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.