The Warner Bros film gave us an actual fall into a waterfall, BBC Sherlock gave us a fall from grace and now Elementary has given us a fall back, or relapse, into addiction. We love to see Holmes being brilliant but we also like to be reminded that he isn’t infallible, indestructible. Whether it’s being defeated by Moriarty or heroin, we like to see him fall. It makes future victories even sweeter and shows his human side.
Season Three ended with Holmes being forced to face his demons and ultimately succumbing to the temptation of his biggest enemy – heroin. The dominant thread running through all three series of Elementary has been Holmes’ battles to stay in recovery – it was what brought he and Watson together in the first place when his father paid her to be his sober companion. So this relapse felt like an inevitable conclusion to a very long-running storyline.
I just wonder where it can go from here and wish that the build-up to it had been better, longer. The episode felt hurried and unrealistic – a fellow addict discovers the dead body of his sister and all he can think about is Holmes’ previous put-downs and continuing sobriety. So he dreams up and executes a plan in which he kidnaps Holmes’ sponsor Alfredo, pretends his sister is still missing, forces Holmes to help find her and leads him back to his old rehab facility and a ‘shooting gallery’ in the hope he will relapse. When he gives him heroin the temptation proves too great.
It was silly and unrealistic, just a vehicle to get Holmes from sobriety to using again in space of one episode while also providing a crime to be solved and something for the police to do. After a three-series build-up, I expected better. But we have been given the tantalising promise of finally discovering the identity of Holmes’ billionaire father who is now flying in to see his fallen son. That will guarantee I tune in to episode one of season four but whether Elementary will hold me through another 24 episodes is hard to tell at this stage.
Overall I’ve enjoyed series three but it lacked the dramatic threads that came to conclusions in the first two – Irene and Mycroft. I even came to like Kitty but disliked the way she interrupted the Holmes-Watson partnership.
The crimes remained clever and inventive (except for this last one), the addiction issues are well-handled and Holmes’ growing ability to form friendships and think of others was believable and touching – if at times a bit oversentimental. As usual, the original Sherlock Holmes stories were largely ignored but certain themes remained the same – Watson moving out and finding love only to return after their tragic death being the best example.
My main problem with Elementary is that Watson is now a detective in her own right. Her abilities almost equal Holmes and she sees private clients as well as the cases they work on together. That just doesn’t work for me. Watson should be a doctor, an everyman character who dips into Holmes’ world and gets a unique up-close look but remains rooted in the same world as the reader/viewer. Watson should be ordinary, Holmes extraordinary, that’s how the dynamic works. Yes, Watson should be capable, intelligent and have ‘unexplored possibilities’, but shouldn’t be a detective. Watson should be an assistant, a friend, an observer and biographer.
I also think that the Elementary version of Holmes is a bit too official, too accepted by the police. He and Watson are both consultants with the NYPD but I much prefer BBC Sherlock’s interpretation of him as a ‘freak who shows up at crime scenes just because he likes it’, an outsider who isn’t exactly accepted, more simply tolerated because he’s an oddball but useful.
I sometimes think Elementary gives us a more sanitised version of Holmes but then I also feel that they delve into his phycology better than anyone else ever has. His vulnerability, his childlike neediness contrasts extremely well with his other side which is arrogant and fiercely independent. Elementary play out the contrasts very well and for all its faults, I’ll miss it now the series has ended.