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I think Elementary might be my new favorite show of the season.

Normally, I’m pretty skeptical after watching pilots. The only one that’s ever made me completely fall in love was LOST, and we all know how that turned out. But despite the fact that I’m not usually a procedural fan, I really enjoyed Elementary. In fact, I wish I hadn’t watched it early, because I really want the next episode right now. A month is too far away.

The show’s premise is simple: Sherlock Holmes in New York. Holmes is just getting out of rehab, and his father has given him an ultimatum: either stay clean and put up with a sober companion, Joan Watson, or be kicked out on the street. But Holmes has already created his own post-rehab program — he’s going to resume his detective consultant work for the NYPD. If Watson wants to tag along, that’s fine with him.

In an interview, Lucy Liu commented on how great it is to play a character who is Asian, but whose Asianness is not the focus. Joan Watson is not an “Asian character,” full of stereotypes and comments on that fact. She is a character who happens to be Asian. Similarly, this adaptation has turned John Watson into Joan Watson, but Joan isn’t a “female character,” in the sense that they’ve decided to emphasize her femininity and how being a woman makes this Watson different and new. She’s a character who happens to be female.

The dynamic between Holmes and Watson is excellent, and definitely the thing that made me fall in love. She challenges him and won’t put up with any of his nonsense. In return, he not only comes to admire her but also to respect her. He can be a jerk at times (he “just can’t help himself”), but, as we learn, part of it is an act to drive people away, and the other part is acknowledged as jerkiness and not brushed aside. He’s an intelligent male character who actually apologizes for hurting other people’s feelings. His rudeness is a flaw, not a strength. And, as we see in the pilot, both Holmes and Watson are necessary to solve their cases. They are both intelligent and observent, and they complement each other in the field.

Also, I’ll admit, I just find Joan Watson’s character all-around awesome. She’s passionate, dignified, no-nonsense, compassionate, clever, dedicated and fun. And she feels like a real person, flaws and all. Bravo, CBS. They took a truly modern stance on Sherlock Holmes (women and racial minorities exist!), and then they didn’t turn it into a gimmick. They made it feel real.

I can’t wait to see more.


Rhiannon Thomas is the author of A WICKED THING and KINGDOM OF ASHES. She lives in York, England.

2 thoughts on “Elementary

    1. I am so confused by this woman’s argument. She seems to be complaining that they turned it into a “will they, won’t they?” but… they haven’t. Even I, the biggest shipper in the whole world, don’t ship them. Their relationship is tense, complex and decidedly un-romantic. And then (if I’m reading this right… her point gets lost in her attempts to be witty somewhat) she attacks Lucy Liu for commenting that it’s a big deal that Watson is Asian American, as though Liu were saying that a regular American Watson would be bad, but a Chinese-American one is good. That really stinks of racism on the writer’s part, as though she thinks the “Asian” part negates the American and that’s what Lucy Liu meant. She completely misses the fact that diversity in US casting — especially in leading or joint leading roles — is almost non-existant. And Asian-Americans are some of the least visible on TV. So the fact that they not only cast Watson as a woman but as an Asian woman is a big step forwards in terms of representing real life on American TV.

      And then we get to her argument that it’ll be a failure both if Watson acts different and if she doesn’t act differently. If she doesn’t act differently, it apparently says that women are valued for their appearance only? What? If they make Watson into a woman of color because it’s unrealistic for a show set in modern day New York to be all white men, and she acts like you’d expect the male character to, that’s sexist and showing the shallow portrayal of women in TV? Sounds more like it’s showing that women are people too, and that a woman could easily have all of Watson’s character traits. But I’m not sure what characterisation Watson is going to fail to stick to, since there have been many different versions throughout history, including him as a mouse. But Watson as a woman?? Goodness, that is a change too far!

      And the comment that it would be OK if they changed Sherlock to a woman, but as they didn’t, NO X CHROMOSONES ALLOWED, is pretty terrible.

      Maybe she should have watched the show before she wrote an op-ed on the subject. Because I’m not sure there’s any substance to her argument at all, and I’ve seen 15 year olds on tumblr express her flawed ideas more articulately.

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