When I first saw Steven Moffat’s “A Study In Pink” back in 2010 I remember thinking it was a revolutionary piece of TV. It was the first drama I had ever seen that managed to incorporate the characters texting seamlessly into the production. Texting in Sherlock looks on screen the way it feels in real life.
Setting the stunning production design, cinematography and performance aside for a moment, what really grabbed me and I believe all of us, was Sherlock. He was a new Sherlock, bright, exciting, odd and fresh, so different from the sage-like-old-man-with-death-like-features that had been overdone.
I loved Sherlock’s character because he was unusual: A genius, rude, a loner, seeing right through people, blunt, unable to read social niceties.
Right from the get go, we know one major thing about Sherlock that drives his character - he has toget it right. He can’t be faced with a challenge worth taking and not take it.
When we first meet Sherlock in “A Study in Pink” we see him brutally mow down a sweet girl’s attempts to ask him out, blatantly pointing out that she’s wearing lipstick and embarrassing her. He later adds insult to injury when she takes it off (because he embarrassed her) and says she looked better with the lipstick on!
Sherlock’s first introduction to Watson is little better, Sherlock pointing out at least two sore spots for Watson, his time in the army and a broken family relationship. During the scene in the lab we can see Watson’s feathers becoming increasingly ruffled as Sherlock breaks niceties and social boundaries, quickly cutting to the chase.
We also learn very quickly that Sherlock has trouble working (or perhaps even being) with people. He is a ‘hard man to find a flatmate for’ and he doesn’t like working with Anderson on forensics.
Sherlock started going a bit stale for me round about the time Mary turned up. This wasn’t due to the production adding in another character, but more to do with the way the arrival changed Sherlock’s character and I think this is where the whole series started to lose it’s edge.
It’s always the same, when boy and girl who are undeniably attracted to each other yet everything stops them being together and then they finally get together, the film/TV series/book is over.
Anything beyond that is just a little bit dull, unless the author is skilfully able to transfer our affection and attention from our classic hero(s) to a new, upcoming hero. Grey’s Anatomy managed to do this, even clawing back it’s audience after it lost it’s biggest and dreamiest hero of all. Skill.
But usually, if a story is built on romance, marriage often kills the story. If a story is built on a hero giving up family for adventure, the story is over when he finally settles down.
If Sherlock’s story is built on the fact that he is an offensive, socially inept, genius who cares about nothing but proving he’s right, his relationship to Mary sort of ended that story.
We could accept Watson. We realised that Sherlock had some sort of odd affection for Watson that meant they could work on some kind of friendship. But if you look carefully, that only worked because Watson’s character allowed him to be a bounding block for Sherlock, a helper, a presence. As hard as it might be to swallow, Sherlock can deal with Watson because Watson can deal with him. The friendship is warped and it still allows Sherlock to continue to be a socially inept, tactless, loner, who can insult people left, right and centre.
When Mary entered the picture, Sherlock’s character changed. We saw him become emotionally attached to Mary and this is where I feel we lost him. He can never be as odd as he once was because now he does something that we all do - he cares for someone. This last episode with Sherlock promising to protect Mary (and her family) at all costs made me realise why I am not captured by this character anymore. He’s not the same character. He’s too much like everyone else now. The oddity is dampened. Focus on winning has suddenly become focus on family. Where are the insults, the constant wonder if he will cost everyone their life for the price of a win?
And why can Mary talk to him the way she does? She’s almost like a mother figure to Sherlock, which worked with Watson because watching a man try to mother can be amusing. But with Mary, she is a mother and she’s mothering a man we want to see suffer in his painful lonely, virtuoso world. Yes, we want to see him suffer because then his success is earned. With Mary around he’s always got someone on his side. Watson was on his side but he kept almost losing Watson. Mary’s too loyal without earning it. Sherlock is always nice to her. A bit dull if I’m honest.
I’ve seen a lot of comments and articles stating that the reason people have not been happy with the new episode is that there is too much focus on the effects, the plot is too convoluted or there is too much of an emphasis on emotions.
I would argue that there is only one problem, just one thing that has gone wrong in Sherlock. That is Sherlock did not stay true to his character or that the progression they chose to take him on made him lose what the audience really loved about him.
After all, it’s all about character.
I wonder if the ending of The Six Thatchers was in fact the writers and production stepping out of the noose.
I have high hopes for the rest of the series.