Elementary: Season 1
Arguably one of the most enduring characters in literature is Sherlock Holmes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's iconic detective first appeared in 1887 in a series of novels and short stories but that would turn out to be the tip of the iceberg that represents the way this character has been infused in the zeitgeist of many generations. This is a man that personifies deductive reasoning and logic. A keen observer of both the details of a crime scene and his intrinsic understanding of human nature Holmes was a polymath that could solve and mystery no matter how puzzling. Most importantly he is a character unstuck in time. In the thirties a series of films starring Basil Rathbone formed one of the most famous interpretations of Holmes in history. Although the movies started true to the source material, set in Victorian without missing a beat the characters were transported to modern times so Holmes could root out Nazi spies working to undermine the war effort. This is the true genius exhibited by Sir Arthur in his careful crafting of Sherlock Holmes; he is the most ubiquitous character imaginable. In the past, present or future the implementation of logic and reason will prove the most expeditious way to get to the bottom of a mystery. Recently Holmes was transformed into a curmudgeon doctor in the persona of one Gregory House, M.D. has it happened Sherlock Holmes was resurrected once again on both sides of the Atlantic with the BBC presenting ‘Sherlock’ CBS came up with the series whose first season is examined here, ‘Elementary’. Although the lawyers were notified the characters are in public domain and ultimately so remarkably versatile there is more than enough room for both interpretations to flourish. I have watched both and while there are some natural similarities they each present a unique interpretation of the characters, the ultimate testament to the genius of Sir Arthur.
Sherlock Holmes (Johnny Lee Miller) was at one time the detective of such renown that he was on retainer by Scotland Yard. Coming from a family of great influence and wealth Holmes was the black sheep of his family. His mind was always racing from one puzzle or project to the next which ultimately lead him to seeking a pharmacological boost to his mind leading to cocaine addiction. Shipped off to an addiction treatment facility he was banished by his father to New York City after leaving rehab. To make sure Sherlock would not relapse and bring further shame to the family his unseen father hires Joan Watson (Lucy Lui) as his sober companion. Prior to this vocation Watson was a brilliant surgeon who turn away from medicine. These plot points concisely lay the foundation for the modern incarnation while strongly connecting it to the traditional tropes of the classic characters. Holmes was a cocaine addict while Watson was a doctor. The services of the original Holmes were frequently sought after by a frustrated Scotland Yard. Part of the modernization this was shifted to the NYPD with Captain Tommy Gregson (Aidan Quinn) as his police contact point. Gregson had seen the incredible abilities exhibited by Holmes while on assignment to Scotland Yard working antiterrorism.
As the season proceeds other pieces of the Holmes’ canon are expertly woven into the tapestry of the overall story. Holmes is searching for the murderer of his one true love, a woman named Irene which is certain to be the main female character in the stories, Irene Adler. The chief suspect for masterminding the heinous murder is none other than the one villain with abilities that challenge Holmes, Moriarty. Although the presence of these familiar circumstances and characters there is considerably more to this series than the unraveling the mystery at hand; this is a strongly character driven series that depends as much on the inherent humanity of the characters as it does on the uncanny deductive powers an infallible logic of Sherlock Holmes.
The series achieves something many shows have attempted but never quite were able to pull off. The relationship between Holmes and Watson is extremely complicated but constructed without a feasible possibility of romantic entanglements. Romance and sex are considered inevitable ramps leading to the proverbial jumping of the shark. The situation might provide for an attractive man and woman living together but there is not on iota of romance in this relationship. The development of their relationship is the cornerstone of the series and primary motivation. Initially Holmes resents Watson’s very presence. He sees it as another leash to tether him to his father exacerbating the ill will between them. There is a nagging interest as to why a successful medical doctor and surgeon to be a sober companion. For Joan it is another assignment and her personality is such that she is honor bond to perform her duties to the best of her abilities.
The pivotal point in the first season is reached as it approached the midway point. Her contract with the senior Holmes expires and daddy is not inclined to renew it. This would normally terminate their relationship but by this point Watson is intrigued by the supernatural reasoning power and eclectic intelligence is extremely unusual for a recovering addict. He is unlike anyone Joan has ever met. His perchance taking miniscule clue to uncover a mystery strikes a chord in similar qualities that made her a successful doctor. Holmes’ intense attention to details resonates with the same quality needed by a surgeon. Watson declines her next assignment staying on with Holmes apprenticing herself to him. By the final third of the season Dr. Watson has become his junior partner. The resentment once fostered towards Watson by Holmes gradually morphs into respect and friendship. The synergism created between these two characters is captivating, presenting one of the most famous detective teams in literary history in a light unique fashion. Most incarnations of this paring portrays Watson as a sidekick, some go so far as to paint Watson as a form of comic relief. In this instance both Watson and Holmes are highly skilled professional whose spheres of expertise are complimentary fostering a solid mutual respect. A man and woman can live and work together successfully without sex disrupting the equilibrium they have worked to establish. This is one of the breakout hits of the season and a highpoint in traditional television programming. Thankfully CBS has the wisdom to green light a second season and I am anxious for it to begin.
A Holmes Of Their Own