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Elementary – Recap & Review – Pilot

photo: cbs

Original Air Date: Sep 27, 2012

Laura Kelley — Associate Staff Writer

When we last saw Sherlock Holmes, he’d just broken our hearts in a Reichenbach fall and cross-dressed on a train with Jude Law and his venerable mustache. Regardless of which incarnation holds a special place in your heart, you’ve got to admit that there can never be enough Holmes. Now everyone’s favorite consulting detective is back in an American take on the Holmes mythos, complete with a female Watson and quite a few interesting tattoos.

But did the premiere live up to the hype?

If I had to creatively title this episode, I’d probably call it “Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Resounding Meh.” Until the last few minutes I really wasn’t feeling it, but there was enough adorable banter packed in to suck me in. I was admittedly a bit wary of Holmes in Manhattan with the not-uncommon fanfiction trope of a female Watson thrown in, but I didn’t find Lucy Liu’s Watson distracting. She plays Joan (or Lady Watson, as I call her), with her guard up but it remains to be seen if she can hold the audience’s interest. We meet Watson first as she jogs, sans psychosomatic limp, and then goes to meet Sherlock. She’s been hired by his father as a sober companion since he’s fresh out of rehab and has left London for unknown reasons that I’d bet my deerstalker are Irene Adler-related. When we first meet Sherlock he’s shirtless, because the TV gods have chosen to smile down upon us all this season, and Watson announces she’s moving in with him, because that’s just a handy-dandy plot device that was not weird at all.

Sherlock tells Watson she’s going to clean his house before running off to the NYPD with his “personal valet” in tow. Since pretty much every iteration of Holmes treats his respective Watson as a valet most of the time, it makes sense. Aidan Quinn makes a perfectly affable Gregson, and I am glad they didn’t go with Lestrade as Holmes’s beleaguered police liaison since nobody will ever match the BBC version’s Rupert Graves for gravelly-voiced irritation and sheer charm. The case is actually a pretty boring one involving a redheaded woman (or scarlet, for fellow canon fans), who’s murdered. The husband character honestly seemed like he was fighting to stay awake the entire episode and it was the only weak spot as far as the acting went. At this point in the episode I was really unsure about how accurately the Holmes character is being written, because as my roommate pointed out, “I’m not even a fan and even I think it’s ridiculous that it takes him 7 tries to figure out Gregson’s password. I think this is the worst Sherlock Holmes I’ve ever seen.” She then left the room and still has not returned, probably since Sherlock’s shirt has stayed on for several minutes and her attention has waned. Sherlock sort-of deduces Watson, whose past is a lot less interesting without the PTSD and lumpy sweaters. And mustache.

Meanwhile, while we’re all trying to mentally digest Sherlock finding sex repellent because of “all of the juices,” the partially unconscious husband character shows back up in a turtleneck and is so clearly the man they’re looking for that I don’t even mind spoiling it. He may as well have swirled around in a cape and laughed maniacally the whole time, because it was so obvious that anyone with a pulse could have deduced it. Sherlock figures out that Watson quit being a doctor because a patient died and crashes her car in a fit of pique. For some reason they are still speaking the next day when she bails him out of jail and they figure out thanks to a bag of rice that the husband killed the disgruntled former patient who killed his wife who got plastic surgery to look like the killer’s type, and it’s all about as farfetched as the 7 password attempts. But the episode was saved in the end by the factor that can always save a struggling Holmes story: the relationship between Holmes and Watson. Sherlock is forced to watch a Mets game and Watson tells him that just because he doesn’t understand something doesn’t mean it’s not awesome. It is awesome that this Sherlock keeps bees, as they’re admirable creatures. No one can deny that, and I was thrilled with the nod to canon.

Overall I did like this pilot episode, but mostly because Jonny Lee Miller makes a fairly good and distinctive Holmes. He’s hyperactive and gives off the impression that he’s deliberately trying to restrain himself at all times from doing something insane, like crashing someone’s car out of sheer irritation, and he’s different enough from Benedict Cumberbatch’s fantastic Holmes that I didn’t find myself comparing the two all that much. I hope the show manages to add more depth to Watson and I also would really, really love to see if this show will draw more from the classic stories and if so, if we’ll ever get its take on my favorites. What did you think of Elementary, and where do you think it should go from here? Bohemia, perhaps? Sound off in the comments and I’ll see you next week!

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