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Elementary - First episode reviewed

Elementary

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

FIRST things first, did we really need another Sherlock Holmes incarnation when we already have a hugely popular contemporary BBC show (starring Benedict Cumberbatch) and a successful cinema franchise (with Robert Downey Jr).

The answer to that has got to be a resounding no. So, why then did the Americans decide to make Elementary? To jump on the bandwagon, one might deduce.

Now that it has arrived, however, this latest incarnation shows itself to be an intriguing proposition, not least because of the decision to turn Holmes’ sidekick Watson into a woman.

Hence, Elementary finds British actor Johnny Lee Miller playing Holmes opposite Lucy Liu’s Watson and the action taking place in contemporary New York.

But it’s the two characters who make it worth watching. Miller is surprisingly good as the eccentric former junkie with a penchant for consulting (or solving) crimes and a really bad social etiquette. He’s rude yet charismatic, full of nervous ticks and odd expressions, yet unquestionably brilliant in his deductions.

Liu is every bit his match, too… a dry foil who is only beginning to tap into her inner detective.

Put together, they have an interesting chemistry, although not (at this very early stage) a sexual one. It’s worth sticking with if only to see how this relationship develops.

The main problem with Elementary seems to be the plotting. Whereas the BBC has wisely stuck closely to Conan Doyle’s source material, Elementary – thus far – has not. But then with 24 episodes to fill and the prospect of future seasons, I guess they had to go their own way.

So, the pilot saw Holmes uncover a psychiatrist who killed his wife by grooming a patient, through drugs and rage-therapy, to carry out the act, even going so far as to persuade his wife to go through cosmetic surgery to ensure that the killer would become obsessed with her.

It was elaborate to the point of being preposterous and struggled to hold any real interest, save for finding new ways of exploring the dynamic between the central duo.

Fortunately, Miller and Liu rose above the material to make the characters shine. Whether they can sustain our interest over the course of a long American series remains to be seen but at the moment Elementary has got our attention.

Elementary airs on Sky Living on Tuesday nights from 9pm.