TV - The Elementary Apology


Steve Taylor-Bryant feels he has an apology to make.  Why?  It's Elementary...

Hi. My name is Steve and I'm an addict. It's 20 minutes since I last used my Elementary DVD. Cor blimey guv'nor I spewed some hatred and bile when Elementary hit our screens. Writing? - bad. Casting? - bad. Everything about it? - bad. I don't usually get wrapped up in hype and campaigns but I was this time and I wrote my thoughts without giving the subject matter the time warranted for a fair assessment. Luckily I was gifted the first two seasons on DVD and started again a few years calmer and discovered that away from the intensity of the Internet that I bloody well loved it!

The differences I decided I'd hate the first time were quaint, needed, and dare I say quite clever on rewatch. The casting almost perfect, and given the restrictions that American networks put on their show runners even the writing was at a level far beyond adequate, edging towards great. Yes Elementary is more police drama than Holmes reboot like Sherlock is but that doesn't matter really as a detective is a detective whether consulting or not and Sherlock has the added advantages of BBC support, only 3 episodes per season, 90 minutes in length, and the writing team can pretty much do what they want when they want. Elementary is tied to 24 episodes a season by a network not famous for financial support and each case has to be introduced, worked on and solved in 40 minutes. Given the speed involved you can forgive the writers for not being as complex per episode as maybe Moffat and Gattis who also get a year and half to write their three episodes so any comparison to the BBC version is unfair.

With that out of the way and taking Elementary on its own merits I found I grew to love the show. The addiction problem suffered by Holmes in Conan Doyle's original creation is more prevalent in Elementary and is an essential part of his behaviour as well as his everyday life and Jonny Lee Miller, whilst playing the role in an eccentric way, brings a sense of realism to life as an addict and as someone with a chequered past myself I found I had empathy towards his struggles and appreciated a lot of the issues he faced with his own demons.

Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) starts as a sober companion/ex surgeon before becoming Sherlock's partner and it is during the first season as his addiction helper that their relationship really forms, giving the Holmes/Watson characters a real depth not readily explored in other versions of the stories. Having Mary as Joan's mother was also a difference I didn't see coming and one that works with Joan writing the casebook articles more to appease her mother than anything else. Whilst Lestrade appears it is Captain Thomas Gregson (Aiden Quinn) of the NYPD that plays the part of case giver to Holmes and their relationship works well although it is often tested.

Some of the more classic characters that appeared in the Conan Doyle stories get a complete makeover in Elementary, no more so than Moriarty. Holmes faces his ultimate challenge with added relish as Moriarty is the man he holds responsible for the death of his beloved Irene Adler, an event so huge that his occasional dabble with narcotics turned into a full blown issue. Moriarty though turns out to actually be Adler and Jaime Moriarty puts a twist on the tale and Holmes having to cope with that truth and later face her again makes for compelling television and the fact it is actually Watson that works out how to capture her changes the dynamic of the characters showing that Holmes does need the help, that Moriarty isn't clever as she thinks she is, and that Watson actually has a role more important than associate to play.

Season three changes the way the characters interact again with Holmes returning to the States with Kitty, a new protégé in tow, Holmes in a long term relationship and out on her own, and when the season finishes here in the UK later next month I'm sure there will be more twists I could add into this article.

It is however not perfect television. Some cases are to easy to guess the outcome of and two cast members I am particularly annoyed by. Vinnie Jones plays Moriarty henchman Sebastian Moran in his usual snarling way and I feel underwhelmed wishing someone with a few more smarts had been cast. Oh and Sherlock's brother. A twisted, dark character full of secrets that could really add to the story? Well kind of. I'm sure on the page Mycroft Holmes as an undercover secret agent for the British government was a great idea but in Rhys Ifans they cast a Mycroft that just couldn't carry that storyline. I like Ifans usually but just didn't warm to his Mycroft, a wasted opportunity.

My name is Steve and I humbly apologise to those involved in Elementary. As you were...

Image - Amazon

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