Elementary: The Third Season
Elementary: The Third Season is where the show, for me, really demonstrated its strength. Elementary takes the beloved, well-known characters and modernizes them in ways that make sense, creating new, entertaining, suspenseful stories.
In the original tales, Watson and Holmes were separate at various times, usually indicated by a throwaway snarky line about Watson picking his wife over his buddy, but we didn’t see much of those periods. That’s not the case here; a separation between the two is long-standing as this season begins. After last season’s episodes with Sherlock’s brother Mycroft, Watson and Holmes have ended their partnership.
Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) has moved out of Sherlock Holmes’ (Jonny Lee Miller) apartment. She’s using the deduction skills he taught her to investigate her own cases, which include, in the season premiere, a locked room murder on an elevator with an extraordinary solution and Gina Gershon playing a drug mogul. Of course, the show brings them back together, but their relationship becomes stronger because she’s become her own person. This Watson is more than a sidekick, which makes their interactions a matter of choice.
Holmes has figured out that he can benefit from companionship, so he’s taken on a new apprentice, Kitty Winter (Ophelia Lovibond), whom he’s brought back to New York with him from London. The separation also allows more scenes between Watson and Detective Bell (Jon Michael Hill), a pairing it’s a pleasure to watch. Additionally, Watson has become involved with a boyfriend (Raza Jaffrey), a character I wish we’d seen more of.
Kitty was quite the divisive character, with her presence annoying viewers who perceived her as a distraction from seeing Holmes and Watson interact, but now that we know how her storyline plays out, she’s much more sympathetic, and her truculence is better explained. Kitty’s name is taken from “The Adventure of the Illustrious Client”, and episodes 11 (with the same title) and 12 wrap up her storyline.
I like this show for its acting, writing, and sometimes dark humor (particularly from Sherlock, a trait Miller does well), as well as the continuing character development over episodes. Even if I remember how a particular mystery plays out — which isn’t always the case — it’s fun to watch for the clues I didn’t pick up on the first time. A few of my favorites from this season are
- “The Five Orange Pipz”, updating the original story of a revenge message by turning the pips into chemically contaminated beads that killed children
- “Just a Regular Irregular” features the return of the shirtless mathematician (Rich Sommer) in a puzzle quest gone wrong
- “The Eternity Injection” has overtones of horror in its story of illegally testing a time dilation drug
- “Hemlock”, where a bored, lonely Sherlock investigates a missing lawyer who turns out to be a debt collector; also, Clyde the tortoise paints and Sherlock buys Joan couture
- “When Your Number’s Up”, exploring the question of victim compensation and how you value a life
- “The View from Olympus”, about misuse of data from a ride-sharing company and a life-changing request for Sherlock
- “One Watson, One Holmes” delves further into the mysterious hacker group Everyone and how Holmes and Watson are changing each other
The 24 episodes are contained on six discs, four each. I’d forgotten that the season was filmed in New York during the heavy winter, which shows in some of the outdoor scenes. The special features are
- “Partners in Crime” (25 minutes) — the cast and crew talk about what they wanted from this season and why some of the decisions were made, including their visions of the characters
- “The Elements of Deduction” (13 minutes) — how tricky it can be to write for this show
- “Hello Kitty Winter” (7 minutes) — Lovibond, Miller, and others talking about the character and her performance
- “Watson Style” (7 minutes) — a compilation of three short pieces that talk about clothes and what they demonstrate for the character, particularly the loose, flowing styles; the new apartment set; and Liu’s take on Watson
- “Bell on the Scene” (11 minutes) — some detail on set design and key elements of specific episodes
- A gag reel (4 minutes)
- Commentary on “The Female of the Species” from director Lucy Liu. That’s the one about attempted de-extinction of the quagga using zebra, where Holmes and Bell team up as Watson recovers from a loss.
I thoroughly enjoyed rewatching this season in concentrated bursts, as I discovered more about the elements that ran from episode to episode. The fourth season of Elementary is scheduled to begin on November 5. We’ll finally get to see Holmes’ controlling father, played by John Noble, as Sherlock faces criminal charges. (The studio provided a review copy.)