CBS has capitalized on the recent resurrection of the Sherlock Holmes character by introducing us to a newer, more Americanized version of the literary icon. Their hit drama, Elementary - a modern-day translation of the exploits created in Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic novels – has returned for its sophomore season, and it hasn’t skipped a beat in giving fans an intelligent option for Thursday night television.
Sherlock (Jonny Lee Miller) took a big hit at the end of last season when he found out that the love of his life was really his nemesis, the mastermind Moriarty. This was a plot twist that gave fans of the source material something unexpected with a female version of the traditionally male villain.
After hurtling through an emotional rollercoaster when Sherlock reached the height of his emotional and mental capacity – in part due to the sharp increase in his recreational drug use, and also because of the devastating loss of his soul mate, Irene Adler (Natalie Dormer) – discovering that Adler was not only alive, but playing him like the violin he enjoys so much, edged him closer to a relapse then ever before. The notion of a Sherlock Holmes lost in his own despair introduced a layer of him that we hadn’t really seen before.
Throughout the first season we watched as Joan Watson (Lucy Lui) went from his sober companion to friend and partner. This has set a precedent for the season 2 storyline that very much seems reliant on their new, more equal, dynamic. The contrast which was most evident in the season 2 premiere of Elementary was the lack of Sherlock constantly testing the boundaries of their relationship, a consistent undertone last season. This sentiment has now been replaced with an understated sense of respect between the two that counters their previous experiences together.
It’s fair to say that Watson can claim at least partial responsibility for Sherlock’s ability to refocus his efforts after defeating Moriarty in a bittersweet final moment. The duo is right back to their crime fighting ways with all their witty banter still intact, and what better place to start then a trip back to Sherlock’s old stomping grounds, London. When Sherlock found himself at rock bottom, he fled from his home to seek treatment in New York – shedding the surroundings that enveloped him in negative past experiences. Watson has been a prevailing force of change for Holmes since his exit from rehab, so having her there when he confronts his past is an exciting, yet expected, landmark event.
Although the trip home felt slightly inorganic, it opened the doors up for a new arc later in the season. The introduction of his brother, Mycroft (Rhys Ifans), creates a new dimension in the already complex protagonist. We’ve been privy to the uneasy relationship between Sherlock and his father already, but his interactions with any other relative have been non-existent thus far. The closest relations we’ve seen are those that Sherlock has chosen for various personal and professional reasons, as opposed to being straddled with by birth – and even those of his own choosing are kept at arm’s length.
The season opener of Elementary accomplished more than just introducing us to Sherlock’s brother, an important supporting character in the Sherlock Holmes mythology. We also met Inspector Lestrade (Sean Pertwee), who in Doyle’s fictitious world is an accomplished agent at Scotland Yard. If you have watched either of the Sherlock Holmes movies starring Robert Downey, Jr., you’ll notice the stark contrast in the character. In the films, Lestrade is portrayed as someone that although less intelligent, aids in the capture of the evil doer. In this reimagining of his character, he is more of Sherlock’s lackey – a character who greedily takes the unwanted spotlight from Holmes in a less than congenial way.
Another important aspect of this episode of Elementary was the difference in Sherlock’s interaction with the law. Sherlock’s interactions with law enforcement in New York are primarily based on mutual respect. Although his history with Captain Gregson (Aidan Quinn) can be traced back to London, as a whole, they are far less personal than his connection with Lestrade.
There’s a palpable difference between the intensity that Holmes exhibits when he feels a personal responsibility toward the matter at hand/person in question, versus when he is emotionally removed from the situation. His preference for making amends to Lestrade for enabling him in the past, clouds his judgment in the present, and propels him to reprioritize. This isn’t dissimilar to how he reacted previously to the cases involving Moriaty.
Personal relationships tend to be Sherlock’s Achilles’ heel. As the season progresses and these characters that evoke such an emotional response from him continue to circle the storyline, it will be interesting to see how far outside his comfort zone circumstances force him.
Let us know what you thought of the season premiere of Elementary, and any theories you have for season 2, in the comment section below!