The relationship between viewer and show is a complicated one and like any other real world relationship. Following the initial thrill of meeting the characters and the excitement of a new show comes the true test of its staying power. After a few weeks you start discovering if there is enough there to keep you interested long term and whether it is sustainable after that first buzz.
Excuse the crude metaphor, but this is how Elementary is making me feel this far into its run. Despite the thoroughly enjoyable opening few episodes and having first encountered Jonny Lee Miller’s manic, entertaining version of Sherlock Holmes, the show is struggling to maintain the momentum it built at the beginning.
Detective shows are notorious difficult to write as they can quite quickly fall into the trap of becoming too formulaic. This is the problem that Elementary is fighting desperately hard to combat.
This week’s case sees Holmes and the NYPD on the hunt for a killer who shot a university professor in the eyes. There are campus based conspiracies and a visit to Chinatown. All the while, Holmes is struggling with a fever and Watson is dealing with a character from her past.
The ingredients are promising and there is an intriguing start but the episode fizzles out towards the climax. The investigation in Chinatown is a highlight and is rich in potential. It presents the opportunity to explore a different side of New York that had been left un-tapped up to this point. However, no sooner does Holmes arrive in Chinatown than he leaves and concludes that part of the investigation. It is a shame, as it becomes a wasted opportunity to offer a case with a greater culture clash than what we have seen so far this season. The chance to see Holmes let loose in a different environment would have been interesting.
The subplot with Watson having to deal with an ex-boyfriend who has been arrested is not wholly necessary and seems designed merely to give Lucy Liu something to do. However, it does pull off one feat in bringing Holmes and Watson slightly closer together as friends with Holmes offering his assistance and Watson using some of his methods of reasoning. It also allows the characters to share a tender moment at the episode’s end. There are also a few signs of the two becoming more of a team, mainly during the explanation scene. Hopefully, this is something that the writers will look to further develop.
What is missing is more development of Holmes himself. After a few glimmers of his past life the trail has gone cold. This is something the writers would be wise not to neglect for much longer.
These are the first signs of strain in our relationship, but like Watson the loyal companion, I will stand by the show. For now…
Review by Jonathan Gray