Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Thoughts on "Elementary" Season One

It is hard to put a finger exactly on what makes “Elementary” a lesser Holmes, but it does feel as though it is.

On the one hand it is an entertaining enough show. It has engaging crimes and clever solutions. It is well written and acted. It develops the characters over the course of the season and has a compelling season-long arch. However, something feels off.

For instance, there is the ultimately gimmicky conceit of Watson as a woman. That would not be so bad in and of itself, but there are two things working against it here:

(1) The show creator has stated that his sole purpose in making her a woman was to prove that a man and a woman could work closely together without becoming romantically entangled. Ok. That is a poor reason of all the ones one could have chosen to make that choice. (And, it is—in the case of long-running, dramatic television a false contention. It may be true in real life but TV audiences have an annoying way of pushing their television leads of opposite gender together.)

(2) It forces the writers into a corner that is not Holmesian. Watson was never a complete idiot, but much of the appeal of a Sherlock Holmes story lies in Watson always being a step behind Homes. Here, the writers are hesitant to do that lest the female character come across as dumber than the male. They have to make Watson Holmes’ equal or they would have certain groups up in arms. They even have to make Watson smarter than Holmes at times.

The other area where this interpretation of Sherlock feels a bit off is in the character of Holmes himself. This Holmes too often comes across as being less than the smartest character on screen. He lucks into far to many solutions. The literary Holmes was never infallible, and also benefited from coincidence more than once. This version simply seems to go that way too often.

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