Farewell ‘Elementary’! EP Rob Doherty Answers Our Series Finale Questions
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the series finale of Elementary, “Their Last Bow.”]
After a seven-year run on CBS solving mysteries and battling personal demons, Elementary’s Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) and Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) have solved their last case. At least on screen.
Fans were left with the knowledge that, after several years apart while the world thought Sherlock was killed by the villainous Odin Reichenbach (James Frain), the detective duo would once again be working, living — platonically — and raising Joan’s adopted son together in their charmingly rundown brownstone.
The show’s creator and showrunner Rob Doherty offered TV Insider a postmortem of Elementary’s finale.
What did you want to accomplish in the series’ final episode?
Rob Doherty: It was important to me that in the final episode of the series there was less a mystery to solve and more appreciation and assessment of what Sherlock and Joan have built over the years. It was less about what they did professionally and more to do with where they landed personally.
That was a pretty happy ending personally for Sherlock and Joan. Why did you decide to jump ahead three years when the episode opened, and then one year more?
After the legendary canonical story, “The Final Problem,” in which Sherlock and Moriarity tumble over Reichenbach Falls, the world believed Sherlock Holmes was gone forever. But eventually Conan Doyle brought him back in “The Empty House.” When our story began, three years have passed, which was perfect for us. It’s a nod to the canon, but also enough time for the partners to carve out new and very different lives. It was interesting to see what’s the same and what’s different.
One thing Joan did during that time was write a book tribute to Sherlock. Won’t that need an addendum now that people will know he’s alive?
[Laughs] That is true. That’s another nod to the original Watson who was constantly writing about Sherlock Holmes. We had established this book many years ago when Sherlock realized that Joan was recording their cases. We thought it would be fun to revive it for the final episode.
You also decided to give Joan the child she always wanted. Finally.
It was a story I wanted to tell in Season 6 but we were never quite sure how many episodes we were going to have and that fell by the wayside. I was grateful to have one more opportunity to punctuate that sentence.
Didn’t Lucy really want that storyline?
Yes. I had watched Lucy become a mom over the run of the show. Obviously she and Joan Watson are completely different people and yet it felt so appropriate to who Joan is and what she brings to any relationship. It seemed a shame to not make her a parent for all the work we had done in Season 6.
Who ever thought Sherlock was meant to be a parent?
Sherlock had certainly emphasized he wasn’t, more than once. But it’s one thing to say all those things and it’s another for your partner to come home with a child one day. I had actually thought about introducing her son much earlier in Season 7, but with just 13 episodes we didn’t have the real estate.
You also gave Joan cancer! Was it a way to keep Sherlock around?
Ultimately it’s because cosmically they are two people who belong together and yet they’re both incredibly proud at different times. It’s been incredibly difficult for one to tell the other, “I need you,” or “I’m a better version of myself with you.” The final episode is an exploration of that. They were together for a long time. Now they’ve been separated for three years. They’ve each flourished in different ways and each worries that they’re potentially harmful to each other. Joan doesn’t want him to give up everything he’s done to help her, but when you bring something as serious as cancer into the mix, all of those things drop away. You focus on what matters and ultimately that’s what I wanted Sherlock and Joan to do. For Sherlock, it was an act of love. He realizes he’s in the place he’s supposed to be and that’s why he and Joan try to head back to work in the end.
What are we to make of Sherlock and Joan’s relationship at series end? There was no kiss, but hugs and tears and a future life together.
It’s safe to assume that their friendship persists. I just don’t believe in my heart that they are meant to be romantic partners. And that’s from having spent seven years in each of their skulls and what I think about when I think about them now in the aftermath. I wanted to write about a powerful platonic relationship. Maybe I’m bad at writing romance, but that felt more expected and therefore I rejected it early and often.
What have you heard on the subject from fans?
I talked to people over the years who had different takes. I will say the people who are anti-romance are more obstreperous. I would say I hear from those folks more often and at greater volume.
As a fan, I was pleased that you brought back such characters as Morland Holmes (John Noble) and Kitty (Ophelia Lovibond). We saw Moriarity’s supposed coffin in the finale. I assume Natalie Dormer wasn’t available. Did you want to do some kind of salute to Sherlock’s iconic adversary?
I adore Natalie, but there was never a plan to bring her back. Ultimately I didn’t want to resolve the story of Sherlock, Joan, and Moriarty. I wanted to focus on the partners. The reason we dared invoke her name in the final episode is it seemed appropriate to at least drop the name of Sherlock’s greatest enemy from canon. But it’s also a great misdirect. For some people, there’s an expectation that you can only complete your Sherlockian franchise with a confrontation between Sherlock and Moriarty. Because it’s potentially expected I wanted to push it in that direction and then head in a different one.
The casket itself was a misdirection, since we saw it after Joan was diagnosed with cancer. Whoever is in that coffin, it seemed that Sherlock doesn’t believe his old lover turned nemesis is really dead.
I’m with Sherlock on this one. I absolutely believe Moriarty is alive and well.
Could we possibly see more Sherlock and Joan in any form?
Oh wow! [Laughs] Let’s see… No one would be happier than me, but I’m also aware of how many hurdles we would have to get over to get our band back together but you never know. I thought as an X-Files fan that the franchise was gone forever, and I ended up having two more seasons over the last few years to enjoy. Anything is possible, but I don’t see it on the immediate horizon.