The key difference between Sherlock and Elementary comes down to the way each show treats its protagonist. Everything in Sherlock revolves around Sherlock. He is the series’ sole reason for existing, and the dynamic remains frozen in amber. Sherlock will do something outrageous, everyone will gasp, but then he’ll solve a crime or offer a token gesture of commiseration, and everyone will move on. It gets old, because the show simultaneously wants its audience to be shocked by Sherlock’s behavior, and charmed by his roguish self-regard and evident brilliance, without much variation. Elementary takes a broader view. As Sherlock, Miller is often standoffish and arrogant, but he exists in a world that refuses to let him off the hook for his mistakes or his behavior; better still, he recognizes his failings, and is clearly working toward addressing them. This doesn’t mean the series is about “fixing” Holmes, or even that the character is inherently broken, but it allows for the possibility of growth and change. On Sherlock, Holmes is constantly bemoaning that he’s surrounded by idiots, and it’s hard to argue his point. On Elementary, Holmes is engaged in the slow, painful process of accepting that those “idiots” might have something to teach him. The former has its moments, but the latter makes for better television and more rewarding art.
Elementary is forever superior to Sherlock
I love both shows but this does a pretty good job of explaining why I find Elementary so engaging.