Television: Elementary, "Pilot"

All right, I'll admit by the time the title card came up, I wasn't sold. It was a slow starter. And in a day and age when things need to happen quickly to get and keep people's attention, Elementary didn't really do that out of the gate.

But I stuck it out, and I'm glad I did. The show did a nice job of making the unease between Holmes (played by Jonny Lee Miller) and Watson (Lucy Liu) tangible. There was a good progression of character interaction as the relationship began to take root, so that by the end the sense of a kind of truce and/or budding friendship was believable.

If you didn't watch, let me explain this Holmes-in-New-York setup: Sherlock Holmes is a recovering drug addict who has relocated from London to New York. His daddy holds the purse strings, so Holmes must labor under Dad's directive that he have a live-in "sober companion" to keep an eye on him. Enter Watson as said companion. The tension, then, is understandable. Holmes has a certain amount of resentment at having to be babysat, and Watson doesn't especially love her job. (Turns out she used to be a surgeon but malpractice forced her out.)

The episode itself was a relatively textbook display of television procedural; unlike Sherlock, Elementary does not look to adapt Doyle's stories to more modern life. Therefore, the plotline itself was the least interesting bit of the show. Watching JLM throw a couple temper tantrums? That was pretty good.

This Holmes differs quite widely from that on Sherlock in that he displays a tad more ability to sympathize with other people, or at least with Watson. He apologizes for upsetting her, he admits faults and lies. This is not out of character from Doyle's Holmes, who often had cause to apologize to his faithful Watson, and who was known to throw tantrums at times himself. Too, JLM's Holmes is made angry by the villain—the crime ignites his ire—which is also similar to Doyle's creation, who found a savvy criminal very satisfying in one light but the abuses perpetrated deeply infuriating. He was a consulting detective not only for the fun of it, but because he liked to be on the side of right and to use his talents on its behalf.

Certainly it was important to CBS that Elementary be crafted with a Holmes that its audience would find, if quirky, ultimately sympathetic and likable. This is the reason for pulling those particular traits of Doyle's creation to the fore.

Elementary has also sprinkled some ongoing mystery into the mix, as Holmes refuses to tell Watson what happened to him in London. She deduces it has to do with a woman (Irene Adler perhaps?), but that is all viewers have been allowed to know for now.

All told, by the end of the episode I was ready to say I would continue watching, at least for now. They'll need to step up the actual plots and secondary characters, though, to hold me.

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