Wednesday, February 5, 2014


The love is in their faces

By Wendy Murray

The long-awaited Season 3 of Masterpiece Mystery's  Sherlock has come and gone with the fleetness of its hero. We were riveted, in the back of our minds, during the two-year hiatus after Season 2 ended with Sherlock's suicide-by-flying-leap off a rooftop. His arch-nemesis James Moriarty made him do it, mocking and one-upping him mercilessly, taunting Sherlock that all his friends would be executed if the waiting gunmen, lasers already fixed on various foreheads, did not see Sherlock jump. Moriarty laughed and mocked some more, then put a gun to his head and met his demise (so it seemed) with a self-inflicted shot. So Sherlock jumped. His devoted sidekick, Dr. John Watson, watched from below and collapsed seeing his friend dead on the ground. (Sherlock and Watson are rendered in consummate performances by Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.)

Then, in the episode's final scene, we were moved and devastated with John Watson as he was grieving at Sherlock's grave. But wait. There is Sherlock himself watching from a distance in the shadows, head tilted in the singular way, his narrow eyes glancing around, while we (the viewing audience) -- now, ecstatic -- are horrified that he would leave poor John bereft!

Welcome to our world -- the exhilerating, riveting, shocking, stunning, complicated, logical, horrible, hilarious non-stop world of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes in the 21st century.

The dismay of Season 2 was indeed resolved in the opening episode of Season 3. The new stretch of the (only!) three-episode season began with John's shock at Sherlock's reappearance, now two years later. Their first exchange finds Sherlock explaining to John that while on the roof with Moriarity that time, he had to work-through deductively 13 possible escape scenarios that would give the impression he had in fact died while simultaneously actually cheating death (and Moriarity). John is not impressed. He wants to smack him, and does.

On it goes -- Sherlock ever configuring logical deductions while Watson, at once awed and appalled, sometimes can respond only, "Sherlock, shut up."

Sherlock is a self-described “high functioning sociopath” with regular spontaneous digressions -- hands to temples and elbows splayed -- into his "mind palace," the place in his head where he processes a dizzying combination of multiple possible logical deductions. We all must simply let him go there and wait until the hard drive exhausts the unyielding process. At that point Sherlock arises wide-eyed and euphoric seeing the now obvious logical explanation.
"Of course!"

On his first meeting with Watson, Sherlock's mind palace rendered total insight into the man whom he had known less than five minutes:

Your haircut, the way you hold yourself, says military. But your conversation as you entered the room said trained at Bart's, so army doctor. Obvious. Your face is tanned, but no tan above the wrists: you've been abroad but not sunbathing. The limp's really bad when you walk, but you don't ask for a chair when you stand, like you've forgotten about it, so it's at least partly psychosomatic. That says the original circumstances of the injury were probably traumatic: wounded in action, then. Wounded in action, suntan: Afghanistan or Iraq. You've got a psychosomatic limp. Of course you've got a therapist. Then there's your brother. Your phone—it's expensive, email enabled, MP3 player. But you're looking for a flat-share. You wouldn't waste money on this. It's a gift, then. Scratches—not one, many over time. It's been in the same pocket as keys and coins. The man sitting next to me [John] wouldn't treat his one luxury item like this, so it's had a previous owner. The next bit's easy, you know it already. [The phone is engraved "Harry Watson — from Clara xxx"] Harry Watson: clearly a family member who's given you his old phone. Not your father, this is a young man's gadget. Could be a cousin, but you're a war hero who can't find a place to live. Unlikely you've got an extended family, certainly not one you're close to, so brother it is. Now, Clara: who's Clara? Three kisses [xxx] says a romantic attachment. Expensive phone says wife, not girlfriend. Must've given it to him recently; this model's only six months old. Marriage in trouble, then—six months on, and already he's giving it away? If she'd left him, he would've kept it. People do, --sentiment. But no, he wanted rid of it—he left her. He gave the phone to you. That says he wants you to stay in touch. You're looking for cheap accommodation and you're not going to your brother for help? That says you've got problems with him. Maybe you liked his wife. Maybe you don't like his drinking. [Drinking?] Power connection: tiny little scuff marks around the edge. Every night he goes to plug it in and charge but his hands are shaky. You never see those marks on a sober man's phone, never see a drunk's without them. There you go, you see? You were right. The police don't consult amateurs.

Season 3 saw Sherlock stumble into new territory: the human realm.
It first showed itself when he was called upon to
Sherlock thanking Molly for a
particular kind of help
be the Best Man at John's wedding, which meant -- as Molly Hooper put it (Sherlock's lovelorn endearing pathologist): "He'll have to make a speech in front of people. There will be actual people there actually listening."

It gets worse, but endearingly. He betrays a degree--if restrained-- of emotion during the best man's toast. Somehow supporting his best friend at this fine hour has changed Sherlock. He came out of complicated universe inside his head to think about John. More, he raised a glass to John in front of actual people who are actually listening:

. . . I am the most unpleasant, rude, ignorant and all-round obnoxious arsehole that anyone could possibly have the misfortune to meet. I am dismissive of the virtuous [he looks at the priest.], unaware of the beautiful [he looks at the maid of honor], and uncomprehending in the face of the happy [he looks at Watson and Mary]. So if I didn't understand that I was being asked to be best man, it is because I never expected to be anybody's best friend. And certainly not the best friend of the bravest and kindest and wisest human being I have ever had the good fortune of knowing. 
John, I am a ridiculous man [John agrees], redeemed only by the warmth and constancy of your friendship. But, as I am apparently your best friend, I cannot congratulate you on your choice of companion. Actually, now I can. [To Mary] Mary, when I say you deserve this man, it is the highest compliment of which I am capable. 
John, you have endured war and injury and tragic loss - so sorry again about that last one [the roof bit] - so know this; today you sit between the woman you have made your wife and the man you have saved. In short, the two people who love you most in all this world. And I know I speak for Mary as well when I say we will never let you down and we have a lifetime ahead to prove that.
So he's human after all. This fact becomes more stark and hauntingly real in the remaining episodes of Season 3 -- another twist we didn't see coming. That is the way it is in the ever-evolving, always-expanding, brilliant, exasperating, thrilling, crushing, addicting world of Sherlock.

Season 4 can't come too soon.

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