My 21st birthday was pretty low-key. I bought a six-pack and watched El Topo with my roommates. That, for those who don’t know, is a Mexican cult western that, apparently, was beloved by John Lennon, among others. It’s weird, overlong, and very, very pretentious, but I kinda liked it. Years later, I’m wondering if I should seek out other films by the director, Alejandro Jodorowsky.
I said that I was anxious for spring movies to start arriving, and now they have: The Wind Rises, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and Veronica Mars are all out in theaters, and I have to see every one of them. I finished season one of Elementary, and the verdict is in: It is officially a better show than Sherlock. The first season of Sherlock was great: entertaining, stylish, and well-acted. The second season slipped a little in quality, glorifying its protagonist a little bit too much, as if everything in the world revolved around him and he could do no wrong. The third season pushed it to a ridiculous extreme, devoting the bulk of an episode to one overlong speech by him and turning his relationship with Watson into one that is more abusive than anything. It’s the sort of thing that makes me retroactively like the previous seasons a little less, as I now see flaws in them that were not so apparent at the time. (Just so we’re clear, I will continue to defend the first two seasons.)
The problem, I think, is that Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss are a pair of egotistical douchewads. They turn everything they do into one giant fanwank, one big opportunity for the nerds in the audience to feel special and attack anyone who dares to ask if there is not something sinister beneath the romance and adventure. Sherlock can do whatever he wants, and nobody questions him because he is just. So. Brilliant. The Doctor can do whatever he wants, and nobody questions him because he is just. So. Brilliant. How many fucking times has Matt Smith said “Geronimo!” by now? We get it, you’re trying to start a catchphrase. The show gets its title because when the Doctor tells people his name, they say, “Doctor Who?” That used to happen once in a blue moon, except now, it happens in every other fucking episode. And every time it does, the fanboys and girls come in their pants. I want them to die.
Most of the time, the supposed depth in the series is no more than a load of posturing. I never understood how throwing Kahler-Jex back to the Gunslinger in “A Town Called Mercy” would make the Doctor no better than he is, anyway. Yes, I know the Gunslinger intends to kill him, but seeing as how Kahler-Jex is an unrepentant war criminal, that seems fair, doesn’t it? I’m no fan of capital punishment, but this is not To Kill a Mockingbird. The accused is clearly guilty, and letting the wronged party decide what to do with him isn’t revenge; it’s justice. Try explaining that to the creators of the show, however. Or to any of the fans. Because I’ve tried, and I usually just get laughed out of the room.
It’s funny. When I was in grammar school, I was harassed pretty viciously for liking sci-fi and fantasy. But now, the sci-fi/fantasy crowd has become its own exclusive club. I wouldn’t be surprised to see comics nerds slamming football players into lockers in another twenty years or so. Nothing ever changes in Sherlock or Who (in the last couple seasons, anyway). Sherlock is exiled and then returns four minutes later because England needs him to drug his friends and induce panic attacks in them again. (To be fair, I actually thought that scene kind of worked as an example of the lengths he will go to to find answers. It’s just that Watson forgives him way too easily, that’s all.) And the Sherlock fanbase is kind of terrifying in how fanatical it is. It used to be that Sherlock was just an amusing oddity, a fun little series that took a clever promise and did a lot more with it than just marinate in said cleverness. But cleverness is all it has right now. It’s all Moffat has, when you get right down to it.
Elementary understands its characters and its origins on a level that Sherlock never will. The relationship between Watson and Sherlock is complex, dynamic, and warm. Moriarty, when he appears, has more of a purpose than to just destroy Sherlock. He is upset at having his plans foiled, and just doesn’t like the way that Sherlock keeps getting in his way. (And before someone points this out, yes, I know that not everything in the previous two sentences is strictly accurate. But I’m constructing it that way to avoid spoilers. So please don’t ruin it for the uninitiated.) In my experience, that’s how nemeses work. Even sociopaths have more going on upstairs than a need to destroy everything. They want what they want, and when you get in their way, they do what they have to to eliminate you. It’s as simple as that. I mean, I like watching Andrew Scott chew scenery, but the sheer convolution of Moriarty’s plots on Sherlock is ridiculous. How did he manage to star in a children’s series while being a criminal mastermind without anyone noticing? Anyone? Again, don’t expect answers from Moffat or Gatiss. Moffat has even implied that Elementary might be damaging the Sherlock brand. Fuck you you fucking fuck.
Elementary does a lot of things right. Its gender politics alone are more progressive than most anything else on TV right now. So give it a shot. Sherlock, as far as I’m concerned, can sail off into the ether.