No, I’m not shipping this romance

elementary_cbsWhen 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 [unresolved sexual tension] between the leads to such an extent that by the time they get together, nobody cares any more. X-Files, I’m looking at you!”

So what do you think? Any instances come to mind where romance killed a great relationship? Or do you disagree and think that these romances improved the platonic goings-on?

- Jean AAR

11 Responses to “No, I’m not shipping this romance”

  1. Elaine C. says:

    Jean,
    I felt the same way when I first heard of the show, but “Elementary” has become a highlight of our TV watching. I love everything about it from the opening music and visuals to the finely scripted actions and interactions. What a great show! :-)

  2. leslie says:

    Elementary is so good! I love Sherlock too, but so far season 3 is like an acid trip….unbelievably weird.

    I can’t say enough about how great Lucy Lui is as Joan Watson. Johnny Lee Miller is brilliant as the addict Sherlock. His flawed narcissism is sometimes comic….sometimes sad, but always fascinating. Lucy Lui said recently that there are no plans for a romance between the two.

    The Moonlighting romance was the biggest mistake in television. The X Files….well Mulder was very attractive, but at the same time so screwed up that it was hard to believe that the sensible Scully would go down that road. I think sometimes when shows end it’s easier to do it with a romance or a death. It’s a bit of a cop out to be sure.

    If on Downton Abbey they write a romance between Mary and Tom….well that would be a shame. This season is very much like a bad soap opera….so it could happen.

  3. Jean Wan says:

    I really, really like Elementary. The dynamic between Watson, Holmes, Bell, and Gregson are complex and nuanced and funny (God, Watson is amazingly dry), and Miller is definitely brilliant. I also love their twist involving Moriarty, which I didn’t see coming and which also makes total sense.

    Sherlock Season 3 – It’s so different from the previous two, but I think it’s good. They needed to shake things up, and my heart just melts at Sherlock’s interactions with his friends. In my heart of hearts, I know nothing would happen between Sherlock and Molly – but I can dream. Awwwwwwww.

  4. Victoria'S says:

    Jean, I am so with you! I too love Elementary. I don’t know why writers can only seem to come up with a show busting romance. These people are supposed to be some of the best writers in the industry, a romance between leads is just plain lazy. Moonlighting helped start that trend, and it truly killed the show for. More recently, The Good Wife got killed for me when Will and Alicia started an affair. Really? That’s the best storyline they could come up with? I am loving a sober Sherlock and the partnership with Watson. They work together, live together, that’s quite enough togetherness for one show.

  5. library addict says:

    I don’t think getting the leads together is what kills the show. It’s the constant will-they/won’t-they ridiculous things the writers do to keep the couple from getting together that by the time they do no one cares anymore. I thought the last season of Lois & Clark (once they got married) was one of the show’s best. But the ratings were down after the drawn out amnesia/he has to leave to protect the planet/etc nonsense that most didn’t see those episodes. Same with Remington Steele and other shows.

    But I am not a fan of every show having the leads get together and hope that Elementary doesn’t go that way.

    It really irks me that no one on TV is allowed to be happily married/in a committed relationship unless they are sitcom parents. Castle is apparently doing okay now that the leads are engaged, but that’s not a show I watch. I think the lazy writing comes in with trying to keep the UST going. Either the leads are platonic or romantic. Trying to make them both is what ruins things.

  6. erika says:

    The Vampire Diaries. Elana and DAmon. I stopped watching after they got together. The romantic relationship with the bothers also a huge ick factor

  7. Jill Q. says:

    I’m so glad to hear there are no plans to get Sherlock and Joan Watson together on Elementary. I’m enjoying the show and their relationship just as it is.
    I’m with library addict that the “will they/won’t they” usually kills the show. And then if the characters do get together, the writers have to keep concocting fake drama.
    As much as I love romance as a genre, I just feel like a TV show is not a great vehicle to tell a great romance story unless you have planned out a specific arc or the show has a limited run. The open ended nature of TV shows keeps demanding more and more twists which makes a good “happily ever after” not practical.

  8. Jean Wan says:

    That’s a good point about the back and forth, and the reason that I don’t really watch TV – Elementary and Sherlock are recent exceptions, mainly because I couldn’t resist. I think TV has opened up a lot though since HBO and cable networks, and now Netflix and Amazon, have popped into the game. The formats have changed, and there seems to be more leeway in number of episodes, length of episodes and seasons, etc., which affords more flexibility in character and plot development. That’s one of the reasons I love Sherlock – the 90 minute episodes, 3 in one season, don’t feel like TV. They’re movie miniseries.

  9. June says:

    I’m a big fan of Sherlock, but have not watched Elementary. Although now I think I’ll check Netflix for past seasons.

    Under romances I wish they skipped, add Sheldon and Amy from TV’s The Big Bang Theory. Sheldon like Sherlock should be asexual; it seems the writers are inching toward a warmer relationship between the two. The other couple’s on again/off again romance between Leonard and Penny is getting very tiresome.

  10. Sonia says:

    I agree, I would really hate it if Sherlock and Joan became romantically involved. I like their friendship and would not mind them become closer but keeping it platonic. Great post!

  11. April says:

    Possibly the worst resolution of sexual tension between two TV characters had to be the one between Bones and Booth on the show Bones. After years of stringing out the tension between these two characters, the writers chose to have them come together romantically off screen. The viewers didn’t even know what happened until Bones casually mentioned it to Angela the next day. Completely anticlimactic, and I don’t think I’ve watched a new episode since. I agree with Jill Q. TV shows aren’t a good format for romances due to their need to constantly create more plot conflicts. (Though I have to say that I loved the episode of Psych when Shawn and Juliet got together. His corny motorcycle line was so perfectly in character.)

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