On CBS, ‘Elementary’ has now run for 2 episodes. It is another attempt at a modernized version of Sherlock Holmes. If you’re unaware why I say “another,” we are nearing the third season of ‘Masterpiece Mystery: Sherlock’ on PBS (look, more reasons to support PBS—and the first two seasons are now available on Netflix), created and lead written by the guy that every Whovian has learned to worship, Steven Moffat.
Being that this one has come out so closely along with ‘Sherlock,’ it is a bit unavoidable to try to compare one to the other, and the key comparisons, I would say, would be in how the two do in dealing with the modern treatment of some of the two most famous characters in mystery history, Doctor John Watson, and Consulting Detective Sherlock Holmes. ‘Sherlock’ actually does the best at staying true to the original source, every story that has been written so far has been a detail-for-detail modernization of the original stories—it’s basically a set-up of, how would these mysteries happen in modern times, plus, how would someone with a mind like Sherlock deal with them now, basically, the deductive reasoning in a digital information age. Where as, ‘Elementary’ has been taking a few more liberties with the concept—Doctor John Watson is now Doctor Joan Watson, played by Lucy Liu, and Sherlock now lives in New York after a drug abuse past, and something yet unmentioned in details happened in London, and the stories so far are completely original.
So far, about the only resemblance that our new Sherlock in ‘Elementary’ comes to the one that most of the fans know is in his detective techniques. But, of course, this is the part that should be considered important (although the relationship between Holmes and Watson is important too, but I’m still letting that get flushed out a bit before I say anything—although, if this becomes another bit of the male and female characters start doing it and making all stories later just awkward, then I will greatly mark them down—it’s just too cliché for me, and I say all this with the concern about the set-up so far in mind). Both shows have actually made sure to quote Sherlock’s “attic theory” (though ‘Sherlock’ quoted it in detail, where as ‘Elementary’ mostly paraphrased), so at least with this in mind, we can at least assume that at some level the writers are trying with some effort to keep Sherlock “thinking” like Sherlock, and for at least two episodes, I have not yet seen any noticeable flaws in this
So, my rating for the show so far is 4 out of 5. I can’t give it a full 5 because the changes so far are just making me too uneasy (mainly with Watson, I just so see a future relationship set-up going on that bugs the crap out of me). And I honestly would give it a 3, but the fan-boy in me resists—as some friends may know, a lot of my school-days short-stories were modernized Sherlock Holmes stories, this is one of the key things that gave birth to D’arc Lyte (although, I get a little more noire with him, he does use more of a deductive reasoning style still).
On CW, ‘Arrow’ is now only one episode in—I know, I’m writing about it already, which must mean I was impressed… or dramatically horrified. And it is actually the former; I came in with doubts and was greatly disproved so far.
If you don’t know, ‘Arrow’ is based on the DC Comics character Green Arrow, the character that also appeared in the series ‘Smallville’ to serve more or less as the closest they could get to a Batman-type character without actually being Batman (he was put in right after Nolan’s Batman jolted the popularity, the timing made it a bit obvious what the motives were).
In ‘Smallville’ his back-story was that he was a rich kid who’s parents were killed in a plane crash that left him stranded on an island, until he returned to use the power of money against the criminal element. This version, is slightly different—this time he was on a ship with his dad, his girlfriend’s sister, and some guy that I don’t even know if he got more than a single line—the ship was stuck in a storm while Oliver did his girlfriend’s sister, and then the boat flipped, suddenly we’re in the water, and the dirty sister’s gone in the depths, and daddy and un-named friend are in a raft. Details are given gradually through jumbled flashbacks in the episode, but eventually, it’s revealed that daddy killed his friend and him so Oliver could live—it sounded as if this should be mysterious, but little was hinted at the why—and then Oliver got to an island where he lived for 5 years until picked-up by a boat.
It is very vaguely hinted that a lot more went on during his time on the island, such as the panning over to a mangled mask of what most comic readers will recognize as Slade Wilson (a.k.a., Deathstroke). However, we are so far left with only the vague hints, simply, something happened, and he went from being a typical spoiled rich-boy brat, to a hardened fighter who can handle himself rather well with a bow, and a grudge attached to a yet to be explained list.
My doubts in this show were based largely on ‘Smallville’s’ handling of the character. Though, I didn’t hate the way they did it, I just didn’t think they did it in a way that would have allowed the character to be able to survive too well on its own—apparently I wasn’t completely alone on this idea, hence the slight re-write. Plus, the promo trailers they were showing were just completely confusing and out of context and with the ‘Smallville’ take on in still running through my head, I just had no idea what was about to happen with what looked like a hot mess.
But my doubts were shot down with at least this episode. This episode showed a dark and gritty (almost complete opposite in setting from ‘Smallville’s’ brighter side) character that had no issues with killing (definitely different from most comic book-type characters). How well will this dark grit hold up will be left to see, since I’ve seen shows in the past that were really dark for the pilot, only to lose it completely afterward, and the director of this episode, David Nutter, actually directed the pilots of a few of the shows that are coming to mind—so, I’m for now still not getting my hopes too high… or at least trying not to.
But, my rating so far is 4 out 5. I swear, I will some day give something a solid 5, but for now, 4 stands because, one, I’m getting nervous about a show I already like… and I hate that; and 2, the sets in the show bug me… reusing the Luthor Castle from ‘Smallville’ was one thing, but the office, too… really? That was a freakin’ sound-stage, that’s not a budget thing, that’s a lack of originality.
- Not So Elementary (mariethea.wordpress.com)
- Sherlock vs. Elementary: An Observation (sfsu.uloop.com)
- A New Twist On An Old Story of Sherlock Holmes-Elementary (brouhaha-access.com)
- Elementary: Pilot (sightsandsoundz.com)
- Sherlock Holmes’s Disappointing New Update (theatlantic.com)
- Sherlock Gets US Makeover With CBS Elementary (films.ie)
- Elementary Series Premiere Review (girishkumar.me)
- Plaid on Plaid: Elementary’s Biggest Crime is Being Tame (tor.com)
- Sherlock Holmes Deathmatch! Elementary vs. Sherlock vs. Sherlock Holmes (nyulocal.com)
- Magical Boy Sherlock Holmes (tokyojupiter.com)