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When the first series of Sherlock aired in 2010, I very much enjoyed it. Unfortunately, as time went on and fangirls erupted out of the depths of their Benedict Cumberbatch covered rooms, I started to enjoy it less. That doesn’t mean I still don’t enjoy it, but I think I enjoy it less. Elementary had the opposite effect on me. Where Sherlock had me enjoying it more at the beginning and then less as it went on (to the point where I will not actively seek out any new seasons, but will watch it if I happen to come across it), Elementary had me being very skeptical at first. I thought, ‘what is the point of recreating Sherlock Holmes in a modern world… again?’ I also thought that making Watson into a woman was a bit of a gimmick, an attempt to gain more viewers and pretend to be ‘innovative’. Here are some of the reasons I was wrong about Elementary.

Watson

Elementary Watson (Lucy Liu), is a woman. Normally I would love a gender mix-up, but here I wondered how they were going to make it work. Watson and Sherlock are friends, very good friends, but I had an inkling that CBS would somehow make this into a romantic relationship. So far they haven’t, and from articles I’ve read the creators have no intention of doing it.

Why is she better than her Martin Freeman counterpart? Well, Watson in Sherlock has one main role: react to what Sherlock does. In the first season he was dignified with a backstory about being traumatised in Afghanistan as an army doctor, but since then we haven’t really heard much from that. His time in the army doesn’t affect him as a character, and although he is given a job outside of helping Holmes and a wife, his character is pretty 2 dimensional.

In Elementary, Watson plays a bigger part in Sherlock’s life. She is his sober companion who keeps him from doing heroin, hired by his father and forced to accompany him on his investigations. Watson is then trained by Sherlock to become a consulting detective and eventually stops working as a sober companion for Sherlock to do it full time. She has her own talents that are useful to Sherlock during his investigations. They are good friends, like Holmes and Watson in Sherlock, but I find that their friendship is more believable, and both characters get something more out of the relationship. Not only that, but Watson also has her own little backstory. She was once a successful surgeon who lost a patient, and this affected her deeply. It continues to affect her throughout the course of the show, and gives her a motivation to become a sober companion – she sees it as an opportunity to help people in need. She is a strong character who makes progress and also has an obvious life outside of her work with Sherlock, family, friends and several dates we see her on.

 Minor Characters

What do we know about the minor characters in Sherlock? Well, they’re idiots, irritating, and just annoy Sherlock or get in his way. That’s it. Also, they don’t really have much for racial minorities as the cast is predominately white and very very British. I’m sure that would have been fine when Conan Doyle wrote the original short stories, but in modern society that isn’t exactly up to scratch. I know that the show is called Sherlock, but a little more exploration into anyone else wouldn’t go amiss.

Elementary excels in this area. Characters are more thoroughly explored, they actually play a role in the show (a role that is more than gawping in awe at Sherlock), and we see a variation of culture. Watson herself is Chinese-American. Detective Marcus Bell is an incredible interrogator, and although he is initially against getting help from Sherlock, he comes to appreciate his talents and progresses through the show as someone who we really like. Captain Tommy Gregson is also a good character, who genuinely likes Holmes and who Sherlock respects. Even the characters of Lestrade (who has his own funny ringtone on both Sherlock and Watson’s phone), Mycroft (who has a better story and reason for being estranged from Sherlock), and Ms Hudson (who – SPOILER ALERT – is a transvestite) are done better by Elementary than Sherlock.

Episodes

THERE ARE MORE OF THEM.

Sherlock has 3 episodes per season, thats 3 episodes every two years. Minus the approximate one episode per season that is ‘meh’ and incredibly forgettable and we have a single, 90 minute episode for every year to look forward to. Yes, they are pretty much feature length, but compared to the 24 episodes of 48 minutes per season we get from Elementary, it’s damned miserable. You may argue that the quality of Sherlock is a lot better, and that’s fine, but I kind of forget it after a while. Elementary gives me more time to invest in the characters, and something to look forward to weekly. It’s like the friend that you have a lot of fun with every couple of years who is absent otherwise, compared to the friend you enjoy yourself with every week. Who do you consider the better friend? (Yes, I just compared a TV show to having friends.) Every episode may not be TV gold, but it’s still a lot more fun to watch.

Also, it’s more reminiscent of the original short stories that Doyle wrote, little and lots. The best stories (in my opinion) were the ones that didn’t go on for too long and I believe that this applies to TV as well.

The Man Himself

Can someone pick Zoe's jaw off the ground please?

Sherlock Holmes.

Well, in Sherlock he doesn’t really change much as a character. He’s witty, sarcastic, and constantly complaining about the idiots he’s surrounded by (which makes for some good comedy). He’s pure genius and just knows things about people (illustrated by the neat little writing trick they do on the screen). I enjoyed Cumberbatch’s portrayal as Holmes, there’s no doubt about it. So why is it that I like Miller better? It may have something to do with the fact that Sherlock in Elementary isn’t a superhero. He takes time to figure stuff out, he gets things wrong, he needs help and consultation from others and also, it’s a job to him. He has some odd quirks like the way he wakes Watson up every morning when she’s living with him, the tortoise he owns, the way that he’s completely unsanitary… but he is also seen as some childish man on the autistic spectrum. He’s not a God. He takes his shirt off a lot. He has sex with women. He’s a person.

He needs Watson, not just as a friend but as a safety net. She stops him from doing drugs (a feature of his character that BBC’s Sherlock changed to simply smoking) and we have a reason for his descent into heroin and rehab – which we will come to later.

Moriarty

I wouldn’t read on from this point if you have not gone beyond the Elementary season one episodes of ‘Risk Management’ (1×22) and ‘The Woman’ (1×23).

SPOILERS

Irene Adler is, in almost every adaptation of Sherlock Holmes, the one single woman he could ever love. She’s intelligent, quick and a perfect match for Sherlock. In Sherlock she is a dominatrix who is in possession of some incriminating photos that he must retrieve. She has a short connection with Moriarty but nothing incredibly significant. Moriarty himself is a strange, giggling psychopath of a man who runs a criminal network and almost outwits Holmes. He is Holme’s nemesis, he’s obsessed with him, and the BBC followed quite close to the original short stories in having Holmes kill himself whilst bringing down Moriarty… and then come back after having fallen (or pretended to fall) from a great height. It’s fun, but it’s nothing especially innovative from the Sherlock team.

The big plot twist of Elementary’s first season is that Irene Adler (who is supposedly dead at the hands of Moriarty, and the reason Holmes descended into drug use) is not actually dead at all. Nor is she Irene Adler. She is Jamie Moriarty (played by Game of Thrones’ Natalie Dormer), responsible for over 40 murders and more than just a little bit evil. She played Sherlock in order to see if he was any threat to her criminal activities, and then faked her own death when she decided he wasn’t. This gender swap I love, because the idea of a crime lord who isn’t some beefy man and the fact that she isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty when she needs to do something herself is, in my opinion, awesome.

I love evil women, they tend to be my favourite characters, especially when they have some redeeming qualities that mean I am able to defend them from others who watch the show. She has a daughter, she loves Sherlock, she’s smart and a great artist. Yes, she’s evil for the sake of being evil but who wants to know if she became a criminal after some harrowing backstory or whatever. To me, she’s more convincing as a Big Bad than Jim Moriarty, and Sherlock’s obsession with her has more of a base. Why is he obsessed with her? Because he was in love with her.

Conclusions

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It’s perfectly acceptable to like Sherlock, and it’s perfectly acceptable to like Elementary. If you really want to, like both! I do, but Elementary has just pipped it to the post for me.

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