So I guess we can give up on any follow-through for that book Joan was writing at the end of We Are Everyone.
I know I have. I would love to know what the planning process for s1 was as compared to s2. Maybe they just didn’t have enough time to prepare. They had a lot more time between creating the pilot and filming 102 than they had between 124 and 201, after all.
I wouldn’t mind them backing away from the Watson-as-storyteller aspect of the character if they had gone somewhere with this clearly iconic moment. I saw this episode at Paley’s Made in New York festival last year, and the reveal of Watson writing got as big a response from the crowd as the reveal of the source of the letter Sherlock read.
Joan is not a writer. Before this scene, we only ever saw her not-write her final report on Sherlock in 112. (I don’t mean to suggest she didn’t do the required paperwork, but what we saw was her facing a blank form and not filling it out in front of us.)
She’s not a storyteller, either; it’s always an afterthought at best, something she has to push herself to start. (You know I don’t talk about my clients; I didn’t tell you the whole story; My friends found out what I’ve been doing; We’ve never spoken about this, have we; It shouldn’t be a secret.)
It’s intriguing then that writing was her first impulse after telling Sherlock she didn’t want to be the only one who knows him, but where did that desire go, after 203? And what critique of the ACD original does this adaptation of Watson offer? That is, what’s the Watsonian parallel to Elementary’s undermining of Holmes-the-lone-genius trope (for example)? Calls into question the model of Watson as frame, as prism, as filter of all things Holmes?
Specifically, in this context, we have a Watson learning (and sometimes struggling) to live her own life instead of standing behind or reporting on someone else’s. Halfway through the episode, they visit Milton Van Clerk, and Watson is shocked to hear he’s spent decades on a still-unfinished biography (He’s been writing the same thing his whole life?) Clearly, this is not a project that appeals to her, even after she gets sucked into reading 5000 pages (and I can only assume there’s some cut dialogue that explains how/why that happened, because the episode really doesn’t).
Writing a biography of Holmes might be the obvious place to start to share what she knows about him with others, but she almost immediately realizes it’s not her place. Not in the sense that she doesn’t have the right but rather that it’s not where she wants to live, in his story. (That’s my roommate. He’s kind of a long story, she says to Jeff, closing the door on the subject.) Jump ahead to 224, and she asserts repeatedly that she needs her own place. (We will work this out, I know we will. But I need to get my own place.) The real mystery of season two is what happened to the stories they started to tell between the first four episodes and the last four.
In truth, this always struck me as a sour, off note in the show, and I was glad they dropped it. After all, Elementary had already taken Holmes off his pedestal of solitary, exceptional genius, and did it quite decisively. To have her say that the world should know him — not them, not what they do, but him alone — and then to sit down to start writing the canon stories…? What is that? Why would she? It makes no sense to me.
Unfortunately, the reasons given in canon for Watson writing the stories don’t apply here. In Study in Scarlet, Watson is setting the record straight, making sure that Gregson and Lestrade don’t get all the acclaim for solving the Jefferson Hope case: Holmes had been trying to get his career started, after all, and had almost declined the case because he knew that Lestrade and Gregson would take the credit. But Holmes’s career is already well-established in Elementary, and in 2x01 we are told the urge to seek public acclaim is a canker, an addiction, something to be vigorously rejected.
In canon, it is less clear why the other stories are written. Holmes is portrayed as being critical but occasionally affectionate about the stories — c.f. the Boswell comment in “Scandal in Bohemia” — but there is little in the way of in-text explanation for why Watson is writing them. Many fans have pointed out that the first two volumes of stories were published during the years of Holmes’s apparent death, and the remaining stories published after his nominal retirement. In hindsight, a coherent narrative can be built around that: from “Scandal” to “Final Problem,” Watson is memorializing his apparently-dead friend; from “Empty House” onward, when Watson and Holmes have parted ways on the joint occasion of Watson’s second marriage and Holmes’s retirement, Watson is reminiscing about an absent friend and a now-closed chapter of his life.
…and while I can see Joan Watson someday writing up a sentimental history of their partnership, at some future time when she is grieving and needs/wants to memorialize him, why on earth would she be feeling that need in 2x03?
There is also the supreme weirdness that she is beginning with Case-book, of all things. Case-book is the final collection of Holmes stories, and it is also the one that is commonly reviled and repudiated: many people have claimed that Doyle couldn’t possibly have been its author. The stories in Case-book are more grotesque than the rest of canon (the woman whose face had been eaten off by a lion, the young boy who tried to murder his baby brother, the one where we get front-row seats to watch someone’s eyes being eaten by acid, the one that is half-set in a mausoleum where people are desecrating and destroying bodies), more wtf than the rest of canon (the killer jellyfish, the woman who might have been a vampire, the guy who was taking a monkey serum and literally turning into an ape-man no really that is the official resolution to the mystery LITERAL APE-MAN), more racist than we had seen since The Sign of Four, and so on. It also includes the only stories that put Holmes and Watson in mortal peril (Watson being shot, Holmes being beaten by thugs), as well as the story in which Watson likens himself to Holmes’s cocaine. This was the collection that was written in that bleak time after WWI, when the world had apparently gone to hell in a handbasket, never to recover, and omg it shows.
…and that is the collection that we see Joan Watson sitting down to write.
It is a boggling choice.
(Unless, of course, the writers already knew what a mess S2 was going to be, and were giving us fair warning? But although I made Case-book jokes while the season was running, even I am not that cynical.)
I desperately want to know what the writers were thinking when they included that little scene— were there ever any commentary/interviews about it? — but honestly, I’m not sure that you could have a sensible follow-through on it.