Matt Smith reviews the latest episode of Elementary…
Tuesday truly is crime night for me. I don’t mean I go out and take people’s stuff (though my natural habitat, Aldershot, would encourage it). For the past few weeks, I’ve been following The Following and now I get to indulge fully in another of my favourites, Elementary.
It’s back after a mid season break (how they get away with not just calling it the end of a season is beyond me. What’s the difference?), and Sherlock is near the end of the road to recovery. Watson’s talking about leaving to help other people, while he implores her to stay so she can help him help other people. Or just solve puzzles. Because that’s all he actually likes.
We know this not just from this iteration of the character, but from every iteration. The original Holmes had little interest in anything outside of the puzzle. How do you play him when he’s been done so many times before? This also makes me question how loose the term ‘created by’ in the opening credits is. Modern iterations are the same as the old. Gregory House and BBC’s Sherlock both liked the puzzle more, but couldn’t get by without their respective Watsons.
And this is where we find Jonny Lee Miller’s Sherlock Holmes. He’s on the road to recovery from drug misuse (which people have said is original, but seems as common as a diagnosis of Wilson’s disease in House). But, as is par for the course, when the drug user is no longer a user, the caretaker need no longer take care. So is Watson (Lucy Liu) going to leave? If so, how can Sherlock go on? This is what could be an interesting avenue to travel down. Watson occasionally threatens to leave or not support Holmes, so what’ll happen when she does?
This could mean a slight change and something we haven’t seen, as Watson is fully done with Holmes, and Holmes doesn’t really need Watson.
But change doesn’t seem to be on the cards. Despite the break, the episode still felt familiar. We’re introduced to the crime scene and Holmes has to find the perpetrator. He does so in the regular manner, by which I of course mean the irregular manner.
Jonny Lee Miller’s Sherlock has found a niche in the character, in that the show seems to face front when it comes to Sherlock’s behavioural traits. In other adaptations, the character is shown exhibiting signs of behavioural differences (akin to autism), but these are glossed over as Holmes being eccentric. In Elementary, the behaviour seems to be faced head on, leading to interesting possibilities for future episodes that haven’t exactly been capitalised on yet.
The show seemingly has many things in common with The Following. It’s a show that deals in criminals of the week, but there’s the big difference in focus. Elementary is much more character driven. Instead of it being the ‘what’ of The Following, Elementary is all about the ‘how’. You know Sherlock will solve the case. The pleasure comes from seeing the impossible case, trying to crack it yourself, then giving up and watching Holmes do it himself. In this regard, the show’s been present and correct every time.
But by that same token, I’m waiting for something to freshen up the structure. Even a Moriarty could do the trick, as long as they find a niche in the same way they did for Holmes.
SPOILERS… Fortunately, in trying to find something new this week the producers didn’t exactly jump the shark. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but any episode that features Russian spies could easily be, to be blunt, stupid.
SPOILERS… But they keep it about Sherlock’s puzzle, as well as his ego, which reveals that the crime itself might not actually matter. As long as everything ties together, as it does in any good Sherlock Holmes tale, the show can be consistent… END SPOILERS.
But do we want just that? There are so many familiar things about this series. I mean, are the only differences the actors and the setting? Hopefully the producers can prove me wrong by changing it up again, but consistency alone isn’t the sign of quality.
And none of this is to say I don’t love the series, or the character. I’ll be tuning in every week (well, I kinda have to now as I’m reviewing it). But what can be done to keep Sherlock fresh? If I were writing a clichéd ending to a review about Sherlock Holmes, I’d say at the moment is a mystery. See you next week.