Elementary "Details" Review: Why Watson and Sherlock Can Never Hook Up

By Lily Sparks

Feb 15, 2013

Elementary S01E16: "Details"

If you didn’t spend last night feeding fistfuls of lukewarm spaghetti to your lover at a fine chain restaurant, or throwing down a tarp in front of a fireplace and setting up the equivalent of a Cold Stone Creamery toppin' bar to incorporate into your lovemaking with your significant other, then you were best off watching Elementary, which steered clear of conventional Valentine’s Day themes to center on the two kinds of love that touch me the deepest: unconditional filial loyalty, and the weird “meeting of the minds” vibe that characerizes Sherlock and Watson.

Sherlock, in a teary stream of whispers, told Watson he was better with her, more focused, and maybe he’d eventually figure out why. While it was all in a soap opera tone that I doubt the show would have used if Watson was being played by, say, John Krazinski, I’m glad the writers cleared the air about Watson not being an official sober companion anymore and essentially lying to him. I’m glad they made the point that he encouraged her to move on while still admitting that he’d like her in his life. I'm ECSTATIC that they are Watson and Sherlock, crime-solvers, now, 300 episodes in. But as much as I wanted to just squee out and enjoy the season’s most heartfelt moment (embedded in an episode where JLM had previously thrown tennis balls at her and chased her across the house posing as a masked invader), I felt really vigilant, as a critic, about detecting and therefore calling out any romantic threads present in the exchange. Because that mustn't ever, ever, ever happen.

It feels desperately important to me that Watson and Sherlock in their male-female incarnations never take on a romantic angle for reasons that are hard to articulate but hey, that’s my job, so here they are as syllogistic treatise if you will:

1. It’s very rare that a platonic female character appears in any kind of “buddy” genre TV or film. If there are two friends who stay friends all the way to the end, 99.9 percent of the time they are either both male or both female.

2. If a female friend is introduced, it’s insinuated that she wants some kind of romantic reward in exchange for her friendship. That, or narrative romantic urges complicate the relationship until it’s untenable. (Dawson’s Creek theme playing in anyone’s head right now?)

3. This has the effect of keeping female characters largely relegated to B stories, appearing as two-dimensional trophies and villains, and implying that males and females cannot have satisfying longterm platonic relationships.

4. Without cultural models or acknowledgement of a reality where women can be platonic friends, tacit permission is given in the real world for sexualizing any co-ed interaction and therefore keeping professional venues male-only. Encouraging male coworkers on some level to feel more comfortable with the guys, encouraging female students to feel more valued when they are sexualized, etc. This breeds a general distrust and alienation between the sexes and a closing of ranks against members of the opposite sex trying to network within “gendered” industries.

5. Thus half the human population is kept out of the best and most exciting storylines on and off screen.

"Details" stayed just this side of making Sherlock’s invitation to apprenticeship romantic, and it's my fervent hope that they can continue to develop the unique Watson-and-Sherlock, platonically-in-love vibe that Robert Downey and Jude Law effortlessly channel.

When a man and woman can lock eyes like that and it's not presumed they’re making sloppy, violent love in their off hours, then it will truly be a more perfect world.

T’otherwise, I loved that again we had a smaller story this week. We rounded out Detective Belle (Bell? screw it, I’m going to assume Belle), giving him dimension and depth as a character. While we know him as a fairly uptight but promising police detective, in his private life he was guarding a dark secret: that his brother was an over-acting Julliard graduate going full “method” for his upcoming one-man-show as a gangbanger. His brother practiced speech after speech about not ratting on his gang brothers while Marcus quietly brought him groceries, but his resentment at years of having to support his brother by attending small black box productions of “The Harmful Effects of Tobacco” and “Ubu Roi” was palpable.

Eventually it was discovered one Sgt. Reyes had carefully framed Belle, but there was no earthly way a viewer could have deduced that. The incriminating information was all told via flashbacks of unseen footage thrown through a green-blue filter. Still, the problem of the week was dramatic enough and small enough that that wasn’t entirely off-putting.

I was also a sucker for the act of the brother writing “was not marcus” in blood... that really did warm the cockles of my heart and was one of the few instances where writing in blood looked sort of probable and plausible (well done, art department). I was also heartily glad he survived his run-in with a villainous female coworker who'd been having sex with his brother and then went CRAZY over business-place drama, as women are wont to do, and killed several people. Gals, am I right?

I did take issue to Sherlock insisting “Don’t you think I have as much respect for Cap’n Gregson as you!” Sherlock, he punched you in the gut a couple weeks ago and we’ve yet to see him solve a single case without you pointing out serious flaws and shoddy police work, so maybe don’t respect him that much? Maybe even apply for his job? Just a thought.

Anyway, assuming you didn’t spend last night painting your lover’s body with chocolate tiger stripes, what did you think of Elementary?


– Do you agree that it's vital for Watson and Sherlock’s dynamic to remain extremely platonic? What vibe do you currently get from them and what tensions would you like to see emphasized?

– Have you ever had a friend or family member who made you go to tons of amateur theater productions and was it a chore?

– Did anyone get you something cool for Valentine’s Day?

– Writing stuff in your own blood on a hardwood floor to solve your own murder: Would you bother with it if you were bleeding out?

– Are you 100 percent ecstatic that Sherlock and Watson are officially Sherlock and Watson now because IIIIIIIII AAAAAMMMMMMM!!!!!!

  • Comments (106)
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  • Madelynn1984 Jan 06, 2015

    Hahaha, love the "To me, you are perfect." That guy is SO freaking cute in Love Actually.

    Also, you're correct, there MUSN'T be any sexual tension!! For all the reasons you just said, but especially because since they're based on characters with a platonic relationship, making it sexual is worse than if they were just brand new characters. It's still a bummer that we don't get to see platonic relationships on other shows, but it CAN'T happen on this one, because then it's SCREAMING that the writers can't even fathom a platonic relationship between friends of the opposite sex, to the point that they have to change the Sherlock/Watson dynamic as established in ALL previous incarnations.

  • arr25 Dec 07, 2013

    I'm pretty late to this show, but I really felt that this episode added a lot of character depth.
    I think regarding the confessions being poured in the scene, (completely unaware of anything happening in the episodes after), there was definitely some air of genuine concern and an unmistakable plea - but not necessarily romantic love. Sherlock sees in her somebody he could actually work and share his life with. Watson, as mentioned by her mom, loves the job and feels concern so yeah. If feelings of despair run up with Irene again, there's no saying what could happen but till then, I bet on platonic.

    Hmm, well if I realised I was taking a one-way ticket upstairs, why not use up the last bit of my bodily fluids to help catch the perpetrator? Although I highly doubt my letters would all be spelled out to such beautiful and clear handwriting, but nonetheless helpful.

  • GirishKrishna1 Jun 05, 2013

    I completely agree with this review. Sherlock and Watson already respect each other and even love each other as friends. Lets not mess that up, writers. Its not an intelligent show by any means, but I've just warmed up to it since the M episode. If they ever have a physical relationship, I'm gonna ditch the show.

  • ionee24 Apr 25, 2013

    I completely disagree. For one, Elementary is a roller coaster of emotional material where BBC's Moffat is a clinic retelling of the books, Elementary's Shelock IS a modern day man with modern day struggles - intimacy issues amongst them - modern day relationships and modern day mentality.

    I'm confident the creators are meant to tell their story, but thankfully, that story sounds far more entertaining than what the BBC had in mind IMO.

  • maxpowar9 Apr 18, 2013

    It shouldn't ever happen, period. Believe it or not, folks, platonic relationships between men and woman are possible. And the fact of the matter is that Holmes bumping uglies with Watson would be utterly, hideously unfaithful to the source material.

    Thankfully, I'm pretty sure the shows creator's have no plans whatsoever to take this road. I think they made that clear with the very first scene depicting Watson meeting Sherlock for the first time. The scene deliberately and specifically mocks the notion.

    I half think the reason Watson has been made female in Elementary is a deliberate dig at Sherlock BBC's Moffat. Moffat, as we know, really struggles with the concept of strong and empowered female characters; Moffat could never in a million years conceive of writing a character like Lucy Liu's Watson.

  • ionee24 Apr 16, 2013

    To be completey honest, I think they already are at a romantic level, only its a more intellectual/spiritual romance than a physical one; Sherlock and Joan exhibit the same happiness, giddiness and playfulness of people in love without the characters having to resort to average TV couting.

  • Troubleshooter Feb 23, 2013

    IF they ever choose to take the relationship to a romantic level it needs to be done when they know the series is coming to an end; it shouldn't happen then, either, but it might make for closure for a lot of fans. I'd like to see the series run for years and for the relationship to be one where they are the best of friends and partners. Keep both characters single. Occasional short lived romances here and there is okay I suppose, but no long term supporting love interest characters is better for the Holmes/Watson dynamic. Not all of the stories have been great, but when you're writing a full 20 plus season I can understand that's not easy to do. Therefore, keep the underlying character development going so episodes grab the audience week in, week out.

    One other potential problem I hope doesn't rear it's head is the Holmes as employer, Watson as employee situation. Keep the "I quit, you're fired" crap out of the mix. Holmes and Watson always stayed partners because they love each other (platonically) and there was no threat that the boss might get rid of you if you aren't careful nonsense. Even when Holmes was driving Watson crazy, he was fiorgiven because they are essentially family.

  • PolarisCarver Feb 21, 2013

    I remember reading somewhere that the writers/producers swore to high heaven Holmes and Watson wouldn't hook up, ever, when the concept of a female Watson got out. Writers are fickle beings influenced by ratings, but hopefully it's not gonna happen. Yes, it is possible for a man and woman to have a good partnership while having a romantic relationship at the same time (david and maddie from moonlighting! that was a cool crime-solving couple), but here I can't see it not screwing up the dynamic.
    And I am really weary of TV constantly sending the message that almost every single time a male and a female character start hanging out together for more than a quarter of an episode they MUST hook up, or at least one of them must start developping romantic feelings.

  • ionee24 Feb 21, 2013

    Since a hook up is no different than a one night stand, I guess what they meant was that Holmes & Watson would never become friends with benefits. Which they haven't.

    Whatever they are building is more trascendental than sex/romance.

  • googlehoop Feb 18, 2013

    Umm, okay, to answer your questions:

    - Yes they should remain platonic. From what we've seen, Sherlock's sexual proclivities are a bit left of centre, which adds humour to the show. I'm good with that.

    - I know you're joking with the amateur theatre comments, but let me just say that a lot of supposed amateur actors are in fact highly trained and talented, but not able to break into the business professionally. It's not easy kids. So, in my opinion, amateur theatre is awesome!

    - I think I would definitely try to write a clue to my murderer's identitiy in my own blood...if I could summon the strength and overcome the sheer terror of dying that is.

    - Yes, I am happy too!

  • MorpheusX Feb 18, 2013

    Wow, way to turn an article about a great TV show into a soapboax for misandrous 3rd wave radical feminism.

    How about you keep your female sexism and bigotry to yourself and not poison these pages with your socio-political agenda not rooted in egalitarian humanism but rather female supremacy and pseudoscience?

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