An Outline for The Boys, Season Two

I haven’t truly binged-watched a show in a long time. Yes, even with the epidemic, I’m more often working or doing chores than watching something on streaming.

But The Boys is so irreverently good, so twistedly watchable, that I started it on Friday and spend Saturday finishing it off.

There’s currently only one season, and when the last episode was over, I thought: Well, they just blew everything we knew up. Where could they go from here? Could a Season Two be even close to as good as this?

Dear Reader, I think it can.

Below is my outline for a Season Two.

Major Spoilers for the The Boys Season One follows

Butcher

Butcher starts Season Two with everything he’s built his life on for eight years suddenly knocked out from under him. His wife’s alive, she’s been raising the kid she had with Homelander, and she’s never, not once, tried to contact him about it or tell him the truth.

He’s going to struggle to come to grips with that. He’ll be in denial at first, and then angry when his ex-wife (and is she even his ex?) lays it all out for him. There’ll be fights. He might try to move in with them — insisting on a husband’s prerogative — he might try to “rescue” Becca (which she’ll resist, confusing him more).

He might even try another attempt on Homelander’s life, using his new family as bait.

All of these efforts, this raging at the new reality, will fail.

Finally, at the end of the last fight with his ex-wife, when the bleak truth has settled in, he’ll remember something Homelander dropped at the end of Season One, when he was talking to Stillwell (who was all tied up with explosives at the time): The name of the scientist who created Homelander.

Butcher will shift gears at that point, away from Becca, and towards a new goal: To track down this scientist, and guilt him into making a formula to undo his greatest mistake. Something that neutralizes the effects of Compound V, making Supes normal again.

Homelander and Becca and the Kid

Meanwhile, Homelander has been trying to play house with Becca and his son.

But he’s bad at it. Incredibly bad at it. Becca doesn’t really want him there, the kid wants a dad but can’t relate to someone raised in a lab, and Homelander himself has no role models to imitate.

Butcher himself might help here, in a scene where he’s feeling low and takes pity on Homelander for once. Gives Homelander an in, something he can do to bond with his son.

But it’s too little, too late. In an attempt to show “tough love”, Homelander ends up killing the kid’s favorite pet. Becca drives him out of the house, tells him not come back.

The Seven (as was)

With Homelander distracted, Maeve steps in to lead The Seven.

It’s a literally thankless job. Their new manager at Vought feels nothing but contempt for Supes, seeing them as just more dangerous versions of spoiled celebrities. And every interview Maeve gives, someone asks her about Homelander. Even when he’s gone, he overshadows her.

So she begins making some changes, to get some attention. She brings back a disgraced Supe, makes them part of the Seven. She gets back with her ex, and comes out of the closet.

It all unravels, though, when she finds out how Starlight has betrayed them all (in working with Hughie to take down Vought from the inside, tracing the route of Compound V to supervillains) and Homelander returns, all in a rage from his failed family experiment.

Hughie and Starlight and the Gang

Finally, “The Boys” has stopped being an all-boys’ club. Kimiko and Frenchie are an item, and more and more Kimiko is willing to help them in their crusade against Vought (though reluctantly at first).

Hughie and Starlight’s relationship remains fragile. They’re friends and allies, but arguing constantly about the best way to go about things. Each time of them reaches out to rekindle their romance, the other pulls back, wounded and mistrustful from their last fight.

Because of all this back-and-forth, Starlight doesn’t realize how deep she’s gone to the other side until Maeve confronts her about it towards the end of the season, framing everything as Starlight’s attempt to undermine her and take over leadership of the Seven.

The Climax

Everything comes to a head all at once.

Homelander returns in the middle of Maeve and Starlight’s fight, pissed at everyone and everything.

Starlight’s fight delays her helping Hughie and the gang getting into Vought’s headquarters for the final piece of the evidence, making them think Starlight’s betrayed them.

They break into the lab themselves, where they find Butcher, happily switching everything over to churn out the Compound-V antidote. He’s carrying a rifle that’s been modified to fire doses of the antidote, so he can make Homelander mortal.

And everything goes to shit when the world’s first supervillain team chooses that moment to assault The Seven in their Vought HQ.

A Few Streaming Recommendations for Social Distancing

As we enter the second (or third, or fourth) week of hunkering down in our homes, I thought I’d rattle off a list of shows I’ve been watching to distract me from everything that’s been going on:

Locke & Key

Loved the comic by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez, so I thought I’d check out the new series.

The show is very different from the comic, both in the way the characters are represented and the pacing of the story. But it preserves the core idea of the comic, and damn, it’s good. Even when the characters are making obviously dumb choices, it’s compelling.

Fair warning, though: It’s a bit intense at times. At several points in the season, I could only do one episode a night, because it was just…too much, right now.

Source: Netflix

Westworld

The new season is out! So I’m going back and re-watching Seasons One and Two, both to refresh my memory and to give them time to release more than just a few episodes of the new season.

I’m impressed by how well Season One is holding up, even after I’ve watched it multiple times. I’m discovering new depths to the performances of the actors playing Bernard and Delores, and seeing things that link up with future events that missed the first few times through.

Also Maeve. Who doesn’t enjoy watching more Maeve?

Source: HBO Now

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

I discovered this one late, so shame on me. But Seasons One and Two were awesome, and I was worried about Season Three.

I shouldn’t have been. Not only is it still damn funny, but I didn’t need to re-watch any of the earlier seasons to dive right into the latest one. The characters are all there, sniping and helping each other, like always.

Just intimidatingly good writing in this series. Something to aim for in my own work.

Source: Amazon Prime

How to Fix Game of Thrones, Season 8

Spoiler’s ahead. If you haven’t seen Season 8 yet, and plan to, you probably want to stop reading now.

Just to give us a little buffer between this and the spoiler’s below, I’m posting a completely non-spoilery GoT picture below. Everything beneath that picture will contain spoilers.

What Went Wrong

Season 8 felt rushed, to me. Not in terms of pacing; they cranked the slow-motion all the way up to 11 for this last season. Rushed in terms of execution.

Jon’s first dragon ride was the first time the dragons looked fake to me. I mean, I know they’ve always been CGI creations, but they looked good up till that point. It’s like they got so far, and then quit.

And so many storylines get short shrift. Dany’s slide from liberator to slaughterer is too abrupt, too forced. Ditto Jaime’s about-face from noble knight to love-struck pawn. Once the battle with the Night King is over, it seems they give up explaining character actions, and instead just move them about the board to where they’re needed.

It’s sloppy, and it didn’t have to be this way.

How to Fix It

Let’s start with the decision to only make 6 episodes. This was a mistake. It doesn’t give us enough time for all our storylines to breathe. And we end up wasting a good portion of each episode with slow-motion filler, instead of pushing the story ahead.

So we go back to 10 full episodes. We cut any slow-motion that doesn’t serve the story or the tension of the episode (which, let’s face it, means all of it gets cut, save for the slow-down before Arya’s awesome leap at the Night King).

Now we’ve got enough space to tell our story. But what story do we tell?

Dany’s Not Mad, She’s Just Drawn That Way

Despite all of Varys’ hand-wringing and Tyrion’s prison self-pity, I don’t think Daenerys’ actions in the latter part of the season mean she’s gone insane. I think she’s been driven to a dark place. I think she’s angry, and seeks vengeance against her enemies, as she always has.

But crazy? No.

And with more time in the season, we can show it.

Start with the siege of King’s Landing. Let’s make it a proper siege!

We can still have the naval battle at the beginning, where she loses another dragon because the ship-mounted scorpions catch her by surprise. So she lands angry and hurt, already. One more death to lay at Cersei’s feet.

Her troops dig in around the capital. She summons her war council, where the Westerosi try to tell her how to proceed. She dismisses their advice, telling them she’s conquered several cities already, and knows how it’s done. She puts the prep work in the hands of Grey Worm, who was at her side when she won those cities.

The next day, she goes to the wall, and does what she knows best: she talks directly to the people.

She doesn’t appeal to Cersei. She doesn’t care about her. She makes her pitch directly to the people of King’s Landing, just as she made it to the people of Slaver’s Bay: throw down your masters, open the gates, and the Breaker of Chains will give you freedom.

But unlike before, the gates don’t open. No troops lay down their arms.

Instead, Cersei executes a prisoner. Right there, in front of everyone, where Dany can see.

Notice I said a prisoner. Not Missandei, not yet. Cersei captured several people after the battle, and over the next few weeks, as the siege drags on, she executes them all, one by one.

Each day, Daenerys goes out to make her plea. Each day, she sees another of her followers executed in response.

And loses a little more of her patience.

On the last day of the siege, Cersei executes Missandei.

By the time battle is finally joined, we’ve seen the build-up. We’ve seen Daenerys try to prevent bloodshed in the way she knows how. We’ve seen her try to connect to the people, and fail.

So when the Bells sound, and she decides to sack the city anyway, we may not agree with her choice, but we understand why she makes it: because it’s too little, too late.

Jaime Isn’t Love-Struck, He’s Summoned by Duty

Jaime’s about-face in the latter half of the season also doesn’t make sense. It’s a complete reversal of his entire character arc, where he’s been building to a sense of himself as an honorable person, a flawed one, but one that has been trying to do the right thing.

Why would he run back to Cersei, after finally rejecting her and riding North?

Answer: he wouldn’t.

Instead, while the seige is happening in King’s Landing (over a couple of episodes), we sometimes shift over to Winterfell to show what’s happening there.

For Jaime and Brienne, it’s a long-sought time of peace. Winter has come, true, but the Night King’s been vanquished, and the war at King’s Landing will soon be over (they expect Cersei to surrender to Dany’s dragons). They can lay down their arms, and simply enjoy being with each other. A reward for all that they’ve gone through, all they’ve lost.

That peace is shattered, though, when a raven arrives from Tyrion, summoning Jaime to King’s Landing.

Tyrion’s letter tells Jaime of the loss of a second dragon. Of Daenerys’ rejected pleas to the city. Of Cersei’s stubbornness in the face of certain defeat.

And he begs his brother to come help. To sneak through the siege lines, and convince Cersei to surrender the city. To save the lives of the people of King’s Landing once again, as he did when he killed the Mad King.

We see Brienne and Jaime argue about what to do. Brienne begs him to stay, to let Cersei pay for her mistakes, finally. But Jaime feels honor-bound to go.

We still get the scene of Brienne crying, begging him not to leave. We still get Jaime, regretful, saying goodbye. But not because he’s “hateful”.

He leaves because he’s honorable.

Jon Hides from the Truth Until It’s Too Late

Meanwhile, Jon didn’t tell Daenerys who he really is in that scene in the crypts (before the battle with the Night King). He told her Rhaegar loved Lyanna, sure, but he held back on the results of that love.

Why? Because he has doubts. He’d just been told something that contradicts everything he knows about himself. He heard it from Bran, true, but Bran claims not to be Bran anymore. And Sam confirmed it, which makes him take it seriously, but Sam could be wrong, couldn’t he?

So he holds back.

After the battle, he does finally tell someone. His family.

In that scene in the Godswood, he opens up. Shares what he knows, and his doubts about it. Bran insists it’s true, and gives some spooky quotes to back it up.

Jon says he’ll have to tell Dany next. She’s his queen, she deserves to know.

But Sansa convinces him not to. Sansa tells him — rightly — that she’ll see him as a threat if he tells her. That she doesn’t want to see him burned alive, like her grandfather and uncle were. And if he doesn’t want the throne, he shouldn’t tell anyone.

The last argument convinces him. He decides not to tell Dany, and swears the rest of them to secrecy.

Sansa, of course, immediately tells Tyrion, intending to drive a wedge between Dany and Jon, weakening the Dragon Queen. And setting in motion the chain of events that will end with Varys’ betrayal.

Jon tries to go on with Daenerys as if nothing’s changed, but it has. He starts to pull away from her touch, her caress, out of his concerns about their incest.

Dany doesn’t understand why, at first, though she gives him some slack because of what they’ve gone through (and her focus on retaking the Iron Throne from Cersei). But it unsettles her, makes her feel rejected and alone, and contributes to her sense that Westeros doesn’t like her, that its people will never love and accept her.

So she pulls another page from her Essos playbook: marriage to a local noble, to cement the people’s loyalty.

And the noble she chooses is Jon. It’ll seal her alliance with the North, and head off any rebellion Sansa might be planning.

Before they leave Winterfell (because they’ll be separated: she’s going by dragon/sea and he’s going by land), she proposes marriage. Jon is flustered, taken aback. He wants to say no, because of who he is, but he can’t. Not without telling her.

So he agrees. Dany is happy, says they’ll wait till after they take King’s Landing, of course, but that it’ll be good to have something to celebrate after so much war. Jon is sober, quiet, but plays it off as his concerns with the coming siege, nothing else.

But then the siege starts, and Daenerys loses another dragon, and Varys betrays her.

It’s Varys that tells her Jon’s parentage, just before she burns him alive. And when she confronts Jon, expecting him to deny it, he instead confirms what Varys believed, revealing that he’s been keeping secrets from her, too.

At this, Dany goes cold. She assumes he wants the throne, though he denies it. She wonders how she can believe him, when he’s been holding so much from her. He says she is his Queen, and she has to trust him.

She decides to trust him, but on one condition: he has to renounce the Iron Throne. She insists their wedding still take place, and that his formal renouncing of the throne take place after the ceremony. Everyone will see him bend the knee, and hear his words of fealty, and understand who is the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms.

Jon’s hurt that she doesn’t trust him explicitly, and unsure of an incestuous wedding. But he agrees. “As my Queen commands.”

The Sack

So as we move into the Sack of King’s Landing, everyone’s under tremendous pressure. Tyrion’s trying to win King’s Landing with a minimum of bloodshed. Jaime’s trying to do the honorable thing, even if it means leaving behind a peaceful life with the woman he loves (Brienne). Jon’s growing more and more uncertain of his position and his safety.

And Daenerys feels alone, vulnerable, and unloved. The people of King’s Landing seem defiant and ungrateful to her. Didn’t she mobilize the army that defeated the Night King? Didn’t she offer them a peaceful way out?

If the people of King’s Landing — or the other kingdoms — find out who Jon really is, won’t they turn on her the first chance they get?

The battle happens much like it does in the released version. But this time, when the Bells sound and she starts destroying the city, we understand why. She’s not gone crazy. She’s punishing them for making the wrong choice. For rejecting her.

One more change: when the Unsullied start slaughtering prisoners, Jon orders his men out. He doesn’t stand there like an actor without blocking directions, he actively tells his men to get out of the city. As a result, none of the Westerosi knights participate in the slaughter.

The Aftermath

Jaime and Cersei die in the catacombs under the keep. Arya almost dies trying to get out before Dany destroys the city.

Jon and his troops finally enter King’s Landing, trying to restore some sort of order. Tyrion wanders among the dead, looking for his siblings.

Daenerys gives a speech to her troops. But not the “eternal war” one she gives in the released version. She does praise them for slaughtering her enemies, and showing them no mercy when they deserved none. She praises their loyalty, and promises a new time of peace, though she knows she can always call on them to defend the defenseless.

Hearing that speech, and having seen the devastation, Tyrion resigns as her Hand. He can’t work for someone that’s proud of what she’s done. She has him imprisoned, not for resigning, but for his betrayals: once for releasing Jaime in an attempt to help Cersei, and twice for keeping Jon’s parentage from her.

In the throne room, Jon confronts Dany about the sack. Instead of responding with some weird speech about conquering the world, she defends her choices. Did she not give the people a choice? After they made it, how could she not hold them to its consequences? She talks about how she needs to inspire fear in Westeros, since she cannot inspire love. How she’ll rebuild something better from the ashes, just as she did in Slaver’s Bay. And just as in Slaver’s Bay, those who won’t bend the knee will be dealt with harshly.

Jon pushes back, saying Westeros won’t respond to the same methods she used in Essos. That its nobles are more stubborn, its people more loyal to their rulers. Will she burn them all, just to ensure that what’s left is loyal?

Daenerys looks at him, eyes fierce. “If I have to.”

Queenslayer

Jon goes to see Tyrion, more torn than ever. Tyrion doesn’t give him the “we should have always seen her madness speech,” which, again, isn’t needed. It’s enough for Tyrion to be down on himself, to have helped her kill his family, and so many women and children. He can remark how it’s different seeing people you’ve known your entire life being burned alive.

And he has a warning for Jon: that if he doesn’t act soon, Dany’s going to turn him against his family, too.

Jon scoffs. Sansa’s loyal. He’s going to marry the Queen. It won’t be a problem.

Tyrion chides him for being naive. Sansa’s not going to bend the knee, he insists. And when she doesn’t, Dany’s going to take her dragon and burn down Jon’s childhood home. His only way out is to kill Daenerys, and take the throne from her.

Jon leaves in a huff. He’s no assassin. No Queenslayer, some second coming of Jaime Lannister. He’s loyal to his Queen, and if his family rebels, then so be it.

His bluster doesn’t fool Tyrion. And it doesn’t really fool himself, either. He comes out of the visit, wondering if it’s true, and what he’ll do if it comes to it.

Daenerys settles into King’s Landing, to rule. She sends ravens to all the nobles of Westeros, inviting them to her coronation, and to swear oaths of fealty.

Sansa’s answer comes back: no.

Daenerys summons Jon. Tells him to order Sansa south, as King in the North. He insists she can stay there, he’ll bend the knee for the North.

But Dany won’t be placated. If Sansa won’t come, then she’ll take her army to Winterfell and force her.

That pushes Jon over the edge. Torn between family and honor, he chooses family. He embraces Dany, for the last time, and plunges his dagger into her heart.

No Kings

Drogon melts the Iron Throne and takes Dany’s body away.

Grey Worm sees Drogon leave, finds Jon with blood on his hands. Immediately takes him into custody.

Ser Davos convinces Grey Worm to let him call a meeting of the high lords of Westeros, to decide what to do.

And so we see Tyrion brought out to the assembly, where they are to decide his fate, and that of the Queenslayer.

Talk turns to choosing a King. Edmure stands up, begins his little speech about being a “veteran” and knowing about “statecraft.”

And Sansa tells him to sit down.

After he sits, Sansa keeps talking. Says the North will never kneel to a Southern king again. Not ever. The North is free.

The Dornish noble nods, and says his kingdom, too, has ever been unbowed and unbent. Though they lost the Sand Snakes, they are unbroken. They will not bend the knee, either.

Tyrion gets frustrated. Wonders if it’ll be a return to war between the kingdoms, without a single King or Queen to hold them together.

Sam stands, says they don’t need a King. What they need is a Hand.

Edmure scoffs. Can’t have a Hand of the King without a King.

Sam shakes his head. Not a Hand of the King, he says. A Hand of the Realm. Someone chosen by them, the Lords of Westeros, to serve the Realm as a whole. To arbitrate disputes, organize the defense of the Kingdoms, and prevent war.

Sansa agrees, a Hand would be fine. But who?

Here, Bran speaks up, finally. Nominates Tyrion as the Hand of the Realm. Explains why: he’s been making mistakes, and he can spend the rest of his life cleaning up his mess, with no title or lands of his own.

The other lords agree, one by one. Tyrion will be the first Hand of the Realm.

As his first act, he chooses Bran to be his Master of Whispers.

His second act is to negotiate a deal for Jon. It winds up much the same as in the released version: life at the Wall in exchange for renouncing titles, and he escapes punishment for killing their Queen.

Heartfelt goodbyes, the Unsullied sail for Naath, Tyrion hosts his first Small Council meeting. Jon reunites with Ghost and Tormund, rides into the sunset.

Roll credits.

The Decline of Doctor Who

Earlier seasons had episodes that were standalone: the Doctor and his Companions having adventures.

Moffat’s tenure shifted the focus away from the Doctor, away from adventure, and toward drama: Amy and Rory’s relationship, Amy and the Doctor’s relationship, the Doctor and River Song’s relationship.

In the first four seasons, these sort of themes were subtext, part of the background fabric of the show. Moffat’s tenure brought these elements front and center, to the point where you can’t pull an episode out of the Sixth Season that doesn’t deal with some aspect of the Doctor’s death scene from the first episode. The entire season is basically setup for that one event, which means you can skip the entire season and be happier for it.

This leads me to the contradiction in my feelings about Smith’s time as the Doctor: I like Smith’s Doctor, but I hate the episodes he’s in. Smith’s ability to portray a younger, more quirky Doctor one minute and an older, more stern Doctor the next was and is amazing to me. His portrayal is still one of my favorites, and yet, because of the way they used him, I don’t enjoy watching his seasons nearly as much as I like watching Tenant and Eccleston’s.

It’s not until Season Seven that we start getting episodes that are fun to rewatch (“Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”, for example). And only once Clara joins the Doctor do we get consistently good episodes.

Even with Clara, though, we can’t escape the Moffat approach of wrapping the Companion up with the Big Bad of the season and defining her mostly by what she does for the Doctor (Impossible Girl? The Girl Who Waited?). Martha Jones used to be my least favorite companion, but compared with Amy or Clara she’s incredibly kick-ass: a doctor, a smart woman who kept her head when the hospital she worked in got transported to the Moon, who had a life beyond the Doctor and went on to be a hero in her own right.

I almost think Doctor Who needs a reboot. Not just a new Doctor (we got that, hooray), but a scratching-out of most of the Doctor’s history since Moffat took over. I mean at this point, the Doctor we have is pretty lame: he’s 2,000 years old but lived in one single town for half of that time, his grave at Trenzalore – where he must never go – is not really his grave, and he’s given up caring or acting in the world because he’s lost his confidence.

We need to wipe the Moffat years out, and start over.

We can do it by making the current Doctor not the real Doctor.

During the end of Season Five (“The Big Bang”) what Amy Pond remembered back into existence was not the real Doctor. It was the Raggedy Man, her Doctor, not the real one.

The real Doctor got shunted off to Gallifrey during the explosion to seal the rift (emergency temporal shift). He was trapped there, and regenerated into a new body.

We introduce this as a season closer, when Gallifrey comes back. The fake Doctor sacrifices himself, the Time Lords return, and the real Doctor emerges. We can drop all the history we don’t like from the last three seasons, and go forward with a revamped show. We can get a younger Doctor, a not-so-needy Doctor, and (if we’re lucky) a female Doctor.

How to Fix Doctor Who: Into the Dalek

This episode is irredeemable. From the bad acting, the heavy-handed rehash of ideas that have been explored in previous┬áDoctor Who episodes, and how bored the Doctor seems at everything that happens (I swear, Capaldi takes deadpan to a whole new level), it’s one of the worst episodes I’ve ever seen. The only thing we really learn about the Doctor or Clara is confirmation that yes, Capaldi and Coleman┬áhave absolutely zero chemistry on screen.

Skip it. Watch episode “Dalek” from Season One instead. It’s the same theme, executed better, and without the Doctor-is-just-anti-Dalek retcon.

How to Fix Doctor Who: Deep Breath

(Warning: Major Spoilers Ahead)

This episode is so uneven, like a miniature version of Moffat’s tenure at Doctor Who. There are some brilliant ideas – having the Doctor bring a dinosaur along for the ride after it swallowed the Tardis – and some utterly daft ones – who wants to see an older man flail about in a nightgown? – all mixed together, but never congealing into something coherently enjoyable.

Of all the things that went wrong, though, there’s a huge missed opportunity that stands out.

Clara should have left at the end of the episode.

Imagine if she did. There’s no last-minute phone call from Matt Smith manipulating her into staying, no puppy-dog eyes from the current Doctor to beg her to stay. No. The Doctor touches down in Clara’s time, she asks if she’s home, and he says “Yes.”

He drops her off, and explains why: his past self made a mistake in thinking of her in a romantic way, and some unknown person is manipulating their relationship. Until he knows who that person is, and why they’re doing it, he’s not going to play into their plans and perpetuate his predecessor’s mistake. This is a different Doctor, a Doctor that’s not as needy, and he’s strong enough to let her go when he sees it’s best.

Making that the final scene would recast the episode as the breakup of the Doctor and Clara, giving it some emotional heft, and making his abandonment of her in the middle a kind of foreshadowing. It would also give the season a little more tension: will Clara and the Doctor ever travel together again? Will he find out who’s been manipulating them? Will he take on a new long-term companion, or will this Doctor be more independent than the past?

I feel like this approach is something an earlier Steven Moffat would have done. The writer of The Girl in the Fireplace and Forest of the Dead would have seen the opportunity for a defining, bittersweet moment, and taken it. Instead Moffat’s new Doctor, perhaps like Moffat himself, does not know when to let go.

Elementary vs Sherlock: Which is Better?

Both Elementary and Sherlock offer modern takes on the characters of Sherlock Holmes and Watson. While I watch both shows, I think Elementary is the better one. Here’s why:

Watson is more than just Holmes’ biographer

In most versions of Holmes and Watson, including Sherlock’s, Holmes is the primary mover of the relationship. Watson is there as the audience’s stand-in, someone Holmes can be brilliant next to. He’s there to make Holmes more relatable, but that’s it.

Elementary’s Watson is a stronger, more complex character. She begins as Holmes’ sober companion, becomes his mentee in deduction, and grows into an equal partner in solving crimes.

Holmes is a more complex character

Part of what makes Elementary’s Watson better is the fact that she manages to change Holmes. He starts the series as a recovering addict, oblivious to the feelings of others and convinced of his superiority. Unlike Sherlock’s version of the character, Elementary’s Holmes changes under Watson’s influence, becoming humbler and more sensitive to how his behavior is perceived.

Elementary’s version of Holmes is vulnerable, and knows it, something we never see in Sherlock.

Moriarty finally makes sense

I think Elementary’s portrayal of Moriarty is brilliant. The writers of Elementary managed to finally give a good explanation for the two main problems with Sherlock’s Moriarty:

  1. Why doesn’t Moriarty kill Holmes? I’ve never bought the “I admire him” argument. What criminal mastermind wouldn’t eliminate a threat as great as Sherlock Holmes as early as possible?
  2. Why doesn’t Holmes track down Moriarty earlier? Both Sherlock and Elementary have Holmes encounter Moriarty early on without recognizing him, but only Elementary has a good explanation for why such an observant man as Holmes would have a blind spot where Moriarty is concerned.

Update: The Onion’s AVClub agrees that Elementary is the better show.