I recently caught up with Elementary, a show I was very wary of when it was first announced, because it was on CBS (infamous for its boring-ass procedurals) and because I thought it was a re-tread on something we had just seen in BBC’s Sherlock, I didn’t have much hope in the show being any good.
As anyone who follows the show will know, however, the series managed to differentiate itself from the BBC version by casting American actress of Taiwanese and Chinese descent Lucy Liu as Watson. Then it went and created a very unique relationship between the two main characters.
Elementary: Joan Watson and Sherlock Holmes
Since roughly half-way through this first season, Watson has been working on becoming a private investigator in her own right, which is taking the usual main character/sidekick relationship in an interesting, new direction (though never crossing the platonic friendship borders that have been set up around them).
My interest in this show, then, comes from the gender-swapping and race-bending of Watson’s character and the excellent character development in each episode, and most of all from the different relationship dynamic. For whatever reason, I have always been a big fan of male/female partnerships in television. I have no idea why, but I get pulled into a show more when things are set up this way.
Today, I figured I’d take a look at some of the other opposite-sex pairings that make (or made) up the essence of their respective shows, and why I enjoyed them so much.
The X-Files: Mulder and Scully
I should start by paying tribute to one of the originals. Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) make up the two halves of a very classic relationship.
Mulder was the “believer,” a man searching for his sister who he thought was abducted by aliens, while Scully filled the role of the “skeptic,” the one responsible for keeping him in line.
FBI agents tasked with looking into all the strange, unexplained, and possibly paranormal cases across the USA, they stumbled into an alien conspiracy that spanned nine seasons.
Said conspiracy is what’s responsible for the relationship that developed. In the early years of the show, it became more and more apparent that they could trust no one but each other. The connection that comes out of this, one of deep dependence, became the most interesting aspect of the show and easily overshadowed any cases they solved together.
Take, for instance, a third season case in which Mulder takes a weekend off to go explore a lake area that might be home to a sea monster. Scully goes along with him not because she’s forced to, but because she wants to (even though she might act like she doesn’t . That’s pretty much their relationship in a nutshell.
Doctor Who: The Doctor and Amy Pond
The Doctor (Matt Smith) first met Amy (Karen Gillan) when his time machine crashed into her front yard. Now, she happened to be around eleven at the time, and due to that malfunctioning blue box known as the TARDIS, The Doctor wouldn’t see her again for a good ten years or so.
In the years that passed, Amy never forgot The Doctor, to the point that her entire village was convinced he was her imaginary friend. In the end, he came back and whisked her off on a series of adventures.
The thing that makes this relationship so interesting is that Amy is “The Girl Who Waited.” Amy met The Doctor as a child, then spent her entire adolescence waiting for him to come back and take her away from boring reality.
All that time wishing and waiting, especially when you’re so small, is bound to do a number on you. It did exactly that to Amy, and she spent a good part of her first series on the show reconciling with the fact that The Doctor wasn’t the idealized version of the man she met so many years ago.
Once that issue was resolved, the duo was set up on a path to best friendship, and then eventually family.
Bones: Temperance Brennan and Seeley Booth
When Bones first started, I was a lot younger – to the point where if the show had begun today, I would be in a much different place mentally and probably wouldn’t have watched it. I gave up on the show several years back, when it became way, way too cartoon-y for my tastes, but at its center, the show still has a pretty interesting dynamic.
In a way, Booth (David Boreanaz) and Brennan (Emily Deschanel) are modern-day, real-life versions of Mulder and Scully. You’ve got Booth as the believer (with God replacing aliens and mutants) and Brennan as the skeptic (a hardcore atheist scientist).
Their back-and-forth banter during their cases has less to do with whether or not the man who was murdered was abducted and probed first, and more to do with the moral and ethical implications of their cases.
Had the show stuck more with its original lighthearted, yet grounded approach to science and the law, and stayed away from the goofiness its delved into in more recent years, this show would probably still be some guilty pleasure entertainment (with a healthy dose of weekly philosophy) due to the interesting partnership at its core.
Warehouse 13: Myka Bering and Pete Lattimer
Pete Lattimer (Eddie McClintock) and Myka Bering (Joanne Kelly) are agents at Warehouse 13, America’s so-called “attic,” where dangerous steampunk-like items with special science-fictional abilities are stored.
This relationship also takes a pretty classic route: the “good” cop and the “bad” (read: crazy) one.
Myka follows the rules while Pete does what he thinks is right in the moment. Myka solves cases with notes and facts, while Pete relies on his instincts and “vibes.” Over the last few seasons, though, they’ve begun rubbing off on one another.
Not only do they work together, but they also live together. This greatly affects their relationship, since living under the same roof has led them to become more like brother and sister, and less like police partners.
This is pretty refreshing for American television, the utter lack of a “will they/won’t they” style partnership – one that probably won’t crop up again for some time, save maybe for the duo on Elementary.