DVD Review– Elementary– The Fourth Season
When I first heard about CBS’s plans for a 21st-century, New York-set series based on the Sherlock Holmes stories, with Watson given a sex and ethnicity change, I was dubious, to use most polite word possible. Then I remembered how pessimistic I was when I first learned about the BBC’s Sherlock, and I wound up loving that series, so I decided to give it a try. Four seasons later, I’m glad I stuck with it.
Elementary lacks the energy and sense of whimsy that makes Sherlock great, but despite my initial misgivings, it has surprised me by being a strong series with many unexpected and subtle references to the original canon. The series has actually improved substantially with each passing season. Jonny Lee Miller continues to play Holmes with an acerbic and prickly demeanor, and this season opens with Holmes coming off a brief relapse into drug use after three years of sobriety. Elementary tends to spread the deductive skills around, with Holmes and Watson roughly equal partners, and Lucy Liu shines as Joan Watson, whose characterization is far more removed from the original character than Miller’s Holmes. Miller and Liu are both good, but their best work is always when they’re together on-screen.
Aidan Quinn and Jon Michael Hill do sterling jobs as the official police detectives Captain Thomas Gregson and Detective Marcus Bell, but the fourth season MVP is John Noble as Morland Holmes, Sherlock’s father. An almost entirely original character, and the only one who can match Sherlock as a curmudgeon, Morland lives in a world of blurred moral ambiguity, and as the series progresses, the viewer is never sure whether the elder Holmes is an ally or villain, and Sherlock and Joan are similarly uncertain up to the closing minutes of the last episode.
Most of the storylines continue to be largely original, though some of the standout plots include Watson dealing with her stepfather using her investigations as literary inspirations, Holmes planning an investigation of a biker gang, Holmes’s new love interest, Fiona (Betty Gilpin), and the ominous resurgence of the Moriarty gang.
Elementary could have worked well as a crime series with original detectives, and at times the links to classic Sherlockian aspects seem tacked on, such as the episode “A Study in Charlotte,” which riffs on the name of the first original Holmes adventure while maintaining only the faintest connections to the original plot. “Hounded” manages to be slightly closer in spirit to the source material, but not by too much. At times it seems as if Elementary pays reluctant lip service to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional world, unlike Sherlock, which exuberantly seeks to modernize and joyously play with that world, but Elementary remains an entertaining mystery series with a terrific cast.
Elementary–The Fourth Season