Sherlock vs. Elementary: Six Episodes vs. A Full Season
by Noor Alnaqeeb (@nooralnaqeeb)
While watching the latest episode of Elementary, I was struck by the notion that every week the same major differences are found between its episodes and Sherlock’s. And the reason is pretty simple: Elementary airs every week and has a full season of thirteen episodes whereas Sherlock has had two seasons and a total of nine. What does this mean? First and foremost, it means familiarity.
While watching Sherlock, it is undeniable that the quirky humor and wit is infinitely hilarious and irrefutably amusing, but lately in Elementary, I have found myself becoming sympathetic towards the characters in unexpected situations. From the get-go, I will admit I wasn’t much of an Elementary fan. I had my doubts and my arguments against it, but it has risen to the occasion. Joan Watson’s history is particularly interesting. Roping in her previous relationships and identifying why she became a sober companion was cathartic to watch, especially when Sherlock offered her emotional support. Don’t get me wrong, Sherlock definitely has the impressive moments where Holmes is markedly vulnerable. For example, in “The Hounds of Baskerville,” when Sherlock Holmes succumbs to the hallucinations of a giant, rabid dog – he seems terrified. He says it himself, “Look at me, I’m afraid, John.” But Elementary has the advantage of familiarity; you watch the characters develop weekly for four months and you don’t have to wait seventeen months for the next season.
One difference I’m not entirely sure I agree with in Elementary is the lack of a bromance. To quote Watson in “A Scandal in Belgravia,” “We solve crimes, I blog about it, and he forgets his pants.” That sums it up pretty well. One of the most enjoyable aspects of Sherlock is Watson’s awkward flirtation with various women; namely Mycroft’s assistant. Sure, Elementary delves into the history of Joan Watson’s relationships and her ex-lovers’ discrepancies, but where’s the humor? Martin Freeman delivers the bromance between himself and Sherlock that Elementary can never bring. “The Hounds of Baskerville” comes to mind, where Watson flirts with a client’s psychiatrist in order to get information out of her. It all goes downhill when their dinner is interrupted by a man saying, and I quote, “This is Sherlock Holmes’ PA.” “Well – live-in PA.” When there’s a bromance, room has to be made for romance. Sherlock either doesn’t have the time to show Watson’s relationships blossom or, considering other plotlines, his love life naturally takes a back seat. Whichever is true; this much is clear – Watson and Sherlock’s bromance makes waiting seventeen months worthwhile.
Another major difference, and I assume this is due to budget and production-time restraints, is the epic cinematography behind Sherlock. Every scene looks like it’s been shot for a silver screen blockbuster. As a film nerd I have full license to say this, but the lighting and camera angles are outstanding. Close-ups on Cumberbatch’s half-lit face during the climax of the scene in which Sherlock Holmes needs to be when delivering his grim hypothesis. And unfortunately, Elementary cannot deliver. But what they can give us is Sherlock Holmes with the flu! Let me explain. CBS has the opportunity to explore Sherlock’s life in greater detail with a new episode every week. Although, they haven’t dug as deep as I would’ve liked – I have to keep reminding myself that we are only on the ninth episode. But they have shown us one thing I was glad to see: Sherlock Holmes suffering from the flu. Miller carried out the episode with puffy eyes and a runny nose, adding humanity to Sherlock’s character.
While a sick Sherlock is endearing, there is a downside to having a full season: filler episodes. Oh, how they bore me. They’re the episodes that seem to make no sense towards the greater development of the characters. The plot hits a standstill and it seems like an episode running on a specific formula, going through the notions as opposed to an episode that cathartically gives the audience something back. As a matter of fact, filler episodes do follow a formula. It’s a simplistic version of the Hero’s Journey; the call to adventure (Sherlock gets a case); crossing the first threshold (Sherlock accepts and researches); the approach and failure (Sherlock disproves a theory) and finally, the second attempt and reward. While Elementary has shown signs of filler episodes, Sherlock remains consistently beautiful in the craftsmanship of all its elements, from the scripts to the set and everything in between. As Watson puts it:
W: “Can we please not do this this time?”
S: “Do what?”
W: “You being all mysterious with your – cheekbones. And turning your coat collar up so you look cool.”
Ah, but he does have to do it. Sherlock’s upturned coat and enigmatic cheekbones make Sherlock what it is. London’s private detective with a public image is a mile away from New York’s consultant with a substance abuse problem. It’s all about the way they are perceived from episode to episode; Cumberbatch is always epic, sometimes vulnerable; and Miller continuously has his history thrown in his path. Character development is a joy to watch in both series, but for Elementary to develop further I suggest one thing: Moriarty. After all, what is a hero’s journey without the ultimate villain?