Joan and Andrew having dinner. | Image taken from Hypable.

The first time I saw the story of Joan’s relationship with Andrew, I had taken an immediate issue with the events that were described in the first half of Elementary’s season 3 because I thought her actions didn’t make sense. Something about it just felt off, you know? Anyway, if you’re unfamiliar with the what happened and interested in experiencing it for yourself, look away now.

Basically, starting in the first episode of the season, she meets a man named Andrew. In the couple months that they know each other, they strike up a relationship that she seems comfortable in, even if she’s confused by it. Sherlock invites Andrew to consult with him on a case involving AI, where he meets a man he’d be doing business with; the only problem is that the business would be in Copenhagen. Andrew returns to NYC after the factory is up and running, looking to set up shop (in Bushwick). Joan appears to have grown more conflicted over this relationship, unsure of whether or not it’s what she really wants. Andrew invites her to meet his father, and it goes wonderfully; she realises, though, that this isn’t what she needs. She attempts to break up with him (but he’s accidentally poisoned when a cartel boss hires an assassin to kill Joan, but Joan switches the orders by mistake).

Now, honestly, I still have issues with it because it was a pretty awesome mixed race relationship without a white dude/person involved (and Raza Jaffrey’s roles in the series I’ve invested time into seem to involve him getting murdered). It would’ve been nice to at least see him live and see a healthy biracial couple on TV (even if they did later break up, but it would’ve been nice to have a healthy representation of a breakup that wasn’t the result of either a huge fight or an abusive relationship or a love triangle or something equally common to TV relationships and trope-y). Plus, sometimes it’s nice for us white people to get reminders that ‘mixed race’ relationships don’t always involve us.

But the part I used to take issue with was that I couldn’t piece Joan’s actions together. It didn’t make sense to me that in one episode she’d be learning how great Andrew is from Sherlock, who helps her realise that Andrew is far more accepting of their partnership than most people (and, honestly, most men) would be. Sherlock helps her see that Andrew doesn’t want to monopolise her time and force her to step away from what she loves; he doesn’t want to remove her from her partnership (and friendship) with Sherlock. Andrew just wants her to be happy. And then that’s when she surprises him at the airport by telling him that his flight as empty seats and asking if she could go to Copenhagen to spend some time with him as he gets his new business venture up and running.

But a few episodes later, Andrew returns and Joan’s just not sure if she wants the relationship or if it even makes her happy. Initially, I thought that this didn’t make sense at all. Perhaps it was the speed at which I watched it, having binged an entire season in one go; the writing and pacing did struggle a bit to adequately space out events. But it was hard for me to not go back to the same question on subsequent ‘rewatches’ (I enjoy background noise for when I’m working on other projects): “Why did they write her a story where she realises how great and understand he is and flies off to Copenhagen with him only to have her feel uncomfortable in that relationship a few episodes down the line?”

Then I started rewatching it again with someone who’d never seen Elementary and began to find mirrors in my own experiences, especially with regards to the early stages of relationships. I’ve had moments of my life where I went and did something seemingly crazy to spend time with someone that, at that moment, I loved and wanted to be with; I’ve had people say things that remind me how my partner, at those times, really is a great person. And I’ve gone through the periods of recognising that, no, this isn’t what I want even if months earlier I kept saying it was; I’ve had those moments where I recognised this relationship wasn’t good for me, even if that person was amazing. Despite those experiences, I was originally frustrated with Joan and how she seems to be indecisive over this guy she’s originally really into but then later not quite sure about.

The writing and pacing could’ve been done in ways that were much better, but I really suspect much of my frustration with these events is because of my own socialisation regarding women and relationships. As much as I inherently know that women are not irrational and that changing our minds about a relationship is not a bad thing, I know that I’ve been trained from birth to see that women ‘always make silly decisions’ or ‘are indecisive’ and that we ‘need to work harder at making our relationships work’. I can definitely say that I genuinely questioned why she didn’t work harder to make the relationship work, and I didn’t even stop to question whether my thinking was problematic.

But this time, I’m watching it and reminding myself that what’s been done is okay. Much like Joan surprised Andrew by going to Copenhagen with him, I flew off to an entirely different continent from where I lived to spend a couple weeks with the person I loved (at the time). Much like how Joan thought Andrew’s father was warm and welcoming, I immediately adored my partner’s parents for being so inviting and happy to have me with them. And like how Joan felt guilty for how Andrew’s father appeared so happy she was with him when she wasn’t sure, I too have felt that discomfort with knowing that my partner’s parents are happy that he’s with me but also recognising that I honestly can’t be happy in a relationship with their child.

I like that rewatching it is helping me to recognise problems in my thoughts and inconsistencies in my beliefs with regards to other women and the relationships we’re in. It’s a reminder that I still have a lot of work to do to unlearn so many of the values our society planted within me.

But I’m most content with the fact that this small story in the whole series is more comforting than it was before because I can see how it has glimmers of things I’ve gone through repeatedly. I can see the hints of Joan’s desire to be ‘normal’ while recognising that maybe she’s not meant for the traditional relationship at all. These are questions I’ve had about myself for months, if not years.

And in that respect — the representation of a woman who is questioning the values she grew up with and how they reflect who she is and what she needs, exploring her own existence — I really like what they’ve done with her character.

Comments are closed.