“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.