The danger in Sherlock’s ‘unconquerable soul’

Josh Pease

Marta L.
January 22, 2014

I think I see Sherlock a bit differently than you, at least in the BBC rendition. While Doyle's Sherlock is a kind of ubermensch and praised for that, I think Moffat's Sherlock is much more humanized, and the other characters (John especially) encourage him to grow into someone with more of a connection to his fellow humans. Someone who is so wonderful he doesn't need others? That seems to be the Sherlock we get at the beginning of the series, but not the character he's growing into.

That said, I do agree with your concern about this kind of character. It's something I think we are attracted to, and that's troubling. Doyle's Sherlock does seem to meet your description a bit more than Moffat's, and he's one of the most adapted characters in the English language. That's telling, whatever I think of Moffat's. And worrying, because we shouldn't really want to be so great we don't need other people.

As an aside, I mentioned this piece in a recent post at my own blog, also on the BBC's version of Sherlock. I don't know how much traffic it will get, but I do hope other people will stop by here.

Joshua Pease
January 22, 2014

Love the thought you've put into the different iterations - and thanks for the shout-out. Very kind!

To your point - I'm not sure that Moffat's Sherlock is turning in to ANYTHING.

I didn't go into this in my article but I've actually been pretty disappointed with season 3. It has swung between [MINOR EP. 1 AND 2 SPOILERS] John (our emotional surrogate as viewers) having his grief get lip-service with no resolution. In this episode Sherlock is at his most prickly.

Then in the next episode Sherlock behaves completely out of character (emotionally) to everything he's been to that point. I felt like episode 2 was JARRINGLY inconsistent with everything up to that point. Episode 3 was the closest to form and I generally liked it a lot.

Tamara Hill Murphy
January 29, 2014

Josh, I read your review after publicly proclaiming (via FB!) how much I'm loving the new season of Sherlock. That before this season I liked the show (too many reasons not to be impressed and hooked) but this season I love the show. I said that I felt like both Sherlock and John Watson are becoming more "human".

Then I read your thoughts and Marta's comment and your response -- especially the statement "I'm not sure Moffat's Sherlock is turning into ANYTHING." While I don't totally agree with that statement, it caused me to better understand what I'm enjoying about this season. It's all about John Watson. He is turning into many things. He is growing in his ability to give and receive relationship -- including his ability to show anger, friendship, disapproval, laughter, and, yes, love -- both platonic and romantic love.

In my own life, I have a ministerial calling to give care and healing prayer for many people who are stuck in narcissism (though not necessarily in the clinical sense of the word -- which is a whole other level of conversation). Before maturing into this role I spent many years being the "codependent" one, the enabler. This may be why I'm so drawn to John Watson (and, really, the whole cast of supporting characters -- on the show and in Sherlock's life). In the past seasons, Sherlock made me cringe, yes. But Watson's character often made me feel a sick sense of familiarity with my old self.

In an odd way, this conversation is reminding me of my love for the film "Lars and the Real Girl". One could argue that Lars is a sort of a "flip-side" of Sherlock -- both insistent in isolating themselves from any view of the world but their own. The family and friends (and whole community, really) surrounding Lars do not reach him by insisting he change his personality.They reach him by entering his world in a truthful, mercy-giving way and showing true, truth-telling love. From this posture they insist that he show them respect and hope he gives them love back. That's the same posture I see John Watson -- and their little band of community -- showing Holmes. I think the storyline tells the truth (even though Christ is not mentioned, it is most assuredly His grace that enables this sort of behavior) that a self-proclaimed "master of my own fate" to wake up and notice he needs other people. And that recognizing that need is the first step away from narcissism.

THAT is why I'm loving season 3 of Sherlock.

Thanks so much, Josh, for beginning this great conversation.

p.s., One of my favorite lines from ep. 2 -- which I fully plan to steal for my own relationships-- is Mrs. Hudson to Sherlock, "Your mother has a lot to answer for." Brilliant!

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