Sherlock vs Elementary: Move Along, Keep Calm and Respect Gregson


by Noor Alnaqeeb (@nooralnaqeeb)

All work and no play makes Sherlock a dull boy. This is certainly not true for Jonny Lee Miller or Benedict Cumberbatch’s interpretation of the legendary character. In Elementary’s case, his addiction to his work allows Watson to delve into the reasons behind his addiction to illegal substances. In Sherlock, his work paths intertwine with social circles of intriguing characters he would not otherwise associate with. In both cases there is one common denominator: Irene Adler.

Elementary’s focus as of late has been on Irene Adler and Captain Gregson. Both character-driven plots represent the conflicting themes of Elementary’s interpretation. Irene represents the path of the past, the path Watson is trying to dig up: Sherlock’s demons are coming back to haunt him – very Sir Conan Arthur Doyle. Gregson represents the TV crime drama aspect of the series: the traditional open-close cases, the hostile interrogations and as of “One Way to Get Off”; the archetypal “case that hits close to home” episode. I’m going to take a wild guess and volunteer the assumption that in the near future there will be a personal attack on someone Sherlock cares about; whether it be Watson, Gregson or the recently introduced sponsor, Alfredo.

Watson: Move Along

A questionable path Elementary has taken was to lead audiences to believe that the character of Joan Watson, as Sherlock’s sober companion, has an expiry date and her services might be replaced very soon. Yeah, we’re definitely going to take those not-so-subtle hints that Watson is going to leave the show and actually make a big deal out of it … Or not.

Lucy Liu’s representation as Watson has been believable, admirable and enjoyable to watch. Joan Watson has finally become Sherlock’s moral compass – he said so himself in “One Way to Get Off.” Although their friendship seems to have progressed from that awkward moment in the pilot where he-did-but-didn’t profess his love to her, there are the ever-present doctor-patient boundaries.

In Sherlock, John Watson and Sherlock Holmes are accustomed to each other, their daily routines are in sync, it even gets to a point where Watson openly blogs about their boyish adventures on the internet. In Elementary, Watson does not have the same luxury; their friendship adopts a more serious tone. Joan snoops into his past; she even persuades an old friend of Sherlock’s to hand over Irene’s letters to her. Watson in Sherlock has been his caretaker but on a much more subtle, behind-the-scenes kind of way. But thankfully, remnants of their quirky idiosyncratic friendship shine through in Elementary – my quirky favorite moment? When Joan calls Sherlock his ringtone is the theme song from Hitchcock’s Psycho. Move along from Watson? We think not.

Irene Adler: Keep Calm

Irene Adler. I’m disappointed. SPOILER ALERT: Really? She died? I was honestly expecting a turn of events where Sherlock’s imaginary demons physically return to haunt him in New York. But no, Irene is dead. Or so Sherlock has told us in Elementary. We have seen her near-demise twice in Sherlock’s “A Scandal in Belgravia,” but it never occurred to me that she might actually die. As a guarded fan I’m going to wait and see how this carries on. Because as the woman who outsmarted Sherlock Holmes and made Houdini look like Criss Angel – I’m sure faking her death would be child’s play. There has still been no reference to this series’ Irene’s personality, except for the fact that she writes letters and has nice handwriting. I wonder if her American-television alter ego would mirror Sherlock’s dominatrix sex-worker-esque portrayal of the woman. As there was no more information about it in the latest episode of Elementary, here I am, keeping calm and carrying on, waiting patiently for more to come.

And Respect Gregson

Oh, Sherlock how you have grown. Miles away from how Sherlock’s Sherlock treats Detective Lestrade, Elementary’s Sherlock actually respects Captain Gregson. The difference in demeanor is interesting. Gregson is an older member of the police force and holds a more respectful position, demanding the same respect from Sherlock. With Lestrade however, that is not the case.

Sherlock Holmes talking to Captain Gregson in Elementary:

“I have said it before, I have the upmost respect for you” 

Sherlock Holmes talking to Detective Lestrade in Sherlock:

“He sends down my handler to spy on me. Is that why you’re calling yourself Greg?”

“His name is Greg.”

There you have it. As a quote is worth a thousand words, and worth a thousand insults in Sherlock’s case, I leave you with the above.

Using my very own skills of deduction, Elementary is setting itself apart from Sherlock but the question is; are they straying too far from the Herd of Holmes?


  1. MeghanDecember 4th, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    Up front I will say that I’ve never read or watched much of Sherlock Holmes before Elementary. I like Johnny Lee Miller and thought it would be interesting. I, personally, love the show. Was it a little bit like The Mentalist at first? Yes. It has moved on from that though. The storyline is very different and the characters have different “demons.” As to the subject of Irene: Making Watson a woman in this adaptation is probably the reason for Irene’s death. On some level, we are all probably expecting that Holmes and Watson will end up together. Seems to be the angle television writers like to take. As to whether Irene faked her death: It’s entirely possible. However, I think Holmes believes she is truly dead. Having her die is a legitimate reason for him to turn to drugs. If she was still alive (and he knew it), he probably wouldn’t have been sent over the edge in that respect.

  2. Ldude893December 28th, 2012 at 9:29 am

    Okay, I’m going to copy and paste a list of personal ticks I have against ‘Elementary’. I’m sure people like this show, and I respect their opinions and whatever reason they have for watching, but these are my reasons why I’m not a particular fan of this one:.

    -Lucy Liu’s version of Watson has no charm, as we have no reason to like her. There’s little time to reinforce the character, and so we’re given no reason to like her. Similar problem with the other characters.
    -Minimal references to the source material other than the names of the characters. There’s none of that ‘Holmes’ feel, and I’m sure somehow they could’ve made some jabs at ACD’s stories even with the American setting, but they didn’t. Plus, it lacks charm and distinct style, which makes it looks like every other crime show currently on television.
    -The plot moves too fast, which probably explains why characters are introduced so quickly.
    -Sherlock in this version is very similar to the one in the British series Sherlock, except less of a sociopath and more realistic. I kind of like the different twist; it’s a version of Sherlock that while isn’t a sociopath, he isn’t a jerk to everyone and he’s a bit more believable. But the problem ties itself with my second point. Sherlock Holmes is characterized as a detective genius; heck, he’s the codifier of the fiction concept of a master detective. He’s supposed to be shown as one of the best, but here he could just be any smarter-than-average detective. Also, Benedict freaking Cumberbatch.
    -Not much establishment of setting. All we know is that it’s set in New York, but the way they present it seems interchangeable with any other city in America. Also, do we need another TV crime show set in New York? (Seriously, can’t we get a show set somewhere NOT a world-famous city for once? You know, Cleveland? Pittsburg? Oakland? Come on, you know we need a crime show in Oakland.)

    Those are my points. Feel free to refute or argue about any of them if you must.

  3. TamicaAugust 1st, 2013 at 10:56 pm

    I had a difficult time watching this when it aired. I’m a HUGE fan of the Cumberbatch/Freeman version on PBS, and I also catch the short lived older version from 1984-85 now & then (Adventures of SH with Jeremy Brett). Brett is rather obnoxious in his portrayal though & a little too outrageous. For me to accept the “new” version of “Elementary” I had to totally forget it being “based” on SH, & view it as a typical “who done it” crime mystery ONLY! My sister-in-law agreed with my theory of that also. She said she just couldn’t accept the newer version as the “Sherlock Holmes” we grew up reading, etc.

    Course, Cumberbatch’s portrayal is a little bit of a stretch too, but I find it thoroughly entertaining.The writers actually take the stories Doyle wrote and re-do them just a “little” to go with the time difference. I actually like the updating of “electronics” with cellphones, laptops, etc. It’s a nice touch to bring it up to date. I also like the setting in London, where it seems more believable. I think Cumberbatch is a great, brilliant actor, & I’m anxious to see him in the new Star Trek flick.

    I enjoy the team in “Elementary” now but just as actors playing their parts well, as “unknown” historical characters. I also enjoy watching Aidan Quinn, with many great movies under “his” belt! At first I thought “Watson’s” character was boring and bland, so I’m glad the writers have given her more to do, learn, and being involved with solving the crime. Liu is a good actor, so I’m glad they’re allowing her to show it more.

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