tardis_stowaway: TARDIS under a starry sky and dark tree (nice not being me)
[personal profile] tardis_stowaway
God damn it, I had a whole long post that LJ just ate.  >:(  Now I have to rewrite the whole thing.

So, I've been watching Elementary.  I wasn't wild about it at first (other than Lucy Liu, who is wonderful), and I fell behind for a while.  I've finally caught up, and I have to say that it has improved a LOT lately.  I'm really pleased to see it finally hit its stride.  It's great to get a regularly scheduled dose of onscreen Holmes and Watson.  In my opinion, Sherlock is still clearly the better made show as well as MUCH closer to my heart, but I am excited to live in a time that is so rich with diverse interesting Holmes adaptations. 

One of the chief reasons why I feel like the episodes from "M" onwards have been an improvement over the early season is that the stakes are higher.  In the early episodes, Joan and Sherlock were hardly ever in danger.  Many early episodes had no fighting or even running.  I don't usually watch police procedurals, so that may be a characteristic of Elementary's genre?  Certainly not every canon case involved haste and personal danger to Holmes and Watson.  However, I just find it more interesting when the characters I know and care about face some sort or risk and urgency.  Elementary has been much better about embracing the adventure aspect of the Sherlock Holmes stories lately.  Joan Watson (despite her sad lack of the usual Watsonian army background) even got to smash a killer over the head with Sherlock's phrenology bust.

Another one of Elementary's recent improvements has been the shift in the relationship between Sherlock and Joan to something based on more genuine friendship.  When Elementary initially had Sherlock and Joan brought together by Holmes's father hiring Joan against Sherlock's will, it violated one of the core principles of the Holmes stories.  I would consider an adaptation with Holmes and Watson as obvious lovers to be far less of a departure from the spirit of canon than making them a professional and a grudging client instead of flatmates of choice who rapidly become friends.  Now that we've finally reached the point where Joan is no longer paid to be there and Sherlock admits that he wants her around, they are finally looking more like the latest variation on Holmes and Watson rather than just some American TV characters who had famous names slapped on in an effort for ratings. 

Some other things I've enjoyed about Elementary lately:

-Clyde the tortoise!  I hope he makes many more adorable appearances.  (I only wish he was named Gladstone.)

-Joan calling Sherlock on his bullshit when he made an offensive joke about her being on her period.  Well played, Joan.

-Joan getting to make lots of successful deductions, including both those based on her medical background (like realizing that the serial killer's sister was artificially inducing her kidney disease) and those based on pure observational skills and smarts (like realizing that her landlord was plotting to evict her based on a continuity error in the porn film the subletter filmed in her apartment)

-Joan's wardrobe

-Joan in general

-the appearance of Moran and references to Moriarty, giving us some sort of continuing mystery plot arc.

-Gregson punching Sherlock when he deserved it.  Somewhere in the parallel universe of BBC Sherlock, Lestrade feels a mysterious sense of satisfaction.

-canon references, like Sherlock mentioning a past case with a blue carbuncle, his catalog of tobacco ash, and the picture of Napoleon on his Moriarty wall.  (One canon reference that made me thoroughly UNHAPPY was the invocation of Irene Adler.  Gone is Doyle's woman who outwitted Sherlock and walked away.  Here, Irene Adler is nothing more than a past lover who was fridged to give Sherlock backstory for his slide into addiction and his grudge against M.  OCEANS OF NOPE.  But enough about that source of anti-squee.)

-references to other fandom-ish stuff, like the safe builders called Casterly Rock Security (almost certainly a Game of Thrones reference) or the guest character named Harold Dresden (possible Dresden Files reference, or maybe I'm just reaching)

-As a sort of combination of the previous two bullet points, in the latest episode multiple characters proclaimed "I believe in Sherlock Holmes."  The noise I made the first time this line was spoken was loud enough to terrify my cat.  Yeah, this is obvious pandering to the internet-based Sherlockian fandom, but sometimes I like being pandered to.

I believe in a big tent approach to Sherlock Holmes adaptations.  To me Elementary plays second fiddle to the BBC's version (and that's just when we're considering these two modernizations), but sometimes multiple fiddles in counterpoint can produce more interesting music than
even the most skilled fiddler alone.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-10 04:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sylvansafekeepe.livejournal.com
Hmm. I may have to try watching this again. I stopped precisely because it was just another police procedural, and I can watch those whenever I want -- there's no shortage of 'em out there.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-10 07:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tardis-stowaway.livejournal.com
I would recommend giving it another shot. It still is essentially a police procedural, but I do now feel like it's a good quality police procedural starring Holmes and Watson.

If you don't want to go back and watch all the episodes you missed, I feel like it's been particularly good from "M" (ep. 1x12) onwards, though the two before that are also pretty worthwhile.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-04-10 05:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sylvansafekeepe.livejournal.com
I have now watched all of Elementary. And I pretty much agree with everything you said in this post!

My largest quibble is that this show, like Sherlock, still can't convincingly get someone to play the violin (or even fake it). Seriously, how hard is it to train someone to at least move his bow in sync with the notes?

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-11 01:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaydeefalls.livejournal.com
Somewhere in the parallel universe of BBC Sherlock, Lestrade feels a mysterious sense of satisfaction.
THIS.

I'm still holding out some hope for Irene not just being a fridge victim. They went out of their way to make it clear that her body was never found. I mean, by establishing her as Sherlock's former lover, she's already diminished from ACD, but that's true of just about every adaptation.

I TOTALLY CAUGHT THE HARRY DRESDEN THING TOO. That ep also had the Catch-22 Yossarian shout-out, which made me gleeful.

I'm really enjoying this adaptation as it goes along.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-12 09:05 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tardis-stowaway.livejournal.com
Yeah, I did notice that Irene's death is less than 100% certain. Still, even if she turns up alive later, the fact that she fake-died before we ever knew her means that her "death" and resurrection will be important to the audience for their effect on Holmes, not her own character arc. In this case I still count it as a fridging even if it doesn't stick.

You are very much right that the other recent adaptations have all had major problems with their own depictions of Ms. Adler. *sigh*

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-13 11:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] skalja.livejournal.com
I've been disappointed by the handling of Irene, too, but I'm trying to remember that at least there's still room here to salvage or subvert the mess, whereas in the films and in BBC that chicken has flown the coop. :/

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-13 11:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] skalja.livejournal.com
When Elementary initially had Sherlock and Joan brought together by Holmes's father hiring Joan against Sherlock's will, it violated one of the core principles of the Holmes stories.

Hmm. I don't see that as a "violation of one of the core principles" so much as an expedient change both to keep from retreading recently trod ground, and to create a plot thread that can spool out over the course of a 22-episode season. If Sherlock and Joan had hit it off as quickly as ACD's characters, or the BBC versions, there would have been a lot less interesting character drama over the past fifteen episodes. And if they don't have that instant devotion to each other, despite their obvious chemistry as a partnership, then there's no reason for Joan not to ollie on out of there are soon as Sherlock plays one too many stunts. Ergo, a pro-client relationship that we can watch evolve into friendship.

But then, it's one of my favorite things about Elementary that its character interactions are grounded in realism and mutual respect. Sherlock and Joan have to work to build their friendship; they have arguments and they talk stuff out, and actually listen to each other. Sherlock thinks he's smarter than the police but he doesn't think they're beneath him, and Gregson's respect is important to him. It's so refreshing to see a show with an eccentric genius of a rich white male lead in which the other characters and the narrative don't give him a pass on disrespectful or hurtful behavior because of his smarts.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-13 05:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tardis-stowaway.livejournal.com
I can see why the writers wanted to be very different from the BBC version. I still think removing the element of mutual choice from their initial partnership goes against what makes Holmes and Watson recognizable as Holmes and Watson. There are ways to handle the meeting other than instant devotion/obsession (in the Russian version, if I recall correctly, they were initially just rather distant flatmates whose friendship took a while to get off the ground, largely because Holmes was secretive about his work and Watson became increasingly convinced that Holmes was actually a criminal mastermind). I just think that there are a ton of changes from canon that are fair game and even awesome to play with, but this alteration was one of the major contributors to my early feeling that Elementary was just using the character names to tell a story that, while absolutely interesting in its own way, had very little to do with Sherlock Holmes.

But as I said in my original post, the relationship is evolving, and I'm willing to take it from where it currently stands. It may also be that I'm no longer used to watching American TV with 22-episode seasons and the ensuing need to make developments take so long to unfold.

It's so refreshing to see a show with an eccentric genius of a rich white male lead in which the other characters and the narrative don't give him a pass on disrespectful or hurtful behavior because of his smarts.

THIS! I do really love Joan Watson for the fact that while she might put up with a lot of weirdness, she generally calls out Holmes when he's being a dick. It's great that the show supports this attitude rather than treating her as shrill and over-sensitive for it.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-14 11:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] skalja.livejournal.com
I just think that there are a ton of changes from canon that are fair game and even awesome to play with, but this alteration was one of the major contributors to my early feeling that Elementary was just using the character names to tell a story that, while absolutely interesting in its own way, had very little to do with Sherlock Holmes.

Fair enough. I think in a way I had an advantage going in because I've read just enough of ACD and seen enough adaptations to have a good sense of what a "traditional" interpretation, but not so much that I'm really attached to any one particular detail. I had more of a problem with how dull the first few mysteries are, because it is Sherlock Holmes, but it's gotten much better on that recently!

This currently is the only 22-episode drama I'm watching at the moment, so I can relate to that as well. It's hard to make direct Sherlock-Elementary comparisons when both the dramatic and pragmatic necessities of making either show are so different. Arguably it's easier to compare the BBC version with the film version, since they're closer in terms of running time and production values.

THIS! I do really love Joan Watson for the fact that while she might put up with a lot of weirdness, she generally calls out Holmes when he's being a dick. It's great that the show supports this attitude rather than treating her as shrill and over-sensitive for it.

It's so refreshing. I also really enjoy the Gregson&Sherlock scenes for the same reason. And also because damn, the scene at the end of episode 4, when Sherlock confesses he's just out of rehab... is it just me, or is it incredibly rare to see a scene like that on mainstream television? Generally speaking, male protagonists don't deliberately make themselves vulnerable like that, especially not to another man. Because effed up ideas about masculinity, etc.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-17 03:29 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cloudtrader.livejournal.com
I'm very much enjoying Elementary, too.

You mentioned the client/patient dichotomy inherent in the early-season relationship between Joan and Sherlock, and I have to say that I actually really enjoy it. There has always been a power imbalance in the fandom between Holmes and Watson, with Watson taking a passive background apprentice-to-the-master role, which, when you change the gender dynamic, too, could be very squicky with a female Watson. Elementary starts out with a reversal of that power dynamic, with Joan having power over a Sherlock who has just experienced his lowest ebb.

I guess I just really like how the show is developing Joan as a character. She's not the kickass-yet-somehow-emotionally-fragile female character that has become Hollywood's shorthand for "Strong Female Lead" but rather has actual depth, and part of that has evolved out of her client/patient dynamic with Sherlock. I do like that they no longer in that relationship and I really really like how they have redefined their relationship in the latest episode (I don't want to spoil it for you if you haven't seen it yet, but I have a lot of thinky thoughts I wouldn't mind chatting about!!!).

I have to say that I also like Miller's version of Sherlock Holmes MUCH better than Cumberbatch's. In the second series of Sherlock, I really grew to actually dislike the titular character, even as I enjoyed the stories. Miller's interpretation is just the right amount of abrasive without being a total thoughtless ass. I like that he is, in some ways, the gentleman of the original ACD stories.

I'm also hoping and praying for a Mary Morstan for Joan to fall for. OMG, PLEASE.

(no subject)

Date: 2013-02-27 12:17 pm (UTC)
mysticalchild_isis: (sherlock holmes 2)
From: [personal profile] mysticalchild_isis
Did you see Shirtpunch today?

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