Elementary: The First Season

Elementary: The First Season
7
With the recent success of Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes franchise rejuvenation and the extreme, modernist advent of the television crime procedural, the amalgamation of the two, creating a weekly serial featuring the pseudo-fantastical, logical reasoning of Sherlock Holmes, was inevitable. Since the BBC already took a rather literal, albeit arguably more effective, approach with Sherlock, the American version went a decidedly quirkier path by making Watson a female ex-surgeon, exploiting the romantic component and implicit gender power imbalance proven successful with Bones and Castle. The result is very much a reiteration of those series, with a socially dysfunctional, but loveable crime solver taking an exacting approach to an irrational, mostly uneducated world, juxtaposed against an affable, somewhat saucy counterpart able to integrate herself with the locals more effectively. Here, Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) is a recovering addict and habitual forensic investigator saddled with a drug coach — Watson (Lucy Liu) — to ensure he doesn't relapse. Inevitably, we learn that she has a shady history of her own, being a type-A perfectionist struggling to reconcile a surgical failure that left a patient dead and her with a suspended license, which is evident to Holmes, who has a tendency to notice every little fibre of peculiarity or behavioural abnormality. That his coping mechanism is drugs is the most inspired aspect of Elementary. Being someone that's sensitive to the world, removed enough from status quo ethos to interpret and assess the haphazard nature of it all, he's unable to ignore or disengage from external stimuli. Since the modern world — one removed from the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle vernacular — is filled with an abundance of minutiae, the observations are exaggerated, making a character such as this more plausibly detached and prone to chemical escape. This is mostly an incidental, expository character signifier for most of the first season, wherein crimes involving hospital mercy killings, murdered Wall Street executives, Internet company bombings and seedy prostitution rings take front seat. In the supplemental materials, the writers point out that conceiving the character dynamics — the ones that keep viewers tuning in from week to week, rather that going to any number of other similarly structured template shows — is the easy part. Oddly, they don't really expand upon the methodology beyond structuring the mystery element, but speak endlessly about the construction of a modern day Sherlock Holmes, which is somewhat contrary to the assertion of characterization as a contextual simple process. Fortunately, the interplay between Liu and Miller is effective enough to make engaging a show that really doesn't have anything new to offer the lexicon of mediocre television fodder. (Paramount)