Entertainment » Television

Elementary -- The First Season

by Kilian Melloy
Tuesday Aug 27, 2013
Elementary -- The First Season

Sherlock HolmEs has been enjoying a renaissance in recent years, with a pair of big-budget Hollywood films starring Robert Downey, Jr., and Jude Law, not to mention a British television series, "Sherlock," starring Benedict Cumberbatch as an updated, 21st century version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famed character.

Last fall, CBS jumped onto the bandwagon with an American series, "Elementary," starring Jonny Lee Miller as Holmes and Lucy Liu as Dr. Watson. The first season is now available on DVD, and it's true to the spirit of the original stories while being a very different take on literature's most famous detective and his ever-trusty sidekick.

Like "Sherlock," "Elementary" updates Holmes, though in this instance the native Londoner finds himself transplanted to New York City. As in the original stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Holmes uses drugs -- or, rather, he has used them in the past, first as a way to sharpen his already-heightened senses and intellect and then, after a personal tragedy, as a way to deal with rage and grief.

Dr. Joan Watson is a former surgeon and now a "sober companion," an occupation Holmes initially shrugs off as am "addict sitter." Indeed, Watson starts off as a kind of private nurse and sobriety enforcer, having been hired by Holmes' wealthy father to help keep Holmes on the road to recovery.

The series has the usual hallmarks of a procedural -- the crime of the week, the labyrinthine plots that sometimes turn out to be pretty shallow, the often too-pat resolutions -- but it also possesses an extra edge of smarts and danger. Foremost on any fan's mind, of course, is just how and when Holmes' nemesis, Moriarty, will appear: Will he turn out to be a later incarnation of a brilliant, sociopathic teenager Holmes bests in an early episode?

Will "M.," the lone initial the identifies a serial killer Holmes previously pursued in England and failed to apprehend, turn out to stand for "Moriarty?" The season offers answers, but makes us wait for them in a deliciously tantalizing manner. (The final handful of episodes are essentially one major arc leading to an epic showdown.)

Though the show initially tries to demonstrate its cred as a show for grown-ups interested in serious dramatic series television by presenting Holmes as into kinky sex, the show soon shows a deeper and more daring strain of maturity by treating the subject of addiction with surprising sophistication.

Also gratifying is the lack of overt sexual tension between Holmes and Watson; like Mulder and Scully before them in "The X Files," this is a pair who might eventually find their way to a romantic connection, but for the moment it's enough to see how they spark together professionally, filling in one another's gaps.

The series has a couple of other regular characters, most notably Capt. Gregson (Aidan Quinn), Holmes' in with the NYPD. (Don't worry: Inspector Lestrade, Sherlock's old colleague at Scotland Yard, is scheduled to show up in the Season Two premiere.)

All 24 Season One episodes are present and accounted for on these six discs, along with a slate of pretty standard special features, consisting of promos and featurettes that look like they were produced to drum up interest in the show prior to its premiere.

The extras include featurettes, "A Holmes of Their Own" and "In Liu of Watson," both on Disc One, with the rest of the bonus features appearing on Disc Six. These include "Holmes Sweet Holmes," an in-depth look at the lead character, and a set tour hosted by Liu. There is also a series of short featurettes that look at the show from a number of angles (editing, scoring, set decoration, etc.) Most interesting are the interviews with writer/creator Robert Doherty and executive producer Carl Beverly.

Is this show as good as the sensational "Sherlock" (which is slated to enjoy a third season) or as fun as the recent Guy Ritchie cinema blockbusters? Yes, and yes -- if only for Miller's odd, electric rendition of Holmes and the underlying authenticity and integrity of the scripts.

Fans of Holmesiana will want to add this DVD set to their shelves; casual viewers will have a chance to gorge themselves on marathon viewings, which this series rewards. Why, "Elementary" is downright addictive.

"Elementary -- The First Season"

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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