Home > TV and anime > Elementary: Season 1, Episode 1. Pilot (2012)

Elementary: Season 1, Episode 1. Pilot (2012)

Elementary poster

Well here we go with one of these series transplanting a British idea to the American screen, filtering the whole thing through the sensibilities of new scriptwriters. The process is supposed to tweak the idea so that it more comfortably matches the cultural expectations of the average American viewer. It seems the average American viewer finds it impossible to accept “foreign” drama invading the couch space — particularly if this would involve the use of subtitles (yes, even some British English has to be written down because American ears are not attuned to deciphering meaning in strange accents). So the American networks looked upon the British series Sherlock and thought it was good. Indeed, they thought a new take on Sherlock Holmes would sell ad space to big brand names at high rates, so quickly put together a team to do the writing. Now we should be clear about the legalities of all this. Elementary is commissioned by CBS but it has not sought a licence from Hartswood Films that produced the British Sherlock. All the content by Arthur Conan Doyle is in the public domain and so not protected by copyright. Indeed, for years, we’ve been bombarded by different variations on the theme of Sherlock Holmes with comic dwarves, updated to fighting undercover spies during World War II, and even transplanted into the future. As if that’s not enough variety, we have him in a Japanese anime trapped in the body of a young boy. So when CBS looked upon the British show, it simply thought it was a terrific idea to bring the hero into our contemporary world and, as every good lawyer knows, there’s no copyright in an idea. Elementary therefore has Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) as a youngish Brit in New York. He’s teamed up with Dr Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) and, as a pair, they are thrown together with Captain Tobias Gregson (Aidan Quinn) of the NYPD.

Lucy Liu and Jonny Lee Miller weighing each other up

So the CBS show is different because it’s set in New York, Sherlock is paired with a woman, albeit a doctor (well, a surgeon), his rich father is still alive and worries about him, he’s just coming out of rehabilitation for a drug problem and, so far, there’s no obvious link between these episodes and the stories adapted for the screen by the Brits. Hmmm. This is going to be interesting. As long as the scripts avoid overlapping the detail of any situations included in the British episodes, I suspect CBS will emerge legally unscathed.

Anyway, putting the potential legal problems to one side, this show has well-known stars in the leading roles and, in the opening couple of episodes, there seems to be reasonably good, albeit transitory, chemistry between them. Having withdrawn from her practice as a surgeon because a patient died under her care, Joan Watson is now acting as a “sobriety partner” although, in this case, Holmes was supposedly addicted to drugs rather than alcohol. This means he’s edgy because he’s only just through the withdrawal process, and her patience is tested because he’s rather more weird than she’s used to. Their first meeting comes when he’s broken out of the rehab centre on the day he was due for release — he thought it would be fun to show them how useless their security system was. He does his usual quick look and spiels out a lot of her background. So far, this is following the formula.

Tobias Gregson (Aidan Quinn) wearing a British flat cap

We’re then immediately moved into their first case which, not surprisingly, is a murder. I like this plot by Robert Doherty. It has some really nice features with Sherlock first finding the body in a hidden panic room (thankfully it’s not locked from inside otherwise the rolling of the marble would be a failure) and then agonising as to why the victim should have had such extensive plastic surgery. She was beautiful and, more importantly, not at all embarrassed by the mole on her face. After the treatment which, inter alia, did remove the mole, she was merely different and no less beautiful than before. Moving independently, both our emerging dynamic duo and the police identify a possible serial killer. When the police break down the door, they find an apparent suicide. There’s no doubt this was the killer of at least two women. He has photographs and trophies. His shoes match the marks on the floor and door at the murder scene, and he was allowed into the home of his latest victim because his job was delivering flower arrangements. Sherlock is extravagantly petulant at one point, which is an interesting departure from the usual character, and it’s the female Watson who points out the anomaly (which is not at all what you would imagine when you hear “allergy” and “bag of rice”).

So it’s good to see this Watson being slightly more than just a passive sidekick. She’s given some interestingly pointed lines with which to take down our Sherlock. Gregson is friendly but still a cypher whose main function is to call in the Great Detective whenever the script requires it. All in all this Pilot episode of Elementary is encouraging and I wait to see if the creative team can maintain the standard.

For the reviews of other episodes, see:
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 2. While You Were Sleeping
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 3. Child Predator (2012)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 4. The Rat Race (2012)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 5. Lesser Evils (2012)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 6. Flight Risk (2012)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 7. One Way to Get Off (2012)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 8. The Long Fuse (2012)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 9. You Do It To Yourself (2012)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 10. The Leviathan (2012)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 11. Dirty Laundry (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 12. M (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 13. The Red Team (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 14. The Deductionist (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 15. A Giant Gun, Filled With Drugs (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 16. Details (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 17. Possibility Two. (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 18. Déjà Vu All Over Again. (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 19. Snow Angel. (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 20. Dead Man’s Switch. (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 21. A Landmark Story. (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episode 22. Risk Management. (2013)
Elementary: Season 1, Episodes 23 & 24. The Woman and Heroine. (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 1. Step Nine. (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 2. Solve For X (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 3. We Are Everyone (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 4. Poison Pen (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 5. Ancient History (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 6. An Unnatural Arrangement (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 7. The Marchioness (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 8. Blood Is Thicker (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 9. On the Line (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 10. Tremors (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 11. Internal Audit (2013)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 12. The Diabolical Kind (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 13. All in the Family (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 14. Dead Clade Walking (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 15. Corps de Ballet (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 16. One Percent Solution (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 17. Ears to You (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 18. The Hound of the Cancer Cells (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 19. The Many Mouths of Andrew Colville (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 20. No Lack of Void (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 21. The Man With the Twisted Lip (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 22. Paint It Black (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 23. Art in the Blood (2014)
Elementary: Season 2, Episode 24. The Great Experiment (2014).

  1. November 3, 2012 at 2:56 am

    Nice review. I liked all 5 episodes of the show so far.

    Miller is settling into his role and Lucy makes a great Watson.


    • November 3, 2012 at 3:01 am

      It certainly starts well but, after three episodes, I’m less confident.

  1. April 5, 2014 at 12:37 am
  2. April 12, 2014 at 12:04 am
  3. April 26, 2014 at 1:48 am
  4. May 3, 2014 at 1:37 am
  5. May 10, 2014 at 12:09 am
  6. May 17, 2014 at 1:17 am

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