TV Review: “Elementary” – Bored!

Written by Jessica Koroll October 22, 2012

At this point in time, it seems almost impossible to sit in front of a television and not see at least some echoes of the beloved literary detective somewhere on screen. Through sci-fi and comics, as well as medical dramas and police procedurals, the many incarnations of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson have developed quite a strong following. With a long history of adaptations to build off of and differentiate itself from, CBS’ “Elementary” successfully recreates the chemistry and individual quirks that define the pair. Unfortunately, it fails to do much else.

“Not even on key.”

The show begins on the day of Sherlock Holmes’ (Jonny Lee Miller) release from rehab. As he prepares for his return to work as an unpaid consultant for the New York City Police Department, he is assigned a personal live-in sober companion in the form of Joan Watson (Lucy Liu). The two must learn to work and live together as they tackle the city’s many homicide investigations.

As you can probably tell, this is a procedural. Each week we’re given a new case, false leads, and side characters who feel the need to argue against Sherlock’s deductions every step of the way. Although the writing does offer some unexpected twists in connection to the outcomes of its cases, the setup is average and the mysteries are fairly straightforward. You’re not going to be racking your brain much to figure out who did it, nor should you expect to feel for the one-dimensional victims.

“Drug Free. Congratulations.”

Thankfully, the show’s main appeal is enough to keep each episode interesting and the pace moving quickly. Miller portrays a very human Sherlock who is clearly capable of experiencing emotional connections and isn’t driven solely by his work. Through his conversations with Watson, his vulnerability and emotional isolation are revealed early on as parts of his past are foreshadowed. The revelations are subtle as Miller manages to balance the darker aspects of Sherlock Holmes with his brilliant intellect and likability. Similarly, Liu’s Watson is energetic and set on equal footing to him, creating an engaging dynamic in which they are both respectful and obstinate of one another. The scenes in which Holmes sets his violin on fire out of defiance or Watson outright ignores his increasing attempts to get her attention at an opera reflects the charm that inherently must exist in any Holmes and Watson pair. The budding friendship between the two occurs naturally and provides some of the most humorous moments in the show. Seeing their relationship played so well and so early in the series shows great promise for its future.

This won’t mean much, however, if the investigations remain as lifeless as they are and if the cast fails to develop further. Outside of Holmes and Watson, there are only two other regulars, Detective Marcus Bell (Jon Michael Hill) and Captain Tobias Gregson (Aidan Quinn). Neither seem to serve any purpose outside of passing on cases to Sherlock and either aiding him or questioning his process. The development of Holmes and Watson is well written and fun but I doubt they’ll be able to carry the plot on their own for very long.

“Elementary” is a run of the mill procedural with little to offer outside of its main characters. The crimes will not excite you but, with such a strong pair of cast members to work with, the show may yet find its footing.

My Rating: 6/10

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About Jessica Koroll

Jessica Koroll

An English student with a taste for the surreal and love for all things science fiction, her thoughts generally linger on Star Trek, lit theory, and recent tv episodes. I'm also @korolline_

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