Elementary

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Elementary

Postby Graham Kennedy » Thu Oct 04, 2012 2:42 am

Just watched the pilot episode of this. For those who don't know, the BBC made a series that was an updated version of Sherlock Holmes recently, set in the present day. It was very good and quite successful, so the US have made their own version. Some spoilers for the general series and my impressions of it will follow, but not much in the way of spoiling the plot of the pilot itself.

All in all, I find it very mixed. I think they've done a good job in some ways, but they've made a couple of crucial mistakes.

On the good... Jonny Lee Miller is very good. He really is. Lucy Liu is... well, not as good but still pretty good. Dropping the whole "write stuff on the screen as Sherlock thinks" is also very welcome, because that's one thing I find annoying about the original. The plot was engaging enough, and Sherlock's deductions were all handled well... they're clever, but not so obscure and silly that they lose credibility.

On the downside... well, for one, Miller may be good but he just isn't as good as Cumberbatch in the role. Cumberbatch has a much more weird physicality to him, with his stick insect body. He looks odd, which fits such an odd person. And he has an intensity that Miller approaches but doesn't reach.

But sadly, the big failure is Joan Watson.

I have nothing against a female Watson, per se. But I think they've made a major misstep because they've let it affect the characters. The thing about Sherlock and Watson in the BBC's series is that Sherlock is rather cruel to Watson. To everyone, really. He doesn't mean to be, he doesn't set out to hurt him, but Sherlock deduces tiny, hidden, intimate details about people and when he does he blurts them out to demonstrate how clever he is. It never even occurs to him that this is hurtful until he sees it happen, and then he's usually quite sorry about it. There's an exchange in one episode where Watson says "You're a psychopath!" and Holmes blandly replies "No, I'm a high functioning sociopath."

And Watson - like almost everyone else - is not really able to do anything about this. People can't really fight back against Sherlock, because he's just the smartest person in the room by about tenfold. Watson is a likeable, normal, affable guy, and Sherlock guts him routinely just by accident. In a way, it's a rather sadistic/masochistic relationship only where the people don't mean to be sadistic/masochistic. But it is very, very interesting to watch.

You can do this, when it's two guys. But I think the writers of Elementary have decided that you can't do it with a man and a woman. I think they've decided that he'd become too unsympathetic if he treated Joan like that and got away with it.

So there are several occasions in Elementary when Watson out-thinks Sherlock. She's the one who gets a witness to talk. Holmes even lies about it to cover up, and she calls him on it and is right. She calls him on his female guest. She calls him on his London past. And she's right, and she "wins" those battles. And that's bad for these characters, because Holmes and Watson are not supposed to be intellectual equals or even close to it. In Sherlock, Watson is the audience stand-in, he's this normal guy who is caught up in Sherlock's extraordinary world and goes along for the ride. In Elementary, Sherlock and Watson come across as being like a buddy cop team working cases together. It makes her less of an audience stand in, and it brings him down and makes him less interesting. It really harms the show, in my opinion.

So that's what I think. What do you think?
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Re: Elementary

Postby Teaos » Thu Oct 04, 2012 2:54 am

I havent seen either but I have read a few Holmes stories and I always got the impression Watson was rather clever, far more than the normal man, but Holmes was just that much more clever than him. Also Watson would occasionlly make connection Holmes wouldnt when it came to the Human element.
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Re: Elementary

Postby Graham Kennedy » Thu Oct 04, 2012 3:04 am

Teaos wrote:I havent seen either but I have read a few Holmes stories and I always got the impression Watson was rather clever, far more than the normal man, but Holmes was just that much more clever than him. Also Watson would occasionlly make connection Holmes wouldnt when it came to the Human element.

In the books Watson was never a stupid man by any means - he's often thought of that way because that's how Nigel Bruce played him in the Basil Rathbone Holmes series. He's a doctor, so he is probably of average or better intelligence, as you say, it's just that Holmes was that much smarter.

There's a line in the first episode of the BBC series where Watson exclaims "Why didn't I think of that!" and Holmes says "Because you're an idiot." When Watson looks at him he just shrugs and goes "No no no, don't be like that. Practically everyone is." Holmes genuinely does think of Watson that way, but it's just because he thinks of everybody that way.
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Re: Elementary

Postby Deepcrush » Thu Oct 04, 2012 3:27 am

To be honest, I look forward to seeing a more mannered and educated Holmes. I've seen a few different Holmes and I've never been impressed with the level of amateurism in which many of the series have tried to play it up. Holmes knows the answers just because the plot says so and there by acts stuck up isn't really impressive. But instead an Englishman who seems to actually understand law enforcement and field detection, I'm keeping high hopes for the series.
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Re: Elementary

Postby Teaos » Thu Oct 04, 2012 3:31 am

I liked House form the TV show House MD, a very believeable take on Holmes.
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Re: Elementary

Postby Deepcrush » Thu Oct 04, 2012 3:55 am

The team player aspect is enjoyable.
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Re: Elementary

Postby Coalition » Thu Oct 04, 2012 6:09 am

For a moment, I thought you were telling us what school you were going to. *<:*)X
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Re: Elementary

Postby Mikey » Thu Oct 04, 2012 12:12 pm

Coalition wrote:For a moment, I thought you were telling us what school you were going to. *<:*)X


:picard:

Anyway, I've never seen the previous series and I've only read a few of Doyle's novels... and that was many, many moons ago. There are a number of things about the character of Holmes that had always bothered me, though, and this seems to add to them. I guess I should say the description, rather than the character. Holmes famously and traditionally wears a deerstalker hat. All well and good, except Holmes was extant in Victorian England - a man walking around wearing a deerstalker while doing anything other than game hunting would be snubbed and ostracized terribly, and wouldn't be able to have a conversation with anyone - it would be considered a breach of manners to which the modern equivalent would be walking up to a strange elderly woman in the street and pushing her down into a mud puddle. His condescending manner of speech to both police and to those considered his social superiors would have never been tolerated - remember while he was in the midst of a time in which the entrepreneurial class was making their way up toward buying "gentle" status, his line of work would never have been so viewed.

In films and TV, he's generally depicted with middle- to upper-class, highly non-rhotic "upper class" Londoner accent... unfortunately, at the time such an accent was still relatively little developed among most Brits and except for peers, most folks spoke with a much more rhotic accent similar to modern Northeastern American speech (this per Cambridge University.) A true civilized man from the time would never deign such a breach of etiquette as to light up a pipe as frequently as Holmes did - smoking, especially in a staid cosmopolitan capital like London, was generally reserved for private time or after dinner, contained to smoking parlors or salons, and done while wearing a smoking jacket and sometimes a smoking cap. Let's not even get into the complete lack of lasting personality effects of long-term and habitual cocaine abuse.

Now, I'm making a big assumption here that Elementary is set in the traditional Sherlock Holmes time frame (I've only seen a trailer once.) Add to the above list of incongruencies the fact of a woman being socially allowed to accompany a man on such work as Holmes did, having Holmes accept her and converse with her, and being allowed to become a doctor... it's just ridiculous enough to completely outshine any possible high points of actual content.
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Re: Elementary

Postby Teaos » Thu Oct 04, 2012 1:11 pm

From the stories I've read and the reading Ive done on Holmes he was snubbed by the larger society. There was only few who could stand him and tolerate him and thats because of his prodigious intellect.

He once famously said "it doesnt matter if they like you so long as your right"

Most people did hate/snug/dislike him. It was only the good he did for the police that shielded him from the worst of it.

Also you have to remember that when you reached a certain level in society, even in Victorian times, you transcend the rules of society. The old/rich/genius crazy/essentric person is a well establish sterotyoe and its grounded in fact. I remember back in highschool I read a book on english lords, their history and modern power. My god, half of them at bat shit insane but stand at the top rung of societies ladder.
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Re: Elementary

Postby Mikey » Thu Oct 04, 2012 1:30 pm

They stand at the top rung because they are lords - being bat-shit crazy can't change that circumstance of birth. Holmes, IIRC, was never a peer. I'm not talking about being snubbed or being unable to make friends - I'm talking about being completely unable to even converse with someone.

In any event, it's still odd for the time for someone like Holmes to do such things in contravention of common contemporary etiquette, no matter the social consequences.
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Re: Elementary

Postby RK_Striker_JK_5 » Thu Oct 04, 2012 9:49 pm

I believe Holmes wore a deerstalker only on occasion in the Doyle stories. I own a complete set of them, but it's been a bit since I've read them.
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Re: Elementary

Postby Griffin » Thu Oct 04, 2012 9:53 pm

What, deerstalkers?
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Re: Elementary

Postby Captain Seafort » Fri Oct 05, 2012 6:41 pm

RK_Striker_JK_5 wrote:I believe Holmes wore a deerstalker only on occasion in the Doyle stories. I own a complete set of them, but it's been a bit since I've read them.


I don't think he wore one at all in the original - it was something that Rathbone started.
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Re: Elementary

Postby RK_Striker_JK_5 » Fri Oct 05, 2012 6:48 pm

Captain Seafort wrote:
RK_Striker_JK_5 wrote:I believe Holmes wore a deerstalker only on occasion in the Doyle stories. I own a complete set of them, but it's been a bit since I've read them.


I don't think he wore one at all in the original - it was something that Rathbone started.

I'll double-check. Gives me a good reason to reread them, not that I need a reason... ;)
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Re: Elementary

Postby Griffin » Fri Oct 05, 2012 7:44 pm

I haven't read them but didn't he wear one in one where he was out in the country, Hound of the baskervilles or something I think.
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