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Why ‘Elementary’ Partners Holmes and Watson’s Relationship is Underrated

Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu as Sherlock Holmes and Joan Watson in CBS' Elementary
©CBS

When it comes to Holmes and Watson, the images of Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law may pop out. Or perhaps you prefer the Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman versions of the famous duo. The point is, it’s less likely that the first iteration to pop in your mind would be Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) and Dr. Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) from the CBS series Elementary, which, funnily, is the longest portrayal of the world’s most famous detective series. 

The series deviates from the original source material by changing the traditionally male role of Watson to a female character. Naturally, one would assume that the relationship between a male and female lead would gravitate towards a romantic one. However, during the entirety of its seven-season run, Holmes and Watson have remained platonic. In today’s era of television, the notion that two people who live and work together yet have no inkling of any romantic tension doesn’t happen quite as often. The fact that these two characters maintain a consistent, platonic partnership may cause their relationship to be overlooked. Nevertheless, it is one that is centered around commitment, trust, and deep love. 

Holmes and Watson’s relationship is a testament that you don’t need something physical in order to demonstrate mutual love and care–there are other things relationships offer, and one can be the most important person in another’s life without sexual relationships. Holmes and Watson are first and foremost partners. They are partners in work and in life. They don’t consult each other just to solve crimes, they consult each other in important life decisions. Their presence in each other’s lives has allowed both of them to evolve for the better. 

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Holmes and Watson in Elementary on CBS
©CBS

At the beginning of the series, we see both characters at low points in their lives. Sherlock has just been released from rehab after struggling with heroin addiction. Meanwhile, Joan is working as a sober companion after leaving her career as a surgeon. Holmes’ father hires Watson to live with his son in a New York brownstone. From that moment, the two become crucial to one another.

Watson’s interest in solving crimes and mysteries grows as she accompanies Holmes during his time as a consultant. Noticing her interest, Holmes begins to train her, and her skill sets improve. Throughout the series, Watson opens her own private investigation business, consults for the NYPD alongside Sherlock, and eventually becomes Holmes’ equal. Meanwhile, as his bond with Watson grows deeper, Sherlock learns to be more vulnerable and open with his feelings. He develops relationships with others and considers their feelings rather than dismissing human connections.

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Over the course of the series, both characters have stated and demonstrated the importance of their relationship, whether it be small things like making each other breakfast to grand acts of risking their own lives to save the other from danger. They are each other’s emotional support system. Whatever the circumstance, whatever the hardship, they’ve endured together–Sherlock’s relapses, his dealings with post-concussion syndrome, Joan’s adoption of her son, and her cancer treatment. And throughout it all, they are each other’s biggest cheerleaders, always encouraging one another to be open and willing during the times when they are unsure of themselves.

Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu as Holmes and Watson in Elementary
©CBS

I think one of the best examples of how well they’ve developed together and what their relationship has meant is when Joan reveals her plans to adopt a child. In the past, Sherlock may have seen the arrival of a child as one that would disturb the lifestyle he and Watson shared. However, Sherlock is wholeheartedly supportive of the matter. When he starts making comments about raising the child in the brownstone, Watson is concerned that Sherlock feels pressured to co-parent. Sherlock gently informs her that it’s not the case. Sherlock argues that it’s “naïve” to think that he would bear no responsibility to her child given that they are important people in each other’s lives, and he’s “not capable of not being involved.” He informs her that he would “lay down his life” for her child, just as he would for her.

Sherlock Holmes and Joan Watson are not ones to shy from expressing love for one another, even though there is a lack of a romantic component. Their love shows emotional maturity and comfort that extends to various aspects of each other’s lives. Their partnership is based on respect and understanding, and because of that, they are each other’s greatest support. They may have been broken when they found each other, but in a way, they both healed one another. Individually they both learn much about themselves, but their connection allows them to form a bond rooted deep in protection and genuine desire for each other’s happiness.

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Alice Sarkisyan View All

Born and raised in Los Angeles. Fluent in sarcasm and film references.

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