Three Episode Thoughts: “Elementary”

A hallmark for a successful, long running TV show, is the final balancing act it can play at creating characters that evolve, and yet strive to maintain the same spirit that made it a hit in the first place. Such is the case of the CBS TV series Elementary, which is currently enjoying its 6th season.

The series, which borrows very liberally from the classic works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, deals with a terribly eccentric individual named Sherlock Holmes who lives in New York City, and is a recovering drug (heroin) addict. He has a reputation for his keen mind, but his drug habit pretty much makes him bad news. Enter Joan Watson, initially employed by Sherlock’s father to serve as a companion to help him through his recovery. Along the way she becomes enamored with Sherlock’s detective skills, and she in turn also becomes an investigative detective, where they both serve as consultants for the New York Police Department’s 11th Precinct.

When the series ended during its 5th year, we see a Sherlock who is behaving erratically. From talking to a mysterious woman, to setting a fire in his own brownstone, Sherlock is clearly not himself, and the final scene from last year sees Sherlock in the waiting room of a neurologist after he has finished having a conversation with that mysterious woman, who turns out to be nothing more than either a mere delusion, or possibly even a hallucination. This season opens up with Sherlock learning that, while he doesn’t have any terminal neurological disease, is suffering from a brain injury, which is causing him headaches, short-term memory loss, and an occasional sensitivity to loud noises and bright lights. However, being the recovering addict that he is, he chooses to throw himself into his work, which includes trying to find a young man who had years earlier appeared in a sex video. Also, during one of Sherlock’s visits to his Recovery Meeting, is befriended by a man named Michael who credits Sherlock for helping him with his own addiction, and offers to be an ear should Sherlock need to have someone to talk with.

However, the story just doesn’t deal with Sherlock. In previous episodes it was learned that Joan’s father had another daughter while with another woman, and while they did not originally get along entirely well, they eventually were able to come together in more friendly than antagonistic ways. This really comes in to play for this season when Joan’s father dies after having suffered with dementia, leaving Joan to carry something of an emotional void within her. When her half-sister presents Joan with a letter Joan pretends to have no interest in reading the letter, but as Sherlock accurately deduces, she’s more afraid to read the contents. It isn’t until Sherlock convinces her that, based on how the letter was written (he only analyzed the manner in which it was written, not the contents) that the father actually wrote it during one of his more lucid moments, and he convinces Joan that she should take the time to read it, and in doing so, Joan finds both a healing and a bonding that she never knew was needed.

As the series continues, Sherlock and Joan investigate the murder of a Revolutionary War Re-enactor, and they must try to find out both how precisely and why he was killed, but it isn’t easy for Sherlock. While he continues to throw himself into his work, it is not aiding him in his neurological recovery. Instead his doctor starts prescribing medication to help deal with the issues Sherlock is suffering from, but it comes at a cost, namely robbing him of a normal sleep pattern that is causing him great lethargy during his waking hours. After struggling with this he continues to confide in his new friend Michael, who appears to have some rather unpleasant secrets, but is also something of a mystery to the viewers due to some perplexing motivations on his part. Meanwhile Sherlock continues to consult with his neurologist who keeps prescribing a long period of rest and relaxation for Sherlock in order to put his injury behind him. Naturally Sherlock is reluctant as being a detective is clearly his “raison d’être,” and it is such a driving element in his life that he has quite literally pinned his entire identity of self on that career. While that may not be of any surprise, it does come off as ironic when he tells Michael that it’s not a good idea for his young friend to also throw himself into his work as a means of distracting him from his own addiction, and as the third episode ends we see Sherlock giving some serious consideration to what his doctor recommended for him.

As I wrote earlier, keeping these characters in some evolutionary growth is one of the reasons Elementary  continues to be so enormously popular. And it’s not just Sherlock or Joan who are growing, as we’ve seen some enormous character arcs for the Police Captain, Thomas Gregson (Aidan Quinn) in terms of his broken marriage and then new courtship. Then there is Detective Marcus Bell (Jon Michael Hill) who not only received a promotion in his work, but also had to overcome his own minor bout of PTSD and injury after having been shot while in the line of duty. Basically everyone who appears for any length of time on this series will enjoy a good character arc to help drive along the overall narrative since how the characters behave after having gone through their own personal growth will no doubt have an effect on how they handle the cases as they come in. Also, the choice of giving Sherlock a neurological injury, with the hint of taking an extended sabbatical, is an interesting choice since as of the end of last season it was believed that Elementary  would only have a short season to bring this all to a close, but it was announced quite recently that CBS has had a change of heart, and what started off as a 13 episode 6th season has now become a 21 episode season, followed with a renewal for a 7th go around for 2018 – 2019. How this will affect the remainder of the season is unknown at this present time, but so long as actors Jonny Lee Miller (Sherlock) and Lucy Liu (Joan) continue on with the same amount of commitment as they have shown since the beginning of the series then there is no doubt that it will continue to shine, making Elementary  a worthy entry into the world of broadcast entertainment featuring the world’s most famous sleuth.

Have you watched Elementary, and if you did what did you think of it? Did you enjoy the show, and what made it work for you?
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