How Elementary managed to avoid the Moriarty problem with its latest villain

elementary season 6 michael desmond harrington sherlock holmes jonny lee miller moriarty natalie dormer andrew scott robert doherty addiction cbs

Introduced in the season 6 premier, Michael (Desmond Harrington) is a recovering addict much like Holmes. Michael credits Holmes with the success of his recovery, telling him “you said [at a meeting] you were made for one thing, and being away from it made staying sober almost impossible, but when […] you went back to it, that made all the difference. So, I actually decided to do the same thing, you know, focus on my work, use it to get better […] I worked hard, but, uh it started with you.”

In marked contrast to Holmes, though, the work that helps keep Michael sober is murder; where Holmes uses his detective work as a coping mechanism, Michael is a serial killer with similar struggles and compulsions. It’s a clever conceit, drawing obvious parallels between the two, positioning Michael as a mirror of Holmes in broadly the same way Moriarty has been in the past; indeed, it wouldn’t actually be that surprising to learn that this character is drawn from ideas at one stage considered for Elementary’s version of Moriarty. Notably, though, where the parallels between Holmes and Moriarty are typically drawn from their occupations – the consulting detective and the consulting criminal – the ones between Holmes and Michael are much more personal in nature. It’s an approach that offers potential for some compelling character drama, again an opportunity for Elementary to further explore Holmes’ sobriety.

So! Moriarty. This article kinda relies a lot on a thing I basically just sorta made up while I was trying to work out how to talk about the thing I wanted to talk about (Desmond Harrington‘s Michael, a new character introduced in Elementary season 6), so I should probably unpack that a little bit.

Basically, the “Moriarty Problem”, such that I’ve defined it, talks about the struggle that adaptations of Sherlock Holmes stories face when, after having offered their take on Moriarty (arguably the most famous literary villain ever), they have to move on to a new villain – the problem being the struggle to put forward a character that’s equally as impactful or memorable as their take on Moriarty.

Certainly, if we limit our pool to Elementary and Sherlock, both shows struggled; I liked Magnussen, though admittedly was less sure about Eurus, though I don’t think it’s difficult to argue that Andrew Scott‘s Moriarty overshadowed them both. The same is true with Elementary, where none of the subsequent villains have had the same impact as Natalie Dormer‘s Moriarty (though you can make the reasonable argument that they didn’t try to have villains in the same way, I suppose).

So, what this article talks about is the way in which Elementary found a way to avoid that problem with its latest villain character, Michael. Admittedly you could probably argue that what they do, and the point I talk around making, is essentially just to do an alternate take on the basic idea of Moriarty within the confines of their show.

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5 Sherlock Holmes Stories to Adapt in the New Series of Elementary

elementary sherlock jonny lee miller lucy liu bee magnifying glass hd

Jeffrey Paul King, the head writer and producer of Elementary, recently teased on his twitter account that we’d see an adaptation of The Speckled Band, a rather well known Sherlock Holmes story. It got me thinking, then: what if the entirety of Elementary series 5 was built of adaptations from Holmes stories?

Personally speaking, I’d love it. To be honest, I’ve always thought that Elementary missed the boat by not using more of Conan Doyle’s original stories in the first place; while there’s nothing wrong with creating your own stories, when you’ve got a property like Sherlock Holmes, it does feel like a little bit of a waste of potential not to fully avail yourself of all the material available. I would particularly have liked to see Elementary reinvent much of the Holmes canon in the same manner in which it did Watson and Moriarty – that sort of fresh and transformative approach is something I’d quite like to see.

So – which stories, in particular, would I like to see adapted?

I’m quite fond of Elementary – always have been, really. One of my first proper posts on this blog – as in, one of the more analytical, long form, “intelligent” posts – was a comparison between Elementary and Sherlock. (I’m thinking of returning to that idea, actually, and maybe writing about it some more.)

Even though I’ve fallen behind on the show, it’s still something I really enjoy – and something I’m meaning to catch up on!

Interestingly, I did plan this originally as a Sherlock article, and they ended up using bits of The Gloria Scott in Sherlock series 4.

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