Enter Inspector Gareth Lestrade, twenty-first century edition. Elementary, the Americanized modern day version of The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes, has taken its time exploring the supporting characters from the original Holmes mythology. Perennial sidekick Lestrade wasn’t even introduced in the CBS series until the second season, and even then it appeared to be a one-off; with Sherlock having transplanted to New York City and Watson having been made an American woman, Holme’s fellow British characters have thus far had a light footprint. But the last few episodes have brought back Lestrade for a character arc which adds yet another twist to how Elementary had reimagined Arthur Conan Doyle’s original work.
With Lestrade no loner having Sherlock around to solve his cases, he’s fallen into a rough patch. First he’s disgraced by a criminal he couldn’t put away, then when he finally lands what appears to be a respectable security job for a high profile public figure, it’s ultimately revealed that he’s acting merely as a pimp for his boss’ promiscuous ways. When that gig predictably collapses, Lestrade finds himself unemployed – and ends up crashing at Sherlock’s apartment for an extended period.
The latest episode, Ears To You, reveals that Lestrade has lost his mojo entirely. He’s drinking behind the backs of Holmes and Watson, he’s gotten mugged, and he’s suffering from such a lack of confidence that he’s unwilling to take any of the jobs being offered to him. After all, without Sherlock’s help, how will he manage to hold down any detective gig? He ultimately brings himself out of his funk by successfully hunting down his mugger, giving him enough confidence to accept a job and be on his way.
But while Lestrade serves as a comic foil here as much as he has anywhere else in the various Holmes incarnations over the centuries, he’s become far more complex and human here in season two of Elementary. That’s in contrast to the recent Sherlock Holmes movies in which Lestrade was little more than punchline fodder. Even the sophisticatedly cinematic Sherlock television series on the BBC, which has fleshed out the complexity of Holmes and Watson in perhaps the more textured detail of any Holmes interpretation, still treats Lestrade as black and white in comparison. Even Doyle never bothered to give him a first name in the original novels, simple referring to him as Inspector G. Lestrade.
Elementary has made a point of subverting the Holmes supporting characters at every turn: Watson is a woman, Moriarty and Irene Adler turned out to be the same person, and Ms. Hudson is a transvestite. But while some of those moves have ultimately felt stunt-like, Lestrade has been made more human than ever. He’s even been given a first name. The question now, with just a few episodes left in the season, is when we’ll get to see Gareth Lestrade again.