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

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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?


QUESTIONS:

– 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!!!!!!