When everyone’s favorite consulting detective was revived in 2010 on the hit BBC show Sherlock, with whip-smart Martin Freeman and genius newcomer Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead, we all rejoiced. The show, which dazzled viewers with stunning pyrotechnics, resplendent deduction scenes and razor sharp dialogue, easily began amassing a passionate following.
By the end of season two in early 2012, fans were hooked but the actors were exhausted: Freeman had been juggling movie scripts outside of the show (Director Peter Jackson even delayed filming of his behemoth hit, The Hobbit, just so Freeman would be able to finish work on Sherlock), and Benedict, too, was stuck between a rock and a hard place, wanting to buff up his resume while still reassuring BBC fans of his dedication to the consulting detective.
In an interview with Yahoo, Cumberbatch insisted “I don’t think [leaving Sherlock is] a possibility because I love it too much…. It’s all about availability. It’s a thing of quality and not quantity, that show—thank God.”
“Quality, not quantity” seems to be the overall theme of the show. Since its debut in 2010, Sherlock has produced just nine episodes. While the show functions as a mini-series rather than a weekly serial, die-hard fans were left dismayed when a two-year hiatus broke the continuity between seasons two and three (which still proved to be an outstanding season, despite concerns of lackluster energy in the fan base). And it doesn’t seem to be getting better: sources estimate the earliest known premiere date of season four to be late 2015 or early 2016.
Enter CBS’ Elementary.
When it was announced in 2012 that Jonny Lee Miller would be taking up the reins of a U.S. version of the cerebral crime drama, Sherlock fans were outraged. Before the pilot even aired, Holmes fans were vowing to stay away from it at all costs. Anti-Elementary memes flooded the social mediasphere. Jokes about failed American adaptations were plenty.
All of this was a real shame, considering that it took no more than one showing to draw audience members into the underrated dynamic between the show’s British-born Holmes and disenchanted former surgeon, Joan Watson. It may have been a few episodes before the show really warmed up, but producers were able to capture and hold the attention of even the most astute Holmes stalwarts, no small feat in today’s inundated media world.
Now, as the CBS drama closes its second season there is one thing that is certain: Elementary is not the camp-show we once thought it would be.
As a long time Sherlock fan myself, I understand the resolute refusal to tune into what some have described as a rip-off. But to fellow Cumber-loyalists I say, “give it a fair shot.”
Sure, Elementary is no Sherlock. But then, Sherlock is definitely no Elementary. The tone and visual style of each show is incomparable. With Sherlock, we’re spoiled with cinematic mastery and flawless writing, heavy-handed dialogue and life-or-death culminations. But with Elementary, viewers are treated to something a bit more heartfelt.
Some have described Miller’s embodiment of Holmes as “superbly compelling.” The gifted thespian deftly avoids any replication of what others have done to the character in recent years.
“I wanted him to be wild and erratic physically,” said Miller in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “I felt that matched his brain.” He continued, “In the books, I found him to be a much more understanding guy. I feel that he really likes people…. Not that he can necessarily communicate that very well. He likes the underdog. He generally wants to help.”
Fans worried about his relationship with a female Watson, played by the vibrant Lucy Liu, can rest easy. “You can play with certain things and bend and shape the characters,” continued Miller, “[but] I think there are some things that are sacred and need to remain solid—and [the relationship between Holmes and Watson] is absolutely sacred.” Show runner Rob Doherty has been insistent in the idea that the relationship between the two continues as platonic, no matter what the calls from the cheap-seats insist.
This season’s storylines have been even more exciting. With the arrival of Sherlock’s older brother Mycroft, played impeccably by Rhys Ifans, the development between the NYPD and the worldwide criminal network has been continuously electrifying. Game of Thrones star Natalie Dormer briefly reprised her role as Holmes’ former flame and mastermind criminal, Moriarty, to the delight of many. The charming banter between Holmes and Watson has been better than ever and we were finally treated to a more open and honest Sherlock Holmes during an emotional reunion between the two partners.
In an interview with TV Guide, Doherty explains, “Between Sherlock and Joan… big changes are coming. It’s more about their friendship and partnership. Where are [they] as we start the next year?”
Though Elementary isn’t the sweeping production that is the BBC’s Sherlock, it competes with it on every level that matters. Together, Miller and Liu breathe life into their characters and personify them in a unique and memorable way. They bring humanity and pragmatism to a canon that is easy to overplay and give viewers a glimpse at the benevolent side of the world’s greatest detective.
Missed it this season? You have all summer to catch up! You can watch previous episodes of Elementary on CBS.com.