Liss and Ana Talk About Elementary

Joan Watson (Lucy Liu), Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller), and Pam (Becky Ann Baker) sit, smiling, in the cab of a snowplow during a storm

[Spoilers are deducting the fuck outta shit herein. CN: Discussion of transphobic narratives.]

Liss: Okay, the VERY FIRST thing we need to talk about is Ms. Hudson! Ms. Hudson is a trans woman! And OMFG she is being played by an actual trans actress (Candis Cayne), and not by a cis woman who is "playing trans." I literally nearly burst into tears with joy that Elementary has introduced another canon character and gave a big old finger to the idea that canon is sacrosanct, and instead used the introduction of Ms. Hudson to be one of only major network shows ever to feature a (presumably) recurring trans character played by a trans person. THIS SHOW.

And not only was being trans not central to her character—just another thing about her—but there was no judgment about it. None. I also enjoyed her winking quip about having learned how to make a fire as a Boy Scout ("merit badge").

I said to Iain after the episode, "I love that arguably the most progressive show on television right now is a story about characters 120 years old."

Ana: I really loved that she was unapologetically gorgeous AND intelligent AND capable, despite the whole "kept woman" thing, which is usually used as a shorthand for uneducated and/or ditzy. She had just this tremendous amount of togetherness and strength. She just seemed so real and tangible and wonderful; I wanted to hug her and admire her all at the same time.

I wasn't 100% thrilled with the way they introduced her as trans: Joan's "assessment" felt like showing off that Joan is A Detective, and implied that Ms. Hudson does/should hide her trans status from her lovers. That seemed a I understand they were trying to identify her as trans without putting a flashing arrow on the screen, but I wasn't super thrilled with it.

Liss: I know what you mean. My read was that Joan asked Sherlock if her lovers know out of concern for her safety, especially since Ms. Hudson had just shown up after ditching a fucked-up relationship, since "trans panic" to justify violence is A Thing in the World, but I absolutely see how there was plenty of room to play into deceit narratives, especially to someone looking at it through a different lens than I am.

Ana: I did love that her ex wanted her back and was clearly attracted to her. They didn't go the "dumped her because trans*" route, thereby reaffirming that there's nothing wrong with (a) being trans* or (b) dating a trans* person. It was all 100% about him being already married, which happens regardless of the genders of the people involved.

Liss: They also avoided the "trans* chaser" narrative. There was no suggestion that only men who fetishize trans* women are attracted to her.

Ana: I loved—and totally identified with—that Joan was upset with having a houseguest sprung on her, but that she didn't take it out on Ms. Hudson and actually came to like her very much. The whole line about "yesterday, she was a stranger you'd sprung on me without warning; today, she's a person I like very much" was AWESOME. And I wanted to shriek for joy when Sherlock tried to psychoanalyze why she liked Ms. Hudson and Joan said she rejected that analogy. #FeministTermsInElementary

Liss: I also loved that conversation, and how Joan explains the distinction between being upset with the lack of notice about a houseguest and her feelings about Ms. Hudson. That was BRILLIANT. It felt so much like the distinctions women (especially) are constantly obliged to make, particularly around being upset about a situation and not as a result of personal animus.

Ana: And I loved Pam. I loved Pam SO much. I loved that she told Sherlock to get out, but that she would give Joan a ride home. I loved that Joan answered her questions. I love that this show passes Bechdel by making REAL women characters, and letting them talk to each other like REAL women so often do. I loved that Pam felt the allure of their work. I loved that Pam gave Ms. Hudson a ride at the end.

Liss: Pam is THE BEST. I was also thrilled to see Becky Ann Baker in a non-mom role, since she is probably best known from her roles as central characters' moms on Freaks & Geeks and Girls. Nothing wrong with mom roles—she is a great TV mom!—but it's also cool to see her in a role where she's a blue collar working woman, too.

Ana: CLYDE CAME BACK! I just want to cuddle him so badly.

Liss: CLYDE! I almost forgot about Clyde's reappearance, until you mentioned it. CLYDE!

Ana: I love that Detective Bell is allowed to be so awesome. In the pilot I was really worried that he was being set up as The Skeptic who always argues and never learns, but nope! I loved him finding the hair, and testing it, and his scenes taking fingerprints, and being an awesome actor, and I loved ALL THESE THINGS. I love that he went around looking for abdominal wounds when gunshot victims didn't pan out. He is proactive and capable and very, very cool. I love Detective Bell.

Liss: Detective Bell rocks out loud. Looooooooved the scene where he tests the hair—that whole scene was such a perfect game of cat-and-mouse. I was also worried he was going to serve as Requisite Contrarian, and I'm super relieved that's not the case. I really love how every case is solved via teamwork, even though Sherlock has mad deducting skillz. It makes for a more interesting show than the usual Idiosyncratic Genius formula, where everyone else stands around marveling at the Very Special White Man. It's also more realistic!

Ana: I wanted to cry happy tears when Joan said that the driver and his accomplices met at basketball camp and Sherlock looked SO befuddled and she said "do you see how it feels?" I love Joan so much, and I really think it's wonderful how they've balanced his genius with her learning, and I totally identify with how frustrated she must feel sometimes (since she has so much catching up to do on things like tire tracks). I'm proud of her for persistently asking him to explain, and not just thinking that she'll ask later because they're busy now. And for showing him how she feels. I love the way Joan communicates.

Liss: Me too! I constantly comment on how brilliant Joan's dialogue is. And I love the way she actually looks fucking irritated when Sherlock does something irritating, instead of begrudgingly finding his self-centeredness charming—another staple of the Idiosyncratic Genius genre. She gets legit pissed off, AS MOST PEOPLE WOULD, and lets other things go, or laughs at them, because they're friends now, and the complexity of her responses to Sherlock humanizes her. It's also cool to see how often her criticisms about his social skills come back in later episodes, as he tries to be more sensitive.

Ana: Everything about the "riot" scene pleased me to the toes. I'm just so relieved to see the police force treated like I would WANT a police force to behave: They don't harass prisoners, they work together as a unit, they deal respectfully with their consultants, and so forth. I feel that Portrayal is a valuable part of Expecting More, of holding real people to a better fictional example, and it's SO nice to depart from the "good guys stamp all over civil liberties" awfulness that you get in so many other police shows.

Liss: Indeed. The riot scene was great. And I also really loved that even the FEMA employee, whom the "riot" was designed to catch out as an accomplice, was given a backstory that invites us to consider her motives beyond callous greed. She makes shit money for a consuming and stressful job. The show doesn't justify criminality, but it continually challenges viewers to consider that there's more to crime than "evildoers doing evil." It draws a connective line between "motive" and "circumstance" in a way few other police procedurals have.

Ana: Last but not least: Sherlock gave the homeless man money and pricing tips. I love him. That is all.

Liss: Yes, the scene with that guy was great. And I also loved the way Sherlock gave him the money, without any embedded pity but as an earned (but unanticipated) reward for having given them useful info. Very cool.

I don't even know what to do with how much I love this show, lol. I am SO GLAD it's been picked up for a second season. RIGHT ON!


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