Spoilers ahead for the series finale of Elementary on CBS, called "The Last Bow."
Elementary has officially come to an end after seven seasons of mysteries, mishaps, and intrigue. Although the stories of Sherlock Holmes have been adapted for TV and movies over and over again, Elementary was unique for setting the action in America and turning Dr. John Watson to Dr. Joan Watson.
For many fans, the relationship between Sherlock and Joan was what kept the show fresh and interesting through the years. The relationship was also decidedly platonic, and it was in jeopardy following the penultimate episode that saw Sherlock fake his own death and relocate to Europe. So, heading into the finale, one of the biggest questions was of what they would be to each other by the time the final credits rolled.
Would Sherlock be back in Joan's life after their ruse to fake his death was no longer necessary? Or would their break have cut them loose to the point that they didn't need each other anymore? Would Elementary finally throw them a romantic twist, now that there would be no need to preserve a platonic status quo? Well, the series finale managed to pack a lot of emotional twists into just an hour, and it answered the question of whether Sherlock and Joan ended up together.
The wonderful news is that Sherlock's faked death and absence for three years didn't destroy their bond, even though Joan wasn't thrilled that he'd stopped making contact after only one year of separation. For his part, Sherlock wasn't thrilled that she used a secret signal to call him back just because Moriarty had died -- or "died," as the case turned out to be -- and left something to him, when the signal was only supposed to be used if Joan's life was in danger.
They were a bit awkward at first, and Joan's adorable adopted son Arthur meant that they couldn't just fall back into comfortable old habits. Both were still keeping secrets from each other when Sherlock decided he had to return to Europe to continue his work there. Then, Gregson dropped a bombshell on Sherlock that shook him to the core: Joan had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu both turned in stellar performances in the scene that followed, as Sherlock confronted Joan about her diagnosis, appalled that she was going to let him leave for Europe with no plan of when he might return. Joan protested that she fully planned on surviving her diagnosis, but Sherlock immediately told her that he was staying with her in New York. There was even a hug that alarmed Joan about as much as anything else in the episode. Seriously, I was reaching for a tissue by the time this scene was over. A+ work by Miller and Liu.
There was a time jump of a year next that showed Sherlock standing in a cemetery, and he discussed the fact that "she" died with an NSA agent. The episode really seemed to be revealing that Joan had died and Sherlock was mourning, but not so! Instead of ending the series on a heartbreaking note, the episode revealed that Moriarty was dead -- or "dead," as the case tends to be when it comes to Moriarty -- and Joan had been given a clean bill of health.
Wearing a wig to cover the hair loss from her successful chemotherapy, Joan joined Sherlock to ask Captain (!) Bell to take them on as consulting detectives again. They were together and a team again, and all was right with the world. But it was decidedly not romantic. Elementary showrunner Rob Doherty revealed why he decided that Sherlock and Joan would never get romantic, saying this:
I wish I could say it was really hard, but when you know what you want to do, that makes it quite a bit easier. There was never any pressure from on high. Certainly, there was a section of the fanbase that looked for it. But it was always more interesting to me to keep things platonic, show a great friendship instead of a great romance.
Sherlock and Joan may be one of the most touching and unique love stories on television, but it wasn't a romance. They ended up together as friends and family and loved ones, just not as lovers. Honestly, fans should probably just be happy that both of them lived to the end of the series, and they really did get happy endings. Joan was able to adopt an adorable little boy and start a family, and Sherlock came home to his found family.
It was a bit unfortunate that it took something like the potential return of Moriarty and a cancer diagnosis to bring them together again, but surely it was only a matter of time, right? Sooner or later, Joan was always going to smash Sherlock's headstone as the signal for him to come back, or Sherlock was going to break and reach out to her. In fact, by his own admission, he very nearly did after he relapsed in Europe, but she'd recently been approved for an adoption, and he didn't want to drag her into his mess.
While viewers did get to see Sherlock and Joan's reunion after three years apart, we didn't see as they got used to each other again in that year time jump. Was there any lingering awkwardness? How did Arthur and Sherlock react to each other? How did everybody handle the challenges of Joan's illness and treatment?
Rob Doherty explained what the series finale didn't show about that year in his chat with TVLine, saying this:
I believe, first and foremost, he was her support system over the course of that year that we didn’t get to see. In a lot of respects, he was what Joan was to him in the first season of the show. Obviously, each would have been dealing with very different problems, but having lived with Joan for seven years and having become, essentially, a part of her family, our present-day Sherlock is equipped to be that for someone. So I’m sure it was a lot of tending to Arthur, as needed, while she underwent chemo and whenever she felt sick. I also imagine work probably fell away for a while for both of them, which for the Sherlock of seven years ago would have been impossible. He thought that’s what he needed, that was his oxygen. But Joan is his family, and has been for quite some time, and so that makes Arthur his family as well.
If you ask me, there was no more fitting way to conclude to Elementary than bringing Sherlock full circle to care for Joan after she'd finally been able to adopt a son. They ended up together, and they were all ready to start their consulting detective work together again. Life was going to go on for Sherlock and Joan, and that makes it a little bit easier to say goodbye. The adventures continue, even if we don't get to see them.
Besides, we can always hope for a revival to happen at some point, right? Lucy Liu is only moving over to CBS All Access, after all, and the stories of Sherlock Holmes are timeless, even if not always well-received. You can also relive the earlier days of Sherlock and Joan with episodes of Elementary streaming on Hulu and CBS All Access.