One would think that producers and studios would shy away from the impulse to over saturate the airwaves with more renditions of Arthur Conan Doyle’s beloved character, Sherlock Holmes, but looking at the excessive use of vampires and reality television shows, it’s clear that they’ll simply attack the market with what sells. What CBS has so masterfully achieved here, despite cautious viewers’ preconceived criticism, is deliver something completely fresh and original.
Coming from someone who is a devoted follower of the Baker Street sleuth, I, too, was initially reluctant to give Elementary a chance upon its original airing in 2012, having come to love the most recent portrayals by Robert Downey, Jr. and Benedict Cumberbatch. And after hearing rumors that it would take place in modern-day New York and Watson would be played by a female, I didn’t find myself anymore at ease.
My disinclination was lessened though after seeing the behind-the-scenes footage for the show. Having been a fan of Jonny Lee Miller since his days in Trainspotting, I thought I would give it a go. I cannot say I jumped into the water without hesitation, but after watching it, I was immediately surprised at just how much I truly enjoyed the pilot.
Anyone (which should be everyone, unless you live under a rock) who is familiar with Sherlock Holmes knows of his eccentricities and acute eye for detail, and Elementary provides us with a more back-to-basics approach of the renowned detective but with a much stronger sense of human vulnerability.
With BBC’s hit series “Sherlock” and Guy Ritchie’s wonderfully stylized “Sherlock Holmes” films, the 21st century has been presented with a more readily cocky and lively Holmes, which serves quite properly for each portrayal. And in that regard, this is where Elementary breaks away from the pack…on a particularly high note.
Following a beautiful, cinematographically sharp opening sequence in its pilot episode, we begin with Dr. Joan Watson’s (Lucy Liu) early morning activities on the day she is set to meet Miller’s version of Holmes, who has just abruptly escaped from rehab for an unspecified drug addiction. Watson has been assigned to be Sherlock’s sober living companion for a scheduled six weeks by Holmes’s father, and upon their greeting, the pair share an appropriately awkward introduction.
Covered in tattoos and displaying far more recognizable signs of Asperger's Syndrome, along with his recovery from addiction, the show’s creators clearly paint Sherlock Holmes as a deeply flawed individual who just so happens to have a remarkable talent, instead of the more frequented vision of a genius with a few quirks. These personal defects make Holmes a much more relatable character, since everyone has their own crosses to bear, and it’s in that regard that his intelligence doesn’t make him full-blown arrogant. Perhaps his bluntness makes him a potential loose cannon, but the delicacy he shows in regard to Watson’s haunting past proves he’s every bit as compassionate as the next guy.
The dynamic between Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu is wonderful, their platonic relationship having a great loving-bickering, brother-sister feel to it. This reinvention, despite obvious changes regarding gender and location, is every bit as impressive and sensible as the other current adaptations. Yes, there are those diehard fans of Downey, Jr. and Cumberbatch that will always curse out the show’s new concepts, but for anyone with a genuinely open mind, I give Elementary a high recommendation. Solid “A” rating, and trust me, I don’t throw out such commendations lightly. Catch up on the past two seasons before the third premieres in October on CBS. You won’t be sorry! J