The character of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes has long been a fixture of popular culture. His genius, coupled with trusty sidekicks and an exhilarating backdrop for mystery-solving, provides timeless tales of adventure that continue to be enjoyed today.
Most recently, the Holmes franchise has received a new burst of popularity, largely in thanks to the film series starring Robert Downey Jr. as the titular character and Jude Law as Dr. John Watson. In addition, BBC’s “Sherlock” series (featuring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Holmes and Watson respectively) spurred much attention and praise within modern audiences.
It seemed inevitable that further adaptations would be produced in order to milk the current Holmes trend — the new CBS show “Elementary” seemed like a well-calculated move with which to draw audiences.
“Elementary,” like BBC’s “Sherlock,” places the Holmes universe in a modern setting. The similarities between the two shows end there. Whereas the BBC’s series is strict about keeping the storyline as canon as possible, “Elementary” truly explores the possibilities of how a contemporary Holmes and Watson would behave.
“Elementary” focuses on former Scotland Yard consultant Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller), who relocates to Brooklyn after a stint in rehab. He meets Dr. Joan Watson (Lucy Liu), a former surgeon, after learning that his father has hired her to be his sober companion for six weeks. Immediately within minutes of being introduced, Holmes whisks Watson off to a crime scene, as he now does consultant work with the NYPD to keep his interests piqued and brain exercised.
CBS is home to many popular crime dramas such as “CSI,” but “Elementary” separates itself brilliantly from this niche through the relationships and personalities of the characters.
Miller’s Holmes retains some classic traits, such as erratic behavior, interesting quirks and a mouth that works a mile minute. This Holmes also has a surprisingly human nature — he apologizes when he realizes that he has gone too far or caused any offense, and displays compassion for victims of crimes rather than having interest only in solving the mystery. Miller does a fine job in portraying Holmes as the perfect mixture between an alienating genius and a human trying to forget his checkered past.
The highlight of the show, is the reinvention of Dr. Watson through Lucy Liu’s Joan. A disgraced former surgeon, Watson gives up her career to become a sober companion after losing a patient on the table, but remains tight-lipped about the details surrounding the event.
Watson is commonly perceived as playing second fiddle to Holmes. He is slower to understand and constantly amazed with Holmes’ brilliance. Joan Watson, however, is no lackey. She is brilliant on her own and is often the one to keep Holmes in check. Though she does not hide being impressed with Holmes’ deductive skills, she does not stand idly by as he blurts out rude statements or behaves offensively.
The relationship between Holmes and Watson is what keeps “Elementary” from becoming like every other drama on primetime — the scenes that display their mutual frustrations and understandings place Watson and Holmes as the center of the show instead of the numerous crimes.
The mysteries themselves are rather unique and serve as effective backdrops to the slow revealing of Holmes and Watsons’ secretive pasts, as well as facilitating the growth of their fascinating dynamic.
“Elementary” may be reusing classic characters, but its own spin of the Holmes universe is nothing short of admirably well done.
Final Rating: 4/5