Elementary: Pilot

"You have two alarm clocks. No one with two alarm clocks loves their job. Two alarm clocks mean it's a chore for you to get up in the morning."

Elementary has an uphill battle to fight. TV snobs complain that it's just another CBS procedural drama. Sherlock devotees whine that it's a blatant and inferior rip-off of their beloved show. Clueless TV dabblers assume it's set at a school for young children. But what is the show actually like?

Elementary is fast-paced, witty, and shows many flashes of brilliance. And the same could be said for its lead, Jonny Lee Miller. He owns the role of the role of the legendary detective, and plays it a bit more jaded than Cumberbatch's, and a bit less than Downey's. I was overjoyed when I found out Miller was keeping his British accent, though the breathless clip with which he delivers his lines had some viewers searching for closed captioning buttons on their remotes. I didn't have any trouble understanding him, though.

I didn't think Miller would have much trouble pulling off a great Holmes, but I was a bit more wary about Watson. I'm not familiar with Lucy Liu's acting, and I worried that it might become just another will they/won't they couple teaming up to solve crime (not that I don't love many shows with that format, it just doesn't seem very Sherlock Holmes). Since the producers have assured many times that they don't intend the Holmes/Watson dynamic to turn romantic, I then focused on what Liu would bring to the table as Watson.

Liu's Watson is far less awed by Holmes' brilliance (perhaps partly due to a false deduction he made to spare her feelings) than a typical rendering of the character, has a painful past, and has some skill of her own at noticing clues. She plays the calm one to Holmes' manic tendencies, but also shows a more playful side occasionally (as in the ending scene). Her enjoyment of both opera and baseball hints at a layered personality.

The initial crime to solve had a decent amount of twists, though it isn't earth-shattering. Thankfully, the previews didn't give much away. I was surprised by how willing Captain Gregson was to let Sherlock into the case, but him working with Holmes before in England made it more plausible.

One of my favorite parts was Holmes crashing Watson's car into a suspect's vehicle. Like Watson, I assumed he did it because it would help them get evidence to arrest the murderer. But no, he just did it because he was mad. Spoiled rich kid.

Elementary isn't basing its cases on the classic Doyle stories, though I suspect Moriarty will show up soon enough. And after Watson deduced that Sherlock's spiral downward was caused by a woman (yes, Holmes isn't the only one with deducing skills), my first thought was that could be Irene Adler.

In all, while this pilot didn't blow me away, I enjoyed every minute of it, and my high expectations were fully met. I love the character of Sherlock Holmes, and a movie every two years and three episodes every 18 months leaves plenty of room for another version of Holmes. Also, Holmes-inspired shows like Monk and House have now ended, leaving room for more anti-heroes with excellent deductive reasoning. I definitely plan to continue watching.

9 comments:

ChrisB said...

This version of Sherlock Holmes was better than I had expected. Being a huge fan of the BBC stories, especially Cumberbatch's portrayal of the detective, I thought this was going to be a bit insipid.

While I thought Miller did a good job, I really liked Lucy Liu's portrayal of Watson. I have not historically been a fan of hers, but she did a very good job here. I also like the dynamic that is growing between the two of them; although, I hope the producers keep their promise about a romance...

sunbunny said...

I really wanted to like this, but I just could not understand around 50% of the dialogue. It wasn't just Miller, Lucy Liu gave me issues too. Mumbling does not make things more dramatic. It makes things mumblier.

I did love the car bit. I was pretty sure he was just angry and didn't have a master plan. I suppose I have less faith in him than Watson does. :)

Josie Kafka said...

I know my reaction to this show is completely bizarre, and that 99% of humanity will think I'm crazy. Having said that:

Wow. A manipulative drug addict with rage issues and an infantile desire to prove that he's righter than everyone else is paired with a woman haunted by guilt and with so little backbone that she gives in to temper tantrums ("Give me the keys!") without batting an eyelash. She then rewards the manipulator for totaling her car by affirming that she'll stick by him and work with him to build a "meaningful connection" because she understands his pain.

Plus, I thought the mystery was hokey, but I'm picky about that.

Anyway...back to my non-ranting self: this was a great review, and I'm happy other people are enjoying this show! Lucy Liu's clothes were interesting, and she's one of those lucky women who gets even more stunningly gorgeous as she ages.

OHara said...

I really enjoyed the pilot. I thought the way the show used Holmes's deductive abilities was quite clever and stayed fairly true to the original canon.

And this may just be my nerdy side coming through (I have a majorbobsession with the Holmes saga), but I think the episode's mystery plot was a loose, and rather sneaky, adaptation of "The Red-Headed League." If it's true, these writers are smarter than most critics have given them credit for.

OHara said...

That would be an "obsession", not a "bobsession.":)

Mom2mykids said...

I was really prepared to NOT like this show. I'm pleasantly surprised by the pilot, and hope that the writers and actors can keep up the pace. My husband actually wanted to see it more than I did, so I DVR'd it for him. He hasn't seen it yet, but I'm interested to hear his reaction. Thanks for the review!

ChrisB said...

Loved your comment, Josie! It made me laugh out loud on this rainy Saturday afternoon.

PlatinumRosebud said...

Okay, Katie. Since I find you give no bullshit reviews, i'll try to watch this pilot and see if its worth watching; for me, that is. :)
Thanks for the review.

Thomas Ijon Tichy said...

I thought their take on Irene/Jamie was quite clever. I'm entertained. Watching second season now.