When I heard CBS was doing a modern day Sherlock Holmes set in New York, my response was pure, unmitigated outrage. Yes, I tried to be moderate and keep an open mind; yes, I understood that any resemblances to the BBC Sherlock would be highly unlikely; and yes, it stars Jonny Lee Miller, who can’t really be a bad thing, ever. But my biggest apprehension came with the news that they had cast a female Watson, as personified by Lucy Liu.
Well, so far I think Elementary is great. Two seasons in and there’s still no hint of a romance between Watson and Holmes, although they are developing a strong, intimate relationship, first as sober companion/client, then as protégée/mentor, and now as partners. There’s definitely more room to grow in the platonic relationship department, and I hope the producers resist the lazy urge to chuck in a romance.
It’s not because a woman can’t be Watson, or Holmes for that matter. And it’s not because Holmes has to be asexual in order to keep his mental mojo going – witness Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell series, which marries Sherlock Holmes to a 21-year-old academic feminist, and makes it work so, so well. But I dreaded the prospect of scriptwriters using romance as a crutch when ideas fizzled out, and taking such a simplistic view of heterosexual relationships. Yes, it is possible for men and women to work and/or be friends without sex and romance rearing its complicated head. I do not agree with Harry. Sally is right.
With Holmes and Watson, there’s also a power dynamic at work (at least in the original Conan Doyle canon) that would make a romantic relationship uneven at best and unhealthy at worst. Holmes and Watson, in the original canon, were not equals, and many reincarnations have tried to give Watson more to do, both in terms of relationship and in cases, and I think both Sherlock and Elementary have created equally strong and compelling Watsons in their own right.
So am I negating my own point? That here are two examples of strong, healthy, fairly equal partnerships, and therefore make the chances of a romantic relationship more plausible? Nope. Because here’s my last point, which is quite personal admittedly: I do not ever want to be in a relationship where my partner is the be all and end all. Where my partner is everything, workmate, companion, soul mate, lover, and friend. I find the idea absolutely exhausting, and I firmly believe that if Holmes and Watson (in any interpretation) were to get together, their relationship would only succeed if they met up once a month. If they didn’t, they’d probably kill each other. No one can be everything to their partner. And I don’t think anyone should.
I canvassed my colleagues at AAR, and it seems they have a few other examples in mind of romances that should never have happened:
Buffy – Willow and Xander. “They repaired their friendship, but it was never the same.”
Psych – “I have to admit to being disappointed in Psych, that Shawn and Juliet have gotten together. That whole relationship is fraught with issues.”
Moonlighting – David and Maddie. “Ah – the Moonlighting argument!! I admit, that thought came to my head, too – but I think the problems with the show stemmed from more than the fact that David and Maddie got together.”
Covert Affairs – “Augie and Annie getting together killed the show for me.”
X-Files – “A friend of mine wrote a very good blog post years ago about that particular problem and how it’s become the argument in favour of so many shows these days which string out the UST