Matt Smith reviews episode 20 of Elementary…
Change can be a stressful thing. A new place to live, a new job. Maybe even a new person. Sometimes it gets lost in the sofa. Okay, maybe that’s the wrong change, but it’s annoying and sometimes you just want a couple of pennies so you can buy that ice cream. I’m celebrating summer, is what I’m saying, by complaining about money.
But we’ve had enough complaints about money in the media these days, so let’s move on to Holmes. He doesn’t like change, sometimes even the slightest bit of change, to his life. Throughout the series, he’s displayed his dislike of new sobriety companions, and then convinces Watson that now he’s used to her it’d be better if she stayed. This week we find out that he’s a tattoo artist (ambidextrous, of course) and that he doesn’t like his tattoos fading away. Now as much as this metaphor’s already getting strained, I’ve gone this far so I’m not going to change it now.
This series also seems to only flirt with changing the format. A few weeks back, we had the emergence of Vinnie Jones as M, a hitman who Holmes suspected as the murderer who ruined a large part of his life. Turns out, Vinnie Jones wasn’t playing Moriarty, and that the true mastermind behind the crimes was hidden defiantly in the shadows. This seemed to suggest a larger story arc, but was dropped almost as soon as it was introduced. Instead of a stand-alone case, can we not have Holmes struggle, perhaps fail, in solving the case of Moriarty a little while longer? I understand not making him a Big Bad, in order to distance this series from other adaptations, but it would also break up the series. Even if Moriarty is only addressed in one episode. Why wouldn’t Holmes go on a full-scale hunt for Moriarty after the events concerning M? The producers gave a little look into the emotions of Holmes, as opposed to being a slightly convoluted case he had to solve this week.
That’s not to say the character is completely bereft of emotion, or that this episode isn’t a good one. This week we see his anger at blackmailers, who he holds in some ways in worse regard than murderers. Jonny Lee Miller, throughout the entire series a perfect performer of the role, gets to seethe a little as he confronts people he views as human waste. He gives us a glimpse at Holmes’ opinions as opposed to facts he has uncovered and used as a basis for living.
So this week’s case, while not closer to Holmes, is still about the moment everything can change. Characters talk of the moments where they found out their family members had been hurt, where they’d turned from a normal person with a normal life, to a victim.
And Holmes is the same, both as a character in the series and a character people see as a cultural mainstay. Having Holmes means having a certain character. He’s almost his own genre. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say he’s defined that type of character, the lone master detective, informing so many others along the way. Make Holmes too different and you alienate your audience. Don’t make him different enough and there’s no point to any of it.
This series’ Holmes talks of the days leading up to his sobriety and the moments he decided to change himself, but only for a small amount of time. As said before, Holmes is a character that doesn’t work if we know too much about him. This is a problem and a useful tool for producers. While they never have to reveal too much about the character, not being forced to define Holmes and risk taking him away from the original or what people see as their original, it also means they can’t delve too deeply into what is the title character in most cases.
That’s where the little moments of drama organically fit in. Holmes releases information about himself, his innermost thoughts about himself, in quiet moments of drama. And in that regard, the series has done very well. It’s not given the audience too much, but at the same time not made Holmes infallible. And not just in the more obvious ways (his drug problems, his family issues). Even when it comes to his cases (see the debacle with M). With each case, we find out something new about him. And it’s in this way; the small changes revealed whilst I sit on my sofa, that I hope the series never changes.
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