Sunday, June 28, 2015

You had just one job, Joan Watson.

Ah, the season cliffhanger. That final episode with the unfinished plot twist, leaving us to speculate during the hiatus between seasons on what just happened, why that happened, and what is going to happen next. As the summer moves along and my mind occasionally drifts to CBS's Elementary, however, it almost feels like the series is over, having come full circle and ended quite sadly.

To test that feeling, I decided to go back to the beginning and see if the circle was indeed complete.

The first thing we see of the main characters in Elementary's first episode is Joan Watson waking up. Alone and of her own accord. And then she goes jogging. As the series progresses, one of the running gags revolves around Joan Watson waking up . . . or being woken up, in some creative new manner.

Jogging Joan Watson gets a call during that first episode. Not from Archie Stamford, but from a "Hemdale."

"Hello. Yeah, I'm coming to get him in . . . I'm sorry, did you say he escaped?"

A second call, plainly to the voicemail of the father of the "him" in question:

"Hi, this is Joan Watson. In the off chance you haven't already been contacted by Hemdale, your son left rehab a little early this morning. I'm already at his house to see if he's here. I'll call you if there's a problem."

Prophetic words, those. "I'll call you if there's a problem." It took three seasons for her to make that problem call, but she did.

As Joan makes her way up the steps to what apparently is the place where "him" lives, she she's a rather seedy looking lady putting her clothes on in the entryway. Said woman does not want to talk to Joan as she passes . . . giving that "him" has had no time to build his network of emotionless sexual transaction partners that would come later, it's probably a prostitute, getting on about her business.

So "him" escaped rehab early, and has seen a prostitute already. This guy has "winner" written all over him, doesn't he?


"Excuse me, Mister . . . ."


"My name is Joan Watson. I've been hired by your father to be your sober companion. He told me he was going to email you about me. I'm here to make the transition from your rehab experience to the routine of your everyday life as smooth as possible, so I will be living with you for the next six weeks which means I will be available to you twenty-four seven."

"Do you believe in love at first sight?"

That line, and all of "him"'s first speech to Joan Watson are words he stole from a soap opera he had been watching on television. He is a young, tattooed problem child living in the "shoddiest and least rennovated" of his father's five Manhattan properties. And he's messing with the hired help from square one.

And people wonder why I hate Elementary so . . .

John H. Watson came to Bart's with a friend to meet a possible flat-mate and wound up meeting the best and wisest friend he would ever have. He found a place for himself in the world, as chronicler and partner in adventure, not just as an added tool for the police in catching murderers, but helping people with their lives. There is success at every point in this tale. Watson's life is better for meeting Sherlock Holmes, Holmes's life is better for having Watson in it. It's a good and happy thing.

Joan Watson, on the other hand, found herself literally thrust into the life of a spoiled man-child to handle a job she seemed to have little to no training for, after failing at the job she was trained for. She loses that job and becomes a paid "apprentice" to the man-child, has a failed relationship with his brother, sees another of her relationships murdered due to her involvement with that troubled individual, and eventually sees him relapse into the addiction she was brought in to help with. Not a good nor happy thing at all. Quite tragic, actually.

The third season cliffhanger to Elementary left us with "him"'s father returning to New York to deal with his son's heroin addiction once more. Why that man would let Joan Watson be involved with that process at all is beyond me, given her track record. Yet, in order for the show to go on for yet another season, she must be involved with the heroin addicted son and he probably has to somehow be over his addiction once more, which will probably come with more of the deus ex machina character-shoving-around that the show's writing has become known for, rather than some actual growth.

And what all this has to do with Sherlock Holmes anyway, is a question that has yet to find a good answer. That, as ever, will continue to be Elementary's greatest mystery.

1 comment:

  1. I've never watched the show, on principle. Your assessment of it reinforces my principles. It sounds like the creators have no understanding of, nor affection for, the canon, so why indeed create a show ostensibly based on its characters? Quite the opposite feeling we get from the creators of BBC Sherlock, whose understanding of the canon is quite profound and who clearly love and adore it. Whatever argument I may have with the choices they've made, still I see the canonical basis for it and, overall, they get the relationship and the tone right. They've even got a few pithy Sherlocutions ("sentiment is a chemical defect found in the losing side," "caring is not an advantage," "give him a puzzle and watch him dance," etc.), though nothing on par with the original Holmes ("that's what you can expect when I follow you," "that's the curious incident," etc.) Forever there will be adaptations that attempt to capture the magic of the canon, most of which will fail. In the case of Elementary it appears that no such attempt is even made but rather the motive is financial, to ride the wave of Sherlockianism spawned by the Robert Downey Jr. films (which themselves miss the boat, though they have a few good moments). Luckily, the canon itself exists in all its flawed and fabulous glory and no adaptation, however misguided, can spoil that.