'Elementary' Creator Teases Moriarty's Return, Mycroft's Intrusion and Joan's Guilt

"We’ll find out that Mycroft has other reasons for coming to New York that he’s not being completely up-front about," executive producer Rob Doherty tells THR.
CBS; AP Images
Lucy Liu and Jonny Lee Miller in "Elementary"; Rob Doherty (inset)

Elementary’s second season already is one-upping its first with unexpected twists: the unsolved mystery that brought Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) and Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) to London, the introduction of Sherlock's estranged brother, Mycroft (Rhys Ifans), and the heartbreaking backstory behind Watson’s lost patient.

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But Rob Doherty says it’s just the beginning of a long season that’s sure to be full of surprises. The creator of the CBS drama recently spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about moving Mycroft to New York, crafting Joan’s past and future, marking the imminent return of Moriarty (Natalie Dormer) and potentially flipping the genders of other key characters from Sherlock lore.

Elementary has flipped the gender of two characters, Watson and Moriarty. Do you plan to do so for other key characters that have yet to be introduced?

With Joan, it was about looking for a different Holmes/Watson dynamic that people haven’t seen before. I don’t think there’s any more important relationship when you’re Sherlock Holmes, so to play with that relationship was the most interesting to do. And we always knew the Irene/Moriarty card was something we were going to turn over. What excited us from the very beginning was that the best way to break our Sherlock was to romance him. On the surface, he is not a romantic guy, or at least someone who likes to show what he’s feeling. So the cruelest thing a Moriarty could do was break his heart, so it made perfect sense to us at least to amalgamate the Adler and Moriarty characters.

But moving forward, I don’t know. We’re certainly not averse. It comes up sometimes, but we would never do it just to do it. We want to make sure it feels right, and even more importantly, how does it change things? Especially when you’re taking a character from the canon, why is it more interesting for this specific character to be female as opposed to male? Same goes for race and various elements.

Do you also make these decisions as part of a bigger mission to put more leading women on television?

To be honest, it started from just what’s going to be the most interesting franchise for us. But I feel like for the bulk of my career, I’ve written strong women, again and again, going all the way back to Kathryn Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager. Maybe selfishly, I wanted to have that comfort zone in the show. So far it’s working out. But I was also certainly aware that it’s an opportunity to put more eyes on your show. There’s a character for everyone to follow and fall for.

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In a recent episode, Sherlock advised Joan to rid herself of the guilt for losing a patient. Although she appears to listen, has that door peacefully closed for her?

In the real world, that’s not something that just disappears. It’s certainly not a note we hit in every single episode, but it’s part of her history, so we have to honor it appropriately as we move on in the season. The same can be said of Sherlock’s addiction – he was an addict, he’ll be an addict forever, that’s how it works. To ever move away from that element of our show would be wrong; it’s just not true.

How will Sherlock and Watson’s relationship change throughout season two?

When we picked up in the premiere, a summer had passed for them, as it did for the audience. Off-camera, they’ve had many more cases together, and Joan is a little further along now in her role as protegee to Sherlock. A handful of times this year, we’re hoping to see her work independently. In an early episode, she’s approached by another detective at the precinct who has kept track of her wins, appreciates the work that she’s done and wants her help for the case. It’s a new thing for her, and Sherlock bristles, as he is wont to do.

You’ve said before that season two may introduce a new villain. How is that shaping up?

Some of these ideas are embryonic, so that makes them even more difficult to tease. At the moment, we’re spending more of our energy working on this first half of the season, which has a lot to do with Mycroft, where Sherlock is at this point in his recovery, where Joan is with respect to her new pursuit [as a detective] and her love life. The second half of the season is when we want to start to build some momentum toward a proper villain. As of tonight, no one has been introduced on any of the episodes [already filmed] that will be the villain of our season two.

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But what I can tell you with virtual certainty is that we will be seeing season one’s big villain coming back during the midpoint of this season. We’re going to catch up a little bit with Moriarty and force Sherlock back into her orbit very briefly. We could not have had a better time with Natalie – she was really the only person we wanted, and to actually be fortunate enough to have her come into the show was really amazing. Again, luckily for us, so far the feeling is mutual – Natalie had a lot of fun with Jonny and Lucy, so I know for sure we’ll see her around episode 11 or 12, and maybe we’ll get her back again when the year’s out.

How will Mycroft return to the fold?

What we showed in the premiere is that Mycroft is a creature of London; he lives there in 221B [Baker Street] now, so we’ve manipulated circumstances somewhat to draw him to New York. As Sherlock said in the premiere, they’ve reached a kind of rapprochement, but that means one thing to Mycroft and another to Sherlock. So Sherlock is as surprised to see Mycroft in New York as he was to see him in the U.K. It’s uncomfortable for him – he’s not necessarily looking to continue to advance or evolve the reconciliation, but it’s something Mycroft is pushing and Sherlock is reluctantly agreeing to.

In the premiere, just for practical reasons, we had to pair Sherlock with Lestrade, and Mycroft with Joan. So when Mycroft comes to New York, it’s been fun to get the three of them in rooms together. There’s this really interesting dynamic – it was a lot of fun to write for. And we’ll find out that Mycroft has, not ulterior motives, but he has other reasons for coming to New York that he’s not being completely up-front about.

Elementary airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on CBS.

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