Liss and Ana Talk About Elementary

[Content Note: Feminist slur; disablism; misogyny. Spoilers for the most recent episode of Elementary.]

image of Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) and Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller); Holmes is scowling
So many good scowls this week! Here is one of them!

Ana: So… this week's Elementary wasn't 100% terrible. There was a lot I didn't like about it, but in some ways it felt most like last season to me.

Liss: To me, too. Also: A Zelly dog! But did Sherlock seriously call that dog a "feminazi"? OMG.

Ana: Christ-on-a-stick but Sherlock actually called her adorbs dog a "feminazi". THANKS, ELEMENTARY.

Liss: I just don't even. Anyway.

Ana: I continue to be really irritated that we can't have characters other than Joan and Sherlock. I like J&S, but the longer they continue in total seclusion with each other (minus Joan's Terrible Girlfriends who pop up for plot points), the more it feels like this is really unhealthy and also the more concerned I am that the writers want to set up sexual tension. And to clarify: I don't mean that it's necessarily unhealthy to be reclusive, but this is WAY more reclusive than Joan was before she became a detective (when she had friends and dates and ex-boyfriends who were now friends-friends), and she's expressed dissatisfaction about this lifestyle in previous episodes.

Liss: Mm-hmm. I actually felt sad when Joan said (approximately) "there are only so many Friday nights, and we're spending one of them like this." It just felt like her life has gotten really small. Which I realize, ha ha boy do I realize, how a peculiar professional life in particular, no less any professional life, can become consuming in a way that risks diminishing your personal life, and sometimes that is an acceptable and even worthwhile exchange, but still. Joan seems unsettled with it, and that makes it feel weird. I guess it's also because she doesn't seem to be meeting a whole lot of new people in this work.

Ana: Yet we're just not going to do anything about that, apparently because writing in new characters is hard. Speaking of, I thought: Hey It's That Guy New-Detective would be a new character, but I guess they're slow-rolling that. Also I'm so thrilled that if he is the new character, we have another white guy in the cast. Phew.

Liss: Ha ha phew!

Ana: But! That leads me to the J&S Plotline, which was him snagging her case. I kinda thought that was well-done; it was plausible that Sherlock would solve it as a "palate cleanser" and not to steal her thunder. And it was plausible that she'd be annoyed about it, even though justice was served, etc. And I blubbed a little when he gave her the trunk of Cold Cases, because that was sweet and he understood that she needed a boundary like that, and also it seemed entirely clear that he thought she might be CAPABLE of solving things he couldn't. I liked that. (I liked less him hovering in the background watching her, but that's largely because I'm terrified that the writers are trying to make this a romance.)

Liss: Yes, I really loved the cold case scene. A LOT. That was really well done. I always love when Sherlock makes himself vulnerable in a way that real growth as a person necessitates, and I love the way Lucy Liu plays those scenes, with a quiet but meaningful "thank you," in a tone that conveys so beautifully, and without any condescension or obligation, that she acknowledges the profundity of his gesture. She gives him all the space to be vulnerable, and it's really terrific.

Ana: The Case Plotline was… mmph. I have feels. Once again we have an Evil Conniving Woman, and I didn't care at all for Sherlock calling the genuinely-mentally-disabled guy an "idiot"—he has the background to understand the etymology of that word, AND Sherlock has been institutionalized, AND Joan has medical training. One or both of them could have handled that way more sensitively PLUS there was the whole "mentally disabled people are dangerous" stuff. Didn't like. Also guessing that the vast majority of stalkers aren't disabled.

Liss: I was also wondering how veterans felt about that portrayal. I'm not the person to deconstruct that, but I felt like that whole misdirection might have played into narratives of Broken Violent Veteran that would be irksome, uncomfortable, tiresome for veterans.

Ana: And we're still suffering from Standard Procedural Syndrome, where halfway through the episode I'm thinking "wait, how did we get to this point again?" The reveal that the neighbors didn't hear the dog was bizarre because I don't notice MY neighbors dogs; they've become white noise. I figured her accomplice was her husband because if she were guilty and he were innocent, then surely she would have sent them on a wild goose chase to Arizona for her jealous husband to buy herself some time. It's not like women in the Sherlock Holmes Universe wouldn't ruin an innocent man to cover for their crimes; that's kind of their thing. But wev.

Liss: Yeah, I have to admit I was pretty bored with the entire mystery plot. The Gregsons' subplot was much more compelling to me.

Ana: I thought the exploration of Gregson's relationship was… interesting. I didn't like That Look he gave his wife over the alarm not being set, and for that matter the opening itself was a bit too Conservative Dream for me. (SEE, LADIES? GET GUNS!! LOTS OF 'EM!) And Gregson seemed to be presented as a wounded martyr whereas his wife was a lot more cavalier about the separation, and I don't trust the audience to not view that through misogyny-lenses. (Nor the assumption that his wife "picked the one man who would elicit a reaction" because WOW that's problematic on eleven levels including the Using An Innocent Guy To Get At Her Husband level and the Assuming Her Husband Will Spy On Her level.) Still, I did like Gregson pointing out at the end that he didn't put his wife or her needs first when they were married, and that he'd repeated that trend by assuming the separation was just something he had to suffer through until she "fixed" herself.

Liss: Agreed on all counts. One of the things that gets squishy for me about the whole deduction thing, when it starts getting applied to relationships, is that, as here, it essentially amounts to "relationships are communicated via signals" and "don't listen to what she says; pay attention to what she does," which gets uncomfortably close to "your mouth says no but your eyes say yes" territory. That's definitely not where the show went, thank Maude, but I do find it a little squicky that, even though they came to a good resolution, Gregson got there by "interpreting her signals" rather than frank and straightforward discussion. It's one thing to use deduction with a criminal who isn't volunteering information. It's quite another to use it as a substitute for asking tough questions of a spouse and being willing to listen to the answers, even if you're scared to hear them.

Ana: Also: I would have felt WAY more comfortable with Sherlock waxing to Gregson about partnerships and his complaining to Joan about marriage if, again, I had more confidence that the writers weren't trying to couple them. I really wish we could have other characters in the room for some of these conversations about sex and marriage. Just saying.

Liss: Yep. I think the whole "partner" thing is almost a way of making them a couple without making them a couple. And I'm not sure how I feel about that yet. TIME WILL TELL.

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