Friday, 17 January 2014

Elementary | Season One

"Can you believe they're making an American Sherlock? They're going to ruin it." A paraphrase of the first words between me and fellow friend/geek Jake on the discovery that Elementary had been commissioned.

Next thing we know, the series has been made, Jake has seen the first few episodes - and he tells me it's awesome. He sees Jonny Lee Miller is great, a female Watson (which me and Jake had thought of for our own fan Sherlock series some months before) worked excellently and the whole series was one I should watch.

Except I can't get the series on my TV. At all.

So - on seeing the DVD in HMV just after Christmas, I bought it! And in just under a month I've worked through the whole of Series One (so for those of you who are miles ahead and need reminding - I know who Moriarty is, but Mycroft hasn't turned up yet).

It is amazing. It is, fundamentally, an American crime series, and so shares many similarities with other American crime series. But it needs wonderful lead characters to make it stand out and feel different - and Elementary has those. Miller is an amazing Sherlock Holmes. He is a real person (you could argue Cumberbatch's portrayal has, unavoidably, become more of a caricature of his own character) and the huge series gives the writers, actors and audience a chance to explore and learn more about him. Admittedly, character growth is fairly limited - as you would probably expect with Holmes. The episodes take place over about ten weeks in all, I imagine. But Sherlock doesn't need to grow. He is challenged enough, and he's always portrayed amazingly by Miller.

Joan Watson is a character who goes through a lot of growth. She changes careers from sober companion to Sherlock companion - and, wisely, that isn't a decision that happens in a moment. It grows, giving a new look on the Holmes/Watson relationship, and allowing both characters and their relationships to be explored. Watson is portrayed fantastically by Lucy Lui, and to see Watson becoming more confident (and also more challenged) is great. She lives a proper life, that is intrinsically linked with Holmes'. She differs completely from Martin Freeman's Watson - which is good. Anyone who expects this to be a conventional Sherlock Holmes series, or anything like Sherlock, is wrong. And that's a good thing.

Captain Gregson and Detective Bell are also great characters - Gregson especially gets some great moments. Punching Sherlock in the stomach is definitely one of them. It's hard to explain M and the Moriarty storyline without giving everything away - and so I'll come back to it under the Spoilers heading later.

Other good things about the series: episodes flow well, referencing previous events, and often showing the impact of stories over a long period of time. Sherlock's deductions aren't always perfect, the episodes always have a twist, however minor, within them, and the characters are written consistently well. The other great moments are that the series references Holmes stories more and more as it goes along. A Milverton blackmail story and references to Thor Bridge were great thrills.

Notable episodes are: the Pilot, Child Predator [a really dark story], Lesser Evils, Dirty Laundry, M., A Giant Gun Filled With Drugs, Possibility Two and Risk Management.

I was slightly disappointed, and this is the only occasion, with the finale. For me, it felt like the revelations could never quite do justice to the story we've been following, and certain scenes ended up falling a bit flat...


One of the scenes that falls a bit flat is the flashback to when Sherlock and The Woman meet for the first time. Sherlock's interest in her seems misplaced, and since Irene is such an important character, it feels a shame that these scenes were left to slip - and indeed, were shown at all. A mystery would be much better. To reveal Irene is still alive wasn't an overall shock, but it would have worked if the characters and the relationship was handled slightly better over the last two episodes. The revelation of who Moriarty was also a bit unsurprising, but handled well once we knew.

The series did need something more dramatic. After all this time with the Irene story, her return needed to be more punchy (though the revelation that she might be working for Moriarty was great). There needed to be a 'Reichenbach Fall' moment between Irene and Sherlock - although perhaps that wouldn't have been as intimate as the end scene ultimately was. I just expected a bit more excitement.


Overall, the series has been amazing. I look forward to eventually seeing Series Two, and Mycroft, and the further development of Holmes and Watson. They have a great pairing, well written and well acted, and it is a joy to watch them drive a series that brings so much more to Sherlock Holmes than perhaps any other series has.

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