teach him a lesson about facing the consequences for his actions. The only problem is: Holmes doesn’t suffer from any consequences. Yes, there is a trial, but in the end he is still a consultant. Yes, there is Bell’s reaction, but Holmes himself tells us that Watson is the only one he makes an effort for. And we’ve already seen with Lestrade who was presented as a police officer with whom Holmes worked closely in the past that Holmes certainly feels regret for the way things turned out but it doesn’t affect him visibly. So I’m not buying this as a major character changing development. Why not temporarily ending his consultations with the police? That is some consequence that really would have an effect on Holmes since he prefers those cases over private ones.

      By the way this also an example for a storyline that I’ve already seen in other shows, only better written and implemented.

      It is also a nice double standard that the police has no problems with Holmes taking the easy (and more or less illegal) route as long as it gets them results, but not anymore if someone is hurt in the line of duty. (Or was Holmes criticized for his illegal methods in one of those episodes I missed?) Even the commissioner agrees in the end that Holmes‘ results justify his means.

      So this week’s supposed to be very good episode had still an average Holmes (although with one nice deduction about the lawyer’s addiction), a weak mystery and a badly written attempt to go for some character development. And the thing is I wouldn’t care so much about those problems if they had managed to present me with a Holmes I could identify as Sherlock Holmes.

    3. Well, isn't that the way Holmes use Lestrade in the Canon?
      And in the show, all the police officers Holmes worked with on a regular bases were not the ones prosecuting him. It was outside their control. Gregson still tried to work with Holmes to get him out of trouble.

  6. Did you see the trailer - ELEMENTARY KEEPS GETTING SHERLOCK HOLMES RIGHT. (I don't know what they are basing this on)!