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I am Sherlocked

(Thu Jan 2 17:43:34 2014)

Series 3 premiere

Well, so I watched The Empty Hearse, the series 3 premiere of Sherlock, last night.  I think I've finally done it.  I've allowed myself to fully release any tensions that exist between Doyle's mysteries and the 1980s/90s Granada series with Jeremy Brett, and just enjoy the ride.  

Which is good.  Because let's face it - it's a good ride and a wild ride.  Benedict Cumberbatch is a brilliant Holmes, if a touch young for the role - but hey, it's the 21st century, and he's marvelous eye candy.  On that note, I really noticed, when watching him in Star Trek playing Khan, that the camera inexorably focused on his lips.  I had really never noticed them in watching Sherlock and was just overwhelmed at the enormity and weirdness of the odd focus in the film.  He has curiously shaped, though not unappealing lips.  My theory built that American film focused on his interesting lips more because of his full-bodied voice and the preciseness of his RP accent.  Americans can be titillated by accents, and a deep-booming bass playing a complicated ally/antagonist would make girls swoon.  Just consider Tom Hiddleston's Loki and you get my point (though his voice is less booming and more like dark chocolate silk, if you catch my meaning).

When once again watching Sherlock with fresh eyes in the premiere it was, well, Benedict's eyes that caught my notice.  In a authentic BBC production, they take no more notice of the accent than any other, though the modulation of tone is amazing and still a high player.  The British note his eyes.  And OH, what lovely things they are to behold.  The piercingly light blue surrounded by black lashes, often in danger of losing visibility in lieu of his lustrous, curly, not quite black hair, are gems to behold.  He gets them from his mom, whose cameo we see with his father in the course of the episode.  I recognized her as Susan's mother from Coupling, and remember noting her gorgeous blues over 10 years ago.  But, oh, what a difference the tall, dark and handsome male profile makes in my appreciation.  In Sherlock's character, his eyes are so very important.  Though he'd be able to discern much by touch, taste, smell and hearing, his primary mode of deduction, especially a cursory one, is through his eyes.

Some strong points that I noted in this episode:  John and Mary's relationship with Sherlock, Sherlock's insistence that Mycroft was lonely, Mary and Sherlock's saving John, the unknown sinister agent behind the attack on John, and the brilliant emotions conveyed by Sherlock and John.

It is a lovely and interesting fact that the character of Mary Marsden (Watson's wife whom we see nothing of in the Holmes' mysteries) is not only going to be involved in the series, but is not jealous of the John-lock relationship.  I understand where Mrs. Hudson, who, though dear, is a bit of a flake, could get the impression that John and Sherlock swing together relationally.  BUT, I think that Mary's presence and relationship is sufficient to set to rest any realistic fantasies of that happening.  As a fan of the original Holmes, I think this is critically important, and that Mary Marsden's presence is vitally necessary in this 21st century adaptation.  

In a world where terms like "bro-mance," "metrosexual," and "bisexual" are thrown about with fictional characters like society kids drinking margarita's, it is VERY difficult to distinguish to the public the nature of the non-sexual, yet extremely potent love of two friends.  In the 17-20th century, it was not unusual to have friendships formed and tested that lasted from youth throughout the whole of a man's life.  These were not just the guys you were on the sports teams with, or the fellows you drank with after work.  These friends were the sort who would have your back in the military, in politics, and indeed, any aspect of life.  Just as the relationship between a man and a wife was more reserved in public, and just for behind closed doors, the relationship between men were often just as significant, if not moreso, than a marital one.  They who had known you through childhood, university, career, family, and leisure, were your other self, because they understood all these things.  Wives were their jewels; loved, cherished, respected, indulged, and admired, but not generally burdened with finance, politics, or administrative issues, to preserve their peace of mind.  Their best friends knew all, and stood behind your honor with unswerving loyalty.  This is the ideal male friendship, which Watson and Holmes had.  Yes, they met later in life, but their shared sentiments ensured that the bond was not diminished by a short tenure.

In the stories, Mary Marsden made John Watson happy, but did not impair his relationship with Holmes.  Last night, it was really remarkable to see the very 21st century way the BBC managed the perfect representation of that.  Mary cares deeply for John, and is involved in all of his day-to-day troubles.  She sees how important Sherlock is to him.  When she meets him, he has been so well-represented to her through John's reminiscence, and seeing John's devotion (even in his burning anger), she immediately resolves to like him and to aid in healing the breach.  When John's life is in danger, that she would go immediately to Sherlock, that he would take her with him, and that they would rescue him together, speaks volumes to establishing the relationship betwixt the 3.  Mary means the world to John.  John means the world to Sherlock.  Mary knows John would never be happy without Sherlock, and, I think, endears herself even further to John by choosing to love John by loving Sherlock.

Sherlock's devotion to John is never in question.  Only the interpretation of it gets muddled.  Again, in the 21st century, people look at the 2 and see some sort of repressed homosexuality.  SIGH.  This is not so.  Come on, America, these people are British.  Freeman's Watson, introverted, damaged by war and a dysfunctional family, struggles with any level of intimacy beyond small talk.  He's a quintessential Englishman.  Cumberbatch's Holmes, genius, detached, unable to communicate anything beyond facts in an appropriate way is his ideal match.  John forces Sherlock to encounter his humanity, and Sherlock pushes John to free himself from his cage of restrained responses and appropriate expressions by forcing him to feel and be real.  They push each other and free each other.  You saw this in the premiere in both characters.  Sherlock, just simply by being in London, could hear John's voice in his head, criticizing his approaches and responses, kicking him to interact and respond properly.  John, now able to feel something other than grief for Holmes, sees him everywhere, and even wrongly imagines a patient is Sherlock. They can more fully BE when they are together, because they are each other's foil.  They love each other desperately for the freedom that gives, but they are not IN love.  

At the Guy Fawkes bonfire, it pierced me to hear and see how Sherlock was willing to literally walk through fire for John.  He would willingly burn himself, in total disregard of his own safety, to save John.  It is even, for Sherlock, entirely selfless, as the scene with the bomb at the end exhibits.  Feeling helpless, he doesn't regret anything.  Sherlock says only that he's sorry, and that if it weren't for him, John could have a life, with Mary.  He tries to get John to leave, but John refuses.  There are so many emotions in that repressed and proper British relationship that every glance was so full, I could be pages describing it.  Naming the emotions is too much to face, but showing them was enough, for these men.  Did they sob?  no.  Did they embrace?  not even once in the whole of the episode.  Did they kiss or declare undying devotion?  Not at all.  All those actions, aside from being contrary to their characters and grossly inappropriate, would not have conveyed the depths of what they mean to each other.  

Before all this, when John had rejected Sherlock in anger, he speaks to his brother of how lonely it is not to have a friend who understands.  Mycroft dismisses the need, saying that all normal people are like goldfish.  In turn, later, Sherlock refutes Mycroft's assertion that he is not lonely, saying "how would you know?"  I highly doubt the great Sherlock Holmes knew about the emptiness he suffered before he had John Watson to confide in, to push him, to shrink his deficiencies and magnify his positives.  That line to Mycroft was actually one of the most heart-felt lines in the entire episode to me.  Holmes is telling his brother, without any words at all, that his goldfish, the one Mycroft cannot understand, appreciate or indeed, even acknowledge, is the only thing that ever overcame the loneliness he suffered, and he didn't even know it until it was gone.  Anyone else notice how doggedly Sherlock pursued John's welfare, his habits and whereabouts to Mycroft in Serbia?  He was so....alone, and he knew it.  And until his purpose was achieved, he couldn't even bear to return to London, where every corner held memories of his dearest friend.  And indeed - when he came back, he was haunted by John's words at every turn, and we saw the sadness, and how he attempted, and failed, to fill it with a semblance of humanity towards Molly.

And I see, at the end, the very real fear that Sherlock has, not knowing who attacked John and why.  Now that he knows how important John is to him, that he has missed him, been haunted by him, and nearly lost him, the thought that he may be taken from him by some unknown force is so unbearable, he cannot even look John in the eye to talk of it.  And indeed, he tries to laugh it off, even in promising to find the answer.  This is not romance.  This is kindred spirits, devoted friends, and the other halves for 2 broken souls.

I'm more than particularly satisfied with this episode, and desperately looking forward to the other 2 episodes.  Darn Brits and their minuscule seasons!



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