Sherlock Holmes, and many other “world class genius” characters in entertainment, are frequently painted as arrogant, rude, abrasive men (let’s be real, they’re always men). The audience is expected to perhaps shake their heads in exasperation but ultimately forgive them because, well, they’re brilliant. They’re special. They function on a higher level than the rest of us, and we can’t expect them to waste time with social niceties when they could be solving the world’s problems instead.
Sherlock Holmes as portrayed by Jonny Lee Miller in Elementary does have the usual asshole genius traits, but the surprising thing is that he doesn’t get away with it. The people around him don’t just put up and shut up when he’s out of line; they call him out frequently and consistently, and the narrative supports them. There’s even an arc in season 2 where Sherlock’s lack of consideration for a suspect he was questioning set into motion a series of events that led to one of his valued colleagues being shot, Sherlock being called into court, and his relationship with Detective Bell, the colleague who took the shot meant for him and whom he respected and admired, becoming seriously damaged. The show makes a point of not giving Sherlock a pass for problematic behavior. He faces the consequences, and he learns from them.
Sherlock Holmes, world class genius, learning from the people around him is what truly disarms me about this character. And it isn’t just implied, it isn’t just hinted or suggested–it’s actually explicitly stated several times by Sherlock himself that he finds these lessons valuable. And it’s not easy. Sherlock adjusting his views of himself and seeing where he needs to change is a difficult, uncomfortable process, and it doesn’t come naturally for him. In a recent episode, there was this conversation between Sherlock and Joan in the brownstone:
[SPOILERS FOR EPISODE 3X19 “ONE HOLMES, ONE WATSON”]