Friday, October 5, 2012

Elementary, My Dear Thoughts

So, I watched Elementary starring Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu as Sherlock Holmes and Joan Watson.  I went into this honestly not expecting much.  I mean, after the BBC's Sherlock, how could anything compare?

I was actually pleasantly surprised, however.  And I wonder how many other people caught the reference to the Mary Russell novel, BeeKeeper's Apprentice.  Or, the alternate title, Upon the Segregation of the Queen.  Which is something 'Holmes' paraphrases after Joan finds the bee hive at his place.

The fact that the characters are named Holmes and Watson is something that throws me, honestly.  BBC's Sherlock puts Holmes and Watson in modern times, but the way it's done works.  It has an old-fashioned feel, but definitely updates the characters enough so that they seem somewhat Victorian, yet fit in with the modern day conveniences like cell phones, texting, and computers.

Elementary . . .  The characters just don't seem to fit with the setting.  And I especially didn't like how 'Holmes' seems to, when he's making the deduction to the one guy about how the murder was pulled off, practically beg the guy to admit that 'Holmes' is right.  Holmes doesn't beg.  Holmes doesn't apologize.  Holmes doesn't guess.  And yet he does all of these things in Elementary.

I think low expectations were a good bet with this one.  I knew it wasn't going to be anywhere near the caliber of Sherlock, and I was right.  But on the same token, it'll provide what I hoped for.  It's good enough distraction until the next season of Sherlock comes out.

All in all, I give the first episode of Elementary 3 1/2 out of five stars.  Not wonderful, but a passable enough rendition of Holmes that I'll like watching.


  1. Yes...that's what I noticed last night--this isn't the confident-to-the-point of arrogant Sherlock Holmes that we've come to expect, and which is canon. It's a little disturbing. But although I'm not glued to the screen, it isn't horrible, and I'll keep watching it...which is pretty much the vibe from my friends on Twitter, too. It's as if as soon as people realized that it wouldn't be a blatant rip-off of BBC Sherlock, and that it wasn't utterly horrible, they relaxed and figured they might as well enjoy it for what it is.

  2. Thanks for the review! I missed it and wasn't sure if I should try to catch it or not.

  3. The reference is not to the Beekeeper's Apprentice but rather to the book Holmes gives to the spy in His Last Bow.

  4. Ah, true. The first thing I heard when that line was said was the Mary Russell novel, however, and I guess that stuck in my head.

  5. (I apologize in advance for the long-winded ramble about my feelings for Elementary.)

    I personally think Elementary faces a lot of challenges in its story because of the changes it's making with the characters, and that's part of the reason why it's not doing as stellar as Sherlock. I agree with your assessment of Holmes in this version, and that the writing and setup of the characters doesn't ring as true to Doyle as Moffat and Gatiss' writing does in their show. M&G really captured not only the tone of the stories, but also the relationship between Holmes and Watson. The CBS show could've achieved that even with a female Watson, but they made the mistake, I think, of changing up the situation too much.

    The Holmes in Elementary is in a place of uncertainty. He's not in his native London, he's just been released from rehab, and he's clearly dealing with some traumatic event from his recent past (I didn't see the latest episode, but the episode before established that Irene Adler was involved). He does seem at times in need of vindication, even if he tries to cover it up with arrogance. His sharper edges come off too blatantly as a defense mechanism rather than the quirks of an eccentric genius (not that they aren't both in the original stories, but still).

    Then there's his relationship with Joan Watson. It's . . . just not the same. Unlike in the Doyle canon and Sherlock, where they meet out of a mutual need for affordable housing and develop a relationship out of proximity and chemistry, Joan and Holmes are *forced* to be together. They are obligated to put up with one another. That places a source of friction in the relationship that, while interesting, undermines the organic essence of their friendship. Watson is practically Holmes' babysitter in this series, and that doesn't really sit well with me. Yes, Dr. Watson/John does watch out and take care of Holmes/Sherlock when he's in one of his moods. That's different. Watson could walk away any time he pleases, but he doesn't. He respects and cares about Holmes enough to put up with his nonsense. That respect and genuine concern is slowly coming to light in Elementary, but it's still different. Different can be good, of course. It just doesn't seem like the Holmes and Watson friendship we know and love.

    All right, I've said my peace. I do find the show watchable with its plot twists and character development. I also agree that it helps fill in the time between seasons of Sherlock. Miller and Lui have an interesting chemistry as well, though I feel Cumberbatch and Freeman will continue to outshine them.