Fall TV Second Look: Elementary (CBS)

  • Publish Date: October 26, 2012
  • Comments: ↓ 2 user comments

Throughout the next month, we'll be taking a second look at select new fall shows to see how critics' opinions are evolving. View all Second Look reviews here.

Drama | Thursdays at 10p CBSElementary

Critics Users
73 6.3
based on 1 ep. 59 votes

Consensus After 4 Episodes
Steady Steady
... fairly unambitious but well done

How it's doing: Prior to this week, Elementary was the second-highest-rated new fall show in the 18-49 demographic (behind only Revolution), good enough to land in the top 25 of all primetime broadcast programs. If that sounds like good news, it mostly is—Elementary has been rewarded with a full-season pickup—though its ratings trail well below CBS's other Thursday night programming, so it isn't yet a hit by that network's higher standards.

About that Metascore: A few critics found the pilot too slight, but the vast majority felt it to be an enjoyable, above-average crime procedural with a strong lead performance, even if the show as a whole wasn't quite on the elite level of the BBC's similar Sherlock. Among the new fall dramas, only ABC's Nashville and Last Resort have higher Metascores.

Episode by episode

Below, we sample comments from critics and recappers after both early and recent episodes of Elementary. When possible, we have used symbols to provide a rough snapshot of week-to-week changes in quality according to each critic:

Improving IMPROVING: Indicates the critic has noted a general improvement in quality
Steady STEADY: Indicates that episode quality has remained steady (which could be good news or bad)
Declining DECLINING: Indicates a general decline in quality in that episode

A.V. Club / Myles McNutt

Episode 1

"Elementary makes a good case for the charms of old-fashioned storytelling." [Grade: B+]

Episode 2

Steady "'While You Were Sleeping' is definitive proof that Elementary's aspirations begin and end—at least for now—with the kind of workmanlike procedural structure that CBS is known for. However, it also demonstrates a strong understanding of how that structure works, and how the specific character traits of Sherlock Holmes as a character are best able to operate within it." [Grade: B+]

Episode 3

Steady "The best thing I can say about Elementary at this point is that there is rarely a scene that only feels like it is serving a single solitary purpose. While this may seem like a fairly low bar, it's better than other shows balancing procedural storytelling with serial aspirations this season—hey there, Vegas—and has suggested a fair deal of upside regarding its future prospects." [Grade: A-]

Episode 4

Steady "As much as the mystery is a disappointment, 'The Rat Race' is Elementary's best episode yet in terms of emphasizing its evolving character dynamics." [Grade: B+]

Blast Magazine / Ally Johnson

Episode 1

"My interest in this show has been piqued by this first episode. The chemistry between the two leads is tangible and compelling, and there's a truly fun dynamic between them. However, in order to sustain my interest, and the interest of any weekly viewer, the writers of the show need to create more interesting cases for Sherlock to solve." [Grade: 4/5]

Episode 2

Steady "With tonight's installment of Elementary I think we've gotten a clearer look at where show runner Robert Doherty is pointing the direction of this show." [Grade: 4/5]

Episode 3

Steady "It's a great thing to be able to watch a new show find its footing and truly develop the direction it wishes to take its actors and characters." [Grade: 4.5/5]

Episode 4

Improving "This episode in many regards is the best of the bunch yet. Robert Doherty and co. are really hitting their stride on what they want the show to be, they're establishing that while the basic premise of the show is procedural based in theory, the real focus and real draw is the character exploration." [Grade: 4/5]

Den of Geek / Frances Roberts

Episode 1

"Elementary certainly isn't the dumbed-down, humourless travesty some predicted, but neither is it essential viewing. In a world without Sherlock, we'd likely be grateful for its appearance, but thankfully, we don't live in one of those."

Episode 2

Steady "Plot and dialogue niggles aside, what does work about Elementary in these early stages is the chemistry of its two leads, and the attraction of its ticking, fidgeting Holmes."

Episode 3

Improving "Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu's rapport continues to engross, Holmes' sharp tongue continues to entertain, and were Elementary to go away at this point, I'd miss it – the acid test for any new relationship."

Paste / Adam Vitcavage

Episode 1

"Miller is charming and aloof and while this take on Holmes isn't revolutionary, it has just enough subtle nuances to make such a tired character fresh again." [Grade: 8.1/10]

Episode 2

Improving "This time around, the show tightens its grip on the viewers' hands and leads us through an interesting case and great character development." [Grade: 8.3]

Episode 3

Steady "An intriguing and well-produced episode." [Grade: 7.8]

ShowBuzzDaily / Mitch Salem

Episode 1

"Elementary's success or failure will depend on its execution of plot and character, and the pilot is quite promising."

Episode 2

Declining "The show is solid, but it can only be exceptional if–and it's a big if–its writers can come up with mysteries that truly require a Holmesian genius to be solved."

Sound on Sight / Katie Wong

Episode 1

"Overall, Elementary works moderately well as yet another US-based crime drama – however, as a Sherlock Holmes remake, it is lacking in key elements to make it stand out amongst its fellow adaptations."

Episode 2

Steady "Holmes and Watson's chemistry just about saves the episode from being your average crime show."

TV.com / Lily Sparks

Episode 1

"Despite being based on one of the world's most reiterated franchises, Elementary managed to say something new about these characters while maintaining their essence, and also looked great, sounded great, and didn't bore me."

Episode 2

Steady "Hopefully once Watson and Sherlock become more of a sure thing they'll up the ante on these mysteries and make them more compelling, not through providing improbable killers but by providing misdirecting clues. "

Episode 3

Steady "Aside from the regrettable content of the mystery, the way it was handled and the dynamic between Watson and Sherlock showed real growth and promise."

Episode 4

Steady "Other than [this episode's] many many errors, I still continue to enjoy Elementary. Maybe it's my love for both the lead actors, maybe it's the way the show perfectly captures the feeling of working into the wee hours of night all cozy at home (believe me, I know it well). But so far the weekly mysteries have been so deeply disappointing."

TV Equals / Kelly Michele

Episode 1

"While I want to like this modern take on Sherlock Holmes, when you strip away the things that make Sherlock… Sherlock, CBS leaves me feeling like Elementary is just another procedural cop show."

Episode 2

Steady "My major complaint about Elementary was the lack of mystery in figuring out whodunit. The entire episode felt had a very Scooby Doo vibe to it, down to the reveal of the ending."

Episode 3

Steady "I felt like I was watching an episode of Law and Order: SVU. ... I'm waiting for that moment when Elementary really pops out at me, but so far, it just hasn't."

Episode 4

Improving "The case was a catalyst for the story of Watson and Sherlock to grow, and writer Craig Sweeny did an amazing job. ... As the show continues, it really is growing into more than just another procedural crime show, which is what I wanted from the start."

TV Fanatic / Jim Garner

Episode 1

"Jonny Lee Miller is an exceptional Sherlock Holmes; he possesses all the quirkiness and intelligence we have come to expect from the iconic detective in recent years." [Grade: 4.8/5]

Episode 2

Steady "I like the show as much this week as I did after watching the pilot." [Grade: 4.7/5]

Episode 3

Steady "Even when I had a guess at what the twist was going to be on 'Child Predator,' it didn't diminish the overall story." [Grade: 4.6/5]

Episode 4

Steady "'The Rat Race' proved that the Case of the Week, even on a procedural, can play second fiddle to character development, as Elementary viewers witnessed both Watson and Holmes grow significantly. " [Grade: 4.9/5]

What do you think?

What do you think of Elementary? Is it getting any better or worse as the season progresses? Are you sticking with it?

Comments (2)

  • jameskond  

    This is a great idea, because a tv series is more than the just first episode

  • rcj  

    I'm definitely sticking with it. Johnny Lee Miller is AMAZING Lucy Lu is always perfect and the show is intelligent, well-written,. directed and cast. I'd rather eat dirt than miss an episode.

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