Maybe it’s because I’m a Brit and not used to long-running TV shows, but is there no end to Elementary? It feels like the longest TV series in history. Apologies to readers of last week’s blog, I really thought I’d just seen the final episode and blogged accordingly, but actually it was the penultimate episode.
So, here are my thoughts on the actual season finale. It’s back to business as usual as the drama returns to its police-procedural format. Holmes quickly recovers from the shock of Irene Adler turning out to be Moriarty and sets about trapping her. We have the usual murder of the week, Holmes chases after clues, Gregson stands around looking moody and serious, and Watson helps save the day. I actually missed some of the high-drama and emotion of the previous episode. I felt as if this one fell flat after such a build-up.
Once again, the drama was far removed from the original story by Conan Doyle charting the final tussle between Holmes and Moriarty. There was no chase across Europe, no waterfall, and crucially no fake death. And as this is such an integral part of the Sherlock Holmes story, I felt bitterly disappointed that the makers of Elementary ignored this fundamental plot-line.
What they offered us instead was a female Moriarty who was in love with Holmes. Oh, and he does fake a drug overdose to trap her but that’s hardly in the same league as faking your own death and disappearing for three years.
This time, Watson was in on the fakery, it was actually her idea. What makes the original so poignant is that poor old Watson is kept in the dark and left to mourn the ‘death’ of his beloved friend – making his return in The Empty House all the more dramatic. But we have no cliff-hangers here, just a happy ending. Who wants happy when you can have dramatic, tear-jerking emotion like at the end of BBC Sherlock? Who can forget the pain on poor John’s face (captured so brilliantly by Martin Freeman) standing beside the grave saying ‘Please don’t be dead?’
I also think that the creators of Elementary have been a bit lazy in their creation of Moriarty. It’s as if making her a woman has used up all their powers of creativity, or perhaps they think that is enough to make Moriarty interesting. Trouble is, it doesn’t really matter about what gender Moriarty is, what matters is why. Why does Moriarty turn to crime? What is the background to this enigmatic figure who has become almost as famous as his nemesis but so unexplained in the original works?
I think they have missed a wonderful opportunity to be the first to fill in these blanks. As much as I loved the interpretation of Moriarty in Sherlock, they didn’t try to explain his background either. This could have been Elementary’s chance to do something really different – far more exciting than simply making Moriarty a woman. What we actually end up with is a bit of a two-dimensional, stereotypical female villain – posh, clever and ultimately undone because she falls in love with her enemy. Not very imaginative really and a lost opportunity in my opinion.
I took up the same challenge in my own novel – how can you re-interpret Moriarty to offer something new to a modern audience? And though I kept him as an aging, male maths professor, I also made him an autistic savant riddled with compulsions. I gave him a childhood and explained his rise from troubled, child-genius to criminal mastermind. This was hard work to do and evolved over several years of throwing around different ideas. Now, I’m not saying what I did was perfect or to everyone’s taste, but at least I took the problem head-on and tried to fill in the gaps, using evidence in the canon closely (writing a treatise upon binomial theorem at 21 supporting the child genius idea, and the oscillating head being possible evidence of a compulsion or OCD, for example).
In Elementary, we get a Moriarty who bears no resemblance whatsoever to the Moriarty in the canon. All they’ve done is use the name. I don’t know why they even bothered to do that unless it was just to generate publicity with the gender-switch. She’s young, posh, a talented artist who runs a network of assassins and falls in love with Sherlock Holmes, then gets arrested. Original Moriarty is maths professor with a curiously oscillating head famed for writing The Dynamics of an Asteroid who’s vast criminal empire finances an extensive web of criminal activities. He admires Holmes but ultimately tries to kill him, giving up his own life in the process.
In summary, yet again Elementary has left me feeling disappointed and has distanced itself too far from the source material. However, I must add that the friendship between Holmes and Watson remains the best part of the series. I read somewhere that it was described as a bromance where one bro is a woman. Sums it up perfectly.