Saturday, May 10, 2014

An embarrassment of Sherlock Holmeses.

So this week's episode of CBS's Elementary, with its random title of "Art in the Blood," featured a character who was basically a stand-in for Mycroft Holmes at a stand-in for Mycroft's Diogenes Club, since the show had already wasted the names "Mycroft" and "Diogenes" on a character and place that had nothing to do with their originals. This technique holds some promise, I have to admit . . . after creating a series of characters with the names of the folks in the Sherlock Holmes stories but few of the characteristics, the show could create a second set of characters who have the characteristics of the Sherlock Holmes characters but different names.

Because things are just that messed up in Elementary's world.

With one episode left in the season, Elementary gave us a climactic episode, an episode with more punch to it than anything they did with Moriarty last season, but here's the problem: when Elementary is at its best at being Elementary, its also at its worst at being a Sherlock Holmes story.

Elementary is basically the story of a British crime specialist who has a massive breakdown and drug addiction after the death of his lover. Part of his recovery is starting a new life in America, where his father hires a "sober companion" (a phrase none of us had ever heard before this show began) to make sure he doesn't break down again. Somehow the crime specialist makes a connection with NYPD and becomes a paid consultant.

Eventually, our crime specialist finds out that the lover whose death caused his breakdown is not dead, but actually was a criminal mastermind all along. He corresponds with her in prison because she's the only person in the world whose mind works at all like his own. When his father threatens to take away his sober companion, the crime specialist hires her as his apprentice, because he's apparently become attached to/dependent upon her.

The crime specialist's brother comes from England, develops an on-again-off-again relationship with the apprentice/sober companion, but endangers her life via his secret connections to both French gangsters and British secret service. She breaks it off with the brother, but in discovering how much the brother truly cares for the "fragile" crime specialist, moves further into that relationship.

Now, with the season finale coming up, it appears that the final act of this drama for this year will be the apprentice/sober companion's choice whether to go back to London with her newfound lover, or to stay in New York with the damaged, dependent crime specialist that brought the two together.

Okay, now explain to me how any of that has to do with Sherlock Holmes.

Well, there are British accents involved, and that counts for a lot here in America. We love our British accents, yet ironically more and more Brits are finding good acting gigs here by putting on American accents. Perhaps one of Elementary's biggest handicaps here was not that their Watson is a woman, but that she doesn't have an English accent.

But are a name and a British accent all that it takes to become Sherlock Holmes? In this latest, penultimate episode of the show, the character purporting to be "Sherlock Holmes" stumbles around having evidence handed to him when he should be actively investigating, and when he really has a problem with a crime he can't deal with (his missing companion), he goes to NYPD for help. They kind of blow him off like a kid wandering in with a missing dog, but the missing companion then calls on the phone and spares him further embarrassment.

It's not a problem with the episode, but a vivid demonstration of Elementary being true to itself. If its main character can't function without his sober companion even enough to try to find her when she's missing, how will he fare if she flies off to London with his brother? Will he relapse into the dreaded drug dependency? Will he break down, give up working with NYPD, and just spend his time visiting his former lover in prison in between heroin shots?

The true Sherlock Holmes took out London's greatest criminal empire all by himself, without his Watson at his side. He spent years in America ferreting digging into espionage networks to find a German spy who could have brought England to its knees. On his own, he did some of his greatest work, not break down because he didn't have a babysitter.

And there are those who wonder why a fan of Sherlock Holmes like myself might be critical of this Thursday night crime pablum. I would recommend that those folks try a steak sometime and remember what it tastes like.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent rundown of the show, Brad.

    I approached the show with an open mind, but had to give up. This "adaptation" of Sherlock Holmes is not my cup of tea.