Does Watson still want to be an investigator?
That’s the burning question Sherlock (Jonny Lee Miller) has going into Elementary’s upcoming fifth season, as Watson (Lucy Liu) hits her anniversary of working with the dogged detective. Fearing her professional wanderlust, Sherlock will push Watson to help reformed criminal and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle character Shinwell Johnson (True Blood’s Nelsan Ellis), who was her former patient. Will satiating Watson’s desire to help people keep her in Sherlock’s orbit? EW caught up with Liu to find out:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Where are we picking up with Joan this season?
LUCY LIU: This season they are stressing that she is not so much ambivalent, but that Sherlock is convinced that she might take off, because she’s never really stayed in a job for a certain amount of time. She was a sober companion for a certain amount of time, and now that she’s been a detective, it’s almost about that time that she can’t really stay. She’s got wanderlust in terms of a career. She was a surgeon, then she was a sober companion, then she left to be a detective, and he’s a little concerned about that. She’s saying no, but he sees that she may decide to leave. The question is: Will she leave him? He’s noticed that she’s been depressed, and he wants to know why.
Sherlock thinks this, but what does Joan feel about that?
She makes it clear in the first episode that she’s not going anywhere. She’s trying to convince him of that. But she does miss the aspect of helping people. It’s what she used to do, and now they are basically surrounded by people who are incredibly negative, do bad things, and murder people. It’s just a very different way of living your life, so that’s the one thing that she does miss. That’s how Shinwell comes in to play this new character for the season; she is encouraged by Sherlock to help him out, and he becomes a new character in season 5.
What kind of dynamic does she have with Shinwell?
She helped him, at one point, 10 years ago. She performed surgery on him, even though he was a criminal at the time. She saved his life, and so they have that common bond. She obviously isn’t close with him necessarily, but it was a very difficult operation that she performed. So there’s a very strong connection between them because it’s a connection to the past when she was a doctor. It also reminds her of some of the things that happened to her and why she was let go. When she sees him, there’s something that she’s proud of and reminds her of when she was successful. With Sherlock’s encouragement, she starts not a relationship with him, but she tries to go back to that time where she helps people. The question is, can you help somebody, can their nature of being a criminal, of doing things that are fairly heinous, can you change that about yourself? That’s what we’re going to find out as the season continues with him. Shinwell by the way, is a character in Arthur Conan Doyle’s original canon, so he’s doing what he did with Kitty last year where there’s a character in there that he takes it and he picks that little moment and then makes them into a full-blown character in our season.
As she’s reflecting back on the jobs that she’s had recently, does she think about how much danger working with Sherlock has put her in?
I don’t think she ever mentions the fact that she feels like she’s in danger. She feels, like she says to him, that she’s in the punishment business. They find people who do terrible things as opposed to she helps people who were in a bad place and then elevates them to a better place. That’s a very different way of locating where you are in someone else’s life. She watched people grow and change, like she’s helped Sherlock when she was his sober companion. She sees how far he’s come, but with these other people, they’re just bad people. She misses the aspect of helping people.
How do you think their partnership has changed this season?
He might be able to see something that she can’t, necessarily. Their friendship has definitely deepened, and he notices that she’s a little bit antsy. There’s a constant feeling of her changing what she does and where she wants to go, even if she doesn’t necessarily know herself.
Joan is quite unlucky in love.
Yeah, I know. What’s the deal with that? I need to talk to Rob [Doherty] about that. [Laughs.] Then I finally get a boyfriend and they kill him off. I would love it, and I’ve actually mentioned it to him before like, “Where are we going with her story? Where are we going to go with her personal life?” I don’t know what Rob has in mind, but I wish I could weave that in a little bit more. People are so different in relationships — good things come out, bad things come out, and I do think that could be a colorful thing. But I do think the new character that we’re introducing is also going to show a side of her that maybe we wouldn’t see normally when she’s on a case.
We know Morland is out there slowly taking apart Moriarty’s group. How do Joan and Sherlock feel about that?
I love John Noble so much. What an incredible talent. He really added such a layer to the show, you know? Just because the family dimension is always so interesting to watch. I don’t know how he’s going to come back into the show. I just know that Rob is probably weaving a little web for all the different characters he just introduced, and you know when you talk to him, definitely call me back. I’d love to know some information. [Laughs.]
Might we see Joan’s family more this season?
They’re going to focus more on her relationship with Shinwell and how her shift into trying to help him is going to balance out (or she thinks is going to balance out) the side that she’s missing in her life. That’s going to discuss overall the theme of how different people are and basically what choices they make. Is it fate, or is it choices you make in your life? That might also bring up the main idea of broken people, people who are in need of repair and how everyone in the show has that, regardless of how good they are at their jobs. That doesn’t just go for Sherlock — obviously he his own issues. It also goes for Joan, who has a past or regrets or feelings of shame that she can’t seem to release. Will trying to fix somebody compensate for all those things?
Elementary returns Sunday at 10 p.m. ET on CBS.