Before reviewing Season 7 of Elementary (which is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video and will soon premiere on AXN), there’s a disclosure I need to make. I am a long-time die-hard fan of Sherlock Holmes, the character, as envisioned by Arthur Conan Doyle, and was a fan of the BBC adaptation Sherlock for its first two seasons.
So when Elementary was first announced back in 2012, I was more than a little sceptical. Not to mince words, I was downright dismissive of the very idea of relocating Holmes to New York and flabbergasted with the idea of turning Watson into a woman. I was a purist like that. I was afraid they would Americanise Holmes too much and assumed the reason for turning John Watson into Joan Watson was so there could be either a romantic or at least a (cis-hetero) sexual angle to their relationship. But Elementary’s creator Robert Doherty and his team of writers soon made me eat my words. So much so that here I am now six seasons later, almost as excited about the show as ever.
This is in large part thanks to that very same relationship I was worried about initially. Joan (Lucy Liu) and Sherlock (Jonny Lee Miller), and their beautiful, equal, and amazingly (for a TV show, particularly one this long) platonic relationship is the bedrock of Elementary. Liu and Miller are brilliant in their respective parts and really sell that relationship. It’s what makes this so much more than the police procedural it otherwise is.
The supporting cast has been uniformly good also, and their character arcs too are paid attention to, which is lovely to see. In fact, it’s this supporting cast that drives the beginning of this new season of the show. Mild spoilers for the last season and current season ahead. Season 6 ended with Sherlock moving back to London for Joan’s sake, with seemingly no possibility of return, and Joan following him there. The last words were Joan telling Sherlock, “I feel we’re exactly where we’re supposed to be.”
The ACD-Holmes fan in me was delighted with that nod. That, plus their goodbye scene before Sherlock’s move, felt like the perfect way to end the show. So, once again I was a bit apprehensive for this new season. Would they needlessly find ways to extend a show that had reached its rightful conclusion? It wouldn’t be the first TV show to be cursed thus.
But after watching the first three episodes, my fears have been allayed. And this is because the writers have cleverly picked the story up with the supporting characters who were left hanging at the end of Season 6 — Captain Gregson (Aidan Quinn) and Detective Marcus Bell (Jon Michael Hill). They also once again focus on the character beats.
As always, the episodic mysteries and solutions are formulaic in nature. House MD, another show loosely based on Sherlock Holmes, also suffered from the same condition. And sometimes, this predictability and a certain laziness in fleshing out the deductive part can be a bit off-putting for a purist (what made ACD’s stories so interesting was equally the clever storytelling as the character of the eccentric Sherlock Holmes) or even someone who wants a solid mystery. But that’s never what Elementary has been about. Not really.
The crime/mystery ostensibly at the centre of each episode is just a device to deliver the story of these people. This is again true of Season 7, where in addition to addressing Captain Gregson and Detective Bell’s character arcs, the writers also take on Joan’s discomfort in moving to London and the things she’s had to give up as a consequence.
This is particularly gratifying to see because it’s not something society in general pays much heed to — a man giving up his life in one place and moving to another is invariably made more of than a woman’s doing the same. Not only does this season touch on this issue, from the first three episodes at least, it appears to be the driving force of the whole show going forward (the series is set to conclude with this season). Season 7 begins in London, but switches back and forth from there to New York. As mentioned before, it addresses the Captain’s betrayal and the fallout from that. And it uses this as the pivot for bringing Liu’s Joan and Miller’s Sherlock back where they are supposed to be.
Elementary Season 7 premieres on AXN in July.