Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Another 'Elementary' consideration . . . . Do we like our Watson more deductively capable?

Once again, so far this season, 'Elementary' is not giving us very much Sherlockian to talk about or even consider. And that is not really likely to change very much. But be that as it may, let's get as much as we can out of it and 'Play the Game.'
"Elementary' still hasn't determined yet if Watson is going to be Holmes' equal and partner or biographer and sounding board.  I don't see the latter happening, do you?

Our question for today is; Would we like our Watson to be deductively as capable as Holmes? His equal in crime solving?
Would the relationship have worked that way Canonically?
Is that part of the bigger problem with 'Elementary'?

The most popular modern (in time period made or time period in which it is suggested it takes place) adaptations of Holmes have all given us strong Watson's, in their own way, without Watson being Holmes' deductive rival. I am of course talking about Brett's Holmes, RDJ's and 'Sherlock'.
Although not a fan of RDJ's portrayal of Holmes, I do however like very much Jude Law's take on Watson.

I also find Martin Freeman's take on Watson more appealing actually than I do Benedict Comberbatch's Holmes. Of all the modern takes (in time period when the stories take place), his so far is the best Watson.
And who can really argue about both the fine actors who played Watson next to Brett's Holmes, David Burke, and Edward Hardwicke.

But, as I think will prove out, a Watson who is close to Holmes equal in detection skills will not be acceptable Canonical lore. How many super heroes out there have 'partners'? How many police procedural's have lead detective's on equal footing with another officer?

Part of, and a very big part, of the allure of Holmes and Watson, and other duo teams, is the difference in skills and personalities.

One of my favorite new shows this year so far is 'Forever'. A very Holmes like lead character supported by, in their own way, very capable 'side kicks'. Side-kicks that have different, but just as relevant skills. Often times an individual who can ground them to the conventions of society.
It does however seem our theatrical adaptations of Holmes need more social grounding than the Canonical Holmes.
Every one of the three most recent adaptations suggest Holmes in one form or another needs a social handler. RDJ's certainly did, as does 'Sherlock's'. 'Elementary's' most definetly does, he just hasn't realized it yet.
We find the companionship less needy in the Canon than we do on the modern big screen.
Brett's Holmes does not seem to need that social crutch.

But what makes this pairing most interesting Canonically and theatrically (where it works) is that both man are very different, and each has 'skills' that benefit the relationship and not make it competitive.

It will be interesting to see how 'Elementary' handles it.


  1. Your thoughts make me wonder if Elementary is more like a "Batman and Robin" pairing where the boy wonder grew up after Batman left Gotham and took over, then Batman came back.

    1. In that first episode it sure did seem like that.

  2. One of the interesting facts I came across during the the first season of "Elementary" is the rate of pay for each of its stars--Lucy Liu made about twice per episode than Jonny Lee Miller. Liu, from rate of pay and name recognition, began as the star of the show. It is quite likely that non-Sherlockians tuned into the show to watch her as apposed to checking out another modern-day re-imagining of Holmes and Watson. This follows the recent trend of strong cinematic Watsons. Early in the movies, the Watson character was weak, sometimes non-existent. Rathbone and Bruce established the pair as a duo, equal partners in a successful outcome. Now, we get a new trope that Holmes cannot function in the real world without a Watson to counterbalance the detective's eccentricities and anti-social tendencies, which began with Brett and Hardwicke and now give us such dysfunctional duos as Downey and Law and Cumberbatch and Freeman.

    Given these two factors, the new trope of a strong Watson and Liu as the bigger star, that "Elementary" would make Watson a near-equal to Holmes. (In fact, some of the worst episodes of "Elementary" are the ones where Liu actually outshines Miller in crime-solving abilities.)

    1. I agree. There is something to be said about making one equal but not the same. Watson's role could be of equal creativity on the part of the writers but no equal in the same skill sets. I think we see that in the Brett and Sherlock series.