“Whatever Remains, However Improbable” was written as an ending: Elementary’s “The Final Problem.” Its Holmes and Watson – beautifully played by Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Lui – deserved a fitting farewell after 141 episodes and many adventures.
We all enjoy mystery and complexity in TV shows, but also crave closure; we don’t follow a show for six years only to be left hanging. A good director is crucial to a good ending, so Christine Moore – who directed 18 Elementary episodes – was tapped to cap the series off.
Elementary embraces episodic rote and process; if anything, grounding in the iconic Sherlock Holmes books makes it more procedural than many TV shows. In “Whatever Remains” is a culmination of a season-long arc which indulges in the melodramatic ‘lead character is the suspect!’ all modern procedurals activate in time: Watson has been charged with murder.
Thus “Whatever Remains” must conclude the ‘Holmes and Watson solve their biggest mystery’ arc, work as a standalone episode, and pay homage to the Arthur Conan Doyle stories. All while maintaining the tone and style (those luscious wardrobes!) of the series. In 42 minutes. On a network budget and schedule.
Moore’s extensive journeyperson directing (Law and Order, The Wire, Bosch) shows her experience working at a high level under a variety of constraints and conditions. Most importantly, she deeply understands Elementary’s world, characters, and their relationship to each other. Elementary is a sprawling, complex portrait of an iconic relationship which has been dramatised hundreds of times, but never like this. The audience is emotionally invested in these characters, and needs a satisfying denouement.
Moore pulls it off with skill, flair, and love. The mystery is neatly wrapped (as we knew it would be) with Watson cleared. Then the episode takes a clever turn in setting up a future for our beloved duo, so we can imagine them living, growing together, and solving cases in perpetuity. Moore accomplishes this with a gorgeous final shot which embraces modern London – complete with double-decker busses – while maintaining the overall aesthetic of the show. The last image is a perfect show-don’t-tell of Holmes and Watson’s relationship as they walk into the sunrise, side by side.
Elementary is available to stream on Amazon.
Melanie is a director and showrunner-in-training with a degree in writing and 10 years experience in American and Australian productions. She has written and directed five short films, directed 13 web series episodes for three different web series, and associate produced two feature narrative films in the US (2014) and Australia (2018). She is currently the creative producer of b-wind media, and developing a script for her feature directing debut.