As you probably know from my previous blogs, I’m not exactly a fan of Elementary. I have been quite dismissive at times but still continue to watch every week. One of its strengths however, in my opinion, is the way it portrays the growing friendship between Miller’s Holmes and Liu’s Watson.
Watson, starting out as Holmes’ sober companion, gave the relationship a fresh dynamic and the writers have done a good job of slowly growing this into a friendship – and keeping it platonic. Now that Watson’s time as a paid companion has come to an end, something interesting has happened.
Holmes and Watson have basically gone into business together, a sort of master and apprentice relationship in which both live off the proceeds from their joint business. We see this happen in the original stories too. Watson goes from being described by Holmes as a friend, to being referred to as ‘my partner’. After the Great Hiatus, Watson returns to live at Baker Street and sells his medical practice. At this point they are living and working together, both using the consultancy business as a source of revenue to pay the bills. Though friendship remains the glue holding the partnership together, I have always felt that they do operate as colleagues too, particularly during this period.
Holmes enjoys explaining his method to Watson, enjoys teaching him and giving him challenges to go off and do on his own. Though usually very scathing of Watson’s efforts, Holmes clearly takes pride in his development. So far in BBC Sherlock, I don’t feel that we have seen this side of the relationship – at least not to the same extent it is shown in Elementary.
We’ve certainly seen the friendship element, and this has been brilliantly done, but I wouldn’t say that they are functioning as business partners. John is still a doctor, trying to get medical work to pay the bills – he hasn’t completely thrown his lot in with Sherlock just yet. Whereas Liu’s Watson has given up her career as a sober companion in order to be a full-time detective’s assistant and learn the trade. Holmes keeps saying to her ‘you’re a detective now’ and is very focused on developing her skills.
Elementary is still a police procedural running along the same lines as a load of other US cop shows, and doesn’t bare much resemblance to the adventure and quirkiness captured so brilliantly by Conan Doyle in the original stories. But it does have some strengths, does bring a few fresh ideas to the party. This is what keeps me watching.