‘Elementary’ Creator on Series Finale Time Jumps, Joan’s Cancer Scare and if Moriarty’s Actually Dead

“I wanted to suggest to the audience that you really can come home again,” Rob Doherty tells TheWrap

Last Updated: August 16, 2019 @ 9:54 AM

“Elementary” came to an end on Thursday after seven years and more than 150 episodes, with Sherlock and Joan reunited at the brownstone to solve one final case.

“It was really important to me to bring them home,” series creator Rob Doherty said of the episode in an interview with TheWrap. “They live in the brownstone, but the precinct is just as much a home to them, in the same way that the people there are family. I wanted to suggest to the audience that you really can come home again.”

The finale’s three-year time jump — time Sherlock spent working independently in Europe after faking his death — was a nod to the original Sherlock Holmes’ death in “The Final Problem” and his resurrection in its sequel “The Adventure of the Empty House.” Not only was it a chance for Doherty and the writers to show how the characters grow and change having lived separate lives, it provided an opportunity to bring the iconic duo back together and set them up for future, unseen adventures.

“For me and the other writers, it was really about settling them,” Doherty said, explaining that an early idea in which one of the characters died was nixed right away. “I wanted to be in the universe in which it appears that Sherlock and Joan will continue to do what they do not only as detectives but as great friends to one another.”

The other character who fans can rest assured will continue to do what she does best? Jamie Moriarty. Despite the character’s apparent death and funeral in the finale, Doherty confirms that Holmes’ nemesis is “absolutely not dead” and still up to her same old tricks.

“I can promise you Sherlock does indeed at some point return to that grave and dig it up to find either an empty coffin or the remains of someone who’s obviously not Moriarty,” he said.

Read TheWrap’s full interview with Doherty below.

Elementary

Jeff Neira/CBS

TheWrap: How did you approach ending the show, knowing going in that Season 7 would be your final season?

Doherty: You know, it was bittersweet but it was preferable to Season 6 where we weren’t thinking that way and didn’t see it coming. It threw us for a loop when it started to look like Season 6 might be the end and we hadn’t we had really planned for an ending. We had to shuffle a lot of things around. So as sad as it is to know that you’re going into a a final year with a group of people you really care about, it was an opportunity to reflect on the six preceding years and find a way to tell an ending that really felt like we’ve been building to.

In the end Season 6 had a finale that, had it been the last season, would have been a pretty satisfying conclusion. So when you came back into it, from a story perspective, were there things you were glad to have the chance to go back to?

I confess to being a tad bit hesitant about embarking on a seventh season, because even though it was a lot of work, we ended up feeling really good about the way we finished season 6 and what would’ve been the series. But I got past that pretty quickly just because it was it was such a great opportunity for all of us, and there were a couple of things that I wanted to address, primarily with the way we left things with Sherlock and Captain Gregson, and Joan’s work towards becoming a parent. The blow-up between Sherlock and the captain was an absolutely crucial part of that final episode last year. There was no way to do the story without it and yet it was a bit of a drag to send those two characters off into the sunset at odds. To say goodbye to them with an ugly disagreement in the dead of night. That’s for sure something that was first order of business for us, repairing that rift and ideally finishing the series with them on much better terms

And as far as Joan becoming a parent, that was something that I think we would have serialized in a different way last year had we not gotten the news that that Season 6 was most likely going to be the last. When it looked like the end was near, we had to kind of stick a pin in that and tell some some other stories that would deliver us to a proper ending. So as we sat down to talk it out, it felt more appropriate to surprise the audience with that in the final episode. We knew we had this three-year separation coming and it felt more fun to introduce Joan’s son in the wake of that.

There are a few time jumps this season, how did you settle on having two in the finale?

Well, the first time jump was inspired by canon. The original Sherlock Holmes very famously tumbles over a waterfall with Moriarty [in “The Final Problem”] and as far as the world’s concerned they are both dead. But three years later Sherlock Holmes resurfaces and returns to his Watson for further adventures. In that version, Watson had no idea that Sherlock was actually alive and well and working in other parts of the world, but that didn’t feel quite right to us. It didn’t really jibe with our sense of who our Sherlock and Joan are. But we liked the idea of this window of time where the partners are separated and living different kinds of lives. We looked forward to the opportunity to show who they are — good, bad and otherwise — for having spent three years apart.

Elementary

Jeff Neira/CBS

At the end of Season 6 you had them moving to London, living on Baker Street and kind of returning to those iconic Sherlock Holmes roots. But this season you took a different approach, kind of resetting things and bringing them back to New York and working with the NYPD. Why that reversal?

Last year when we started to look ahead to an ending, one image that we landed on very quickly it was Sherlock and Joan walking down a street in London heading for Scotland Yard. It just seemed canonically appropriate to put them in London. One of the other writers, Jason Tracey, called it putting them back in the box. We found them there, and we put them back there in the end. But that wasn’t going to work twice in a row, obviously. When we gathered at the beginning of the season and talked about how to end things, this idea of going home kind of took over everything. We sent them away last year, and it would have been you know a great ending, but lo and behold, we have 13 more stories to tell with them. It felt like we should certainly make things difficult for them over the course of our final run, but we always had episode 13 as something that was separate from the rest of the season. It would jump ahead in time and kind of show everyone who they are when they’re not together, how they changed while leading separate lives.

Both endings have this idea that when they’re separated, Sherlock and Joan eventually find their way back to one another, even after those three years apart. But was there ever a version of this finale where they go their separate ways?

We very briefly toyed with the idea of one of them dying. I can’t say who– these were very preliminary conversations, top of the season type of conversations. But it just didn’t excite me, you know? It just seemed too sad an ending for these characters we’d really grown to love over the course of seven years. So for me and the other writers, it was really about settling them. Can we take these three unseen years and put them all in a place so that when we say goodbye, we have a sense that they’re going to be okay? I’ve been on other shows where characters are killed off or move on or separate, and sometimes that’s totally appropriate, but ultimately I wanted to be in the universe in which it appears that Sherlock and Joan will continue to do what they do not only as detectives but as great friends to one another.

One of the most surprising moments in the finale is when you find out Joan was diagnosed with cancer and Sherlock relapsed, and then you jump ahead in time again to that shot of the coffin. How did you land on that moment coming so close to the end of the series?

I wanted to tell a story in which each of them thinks they’re doing the right thing for the other by staying away. In other words, Sherlock looks at Joan’s life and decides he would be a threat. Therefore he’s going to disappear once again and let her continue to thrive. And Joan sees a lot of the same in Sherlock. He seems content. He seems to have a very full life without her. She doesn’t want to change that or disrupt that with her illness — which as she says, she’s planning to overcome. She’s not going to quietly die in a corner and never let Sherlock know. She’s planning for success so she decides to keep this news to herself. They both need someone like the captain to pierce that veil. Someone who’s looking at both of them from a different angle, who knows all of the secrets and can get each of them past their their own bulls–. I think the real takeaway from Captain Gregson’s conversation with Sherlock is “get over yourself.” He kind of gives Sherlock permission to put aside his concerns and return to Joan, knowing it’s the only thing to do, nothing else matters more than that.

Elementary

Jeff Neira/CBS

Moriarty looms over a lot of the episode, but never appears. Were there ever conversations about bringing Natalie Dormer back for the finale?

You know, there were conversations about conversations. We talked about it for a while as a group. We adore Natalie, and I have as much affection for the character as I do Natalie. So it would’ve been great to have her back, but I worried that an end game that included Moriarty as a present and physical threat would take away from a story about Sherlock and Joan. It becomes a story about three people and not two. So I liked invoking her name and having her be semi-present in the finale, but I don’t think we would have done right by Sherlock and Joan by having her actually appear, if that makes any sense. I think they deserved the bulk of the spotlight.

Is she really dead?

Absolutely not dead. I can promise you Sherlock does indeed at some point return to that grave and dig it up to find either an empty coffin or the remains of someone who’s obviously not Moriarty.

Looking down the road, what comes next for Joan and Sherlock after the end of the show?

I wouldn’t want it to just feel like everything is going back to the way it was, because then what’s the point of Season 7? But it was really important to me to bring them home. They live in the brownstone, but the precinct is just as much a home to them, in the same way that the people there are family. I wanted to suggest to the audience that you really can come home again. I anticipate that that conversation with Bell goes very well and they do resume as consulting detectives. But I also hope people are thinking about their living situation and what it means to have Sherlock as a kind of co-parent or crazy uncle, and finding the best version of himself. With more time, I think those are the episodes we would have done.

Elementary

Jeff Neira/CBS

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