Sunday, May 26, 2019

Review: Elementary

The seventh and final season of Elementary is here, and it’s about time. The first of the thirteen episodes premiered Thursday night and made the move I expected—from New York City to London. I’m fine with that as long as I get my Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu.
I was skeptical when the show began in 2012. Did the world really need another Sherlock Holmes adaptation? Perfection had already been reached with the Benedict Cumberbatch-led Sherlock, also set in the modern day. I grudgingly watched the first episode in 2012. It scored points for shaking things up—moving the setting to New York City, making Dr. Watson a woman. Interesting, but not enough to hook me. But then . . . then came Jonny Lee Miller. Visions of his seminal performance in Trainspotting flashed through my head; they were quickly doused by his complete transformation into Holmes. He took the characteristics—the brusqueness, the condescension, the indifference to social norms, the brilliance—and made them his own. The interplay of these traits with other characters guarantee that, at least once an show, I’ll laugh out loud. That’s a tricky thing to pull off in a drama, and Miller does it every episode.
Lucy Liu as Joan Watson and Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock.
Miller and show creator Robert Doherty also did something that other adaptations either ignore or gloss over. They confronted Sherlock’s drug addiction head-on. Arthur Conan Doyle showed the detective using cocaine throughout his short stories; Elementary took that and turned it into a full-blown, life-devastating disease that Holmes has continued to battle every season so far. It adds a layer to the series that I think makes it, despite its American setting and female Watson, the most realistic of the many Sherlock interpretations.
The show also has fun with the canon—Holmes’s love, the mysterious Irene Adler, appears, as does his brother Mycroft, newly slim and a successful restauranteur. And it includes, in a wonderfully surprising way I won’t spoil here, the ubervillain Moriarty.  
These characters drive recurring storylines that have been the most enjoyable parts of the series. The cases-of-the-week, on the other hand, can sometimes be too neat and tidy and hastily resolved. Thursday’s season seven premiere was one of those. The resolution was a little too pat. I’m hoping the episode is just getting viewers set up for continuations of some of those overarching storylines. I’ve got my fingers crossed that we’ll see the great John Noble as Sherlock’s immoral businessman father again. I’d also love to see their twist on Doyle’s Inspector Lestrade, now that they’re in London.
John Noble as father Morland Holmes.
Elementary airs Thursday nights on CBS. Previous seasons are available on Hulu.


Scott D. Parker said...

I absolutely agree with you on Miller. As I wrote on Thursday night, if Jeremy Brett is considered the best traditional Holmes, then Miller, for me, is the best non-traditional Sherlock. And for the very reason you state: Miller's Sherlock is allowed to grow.

I also enjoyed Elementary's winks and nods to the canon but without being slavish about it. When they, in the Season 6 finale, arrived in London at that particular address, and the camera fades as the two of them walk down the street, I thought it was a fitting end to the series. My tears did, too. :-) But I'm also hopeful that Season 7 has another fitting end.

Miller is so wonderful in this role, but there is a scene that is my favorite. I forgot the season or episode, but an old flame returns and asks Sherlock to donate sperm to be used to get her pregnant. He spends the entire episode pondering it until, at the end, he gives her a firm no. Paraphrased here, Miller's Sherlock explains that what she sees as a gift--his intelligence, his being able to see everything--is, in fact, a curse. He can't NOT see all the bad in the world, knowing he is powerless to change most of it. He would not allowed a curse like that to be passed on. Brilliant.

Glad you enjoy the show, too. Thanks for the post.AC

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Claire Booth said...

Scott, I'm so hopeful, too, that this season comes to a fitting end like the last one did. And I remember that episode about whether Sherlock will donate his genetic material. Great episode!