Crime fiction,  TV/Movies

TV Show: Elementary

TV is my crack.

Rachel McAdams (actress)

You all know I am a huge TV and movies fan. I actually spend a lot of time everyday sitting in front of the TV, watching whichever TV show or movie I am really focused on that day or week. Or you could say, I’m obsessed and my evenings spent watching up to six 40-minutes long episodes of crime TV shows are insane. However you want to see it, TV and movies make me happy. So, I have decided to start reviewing the crime TV shows that I love the most and that will, generally, include a woman investigator. If they do not include one, I will probably come here to rant about it anyways. So, I declare my Crime fiction > TV/Movies section inaugurated!

Elementary (2012 – present) is “[a] modern take on the cases of Sherlock Holmes, with the detective now living in New York City” according to its IMDB page. The series star Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes and Lucy Liu as Dr. Joan Watson. Yes, you read it right: for the first time on a Sherlock Holmes adaptation, Watson is actually a woman, and not only that, but one with Asian ancestry. Holmes, on the other hand, remains the English detective he has always been, only this time, he has moved to New York City. The following review explores characters and diversity of representation and contains a major spoiler from season 2


I had known about Elementary for a long time, but I had stayed away from watching it from season 1 because I thought a modern, American and light take on my favourite detective would not suit me. How wrong I was! A few weeks ago I ran out of shows to watch and I decided to give it a go. So, I got seasons 1 and 2 and started to spend my nights with these new Holmes and Watson. I do not know why, but I had expected this female Watson to be a sidekick, someone who nursed, took care and helped Holmes be the main character and genius he is. I have to admit, I was partly right: Dr. Joan Watson is an abstinence assistant, which means that she comes into Holmes’ life to help him fully recover from his heroin addiction. However, as the show progresses, she becomes a complete character and I was really happy to learn about her past. No wonder it takes her and Liu some episodes to fully develop the character! Watson has never been much explored as a character and even less as a woman and a highly-regarded (ex) surgeon. So, in order for Joan to become a likable, complex and strongcharacter, the audience needs to sit with her some episodes. Don’t worry, it will eventually pay off.


And she will tell Holmes what he needs to hear every once in a while:

Holmes, on the other hand is quite a departure from other TV shows even though modern productions insist on making Holmes act very much as if he were Sheldon Cooper (and suffered from Asperger’s syndrome). Miller’s Holmes openly addresses his heroin addiction and the show makes a great job at portraying how difficult it is for an addict to recover and how that recovery depends 99% on him. But, he remains the genius, the over-stimulated child who pestered his parents and has grown to be an awkward middle-aged man with an asocial behavior that he tries to moderate. This Holmes is more vulnerable and open about his awkwardness than others that I have seen and, unlike Sherlock’s Sherlock, sometimes he is not proud of being a misfit.

Step Nine

And She needs her own paragraph. She, being THE woman and my personal favourite, Irene Adler. I really liked what they did with her in Sherlock Holmes (the movie) where she was played by Rachel McAdams, although I found her a little bit bland. Sherlock‘s Adler (Laura Pulver) a dominatrix that is blackmailing the Royal Family was much more of my taste. In Elementary, Adler (Natalie Dormer) is dead and much related to Holmes’ fall, but she still plays a role, one that will satisfy Holmes’ fans, nonetheless. I personally have Elementary‘s Adler as my favourite in the modern adaptations of the Canon. “At last “- I thought – “here is an Adler that makes me feel like the one I met reading ‘A Scandhal in Bohemia’.” Her appearance not only as someone who totally fooled Holmes, but as the incarnation of a female James (Jamie) Moriarty has become my favourite twist on a crime TV show. I always thought that Adler was much more than one character in one of Holmes’ cases and Elementary has taken her, and her power to where they really need to be. Also, high-five to whoever thought of making Adler and Moriarty the same character and – finally! – creating a female Moriarty. Just flawless.


As for the cases, there were quite a few that rang a bell, but the adaptations are not as direct as in the BBC’s Sherlock. Elementary has less time per episode and more time to fill in a year that Sherlock, and that makes up for some good and some mediocre episodes. Meanwhile, the series is slowly incorporating Sherlock Holmes’ traditional characters. One who deserves a mention is Ms. Hudson (Candis Cayne), here portrayed as a transsexual who lives her life as the lover of powerful and rich men. Lestrade is substituted by Captain Thomas Gregson (Aidan Quinn), who appeared in ‘A Study in Scarlett’ and who is more benevolent with Holmes’ grey areas than Lestrade was in the Canon. Lestrade appears in a few episodes, but as a secondy and minor character. As for new additions, Jon Michael Hill plays Detective Marcus Bell, a young African-American who, like Liu’s Watson needs a few episodes to fully reveal himself as a likable character.


Elementary is, then, a modern and much more diverse take on the famous English detective and his pals. I was really glad to see some racial, gender and sexual diversity in the new characters and I do hope season 3 keeps innovating and including more aspects of a not-anymore white and English setting and state of affairs.




  • crimeworm

    I must check this out; it’s on one of the satellite channels. I’m awful with the Law and Order franchise – can spend all night watching various versions, my favourite being Criminal Intent with Goren and Eames. I am just in love with him and his incredible intelligence.

    • Elena

      Oh I am a big L&O fan as well, but I have to admit I’m a sucker for the SVU one. I know it’s the creppiest and most violent, but I think they’re doing a great job talking about sexual violence, even though theirs is a very conservative take sometimes.

      Let me know if you check Elementary. It has a different tone to L&O, but I think you’ll love it anyways.

    • Elena

      I can’t either. Also, I’m in love with Watson and found her character – especially in season 1 – very inspiring. I just saw that the show has a 8/10 rating on IMDB, which is a lot! I’m glad people are in for a more diverse taken on such legendary characters.

      Didn’t you love the Adler/Moriarty combo? I was speechless and clapping my hands at the same time. Wow!

  • amanda

    I’m glad to hear your take on Elementary. I haven’t yet watched any of it–just not enough time!–but it’s been on my radar for a while. It sounds like it might be one to keep on the “get to someday” list.

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