During my sleepless fit which lasted well into the morning hours, I was able to ponder upon this last season of Sherlock. Specifically, I pondered the development of Sherlock’s humanity.
I have it narrowed down to something like this…
In A Scandal in Belgravia, Sherlock meets Irene Adler (which I believe is an interesting twist on sexuality all of its own). Here, he feels emotions. Here, he is beat and outwitted only to come to the final solution when he realizes that what he feels she feels and thus, she is as weak as he. He was addled. She was sherlocked. They would have torn each other apart in a relationship of conventional means, but as one in which one was the cat and the other the mouse, with no set roles, both came to enjoy it in a much more fulfilling way. This well-written episode made Sherlock feel.
The Hounds of Baskerville is a different twist on the tale, but the moment when Sherlock sees the Hound, the great demon dog of Baskerville, the audience is worried that such a thing can exist. Sherlock is the quintessential calmness in the storm. No supernatural forces. Nothing. Everything is logical and has a place. And yet, he sees a ghost. In the Inn, Sherlock and Watson are talking about the case, when Sherlock breaks out in a cold sweat and begins to speak rashly to Watson, even harshly. Sherlock is made to doubt himself and thus to fear.
“The Reichenbach Fall” serves as the season/series finale. It mimics The Final Problem, a short story in which Sherlock follows his nemesis off the cliff (watch Sherlock Holmes 2). This one, however, is different. It is a psychological choice. Sherlock knows he must die and comes to that conclusion before we are properly introduced to it. A striking scene is one of the final ones, in which he confronts and beats Moriarty who acknowledges that he is indeed beaten. Sherlock declares that while he sits among the angels, he is not one of them. Moriarty takes this to mean that Sherlock is not much different than himself. The mirror is given. We should understand this scene to represent that Moriarty doesn’t like the mirror he sees when he looks at Sherlock. He sees one who can live among the angels but chooses not too. Moriarty has made his bed in hell. He has clients; Sherlock has friends. To prove this distinction, Moriarty has set up three snipers to take out Sherlock’s three friends… unless Holmes jumps to his death. Sherlock routes this on Moriarty and thus we arrive at the above mentioned mirror. Moriarty does what anyone does when they do not like the image looking back at them – he breaks the glass, albeit with a bullet to the back of his skull. Sherlock knows that he now has no other choice but to jump to his death. And he does. He does so to save his friends.
Each successive episode (90 minutes worth of Sherlock goodness) develops a part of Sherlock that does finally push him over the cliff, so to speak. He is human. Yes, no ordinary human, but he is human nevertheless. Because of this, he loves, he fears, he doubts, and he sacrifices. His greatest mystery is himself and his development.
Other franchises have tried to develop this motif, most notably for the moment, Star Trek: The Next Generation. Data tries his best to be as human as possible. He achieves this with his emotional chip (Generations), explores his doubt (First Contact), and finally, makes the ultimate sacrifice (Nemesis). Data, while never fully achieving human form, achieves what it means to be human. The same could be said about the character of Pinocchio. What does it mean to be human, after all, but to be a disheveled mess. We love. We fear. We doubt. But, the ultimate act of humanity is self-sacrifice.
Ahh… yes, now the theological cap. Isn’t that the Gospel (of John) story? That the divine became human to make us and it capable of full humanity? In John’s Gospel, Jesus doubts, fears, loves, and makes the ultimate sacrifice. He is fully human, and because he is fully human, he is now fully divine.
Okay… there go. Got that out. Maybe I can sleep now.
- A Few Thoughts on How SHERLOCK Survived “The Reichenbach Fall” (popculturenerd.com)
- Shaking Hands in Hell: Sherlock’s “The Reichenbach Fall” (tor.com)
- Andrew Scott discusses The Reichenbach Fall of Sherlock episode on PBS (gambitpublish.wordpress.com)