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TV Goodness Q&A: Elementary EP Robert Doherty Talks About the Finale, Sherlock’s Women, and Season 2 [INTERVIEW] 

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Neira /CBS
Photo Credit: Jeffrey Neira /CBS

We are so ready for this finale! TV Goodness participated in a press call with Creator/Executive Producer Robert Doherty about the last few episodes of season 1, Irene Adler, Sherlock’s relationship with Joan, details on Moriarty, as well as what we can look forward to next season. Read below for details.

Casting Moriarty

Q: How hard was it to cast Moriarty?

Robert Doherty: “Wow. It is no mean feat. That is for sure. Of course I can’t say much beyond that. But yes, never easy, you know. A vastly important and iconic character and certainly someone we’ve been building towards all season. So a lot of thought and time went into it.”

Q: How wide did you cast the net?

Robert: “The truth is I had some very specific thoughts and was lucky enough to latch onto a first choice.”

Q: Is the voice we heard in “Risk Management” the actor’s voice?

Robert: “It is an actor’s voice. I know there was a lot of speculation in the show as to whether it was or was not the real Moriarty so I’d rather – I’d love to sit on that little secret for just one more [day]. Even Sherlock and Joan were sort of going back and forth about it.”

Q: What primary physical attributes did you identify as being important for the actor you wanted to play Moriarty?

Robert: “For me Moriarty was never about primary physical – or it was never really about thinking about the person physically. The plan was always to have to play him as a very shadowy figure, somebody that we would tease and tease and tease until the time was right to reveal him. So it just really wasn’t in our thinking.”

Q: So your first choice wasn’t based on physical or emotional attributes or anything like that. It was the person itself?

Robert: “Yes. Yes. Somebody whose work I was very familiar with, someone I really was excited to have an opportunity to work with. Just made perfect sense for us.”

Q: If we’re discounting physical attributes, what were the key characteristics that you wanted to capture or create for your Moriarty? Moriarty feels like the perfect counterpoint to Sherlock. So what did your Moriarty need to have?

Robert: “That’s a great question. Let me see if I can give you an answer that’s as eloquent as the question. I probably can’t. But that’s absolutely where we started from. I’m sure that’s where a lot of folks start with their Moriarty. But yes you want – for lack of a better analogy – the other side of Sherlock’s coin. Somebody who’s quite like him but has been drawn in a very different direction. Way back when I was pitching the series, how did I put it? I always felt like Sherlock and Moriarty are the only two of their kind on the planet. And so when one realized the other existed his curiosity was piqued. In this case its more Moriarty was the first to, sort of become aware of Sherlock. And so its interesting. If you spend your life thinking you’re the only person on the planet with these gifts, with these abilities who sees the world this kind of way, it’s fascinating to think maybe there’s one other person out there. Even though Moriarty has tortured Sherlock, I think what we’re going to see is there is also a kind of mutual respect and mutual interest.”

Q: Do you go so far as to even try to make a character like Moriarty likable in some way?

Robert: “I guess you can be the judge. I feel like if somebody is just outright despicable, if there’s nothing interesting or likable about that person, they’re just not as interesting a villain. So it’s strange. We didn’t sit down and look at our Moriarty and try to figure out – it’s not like we were looking at the character and thinking what’s going to make the character more likable, more interesting. We really wrote to Moriarty’s interest in Sherlock. Moriarty’s not just a frustrated mastermind who wants to break the bad guy. Moriarty’s more interesting than that. Does that make Moriarty more likable? No, no. He’s still doing bad things. But I think people will be intrigued by his process and his draw towards Sherlock or his – what’s his interest in Sherlock, his fascination with Sherlock. ”

Season 1 Finale: “The Woman” and “Heroine”

Q: With these types of shows everybody kind of anticipates a cliffhanger at the end. Can you talk a little bit about how you close out the first season?

Robert: “Yes, absolutely. For a good long while we anticipated a cliffhanger too. When it looked more likely that we would get to go to London for our [season 2] premiere, we didn’t want to drag any of this year’s business into a second season, because I feel like London can be its own show. I didn’t want to have to connect it back to the first season. So the notion of going to London came up early enough for us to write what I feel is a nice last chapter for this season. We will be tying things up and starting with something of a clean slate coming into year two.”

Q: Can you talk about the tone of the finale? Are there emotional questions left hanging or is it just like a nice little wrap up with bow-tie type ending?

Robert: “The two hours are quite emotional. I feel like we do end up with – I hate the term – but I would say we have a nice little bow on Season 1. And again, [it] had everything to do with wanting to really go to London and have fun. These last few episodes were a blast to write and I love working in or writing to the Moriarty of it all. But it’s so heavy for Sherlock. It’s when you write about Moriarty and Irene and his drug habit, it’s appropriately dark. It’s true to the character and its important stuff. But again, it doesn’t make for much fun in the U.K. So we tried to write a proper ending to this first season and we will look to launch new things coming into Season 2.”

Season 2

Q: So excited to hear that Season 2 will start off in London. Can you talk a little bit about the decision to distance Elementary from its British roots until it was established firmly as a New York show?

Robert: “The reasons we wanted to set the show in New York in the beginning  were two-fold. First and foremost we absolutely wanted to be able to draw an American audience to the show. And setting it in a city like New York, which in many respects echoes London, helped a lot. If you had to put Sherlock anywhere else at least to my mind, New York City made the most sense. The other reason was it just seemed interesting. I started from a broken Sherlock. That was always what intrigued me. I loved the idea of doing a Sherlock who had bottomed out and was in repair. And so the idea that he had left London, it fit quite nicely into what we wanted to do. There was a good strong reason for him to have gone to New York City. So that was the thinking process as far as setting him there in the beginning. The truth is production-wise it’s a lot of work to set even one hour in London. The time difference alone is pretty daunting. Some of it is production related. It’s just, it’s extreme – I know there was a show maybe 10, 12 years ago called Keen Eddie that was set entirely in the U.K. I thought it was a great idea but I think production-wise it was probably quite a struggle. If it were easier for us to go to London, I guess maybe we would try it a few times a year. Since it’s quite difficult, we’re going to really enjoy this one opportunity that we have this coming season.”

Q: Will Captain Gregson or anybody else from the NYPD be going with Sherlock and Joan to London?

Robert: “The story’s still being developed. So it’s hard to say at the moment. But my guess is it would only be Sherlock and Joan. I think story-wise it might be hard to justify a trip for all of our players. I’d love to have Captain Gregson there. At least in the pilot we explained he worked and lived there for a little while. That’s how he met Sherlock. So he does have some (seniority) with Scotland Yard. But at the moment I’m going to say no. Probably we’re going to limit this trip to Sherlock and Joan.”

Q: For season two, will the stories be a bit more serialized like they were at the end of Season 1? Audiences really seem to love that.

Robert: “It’s hard to say at the moment. Obviously the reason these last few were so serialized is because we wanted to build to Irene and then ultimately to Moriarty. So it’s not the kind of story you can spring in just one episode. I predict that next season will feel in many respects like this one. I mean we will absolutely have standalone stories and cases. But there will be certain stories that you can arc over a run or a stretch of shows. We still have to sort of find those and identify them and what’s the kind of story we want to build, tell over four or five, six episodes. Again this year we had our work cut out for us with Moriarty. We knew we wanted to get here by the end of the season. It’s a drag but Sherlock doesn’t have a [rogues gallery] like Batman. I wish he did. We would do The Joker and then The Penguin and then The Riddler.”

Q: That’s too easy. That’s no fun.

Robert: “No, I know. It’s way too easy. So once again our work is cut out for us and we’ll try to find people who are going to challenge Sherlock and challenge Joan and give them interesting stuff to do. So we’ll see how it shakes out. When we think we have an opportunity to serialize something, we will absolutely take it. But as to the getting into our first run next year I think we’ll probably have a big batch of relatively standalone mysteries.”

Photo Credit: Jeffrey Neira /CBS
Photo Credit: Jeffrey Neira /CBS

Irene Adler and Joan Watson

Q: With Joan having a big presence in Sherlock’s life, what if any kind of dynamic does she have with Irene?

Robert: “At least for the first season we’re only going to get a couple of episodes where Irene and Joan will get to share some significant screen time. I’d say as we move into [the finale], Irene has been through quite an ordeal. I don’t think I’m giving too much away there. We will learn very, very early on, within the first five minutes of [the finale] what exactly she’s been through, which is a lot. So at least initially in a perfect world Joan at her best would get to meet Irene at her best. But Irene is somebody who needs some help and a little time. So really in the beginning I think what you’ll see is a Joan who’s trying to help Sherlock help Irene.”

Q: Sherlock always thinks he’s right about everything and he thought Irene was dead. How is he dealing with the fact that he was actually wrong about something?

Robert: “For someone with his ego it’s a lot, it’s quite a blow. And he hates being surprised. He’s grown quite accustomed to the predictability of the average person. I’ve always said the first and greatest surprise in Sherlock’s life was that he could spiral out of control into a very serious addiction problem. And since then he’s never quite been able to look at the world the same way. Joan has helped him some in this regard. But it speaks to the – I hope it speaks to the cunning of Moriarty that he was able to trick Sherlock to this degree. You know, he loves nothing more than messing with Sherlock’s head I would say.”

Q: Is Irene Adler going to be part of the case that you go to London for in the season 2 premiere?

Robert: “That is a great question. At the moment I’m not sure if she will play into the London episode. That story is still in something of an embryonic state.”

Q: How is the introduction of Irene going to affect Watson’s relationship with Sherlock? Is she concerned about his sobriety after seeing what happened at the end of “Risk Management?”

Robert: “It’s hard – at least in the world of our show – it’s hard to find a bigger trigger than Irene, dead or alive. The fact that she has turned up alive has thrown Sherlock for a loop. He’s been tricked. He’s been deceived. I think in Moriarty’s eyes you could say he bottomed out over nothing. He spiraled out of control because he thought Irene was dead when in fact she was quite alive and being kept by Moriarty. So at least at the moment the joke’s on Sherlock. Joan has to be concerned about that. I think in addition to trying to help Sherlock situate Irene and help her recover from her ordeal, she also has to keep an eye on Sherlock and make sure he’s able to stay on the straight and narrow.”

Q: So would you say this is a different Sherlock than the one we’ve seen so far, at least in the first part of the finale? He was shaking and sort of was collapsing at the end of “Risk Management.”

Robert: “The way we’ve always looked at our Sherlock is his greatest weakness is the handful of personal connections he has whether it’s to the handful of friends or colleagues or family that he is actually in touch with. On some level I think he hates that he has a friend like Joan because she’s a vulnerability and that’s certainly what Irene was. So yes, I’d say we’re going to see a Sherlock who’s rocked coming into next week’s finale. He’s got a lot to try to wrap his head around.”

Q: Is Watson on the fence about remaining Sherlock’s partner?

Robert: “Is Watson on the fence? No, [in “Risk Management”] they made another lovely little step forward. She knows him well enough now to know or at least as of [this episode], she knew him well enough to predict that he might try to push her away when things got a little dangerous. And she showed up and he appreciated that on some level and they did end up going into that house together. So I think as we move into the finale Joan is as on board as she’s ever been.”

Q: There’s a certain type of personality that becomes a surgeon. Doesn’t Joan ever feel any pull back to medicine at all?

Robert: “It’s funny. It wasn’t something we were writing to but I felt I saw some of that in “A Landmark Story.” It was fun when the (dailies) came in to watch Lucy take the scalpel from Jonny [Lee Miller] and take over for the autopsy. I mean will she be drawn back? We’ve toyed with the idea of getting a little more into her back story, what really happened, how did her patient die, how much of it was her fault? What’s her comfort level with the idea of a return to a surgical career? It’s all fodder for Season 2, I guess. It’s certainly not anything we’re exploring [in the finale.] But we’ll see. The premise of the show was always that these are two brilliant people in states of repair. And I think Joan has come a long way this season. I think she’s found a calling for sure. So I think for as long as she stays intrigued with the kind of work Sherlock’s doing, she probably won’t feel such a pull to her old career, her first career.”

Q: People who become surgeons tend to be fearless. In “Risk Management” she didn’t want everybody not putting her in danger because she was up for that. So I think maybe the personality carries over to that.

Robert: “Yes. And I will say – here’s something I can tease. In the two-hour finale you will see Joan doing a little impromptu surgical work.”


Q: Are we going to see much interaction with Sherlock’s father going forward? What are your thoughts on that relationship?

Robert: “I’ve always loved the idea of Sherlock’s dad – this person that is spoken of but never seen. I enjoy that aspect of it and yet if we had an opportunity to work with a great actor, somebody who could look at and go “oh yes, absolutely,” that’s our Sherlock’s dad. That’s the guy who you could see parenting or not parenting Jonny Lee Miller. We would go for it. In the meantime right now I don’t think it’s an immediate concern and yet honestly now – I’m not being coy – you never know. The London episode might be the perfect time to meet Sherlock’s dad and get a better sense of him and his relationship with his son.”

Q: You’ve had great guest stars this season. Can you tell us if anyone will be back either in the finale or next season or anyone new you might be working for season two?

Robert: “Yes. Really for the first time in my career I did 24 episodes. And it’s a marathon. It’s quite a bit of work to get there. So I will confess not too deep into the season to thinking we have some – obviously we have some big thoughts and plans for London. Beyond that all the writers are trying to – there’s a little bit of recovery time and then I actually think it’s the week after [next] we’re back in the writers room. I can’t guarantee any reappearances but I will say it was an absolute blast getting to work with Vinnie Jones. He was hands down my first choice for that character. He’s just an actor I’ve always loved. I’ve seen him in all the Guy Ritchie films and some of the other work he’s done. We were on the verge of killing him off and I believe someone very wisely suggested – let’s say he’s mostly dead. And that’s what we did in “A Landmark Story.” So if we can – it doesn’t look good for him right now, for Sebastian – but I feel like we’ve left the door open to a return. I also had a lot of fun – sorry, names are escaping me. The actor who played Rhys the drug dealer – John [Hannah]. Yes, it’s funny. If John even remembers this I’d be surprised, but I worked very briefly on a show that did not last long called MDs. And John was one of the co-leads. And so I was really excited to have this second opportunity to work with John. I thought he did a great job as Rhys. Same type of situation. If we can come up with the right kind of story, he’s definitely a candidate for a return. If I could spin-off Vinnie Jones and F. Murray Abraham into some sort of Moriarty’s henchmen-type I would.

Q: How often do you refer to the original books when you’re writing these stories now? If people read the books are they going to have a better sense of things that are coming up?

Robert: “I would say that Season 1 is pretty rife with Easter eggs. We only did one episode in which we – I should say we only based one episode on one of the original short stories. That was “Dead Man’s Switch,” which was based on a story of a blackmailer named Charles Augustus Milverton. Other than that really what we have a lot of fun doing is, we often make references to famous cases. And we sort of keep a running list of snippets of dialogue from the original books, things that Sherlock will say to Watson or vice versa. I never feel like we have to force anything in. I feel like over the course of the year we find ourselves at these moments where some of the original dialogue just slots in so nicely. If you know the books really, really well you’re going to spot them every time. I don’t think we’re using terribly obscure quotes but I would say Conan Doyle was one of the great quotable authors of our time. So we very happily take advantage of that.”

The season finale of Elementary aired Thursday, May 16th at 9/8c on CBS.

Edited for space and content

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