Friday, October 5, 2012

TV Review: Elementary Episode # 2 - "While You Were Sleeping"

Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu as Sherlock Holmes and Joan Watson in Elementary Episode # 2
Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu as Sherlock Holmes and Joan Watson

A young man is murdered as he enters his apartment. A neighbor observes a woman as she leaves the apartment. Gregson (as expected) “consults” Sherlock on the case. Sherlock is delighted as this gives him a much needed excuse to skip the drug addiction recovery sessions he is forced to endure thanks to Watson.

As Sherlock works on the case, he discovers the existence of fraternal twins and a large inheritance at stake. A separate subplot involved Joan Watson and her ex-boyfriend, Ty Morstan (Bill Heck). This subplot did not add to the show's appeal in any way and felt more like a tactic to attract the female audience.

The mystery itself is pretty decent. The “drama” enacted by Holmes near the climax though was plain elementary.

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This episode was a big comedown from the pilot episode. The acting by Jonny Lee Miller goes all haywire. He seems to be heavily influenced by the performances of both Robert Downey Jr and Benedict Cumberbatch.

Right now, Miller’s take on the legendary detective looks quite uninspired. After watching this episode, it is really hard not to think of this show as a blatant attempt to cash in on the current hot streak Sherlock Holmes is enjoying in popular culture.

Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes in Elementary Episode # 2 While You Were Sleeping
Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes

Lucy Liu on the other hand is still fine as Joan Watson. Unfortunately, she has nothing new to do in this episode. It is the same old getting to know Sherlock routine. This still might have worked, if only the Holmes-Watson interactions were any good let alone exceptional. Unfortunately, that is not the case here.

Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes in Elementary Episode # 2 While You Were Sleeping
Sherlock Holmes always liked locks

On to the trivia section. Here are the Canonical references:
1.   In the novel A Study in Scarlet, Holmes refers to the human mind as an attic that he fills only with relevant data. Miller’s Sherlock makes the same statement.
2.   Miller’s Sherlock identifies a particular brand of deodorant. This reminded me of a similar deduction made by Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles from the note of warning sent to Sir Henry Baskerville.
3.   Miller’s Sherlock comments to Watson about how easy it is to fake a certain medical condition. The faking of a medical condition is a major part of the story The Adventure of the Dying Detective.
4.   In the story The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton, Holmes displays his burgling kit, complete with keys, glass-cutter and a jimmy. This episode has a scene where Sherlock is playing with locks.
5.   Sherlock playing the violin is one of his trademark attributes from the Canon. The episode ends with Sherlock playing his violin.

Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu as Sherlock Holmes and Joan Watson in Elementary Episode # 2 While You Were Sleeping
Watson reintroduces Holmes to his violin

For all these references to the original stories, the passable mystery and Liu’s efforts, the whole episode seems like a half-hearted effort. Uninspired – the one word sums up the episode in a nutshell.

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Image Source: CBS

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  1. "After watching this episode, it is really hard not to think of this show as a blatant attempt to cash in on the current hot streak Sherlock Holmes is enjoying in popular culture."

    i had assumed this from the get-go and am not bothered by it. what bothers me is the ho-hum laziness of taking somebody else's name, and then changing just about everything else. occasional references to elements found in the stories aren't enough for me. this -especially the new york setting and sex change of watson- bothers me a lot. i'd rather they just come up with a new detective rather than hijack holmes/watson.

    this series jumps the shark for me.

    1. Thanks Divers for stopping by.

      I always love Canonical references in any non-canonical adaptations. The NY setting and Watson's sex change did not bother me that much as well. The only thing that needs immediate improvement, in my humble opinion, is Miller's performance. He needs to bring something original to the role.

  2. Yeah, Miller still needs improvement. I'm optimistically hoping he improves as he goes, and sort of settles into the role as time goes on...

    1. Agree with you Loveable Freak.

      I am not sure if the show will improve in the future. Anyway, we can only hope for the best....

  3. The premise is still a good one and I am hopeful that they will get better. Agree with everything you said.

    1. Thanks Denise.

      Do you know any Sherlock Holmes pastiche that you would recommend to read. I like 'The House of Silk'.


  4. Excellent review, I hope the series actually tries something original and not rip-off what has come before. I will still continue to watch the series since I am a fan but it really needs a mystery other than homicide. Although I enjoyed Millar's performance in the pilot episode, I agree that he was far too similar to Downy and Cumberbatch. Thank you for the comment on my blog.


  5. You're not selling this show to me B2B!

    Just out of curiosity - how far would the format have to stretch before you considered it not Holmes? You can take a female Watson, for example. What is beyond the pale?

    1. LOL :)

      To me, the characterization of Sherlock Holmes is the # 1 thing I look for in any adaptation. I do not mind whether the adaptation is set in Victorian times/contemporary world or if Watson is male or female.

      I am mainly concerned as to how closely the version of Sherlock Holmes in the adaptation follows the Canonical Version. As long as the adaptation portrays Holmes as a Bohemian Gentleman with remarkable powers of observation and deduction, I am fine.

      I have a question for you, GK: You mentioned earlier that you were reading the Sherlock Holmes pastiche - 'The House of Silk' by Anthony Horowitz. Did you like it?


    2. "I do not mind ... if Watson is male or female."

      to me, the relationship between holmes and watson is key, and changing the sex of one of them and removing watson's military background are changes that dramatically alter the character and that relationship. i'd rather see a new detective entirely than see one that differs so greatly from its source material.

      it's for this that i despise efforts like the disney little mermaid and beauty and the beast. it gets to where all you have in common with the origin story is a couple of character names and isolated plot elements.

    3. I respect your thoughts, Divers and Sundry. I guess each one of us has his/her own criteria :)

      I do agree with you about Disney movies. Disney studio executives are experts at minting money by playing to as wide a audience as possible. Two specific examples would be The Lion King and the recent movie, The Avengers.


  6. I didn't read your comments till I had watched the show (twice) and written my own comments.
    And I agree with most of yours, but I think I ended up liking the show a little more than you.
    I liked your reviews of the stories 'covered' in the show and although I found the same ones, you were able to put story names to them which I could not on all of them.
    Thanks for the review.

    1. Thanks John for your compliment about the canonical references.

      I am glad that we share the same thoughts about the show :)


  7. B2B - got a bit stuck with House of Silk but will get back to it (as soon as i finish the insanely daft yet compulsive Jack Reacher thriller I'm reading!!)

    I picked up Young Sherlock Holmes from a second hand store the other day - haven't seen it since the original release! A young Holmes would go down well in this post Potter world, wouldn't it?

    As far as characters like Holmes, what about Tom Baker's Dr Who? He was very Holmesian.

    1. "insanely daft yet compulsive" - Love that description, GK :)

      I have seen "Young Sherlock Holmes". It is a Steven Spielberg movie made in 1985 and has a strong influence of Indiana Jones to it.

      I have not seen Tom Baker as Dr Who. In fact, I have not seen any episode of Dr Who. My knowledge of that universe is limited to these facts:
      1. Dr Who is a time traveller of some sort
      2. Many eminent British actors (including the late great Peter Cushing) have played Dr Who.
      3. Dr Who has strongly influenced BBC Sherlock!

      I have seen Tom Baker as Sherlock Holmes in the 1982 adaptation of 'The Hound of the Baskervilles'. He was good but not extraordinary in that role, in my humble opinion.

      Who is your favorite actor to play Dr Who. And how good was Peter Cushing in that role.


  8. I'll give you credit for being patient with the show. I was willing to say that a female Watson may work if done well.
    After about ten minutes , I watched no more.
    It made the point that Sherlock Holmes is a nutcase not that he is a genius and a nutcase in the opening.
    He says Watson "was a doctor," but somehow this doesn't seem all that brilliant. Cumberbatch or the early Sherlock Holmes would have had a computer brain and picked up a lot of clues

    Maybe I wasn't in the mood to watch or something, but it didn't hold my interest long.

    1. Of course, the Canonical version of Holmes is always # 1, as far as I am concerned.

      Between CBS Elementary and BBC Sherlock - CBS Elementary made Holmes a nutcase. BBC Sherlock made him a sociopath.

      Any day, I would prefer the nutcase over the sociopath!

    2. nope, they didn't _make_ him a sociopath. they mistakenly had him call himself one. that's clearly a mistake, as all the internet buzz objecting to it [including here: ] is at pains to point out.

      just sayin'... ;)

    3. Cumberbatch's Holmes calling himself "a high-functioning sociopath" is a textbook example of what is wrong with the BBC Sherlock series. In order to appeal to the young and the impressionable, Moffat and his team have made some sweeping changes to all the main characters, namely Sherlock, Mycroft, Mrs Hudson, Irene Adler and Moriarty. I have explained this in good detail in my post here .

      I felt that 'A Scandal in Belgravia' and 'The Reichenbach Fall' were highly melodramatic and emotionally overwrought. They were more of emotional drama rather than a Sherlock Holmes mystery. Granted that these 2 original stories themselves were not that big mysteries to start with...

      I did like 'A Study in Pink' and 'The Hounds of Baskerville'. These 2 episodes were more in Doylean mold.

      I respect the fact that you have such a high regard and love for BBC Sherlock, that you are putting up a strong defense. Moffat and his crew would be extremely happy :)

      I read the article by Maria Konnikova and agree with all of her points. The Canonical Holmes was a bit eccentric but never a sociopath or a psychopath. That is what I have always believed ever since I read the Canon.


  9. It's pretty clear that the Sherlock in the BBC version isn't actually a sociopath. It's a self-diagnosis, and one that's mistaken. He isn't a psychiatrist. But he does want to be unemotional - he sees feelings as a distraction. It's a viewpoint that's often referenced by a young Holmes in the canon, although the term itself isn't used to my knowledge. I don't think you can really diagnose someone like Sherlock Holmes. Get him in a psychiatrist's office and he'd run rings around them; if he wanted to be seen as having any type of ASPD, then he's a good enough actor to pull it off.