Introducing a character through his or her morning routine is nothing new—everyone does that. As the show progresses, though, Watson continues to receive an inordinate amount of characterization through her sleeping habits. Like, a lot. Joan reads in bed, surfs the Internet on her laptop, naps. Sherlock often wakes Joan up in the morning, but he’s also deactivated all her alarms so she would not wake up on time. He’s brought her breakfast in bed, and even picked out her outfit for her because he’s been so eager to leave. Joan has woken up to find Clyde (their pet turtle) crawling on her, and to find Sherlock has redesigned the entire space around her.
Like I said: a lot. This, of course, begs a question. Why does Watson sleep so much?
My first instinct is to examine the BBC’s Sherlock, which does not often feature sleeping characters. The first time I remember Holmes falling asleep is in “A Scandal in Belgravia” (2x1), when Irene Adler drugs Sherlock before making her escape. Sherlock dramatically ends up in bed and is incoherent and groggy. Sleep, in this case, is weakness. Sherlock would have been in active pursuit of Adler; she reduced him to an “inferior” state and thus displayed her own domination. The fact that she does this to one such as Sherlock communicates the real danger of Adler’s character to the audience.
(I also remember Sherlock got shot one time, but I'm leaving that out for various reasons.)
Neither example is particularly flattering. Both suggest why Sherlock might resist sleep in general. First, sleep is a humanizing thing. It is a vulnerable state, an inactive state, and people who seem to need more of it appear to fit less in our capitalistic society (think babies and old people). The less Sherlock and John sleep, the more they are protected. They get closer to solving the crime and traditional victory. That’s the BBC.
As I’ve mentioned, Elementary isn’t much like that at all. Watson often sleeps—it is part of her daily routine. Even Sherlock has fallen asleep once or twice on the show (to his dismay), and tends to wear comfy-looking sweats and a t-shirt when he rests. Which I mention because they seem like normal pajamas compared to the aesthetic of some aforementioned programs, but why name names?
What’s more, Joan functions better as a detective when she sleeps. As a health professional, you’d expect her to value sleep anyway. And she does. Nonetheless, Joan is still the best Joan when she is well-rested. Whether he likes it or not, Sherlock is the best Sherlock after a good sleep, too. This matters even more for Sherlock, since tiredness can trigger a relapse in an addict. Joan’s good habits don’t just improve Sherlock’s life (sometimes), but they also protect him. Heroin has the potential to ruin his life again—so Joan watches out for him.
That is the best thing. This is a detective show and a murder mystery show, but it is also a show about taking care of yourself and one another. Emotionally, physically, scientifically. Sleep is not a weakness. It’s a strength. An opportunity to build trust and to maintain sobriety. Also, it is funny.
Obviously, there’s an important message here:
Be a good detective. Get some sleep.