'Elementary' EP on Moriarty's Threatening Return and Sherlock's New Role (Q&A)

Elementary The Diabolical Kind Episodic Miller - H 2013
Jeff Neumann /CBS

Elementary The Diabolical Kind Episodic Miller - H 2013

Sherlock Holmes' biggest love -- and archenemy -- is back on Elementary.

Jamie Moriarty (Natalie Dormer) returns to the CBS drama, coming face-to-face with Sherlock (Jonny Lee Miller) and his partner, Joan (Lucy Liu). How does Moriarty come back into the fray? By way of an abduction case that she may have had a hand in.

VIDEO: 'Elementary' First Look: Moriarty Makes a Dramatic Return

The Hollywood Reporter talks to executive producer Rob Doherty about Moriarty's ill-timed return, Sherlock's new role as sponsor and big arcs for Lestrade and Mycroft.

What's your take on viewer reaction for the first half of the season?

It's been interesting to write Sherlock and Joan in a more formalized partnership. So much of last year was about delivering them to that place. It was challenging, but in a good way -- to kick off the season and figure out exactly how far along they should be. How is the work divided these days? What's Joan still learning? What might Sherlock have to learn himself? There were lots of spirited conversations about how to present the partnership in season two. We also wanted to take the next few logical steps with regard to Sherlock's recovery. He became a sponsor.

That's a big move for a character like Sherlock. Why did you feel like this was the appropriate time for him to make that next step?

What seemed appropriate coming into season two was a Sherlock who was a little more on board with the process and the program. By the end of the first season, we all felt that he had gotten something out of it, whereas he was very dismissive at the beginning and had to be dragged to meetings and tuned out most of what Joan was saying.

In season two, he's looked back and recognized that he has improved himself, and he is all about improvement. He will always care about being the best version of himself. When you are in a program like AA or NA, you're not required to become a sponsor, but it's considered a good and healthy matriculation. It was interesting to us because it felt true to the character, and we felt it would be a good challenge to the character. Sherlock has always moved at a certain pace, and he learned to slow down a little bit last year, but it's difficult. He has some responsibility now for one more person in his life, and for him, one is more than he can handle. There's no proper endpoint yet, but it's something we want to continue to play with as season two unfolds.

How would you describe Sherlock's attempt at being a successful sponsor?

At the moment, it's an open-ended story. We want to take our time with it and take up that storyline as needed as we go. In their first meeting, he lays down the law to a certain degree and explains that he will not be this person's therapist or friend. It's really all about protecting his sobriety. We'll see when the second half of the season picks up that it's easier said than done. This is a Sherlock Holmes capable of forging connections he couldn't have two years ago. He will be very Sherlock-ian in how he tends to this assignment. Again, it'll be a challenge because he can be a bit of a taskmaster and the work is so sensitive. It's not the kind of thing we want to play for laughs -- that's almost too easy, to portray a Sherlock who's a kook when it comes to being a sponsor.

How big of a threat is Jamie Moriarty now that she's back in Sherlock's life?

It's something of a threat to the progress he's made since they last met. No matter how much he'd like to admit it, he had real feelings for Irene [Adler]/Moriarty. She is something of a weak spot for him, and he cannot stand his few vulnerabilities. In his mind, one is too many, and Moriarty happens to be one. He despises who she is and what she does, and yet there is a very real connection there. She's certainly more obsessed with their similarities than he is, but he sees them too.

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

In the return, Moriarty is brought in on a case that Sherlock and Joan are investigating. How would you describe the trio's work dynamic?

(Laughs.) Awkward is the first that comes to mind. In a nutshell, a young girl is abducted and Sherlock and Joan suspect that Moriarty may have had a hand in the crime. She's been in federal custody since the last time we saw her, but we are able to pay her a visit and feel her out. Moriarty denies having anything to do with the abduction but offers to help. Sherlock and Joan both have reasons not to be in this person's orbit, and yet circumstances conspire to give Sherlock and Joan each a bit of alone time with her. It's always a kick to have Moriarty back.

What can you tease about the Joan and Moriarty moment?

The fact that Sherlock still has some feelings for Moriarty is perfectly natural and normal. He certainly doesn't see it that way. He would argue that nothing about him is normal, but he sympathizes. He anticipates some judgment on Joan's part, especially when he has to explain that he's been corresponding with Moriarty. One of the nicer moments of the episode is one in which Joan says she gets it. Even though Joan's guard is up when she's around Moriarty, she has a better sense of who she is this year and what effect she has on Sherlock.

Does Sherlock have more of a connection to the precinct this year?

What he has now is a nuclear family in Joan and Gregson and Bell. He considers them friends, even though that's a term he doesn't like to throw around. We wrote to this idea earlier in the season where he talks about a support system in New York. That's certainly what he feels at his core.

What can we expect in the second half of the season?

This has been in the works for a while now, but Inspector Lestrade will make his way to New York and be with us for two episodes in a row: episodes 16 and 17 of the season. When we last saw Inspector Lestrade, Sherlock had expressed some concern that Lestrade had grown addicted to the attention he had gotten for solving cases with Sherlock, and Sherlock was, in a sense, trying to cut him off. We'll see that he's done rather well since Sherlock and Joan's visit to London; Lestrade has found a new job that affords him the money and attention he's always felt he deserved. When their paths cross during an investigation, it's certainly a surprise for Sherlock and Joan and seeing him doing well.

Will we see Mycroft return?

As we make our way into an end run, we will have Mycroft back for several consecutive episodes, probably leading up to and including the finale.

Will more be mined from Joan's backstory?

We're going to dig a little deeper into her family history. We're going to explain where the name "Watson" came from, because it's certainly a question that's been asked. When Mycroft returns, Joan has her own weird little history.

Was that a reaction to what people were asking?

Honestly, the story came first. … It never bothered us that people wanted to know because we always had an inkling, so we never felt pressured to do it. It felt like the right story at the right time.

Was the Mycroft-Joan pairing always in the cards?

We had a lot of fun playing with that possibility in the season premiere. Sherlock seemed very certain that Mycroft would at least attempt to seduce Joan. As we started working on the stories that would bring Mycroft to New York, it seemed worth trying. We knew that because Rhys [Ifans] would be coming back later in the season, it was something we could continue to develop and explore. If we knew that episodes seven and eight would be the last of that character, probably not something we would've played with. Perhaps a little romance …

When we last spoke, you had mentioned that you hadn't quite fully formed the season-ending villain. Is that being firmed up now?

At least for us, we can only build to Moriarty once. I may have said this at the time. I don't want to replicate everything that we did as we wrapped up the first season. The potential villain is still something in development. We're only up to [episode] 15. We still have plenty of real estate to kick that around.

Will you be introducing more characters from the Sherlock Holmes cannon?

Because we've had the good fortune of bringing Natalie [Dormer] back as Moriarty, Sean Pertwee back as Lestrade and Rhys back as Mycroft, we haven't felt the need to dig too deep. Having those three characters in play, it's nothing we've prioritized. There are many great characters in the canon, so we're never in any rush to burn through them.

Elementary returns Thursday at 10 p.m. on CBS.

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