Oh dear. I have tried to like Elementary (affectionately known in our house as Lemon-Entry) but the final episode has been the final straw for me. If you haven’t seen it yet and don’t want to know the conclusion, stop reading now.
****Contains massive spoilers for Elementary finale****
To be honest, it was more like watching an episode of Dallas. So far, all the way through the series we’ve had a fairly straight-forward police-procedural format and suddenly, bang! We’re into a badly executed romance about this poor English bloke who’s all teary-eyed and pathetic over a woman who he had a relationship with and thought had been killed. Now suddenly he finds her again only to discover that she’s actually his arch-enemy. Next thing we’ll have spaceships, everything being a bad dream and Sue-Ellen back on the booze. Oh sorry, wrong show.
Surely I can’t be the only one who guessed weeks ago that Irene Adler would turn out to be Moriarty? Shame Holmes didn’t manage to work it out even though it was glaringly obvious. Instead we have him unquestioningly believing her unconvincing tale about being held hostage for years by some nutcase called Mr Stapleton (a ref to the Hound of the Baskervilles perhaps but not taken any further). This turns Holmes from being a brilliant mental athlete to a simpering, tearful nursemaid who takes her into his home and gives up everything to look after her.
So we have Watson doing the investigation into what happened to Irene while Holmes just sort of pads around the house looking sad and making the tea. Interspersed with this, we get these romantic little flashbacks of him turning up at Irene’s flat with a bottle of wine, pestering her for dates etc. We see him opening up to her about his drug-taking after her ‘death’ and then we get a big emotional scene where he agrees to run away with her. So far, so Mills and Boon. But not very Sherlock Holmes.
Then, Watson spots a vital clue at the house where they found Irene and everything starts to build up to the revealing of the truth – Irene Adler is actually Moriarty. Holmes doesn’t work it out. In a part that I didn’t really understand, he suddenly spots that Irene’s birthmark is missing and somehow this leads him to think she is working for Moriarty, but not that she IS Moriarty. He gets all emotional and tearful again, bless him, and by this point you just want to jump into the scene and give the poor bloke a big hug. She talks him round and then the truth is ultimately revealed in the final scene. By this point, poor Holmes is heartbroken and physically hurt, rolling around on the floor after being shot. Not a good day at the office.
I just keep coming back to that image of all the CBS executives, producers etc, sitting around a boardroom table making the decisions. They talk through all the conventional ideas about Sherlock Holmes and discuss how to far they can push each one – ‘Let’s make Watson a woman!’, ‘Let’s make London New York’, ‘Let’s set it in modern day’, ‘Let’s make Mrs Hudson trans-gender’, ‘How about Holmes sleeping with prostitutes?’, ‘Watson could be a sober-companion’, – then one bright spark shouts up, ‘Let’s make Moriarty a woman and Holmes could fall in love with her!’. ‘Genius!’ they all cry, that will keep the BBC lawyers at bay.
I’m not saying this actually happened, but it’s how things come across to me. What Elementary has given us is so far from the canon that it has been diluted beyond the point of recognition. The final episode was the best example of this so far.
I just feel like there is something cynical about the way the Elementary team have made these decisions, like they set out purposefully to shock and to distance themselves from BBC Sherlock, make their own mark. It feels like a business decision more than a creative one at times.
Am I against a female Watson – no, not at all. Am I against a female Moriarty – no, I actually think it’s a fresh take on things and played around with it slightly in my own novel. Am I against Holmes falling in love? No – played around with this too in Barefoot but my Holmes stayed true to the stereotype and when the final moment of decision came, did what any true commitment-phobic logical reasoner would do – ran a mile.
Barefoot is firmly rooted in the canon, with stories such as The Final Problem and The Empty House being played out almost exactly as they were in the originals. Love it or loath it (people seem to do one or the other, no middle ground) Barefoot never forgets its roots. Elementary hasn’t just forgotten them; it’s torn them up and tossed them into the rubbish heap.
And on a final note – if Irene turns out to be not actually Moriarty, but Moriarty’s wife – they won’t just have the BBC lawyers to worry about, they’ll be getting a call from my own.