So, in a previous post, I mentioned having marathoned the hell out of CBS “Elementary” when I should have instead been catching up on ABC’s “Agent Carter” because I am the literal worst and also I wanted something that was a little bit… chill? I guess. Murder mysteries have always been a favorite of mine, and, (as anyone who ended up here from 3CG would know) I was reared on a steady diet of everything Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. Like, murder. It’s fun. So, anyway, I’ve been a longtime skeptic about whether “Elementary” was as good as “BBC Sherlock” because, well, who wasn’t at first, right? It took me like 2.5 years to even get around to watching it; I expected, at most, mediocrity filled with gimmicks.
So what did I end up getting? Well. Here’s a chat Steph and I have had about “Elementary” and “Sherlock”, and which one, ultimately, is the best one. Ready for the answer to that question? Click through to the rest of the post for all the gory details!
Kate: Okay, so, I’ve finally seen the entirety of Elementary.
Stephanie: And? On a scale of one to ten. How much better compared to Sherlock?
Kate: Cumberbatch looks the part, just how I’d seen Sherlock in my mind really, and the show started off strong but quickly went to hell in a handbasket. Jonny Lee Miller, on the other hand, doesn’t quite look how I imagined Sherlock, but he captures the energy in a way that honestly Cumberbatch cannot. Elementary is a by far more loose interpretation, but the fact that there are more episodes has given them leeway to incorporate and modernize themes and elements from the original source material. Oh, and it also gave Joan space to develop more as a character. John’s kinda… blank. “Damn my leg, damn it Sherlock, there’s a head in the fridge I’m going to not react.”
Stephanie: So… about a 6?
Kate: More like a 7.6. 8 if you factor in the turtle. And that little turtle cozy that looks like a shark. Like, I have no doubt that if there were as many episodes of Sherlock as there are of Elementary, Sherlock would have long ago devolved into something far worse and far more boring. Think, like, way worse than what season 3 was.
Stephanie: Yeah… I’m gonna name some characters and you tell me which version is better.
Kate: Okay, shoot.
Kate: Miller wins that crown.
Kate: Ugh, that one was a draw. Both were captivating as villains in their own way.
Stephanie: Okay, Irene then.
Kate: Also a draw. I knew about the Irenearty plot twist like the moment it aired; and Scandal in Belgravia was a total carbon copy of Girl in the Fireplace, and I didn’t really like their Irene, so both were kind of ruined for me.
I think had I seen CBS!Irene at first without prior knowledge of Irenearty I would have thought her quite… 2-dimensional? But… that’s the point, isnt it? She was SUPPOSED to seem a little bit… hmm, off?
Kate: But BBC really dumbed Irene down. So that sucked.
Kate: Both Lestrades are great, but Elementary has by far made him more distinctive. I know this is because everything has limited screen time in BBC Sherlock but… I feel like BBC Sherlock didn’t give enough character development to anyone in the police.
Stephanie: I like Elementary, because it’s more faithful to the stories. Lestrade was only doing it for the fame.
Kate: We never really go into Lestrade’s motivations in BBC? And they just went ahead and demonized Sally and turned Anderson into a laughingstock and running joke. With that same screen time they could have given us, idk, someone who wasn’t just a 2-dimensional antagonist. Yes it was funny but it also wasn’t substantial.
Stephanie: That’s because they haven’t introduced the other investigators in the stories. There are so many different characters and they just stick with the same ones. Gregson was the one Sherlock liked more.
Kate: Donovan and Anderson serve no real purpose. Lestrade’s just there for the jokes and we don’t know why, exactly, he’s letting a strange, abrasive, unprofessional dude prance around his crime scenes. Like… how did this even come about?
Stephanie: And, also there’s Hopkins. Hopkins kisses the ground Sherlock walked on. I mean, don’t just create new characters when you have so many to work with. There are so many development issues in Sherlock, it’s ridiculous.
Kate: Everyone’s kinda… not fully realized. They exist? But they could be replaced with anyone. It’s a great story and a great premise and they paid attention to so much… but they also neglected a great deal more.
Stephanie: Like sure, Elementary has more episodes and time to develop the story. But, they worked out the backstory of why Gregson and Holmes are working together on day one.
Kate: Sherlock revolves around everyone looking at how clever he is. Elementary is about a bunch of clever people pulling together to solve things.
Stephanie: I think they were trying to keep Sherlock all mysterious and now it’s coming to bite them in the ass.
Kate: And while three, or six episodes of that mysterious cleverness rolled into traditional Britishness is at first alluring to viewers… well, it gets old, and it gets tired. There’s so much on the surface but once you get past all of it it’s… empty?
Stephanie: Elementary has heart. Sherlock has Sherlock.
Kate: I think a big reason Sherlock HAD such an active creator community at one point… They’re a blank canvas.
Stephanie: Oh my god that makes sense.
Kate: We know jack shit about them.
Stephanie: The characters weren’t developed, so we had to develop them ourselves.
Kate: We don’t know anything about John Watson other than he’s angry a lot and he was an army doctor and he likes drinking tea and pretending he’s normal and he has an alcoholic sister we never meet.
Stephanie: That’s why the AUs were always so good. Because we aren’t dealing with characters, we were dealing with archetypes.
Kate: We invented Sebastian Moran, and Hamish Watson. Prior to season 3, Mary Morstan. And Harry Watson. Clara. They were people we NEVER saw and who basically never existed as far as we knew… But there were cosplays. Fanfiction. OTPs. Bloody tea blends, even, all for characters who had never been seen, or who weren’t even canonically existing.
Stephanie: Ugh. Why did I like this show? Wait, that’s exactly why. There is no show, it’s just tropes.
Kate: It’s not a show, it’s a prompt. And I think, I expected Elementary to be the same… but like… “Sherlock AU” because honestly how many detective shows are there where everyone’s an archetype? Hella, that’s how many.
Stephanie: And yet, three seasons later, there are STILL people I follow on Tumblr who shit on Elementary even though they haven’t watched it.
Kate: Probably because they are expecting the same thing I did. Blank slate but it’s in NYC, and John’s a Joan, and it’s just televised fanfiction. Although, now that I think of it, why were we against televised fanfiction? I’d watch the fuck out of some AUs. I would not be surprised if Elementary exists because someone looked at BBC Sherlock and went, “Man, I bet we could do better!” And someone else said, “Will there be bees?”
Stephanie:But guess what, they did do it better. And there are bees.
Kate: I’ll admit it. I was 100% wrong and Elementary is definitely the winner.
Stephanie: [was, in fact, right all along]
VERDICT: ELEMENTARY HAS WON THE QUIDDITCH CUP.