A Second Look at Elementary
By Marcus Luera
Before I begin this review, I have to state that I am an avid BBC Sherlock fan. I have quite a few pages of pictures and gifs dedicated to the show on my Tumblr, plus I’ve watched every episode multiple times and cry every time I see “The Reichenbach Fall.” I’ve tried to get family and friends to watch it just so I can discuss theories about Moriarty’s motivations, Sherlock’s survival, and Watson’s psychosomatic wound. So it’s safe to say I’m a bit of a fan.
I’m not so much of a fan that I refuse to watch the new CBS show Elementary on unfounded principles, though. The stories of Sherlock Holmes have been around for 125 years and have been adapted into different incarnations countless times so I think it’s a baseless argument to state the BBC version is the only version allowed. I’m of the camp that both shows can exist on my TV without existing in the same universe. So what if the CBS version portrays Watson as a woman? It’s an even newer twist on a classic story that has already been reworked in innumerous ways. Plus, you can’t tell me there is a guy in London named Sherlock Holmes and a guy in New York City named Sherlock Holmes who both happen to look like men who shared the role of Dr. Frankenstein and The Creature in a play in England last year.
Needless to say, I gave the Elementary pilot a chance. It follows a pretty standard TV procedural formula – person gets killed, the good guys examine the body and crime scene, they question suspects, and then put the bad guy away. But this is Sherlock Holmes, lest you forget.
In this version, Jonny Lee Miller plays the super sleuth. He does a great job of portraying Holmes as a consultant to the NYPD after coming out of a stint in drug rehab (a reference to the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories). He’s manic and callous and plays Sherlock’s blunt observations with a razor-sharp tongue only someone inhabiting the character of Holmes could pull off. He does apologize when he is wrong, though; a noble quality that the BBC Sherlock doesn’t always put in to practice.
As previously mentioned, John Watson has become Joan Watson over the pond. She is played by Lucy Liu and is now an ex-doctor sober companion hired by Holmes’ father to look after him. I’ll admit, I was worried when it was announced Watson would be a woman. I’m sick of all the will-they-won’t-they tension that drags out for seasons on many procedurals nowadays. But Liu’s Watson is no-nonsense and I don’t ever see her falling for someone as cold as Holmes, who figured out upon meeting her that she was an ex-surgeon who lost a patient and that’s why she left the practice. I think it’s wise for them to not be involved romantically together – I can’t wait to see how Watson thrives as a badass independent woman.
A few more points to note:
The music was a character in itself. From Watson jogging to The Naked and Famous to the suspenseful strings when she and Holmes were organizing and observing clues, the music was the perfect accompaniment to an already cool show.
I myself just spent the summer living in New York and would have loved to have lived in Sherlock’s brownstone, despite its needed renovations. Three floors and a fireplace? That would be heaven! Instead I got a three bedroom, one bathroom with no living room or TV.
I hope in the future, they start to adapt the classic Holmes stories as the cases, as the BBC version does. I can see the show getting stale if they keep exercising the standard murder-of-the-week formula.
Did you enjoy the Elementary pilot? What do you think of gender-swapped Watson? Are you anxious to hear more about Holmes’ backstory and what happened in London to make him move to NYC? Will you tune in again next week?
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars