I spent too much time during the episode thinking exactly that to myself.
All right, in the original series, Watson, a doctor, does keep an eye on Holmes’ drug intake (Holmes takes drugs because his amazing, superhuman brain is bored. When he’s on cases, he’s fine). But Watson is now Holmes’ babysitter.
Her being played by Lucy Liu isn’t an automatic problem for me—I could live with a female Watson, who is supposed to be the “normal, relatable” character who helps us understand the mad genius. On House, Wilson is so terribly nice that he doesn’t totally work as the modern Watson of the story, though his role as the genius’s soundboard certainly works. Wilson is just as foreign to us as House is, and it’s his team who become the relatable figures of the story. This Watson is the classic fish out of water—a normal character dealing with Holmes’ abnormal behavior. She has demons in her past, but so does Doyle’s original Watson, surly and depressed from his war wound and the horrors of Afganistan. The Show Sherlock has a sinmilarly wounded Watson, who blogs about Holmes’ adventures as a kind of therapy. SO far we’re all right, by Liu has suggested in interviews that Holmes and Watson have a chemistry and they make hook up soon. This is NOT the original story, or any possible permutation of it (Though several movies and the show Sherlock have observers believing they’re gay, this is the tale of two true friends, more like House and Wilson than a couple.)
While BBC’s Sherlock does an amazing job of modernizing the story, much of its charm is in how directly it updates the adventures—Sherlock texts constantly as a form of distancing, since his old favorite the telegram is passé. He uses a network of homeless instead of street urchins. Moriarty, the Napoleon of Crime, breaks into the Tower of London and wears the Royal Jewels. It all fits. Even more delightful for fans are all the clever references and teases—“The Speckled Blonde,” not “The Speckled Band,” as case, the many reversals of “A Study in Pink” and the book it’s based on. Experienced fans are delighted by the allusions and the surprising updates alike, as the footprints “of a giant hound” are more than quote, but a secret clue buried in the odd phrasing.
Elementary isn’t quite so cunning. The first episode’s mystery has sensational, violent murders, and clever clues to unravel the pieces. Watson dives into the world of mysteries, delighted and intrigued by Holmes’ deductions even as she helps him reach a solution. But there are plot holes. A saferoom the husband had no knowledge of, built for no particular purpose? Worse yet, Holmes has an actual temper tantrum, destroying property through rage rather than a ruse. It felt wrong. Will the characters become another valid Holmes/Watson pairing in truth, or will the show vanish along with all the unsuccessful crime dramas? It remains to be seen. But this pair will have to work harder if they want to convince me they’re THE Holmes and Watson.