Elementary closes its freshman season with a two-hour, explosive finale where we not only get the return of Irene Adler (Natalie Dormer) but also find out the identity of the infamous Moriarty.
Let’s bitch it out.
Throughout the first season of Elementary, I’ve had my gripes about the show, focusing primarily on what I considered two main failings: 1) The show wasn’t fully embracing its status as a Sherlock Holmes adaptation and 2) It was far too procedural/episodic for my liking. To be fair, the latter point really wasn’t something the show could realistically “fix” as it very quickly established its case-of-the-week format. The first point, however, could have easily been rectified by incorporating more Holmes mythology going beyond simply naming our protagonists Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) and Watson (Lucy Liu). Looking back on the season as a whole, especially considering this last handful of episodes that explored the Moriarty arc, I can’t say that either of these fixations really bother me all that much anymore.
Granted, the latter episodes of the season did focus on two main characters of the Holmes mythology, Alder and Moriarty, but I can’t say that Elementary’s exploration of them delved into Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original depiction. Sure there are similarities, but honestly, Elementary’s versions of Doyle’s creations have adequately evolved into characters in their own right. I no longer think of the show as a Sherlock Holmes vehicle (the ties to the original source material feel superficial).
That’s not meant as a bad thing. Yes, we have a brilliant detective in Holmes, who has an equally important protégé/partner in Watson, and there’s the mastermind (iconic villain Moriarty), but beyond the occasional appearance of bees and violins, the show takes these elements merely as inspirations. Although there were occasional episode misses, on the whole I believe that not being tied too closely to the original source material made the show more entertaining.
Really, it’s just damn good marketing. Elementary has the appeal of a Holmes adaptation, attracting viewers on that aspect alone, but also has the potential to rope-in viewers who enjoy the police procedural format. And with the inclusion of the Moriarty arc, the show has also enticed viewers who prefer to follow a more serialized narrative. So bravo all around on that.
The key now is ensuring that all of these different types of viewers stay tuned in. And the secret to achieving this? Character development. So long as the show continues to develop its characters (as it has acutely managed to do in this last batch of episodes), I think it will continue to have a strong viewer base. The finale serves as strong evidence that the show is more than capable of maintaining its success.
“The Woman” and “Heroine” do very well at merging both procedural and serialized formats, adequately satisfying both kinds of viewers. In the first half, we find out who kidnapped Irene Adler and who is responsible for psychologically damaging her. Overtaken by guilt, Sherlock sits the case out, pinning all his hopes on Watson & Co (Aidan Quinn’s Gregson and Jon Michael Hill’s Det. Bell) to figure out the mystery while he plays nursemaid. And so the deductions begin, and the case unfolds as it should, culminating in the revelation that Adler is actually Moriarty (something I predicted last week!). Sure the case is solved, but the big reveal has us wanting more.
The case switches over in the latter half of the finale with Holmes back on the investigation trail, working to capture Moriarty. Honestly, the revelation didn’t prove all that shocking, but the implications of the revelation are extremely interesting. Here’s where Elementary turns into a more sophisticated version of its procedural counterparts: we get the satisfaction of a ‘closed mystery’ but the intrigue of more questions coming out of every answer we’re given. Sure many of us could have guessed that Adler was Moriarty (I mean, really, why else would they cast a well-known British actress and have her be American?) but seeing Holmes unravel at the deception? Now that’s good television. Det. Bell actually says it best (who’da thunkit?) when he notes that Moriarty’s duplicity is “on a whole ‘nother level”.
Miller continues to show his acting prowess as he runs through a gamut of emotions through these final two hours. It’s lovely to see Holmes vulnerable and charming as he tries to woo Adler in the flashbacks, contrasting perfectly with his contained guilt as he watches over the presumed ‘damaged’ Irene in the present. Once he’s discovered Irene is actually Moriarty and is hell bent on taking her down, there’s a palpable feeling that Holmes is invigorated, or as he puts it, ‘energized’. Beneath it all, however, there’s still a dark sadness that he holds in from not only being betrayed, but also (and more grievously), outsmarted. Just when I didn’t think it possible for Holmes to become even more layered, this entire Moriarty arc pushes the character into new depths. Honestly, I don’t even care that his name is Sherlock Holmes, as this Sherlock is unlike any we’ve seen before.
The same can be said for Watson, who has not only proven herself as Holmes’ equal, but more importantly, a complementary partner. Her evolution culminates in one of the series’ best moments – the confrontation she has with Holmes in one of the precinct’s holding rooms near episode’s end. Not only is the acting stellar between our two leads, but also the dynamic between the two characters is immensely important. Watson holds her own against Sherlock, who is filled to the brim with emotion, while she remains level yet authoritative. It’s later revealed that this is the moment that Watson ultimately figures out how to outsmart and capture Moriarty. Pretty darn significant if you ask me. Watson’s progress from nagging sober companion to rightful partner to Holmes has been a delight to watch, and has little to do with Watson’s roots as a Conan Doyle creation.
The development of Holmes and Watson has cemented Elementary as an enjoyable series that provides enough intrigue to keep me tuned in next season. Let’s hope that they continue to surprise us going forward.
- Although it was great way to end the season, the finale isn’t without its flaws. I do think Holmes’ explanation and the subsequent events of the Greek assassination plot are raced through far too quickly for the sake of convenience. Given all that happens in the finale, I can hardly blame the producers, but it does kinda stick out in an otherwise very strong episode.
- Even though Moriarty has been thwarted, ending up in police custody by episode’s end, I’m almost certain this isn’t the last we’ve seen of her (or at least I hope it’s not). The casting of Dormer as M. was a brilliant move, and adequately checks off the boxes I had for revealing the infamous arch-nemesis.
- Still no word if Moran (Vinnie Jones) succumbed to his attempted suicide attempt we saw a few episodes ago. Let’s hope this is a sign he might return to go after Moriarty in a subsequent S2 episode.
- I am wary of the show turning Sherlock and Watson’s relationship into a romantic one, as I’m 99% certain that this would sink the series immediately. When Irene is first brought back to the brownstone, Watson asks Holmes if he even wants Watson to stay, or if it’s “too crowded”. Later, Moriarty asks Watson what the nature of her relationship with Holmes is – does she ‘want to sleep with him”? I like to think of these moments as the writers acknowledging that the possibility is there, rather than ignoring it outright (which could result in unnecessary chatter). Ultimately, the character’s subsequent dismissal of these claims gives me hope that Holmes and Watson will stay platonic, as they should.
What did you think viewers? Were you shocked that Irene ended up being Moriarty? Do you think that she really is M, or is another bait and switch in the cards? Do you think we’ll ever see the return of Moran? How do you think Holmes and Watson’s relationship will evolve in Season Two? Will Gregson and Bell stick around? Will they ever get a chance to develop? Give us your theories in the comments section below.
Elementary has completed its first season and returns in the fall on CBS.