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guys, I watched Sherlock

Returning to my native soil (oh, I'm "home", by the way, whatever that even means), I discovered Sherlock S2 is availble from the region's iTunes (I think I may have suspected this, but put the matter aside due to reasons that don't entirely make sense to me any more), promptly download it, and took an entire week to watch the three of them. – WHICH MEANS that not only have I missed the huge wave of fandom enthusiasm/wank/fury/heartbreak of the initial airing, BUT ALSO the secondary wave when it's properly available in America. I have, in fact, managed to land myself in the nadir of fandom interest in the thing. YAY MY TIMING.

But whatever, I watched them and I loved them. And I have a bunch of unkempt thoughts about them, clogging up my fandom brain, and since the rest of my processing brainspace is taken up with actual RL things, I need to clear them out somewhere so I can deal with catching up on SamnDean do other fannish things.

Prepare for major thought-dump and probable semi-coherent fangirling. Also spoilers for all six episodes.

First thing – it's probably unnecessary, but I was just fascinated by the sheer quality of this little project. I mean damn. I was listening to the soundtrack yesterday, and, just – damn. It's quality, no doubt, but what really catches me is how well each quality element integrates and reinforces the others so neatly. All of it, script, characterisations, cinematography, effects, editing, score – it's this rich, delightful little treat that's all the more so for being so rare. It's the dense, bittersweet, dark chocolate that gets sweeter as it enzymically breaks down on your tongue, and Benedict Cumberbatch's voice is just the cream – er, the icing – er, *flustered*

Anyway. (He's totally the espresso bean, btw.) Be not deceived – I like and thoroughly enjoy his Sherlock, of which there is a great deal to like and thoroughly enjoy, but I adore Martin Freeman's Watson. (And for crushing, it's Lestrade all the way. Hel-lo silver fox. Rupert Graves has never looked sexier. Phoar.)

It's partly just the way Martin Freeman tends to play his characters (his turn in Wild Target so creepy for it), that makes him so quietly surprising. I mean, Martin Freeman is so ... innocuous. But so deceptively so. And we know that he's not only an army doctor (smart, disciplined, compassionate, steely, able to make difficult decisions quickly and well), but also a fighter, a killer. This is all established in the first episode.

AND YET. It's surprising every single time the wolf John really is tears out of his sheep's clothing, and I love it. I love the idea that this sheer normality of him is an instinctive veneer. It's not not him, but it's the part of him that allows him to function in and interact with the real world without revealing his unseemly underbelly (he wears freaking cuddly jumpers! Sheep's clothing cannot get more literal without actual sheepskin!). Such as the parts that were satisfied by the war – by the heightened-reality battle conditions Sherlock makes of reality (or, more accurately, reveals of reality) – the parts that crave the battlefield. The parts of him that are wrong, or so society (as typified by his therapist, trying to "fix" him to fit in to what is "real" and "normal") would insist. The parts of him that Sherlock affirms as being real – and necessary – and thus unleashes.

This is what makes John trust Sherlock so quickly – and why he doesn't trust easily in general. Because the war ripped the trappings of civilised society from him, and showed him who he really was, and how much he's suited for the battle – I'm not the John Watson you knew – and now here is one man, one person in the whole of this strange, old, illusional world he once belonged to, who truly (unceasingly) lives in the reality John now knows is there (and everyone else acts like it isn't). No one will ever convince me that you told me a lie. Sherlock never lied to him, certainly not about anything important – not about anything real. It's the foundation of their friendship: John craves the truth and Sherlock craves not being rejected for speaking the truth; John craves to be seen as he truly is and Sherlock craves someone who can withstand being seen as they truly are; and they are thus uniquely paired in the world of civilised pretence. Trusting the man who tells the truth, about himself, others, and the world (and not trusting those surrounding him who live in lies about those things) is John's only sane choice, short of going back to the war, which he can't.

(Hello, Hurt Locker. I swear I don't read this dynamic into everything. Although it's probably telling that my favourite shows are ones that invoke it in some way. Um.) (Oh, also, it's why he's able to work well with Mycroft, apart from their mutual concern for Sherlock, and in spite of his mild dislike/annoyance with the man; Mycroft, too, walks the common ground of the battlefield. But John doesn't trust him because his way of fighting is to tell lies keep secrets, where Sherlock fights by breaking secrets revealing truth.)

This is what Sherlock gave him – the same thing the war did: he sees, and reveals, who John really is. Of all John's acquaintance, he's the only one who knows who John is, who sees the wolf beneath the sheep, and moreover, accepts it in toto. Even values and needs it of him. That is profound loneliness, and profound connection, and profound friendship. I was so alone, and I owe you so much. Following from that, from anchoring that deep, dark, real-est part of John in its proper place, it also allowed his more "mundane", ordinary qualitites to take their proper place, to stop being a mask and start being a meaningful way to interact again; he is able to form romantic connections (which unfortunately do not reconcile well with the deeper realities of the battle), go out for drinks with his old mates, live "normal" life in its own right.

And John, in turn, gave Sherlock the same thing – a true companion (warning: tv tropes link), someone who sees exactly who he is and values and needs it. And he, too, gave Sherlock an avenue to normality, from which Sherlock otherwise exists in a state of permanent and (defensively) disdainful exile. They're both told that they are at least partially broken; they met each other and discovered they are not. They gave one another one of the greatest gifts human beings can give: the gift of being wholly oneself, of being known in whole and valued in whole. They met one another and the world opened up. Gah. GAH. *flail*

(Which, just to tangent through fandom briefly, is why I have a pretty hard time with the Sherlock fandom and their apparent obsession with slashing, whatever asexual/aromantic/homo-bi-single-target-whatever slant they put on it. (In fact, even glancing encounters with the fandom was what made me long avoid the first series of the show itself for this very reason, until a friend insisted I watch it.) To be fair, it was clear early on that when it comes to fandoms generally, there's no point getting upset about that sort of thing, and I usually just avoid it. However, in this case, it's so pervasive it means I have to basically steer clear of the entire fandom. And. I just.

This kind of connection is so rare, and so fascinating, and shipping is ... um, not? Not in fandom, anyway. Don't get me wrong, shipping has its place, but when it takes over everything, I start to wonder if I'm supposed to conclude that romantic/sexual relationships are ubiquitously more valuable and interesting and meaningful and ultimately speshul than friendships. I mean, the idea that Mycroft/Lestrade came about through pairing the spares (warning: tv tropes link) pretty much put the whole matter to bed for me. Ignore that pun. And when multiple fic recs use the words "slash" and "shipping" while lauding the "characterisation", I am just. Whut. You and I are clearly no longer speaking the same language and any attempt at fannish communication is likely doomed (doomed, I tell you!). This to explain why I've not tried at all that hard. It's all so ... overheated, and rather exhausting at that. Also, get off my lawn! *waves boomstick*

On a personal note, gorging on bittersweet dark chocolate is actually a pretty good analogy for constantly make every relationship into a sexual one, every love into eros. It is delicious, yes, and a little goes a long way. My druthers'd be to see friendship being valued as a complex and significant relationship in its own right, but I guess that's largely what drives me to write fic, so ... I don't know. I'll just keep playing in my little platonic corner of the sandbox over here and hope some of it's interesting and enjoyable to others too. *waves boomstick in a suitably safety-conscious manner*)

SO. Anyway. The second season. The more I dwell on it, the better I like it. Initially I found it tonally difficult, I think; I get the temptation to do the Big Three of Sherlock canon, but part of what gives those sorts of iconic, celebrated stories within a series their heightened impact is what they are set against. That is, a bunch of lower-impact stories. But after The Woman (where they worked a bunch of minor cases into the story as background and it didn't really work, which in hindsight should have been a Clue) I just shrugged and decided to go with it. And then promptly realised that, given the meagre amounts of Sherlock we're ever likely to get, and the incredibly high quality of it, it's not only acceptable but works very well.

As for The Woman herself, there seemed to be general fandom rumblings (at least from the distance I maintained) that the episode wasn't as good. I didn't really spend much time on that, but going in I had it in the back of my mind to be prepared to be disappointed. And I kind of half-was, until afterwards, when I couldn't stop mulling it over and came to really, really like it, and the choice to make her a dominatrix. The interplay between Sherlock and Irene was so complex, and so stunted, and so challenging to each party. In spite of their similarity of approach, they were in their essences completely antithetical, and so completely fascinating and threatening to one another. Irene, the ultra feminine; Sherlock, the ultra masculine – and both grappling for dominance.

(A brief note on the usage of the terms "masculine" and "feminine": I'm using them to describe catagories or types that ideally are opposite, equal, and when used together are perfectly complementary, but when turned against the other are highly destructive. Similar to yin-yang. Physically, humans are male and female; psychologically, they have a combination of masculine and feminine traits in differing amounts. The level of development and integration of these traits contribute to the stability, health, and perhaps maturity of the psyche; hence the brittleness of both Sherlock and Irene, who have pursued the masculine and the feminine respectively very far toward their extremes.)

The masculine quality of logic – knowledge acquired through conquering, through dissection into components and quantifying each one – and the feminine quality of poetry or mystery – knowledge that can only be acquired through experience of the whole of the subject – are the ones most relevant to the clash between Sherlock and Irene. With gorgeous symbolism, their entire encounter hinges on the contest of knowledge of her password. Sherlock cannot decipher Irene through his usual (masculine) methods; she is naked to him (ah, irony), thus is nothing but the feminine in physical form (– which he has no experience of). Everything he gained in their first meeting was from what she gave him or showed him. He had her phone for six months and couldn't crack it; it was his experience of her that eventually gave him the knowledge he needed for her password. So in the arena of "conquering" knowledge, she lost comprehensively, because she subjugated mystery (the files on her phone, her life) to a conquerable piece of knowledge; she sought protection through a masculine device.

(Another rather delightful example is her safe. Try to open and gain access her secrets, and the experience very well might destroy anyone who doesn't do it with the extreme respect it deserves. Similarly, the explosive charges that will wreck her phone if accessed illegitimately. If we didn't know it from Irene herself, mystery is dangerous.)

However, ultimately her protection came through her feminine quality of mystery; she alone, of any person Sherlock has encountered, cannot be conquered, she must be experienced to be known. If she is not living, he cannot know her. If she is living, even if he never sees her again (doubtful), the possibility of finally knowing exists, and he is driven by that. (Again, I would like to clarify: this is not about her, being feminine, needing rescue, and him, being masculine, coming to her rescue; this is about the nature of who she is being what saves her, because of the nature of who he is, and vice versa. This is the first instance of masculinity and femininity harmonising rather than combating, which is promising for both of them.)

"Baskervilles" was fun, and solid enough, and the notes on how the relationship is developing were interesting, but there wasn't a lot to really dig at. "Reichenbach", on the other hand (warning: tv tropes link).... I have now watched it twice, and from the second watching I am more confused than I was on the details. Not so much on what happened, but on how much was planned by each character; how much could be anticipated, planned, thwarted, and outright done on the fly. (Pun slightly intended. Sorry.) It's not so much how he engineered it (that open-bed laundry service truck just below him that he appeared to be aiming for would have been quite useful, as would the obscuring sight-lines of where he insisted John stand) but when he anticipated the need to, and how much of it he orchestrated. The likeliest option is that he anticipates he may have to fake his death with Moriarty in order to not "play" the game, and so sets it all up with Molly and selects the staging ground of it, which of course he did (and providing a nice bookend with selecting the place for meeting him in "Great Game", and having learned from Moriarty out-manoeuvring him).

Obtaining bodies for a convincing fake death is shown to be not much of a problem for people at this level of intellect, connection, and sociopathy in "Scandal", especially when one has a coroner he can trust. Also a squad of homeless people who are open to bribes. We might also infer from the kidnapping case that an extremely good Moriarty-created Sherlock-lookalike is out there somewhere, just waiting to be tracked down by someone who is able and motivated. Sherlock clearly also organised for the call about Mrs Hudson to get John out of the way, going by his lack of reaction to it, which is actually the most blatant clue that he had a plan going in. Outside of that, there are so many variables that it's kind of hard to judge what was intentional and what was chance, and while I have a few preferences, I'm happy enough to wait for the oh-so-clever explanation.

I do have some questions, though. Like why was John's hitman nested up above St Barts so quickly if John himself had only just came back? If he followed him, how did he set up so quickly? And if he didn't follow him, why didn't he follow him? I am not going to ask why he didn't see what actually happened with Sherlock from his vantage point (fell into pre-prepared laundry truck, dumped dead lookalike with a lot of blood onto pavement/fell into truck, jumped out and doused self with blood – given time to do so by homeless accomplices on bike and crowded around him, probably the more likely option), because he was a single sniper with no spotter and so we can handwave that he mostly kept his sight on this target. And also because, given the story this episode was modelled on, we could just posit that the whole thing was intentionally nigh-impossible to explain.

My other question, which I'm rather more interested in, is whether Moriarty is dead, too, or whether he faked it as well. I mean, from a character standpoint, it's more symmetrical if he is, but from a symbolic standpoint, there's a lot of mileage to be had from saying he faked it as well. Not least of which is the convincingly copious amounts of blood from a headwound that both "suicided" men exhibited. Moriarty (wrongly) believing that because Sherlock wasn't "like them" that he was like him, and thus happily killing himself, is an utterly fantastic character moment. Faking his death to see what Sherlock would do, on the other hand, is similarly fantastic and in some ways rings much more true for him. Because Moriarty sees only two types of people – ordinary, and those like himself. He cannot conceive of Sherlock being like him (ie, would refuse to suicide for the sake of others) and at the same time caring about John and the others (ie, "ordinary" and willing to die for them). And of course Sherlock is neither; and so he takes the third option, which Moriarty never considers. Plus, who really wants to have Sherlock without a nemesis? Bor-ing. (Also, who doesn't want to meet Sebastian Moran? I hope we do get confirmation that he's Moriarty's pet sniper who took out General Shan, and was the main sniper for the semtex bombs.)

In spite of being confused about the intricacies of plot and planning, I did love the little touches. The use of rain (weather generally to capture emotion) throughout was quietly stunning, most especially the first, few, foreshadowing spits of rain as he gazes out of the window at the Yard after the girl screams at the sight of him. Also Lestrade still believing in him enough (or being smart enough to sniff out the set up) to warn them the police were on their way. And the unspoken callback (and character development from) Sherlock's Will caring about them help save them? – Nope. – Then I'll continue not to make that mistake. to where his caring about John, Mrs Hudson and Lestrade is exactly what does save them. And caring about Molly is what allows him to save himself.

I think ... that's enough for now. It's cleared a lot of the main pondering out, at any rate. Time for sleep. Later, memes!


( 18 speakses — have a speak )
Apr. 2nd, 2012 04:51 pm (UTC)
I have watched s1 but not s2 yet. Am anxiously awaiting.

I have a strange relationship to Sherlock. I'm not blown away by it, but am utterly taken by Freeman's John, and his relationship with Cumberbatch's Sherlock, so I'm kind of smitten by it without really liking it all that much.

I've kind of been through the reccs for Sherlock and I've found a little but not a lot of stuff I like. I'm open to slash or gen, it doesn't matter to me. Right now I'm following a kind of cool story on twitter... I hope the author doesn't abandon it.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Icon: if Jude had read more Arthur Conan Doyle, how might his fate have been different??? :P

Edited at 2012-04-02 04:51 pm (UTC)
Apr. 3rd, 2012 08:52 am (UTC)
They certainly ramped up the second season. I hope you won't be disappointed!

I know you're quite the Whovian, does that contribute to how you view the series? Obviously I completely agree with what you enjoy about Sherlock, but I am curious about why you don't like it all that much. Is it the character of Sherlock himself, or the style, or the stories? I was never a big fan of the books, mostly because mystery and thriller generally bore me. And while there is clearly some fascinating characterisation going on in the canon, this incarnation is pulling it out and condensing it so that I don't have to wade through all that other stuff.

Icon: Alpha, following (?) in Moriarty's psychotic footsteps. He probably has read Conan Doyle, or at least one of his personalities have!
Apr. 11th, 2012 11:08 am (UTC)
I found a person igrockspock who does really great Sherlock recommendations. I think you will like them because she tends to focus on longer stories, a variety not just slash, and stories about many of the supporting women characters in their own right.

Apr. 22nd, 2012 11:16 pm (UTC)
Ooh! Thanks for the rec. I'll have to check it out. :)
Apr. 3rd, 2012 01:01 am (UTC)
I'm really excited to hear your thoughts. I can't wait for PBS to air season 2. Even though I haven't seen it, I did read a few articles on the feminist backlash on 'Scandal' and I was so glad to see your perspective. I can already tell I'm going to love it just by reading your interpretation alone. Love the comparison of the masculine/feminine for discussion purposes. Nicely done. Now I just want to write fic about those concepts alone. ;)

Oh, and so much yes to the all-slash-all-the-time nature of Sherlock fandom. I haven't been able to engage either, and that makes me sad.
Apr. 3rd, 2012 09:13 am (UTC)
Oh, I think you'll love it. Sherlock appears to be one of those works especially that people watch according through the filter of their agenda, probably because so much of what's going on is in the details and extremely subtle. Much easier to impose your own perspective on than Transformers, for example. I did like what Moffat had to say in this interview about the second season. Most especially that just because he shows Irene and Sherlock's relationship in a particular way, doesn't mean he approves of it. Which is a distinction you'd think people would understand, but apparently not!

Now I just want to write fic about those concepts alone.

I know! We'll put that on the list too. ;)

I haven't been able to engage either, and that makes me sad.

Sigh. Just ... sigh. Well, when it does come out, I'd love to hear your thoughts on it! :)
Apr. 3rd, 2012 02:30 pm (UTC)
It's funny-- the article they referenced in the Guardian was the very one I read. I'm really interested to see the episode now.

For me, Sherlock is one of those shows the point of which is anything other than shipping. It's a study of human nature, of otherness and belonging, of what's acceptable and what's not, and ultimately, of friendship. Deep, true, amazing, life-changing friendship. I love the way you described it here. Very well said.

As for the fandom-- I feel like I should clarify. It's fine to ship whomever you ship (and Lord knows I love me a good love story), but with that fandom in particular I feel like shipping them is a prerequisite to participating, and that just bums me out. Because it's just not how I view the show.

Edited at 2012-04-03 02:32 pm (UTC)
Apr. 4th, 2012 01:32 am (UTC)
It's a study of human nature, of otherness and belonging, of what's acceptable and what's not, and ultimately, of friendship. Deep, true, amazing, life-changing friendship.

And I love the way you described this! Yes. This this this.

but with that fandom in particular I feel like shipping them is a prerequisite to participating, and that just bums me out.

No worries, that's pretty much exactly what I thought you were saying. It's my lament too, just said in a much nicer way. Other people's perspectives on a story can bring a lot to it, but if you fundamentally disagree about what it is and what it's about – and what to talk about! – there quickly stops being any point in trying to carry on a conversation.

If I didn't think you and I would be the only participants (and if it weren't far too much work), I'd start a comm called "No slash, Sherlock" or something. It would be a very lonely little internet outpost, and break my heart by mournfully never having any traffic. So I'll just stay here where it's cosy instead and we'll have to make do. :)
Apr. 4th, 2012 01:49 am (UTC)
ANd it's not like it's not a love story b/c it totally is. I'd go even so far as to say it;s romantic in some ways, but I just don't read it as sexual. And to jump straight to the fangirl default of "...and then they had sex" somehow cheapens it for me. omg am i making any sense at all? i have no idea. it did in my head at one point. i went back today and watched some of season 1, and it obvious that they're the most important people in each others' lives and i ADORE that. i just don;t want to reduce it (or limit it) to a sexual connection.

oh-- i also need ideas on a drabble i promised. i need someone to help me be clever on this and of course, you are the obvious choice when clever is called for. ;) ((it's ridiculous. i'll write a novel length fic, and yet i still get tripped up over 100 words. stupid plot disease.))
Apr. 4th, 2012 02:31 am (UTC)
ANd it's not like it's not a love story b/c it totally is. I'd go even so far as to say it;s romantic in some ways, but I just don't read it as sexual.

No, it totally is! And really, the more old fashioned meaning of the word "romance" is very fitting for what it is, because it IS epic and contains chivalric threads. And you're not the only one who thinks constantly interpreting any love story as sexual is tedious. Even C.S. Lewis spoke against it in The Four Loves (he says: Those who cannot conceive Friendship as a substantive love but only as a disguise or elaboration of Eros betray the fact that they have never had a Friend. The rest of us know that though we can have erotic love and friendship for the same person yet in some ways nothing is less like a Friendship than a love-affair.), so you're in good company.

Anyway. Send it. Let's clever away! :)
Apr. 3rd, 2012 10:28 am (UTC)
I love you for being able to say what I was thinking when it comes to characterisation, only with beautiful and eloquent words rather than random squeeling that doesn't make sense to anyone. I hope you don't mind my mindless shipping too much. XD I am a lover of asexual exploration, and Sherlock does it so well.

Now watch this... http://youtu.be/XwFIE4Dft_U

Apr. 3rd, 2012 02:09 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I'm glad you liked it. And by all means, sweetie, ship away, it doesn't bother me at all. It may be double standards, but I don't mind you shipping or what you post; it's that I can't venture into the general fandom without getting facefuls of it. You ≠ fandom. :)


... MIND. BLOWN. That is amazing! I would watch that!
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 4th, 2012 01:37 am (UTC)
Blunder in all you like! Don't apologise. It's lovely to have new people around. *offers you tea and a cream bun*

And of course it's quite nice to have people tell me I have beautiful thoughts! That's never a problem. ;) Stop by anytime. You can even disagree and argue with me, if you like. :)
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 5th, 2012 03:11 am (UTC)
Oh, I just want you to feel free to if you want. :)

The tv tropes site is absolutely dangerous. I've got to the point where I don't go anywhere near it unless I know I can spare half a day at least. It NEVER ENDS and I love it. O.O
Apr. 8th, 2012 10:47 pm (UTC)
I, too, just blundered in uninvited!

I agree, this was a very thoughtful entry on Sherlock and John.
Apr. 9th, 2012 07:10 am (UTC)
Thank you! And thanks for blundering in and joining in. Door's always open. :)
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 9th, 2012 07:14 am (UTC)
Really? Oh, boo. Although I don't really mind it, come to think of it. I wasn't all that taken with Moriaty himself, and dragging it out could have got tiresome. And I'm sure they're not short of ideas without him. Thanks for passing that along!

(Although they've also been known to lie to the audience before, so really, who knows for sure until we see it?)
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 22nd, 2012 11:14 pm (UTC)
Sorry I didn't reply earlier, I've been away from internet access for two weeks. O.O

That is kind of awesome. As a character note, I really do dig Moriarty killing himself fo' reels there. And given that they can do it well, I'd love it if they explored other villains (Moran especially, so that we can see the dark side of John reflected, and see how dangerous that could be, rather than the dark reflection of Sherlock). Colour me cautiously optimistic!
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