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Elementary (2012)

resurfacing back issues have essentially put me out of commission for the past few days, and recent conversations and reviews made it so that to relieve the boredom of not really being able to do too much i decided to dismiss my dismissive opinion about Elementary and see if it was actually worthwhile. With how much i'm invested in Sherlock and The Mentalist, i feel a long mendellee.com blog entry coming on that talks in details of a comparison/contrast between the three series, but i wanted to throw this up while the viewing of the first season and a half of the deductionist/mentalist is fresh.

Kind of like what i've discovered with other shows recently (Agents of SHIELD being the prominent example), i thought that the show was fairly lackluster and nothing to really shake a stick at for the first ten episodes. Entertaining enough, but it felt like a cheap knock-off not even of Sherlock but of The Mentalist. But sometime around that halfway point, the tenor of the show (or maybe my perception of it) changed in a positive way; its biggest strength is in its character development and character sentimentality the likes of which neither Sherlock or The Mentalist have. Lucy Liu started out a little weak, but she has become my favorite Watson out of any Watson, better than Jude Law in the films, better than David Burke in the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes, and even better than Tunney's Lisbon in The Mentalist and Martin Freeman in Sherlock, and the relationship that she has with SHerlock drives the show in a way that even rivals the Lisbon/Patrick Jane relationship which is pretty strong in its own right.

Those strengths drive the show and make it pretty good, but they're counterbalanced by some glaring weaknesses, which are its storytelling style and, oddly enough, their approach to Sherlock's skills at deduction and how the solution to the crime mysteries come together. Many of the episodes have a standard approach to fact-revealing and story development - any time that the protags knock on a door and don't get an answer, there's a dead body on the other side. Any time the protags get their first solid lead on a suspect for the crime, that person has mysteriously ended up dead. The predictability of it after so many episodes is almost comedic.

But the more glaring weakness for the show is that it doesn't feel like an actual reimagining of Sherlock Holmes's entire mythology as opposed to a crime show that has a mask of said mythology on top of it. That doesn't make it bad, but it does make it distracting, and i think it would have in the long-term brought about more success by creating its own mythology and universe for its characters like The Mentalist did (which was inspired by Sherlock Holmes in the first place) as opposed to plopping it into Conan Doyle at a level that uses surface-level details of the original characters but then opts to fuck with everything underneath.

I only have a handful of episodes to watch to be caught up on the current second season, and then i'll probably start devoting some time to working on that long blog entry on my own domain if i can get all of my other stuff done.

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lifeofmendel
Feb. 1st, 2014 04:35 pm (UTC)
i agree that it doesn't help that i digested the first season in a couple of days as opposed to watching from week to week. i usually notice things like that during the week-to-week too, but it becomes much more amplified this way.

thinking about it more, it could be a stylistic thing too. i'd have to go back and watch a bunch of mentalist episodes, but i'd lay down a guess that the open-door thing applies there too, but it's never bothered me with that show (although there are a couple of things that do, not saying that it's perfect), and that might be a result of maybe not treating every instance of it in the same manner. That's what struck me about Elementary - it's not that it's just predictable that there'll be a dead body, it's the whole scene set up - the music that's supposed to increase tension, the protags never find the body in the main room, they always have to look around a bit, they always call out the person's name, that sort of thing. Each of the scenes is approached in such a similar way that it's difficult to ignore.

the first-generation-asian-woman-named-Watson is an interesting thing to notice. i think is another by-product of the Holmes mythology plopped on top of the present characters, meaning that i think we're supposed to ignore it, because who else would be Holmes's sidekick?
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lifeofmendel
Feb. 1st, 2014 07:18 pm (UTC)
i dunno, i like the fact that race or cultural diversity isn't coming into the picture at all in the same way that i appreciate that the chemistry that sherlock and watson have isn't sexual. For me, i don't want the fact that i have asian heritage to factor into how anyone relates to me because i don't see that as a real factor of my identity. The fact that this is also true of how they've written Watson thus far having now cast her as an asian feels to me that they're trying to show that she shouldn't be treated as an asian spectacle whether she's following or not following those stereotypes. So i chalk the "Watson" thing as a suspension of disbelief.

I haven't watched the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes in probably 20 years or so, so it's possible that i need to give that another go. At the time i don't remember thinking anything particularly extraordinary about Watson, but that was possibly because i was so enamored with Jeremy Brett and Sherlock Holmes as the true hero.

If that's the case, that puts him on par with how they treat Watson here, something that i agree that the BBC's Sherlock doesn't do, and that The Mentalist also generally fails to do - Lisbon is competent in her own right and is a strong counterpart to Patrick when it comes to her overall personality and beliefs. When given her own spotlight those strengths shine pretty brightly, but any time that she's with Patrick and has to actually do main-plot inducing things, he never fails to outshine her.

As far as the original books having Watson go on his own, there's some history (that i could be botching) that Conan Doyle started to get sick of writing Holmes which is why he killed him off in the first place, but when pressure from his readers and publishers forced him to start publishing new stuff, he deliberately downplayed Sherlock and up-played Watson because of his begrudgingness to continue writing Holmes at all. I'd be interested to see the difference between Watson pre-Reichenbach vs post-Reichenbach.
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girfan
Feb. 1st, 2014 07:19 pm (UTC)
My husband and I were sceptical about Elementary but gave it a chance, and ended up liking it a lot. I find it amusing that both Sherlocks were in the Frankenstein play-I saw both versions-and to see how they each approach the same character differently.


I like Lucy Liu better than Martin Freeman as Watson for some reason. They both have had a problem in their past, but she comes across as stronger and more likeable. Plus, I like a lot of her clothes! ;D


Another reason I watch is for Aidan Quinn. We went to the same college and I met him in the 80s and really liked him. It's funny to hear his Chicago accent in a NYC setting.

lifeofmendel
Feb. 1st, 2014 07:24 pm (UTC)
I was surprised at how much i liked Lucy Liu too as Watson. Again, she started off weak, but once they developed out of her sober companion role into partner role, she really shone, both in how she plays the role and in how she's written. The Mentalist and BBC Sherlock give almost all of the deductive stuff to the main character. in Elementary, there are times both small and large when Watson discovers something that Sherlock doesn't, and while that may downplay the Legendary Sherlock!, it's a refreshing approach and a better balance.
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