So, here is where the “nerd” in Actor. Nerd. Fashionista comes into play. As I was typing up my review for episodes two and three of Sherlock, I found myself thinking a lot about Sherlock’s character development during this new series. I was going to add Sherlock’s character progression as one of the things I loved most about "His Last Vow," but, like always, I began typing away, and soon I found myself with a three page discussion of Sherlock’s unconscious mind and his traumatic childhood. That doesn’t happen too often, does it? So, needless to say, I had to take it out of my review post simply because it was too long. But I enjoyed dissecting Sherlock’s character so much that I made this post for you all to see what I found.
There is no denying that series three has seen a huge change in character for Sherlock Holmes. After two years abroad, risking his life, and being separated from his only friend, Sherlock was bound to return to London as a new man. Little did we know, we were about to get the most information on our favorite consulting detective ever. Obviously, there was some great Sherlock moments in this series, but I can’t talk about them all, so here are the ones that really stuck with me.
Since episode one, it was obviously that the show runners wanted to show more of who Sherlock Holmes is, past and present. In the earlier series, the show runners made it a point to not bring Sherlock’s drug history into play; understandable because it is something that is constantly overused. But, the way Sherlock’s character has been developing in this series should have resulted in nothing less than a return to his addiction. It is never explained why he has returned to his old habits-- we are only given Sherlock’s weak excuse that he was trying to outsmart Magnussen-- but we can make some assumptions.
Firstly, we are given great insight to Sherlock’s childhood; hence, we can make a strong deduction as to why he retreated to drugs in the first place. Throughout "His Last Vow," we see many references to the young Sherlock. He is constantly ridiculed by his brother, which results in a man who doesn’t have the greatest self-confidence (hence, why he is so rude to everyone else… It’s the constant cycle of the bullied becoming the bullier). His childhood couldn’t have been the greatest: he constantly lived the in shadow of his cruel older brother, consistently being told he was stupid and not worth the time. His only childhood friend was his dog, who was clearly taken away from him, whether viciously or not, we don’t know. (This probably explains why Sherlock separates himself from people now that he is adult; the only thing he has ever loved was killed.) So, with all these factors now explained it is obvious to see why he reverted to drugs in the first place (and, of course the classic explanation of it helps to stimulate his intelligence).
Now, flash forward to the events of "His Last Vow." What would prompt Sherlock to return to his drug habit? Since Sherlock returned to London, he hasn’t been in a complete sane state of mind. He clearly wasn’t on holiday while he was away. His activities abroad have been dangerous and harmful. We aren’t even aware of the situations he had gotten himself into while he was away, but he obviously had a tough time while he was in exile, seeing as he was tortured and all. I don’t think that is something you just recover from. Throughout the series, we see glimpses of into the unstable mindset Sherlock now possess. Along with the traumas of those two years away, he hears John's voice when he is working a case with Molly, and he clearly has a bit of a mental break during John's wedding. Is it possible that Sherlock reverted back his drug habit simply to stabilize his mind?
But more importantly, Sherlock has lost John. Like his younger self, Sherlock doesn’t have friends. He had Redbeard as a kid, and now he has John as an adult. When he returned from exile he believed everything would be just as it was before; little did he know, John had moved on with his life, and Sherlock wasn’t the center of attention anymore. John wasn’t returning to Baker Street, even after Sherlock resurrected himself. The heartbreak of losing his only friend to Mary was too much for him handle. Sherlock had let himself get attached. He put the little bit of emotion he had into John Watson, only for it be ripped away from him. Mycroft told him not to get attached because the same thing will happen now like it did when he lost Redbeard. Was it the lost of John Watson that made Sherlock return to the drug scene? Was the pain of loss, for a man who distances himself from emotion, too much for Sherlock to bear?
My favorite moment of this whole series was when Sherlock got shot. In this scene we got to delve into Sherlock’s unconscious mind, and had a fantastic opportunity to see into Sherlock’s true character. The character we see on the outside is a constant facade. Even in his most sincere moments, we can never tell if he’s being truthful or not. Sherlock protects himself by putting on a mask of logic and intelligence. But, once you get inside in head, there is no hiding. In this scene, we are transported into his mind to see how it operates. Soon we are taken into the depths of his unconscious. We are shown, very symbolically, a young Sherlock at about 12 years old. He is being badgered and mocked and ridiculed by his older brother. He tries to defend himself by telling him that he is clever, only to be beaten down again. This young boy begins to doubt himself. He doesn’t think he can live up the cleverness of his older brother. This bullying from his brother has clearly caused him to be hindered as an adult.
Next, we see Sherlock recall the love of his childhood dog to comfort him from the pain. We already know that he didn’t have a very nice childhood growing up with Mycroft, so Redbeard acted as young Sherlock’s only friend. We learn that his dog was put down, and this loss obviously affected him as a kid. There is no questioning now why Sherlock has an issue connecting with people. The loss of his best friend clearly affected him as a child, which has now transcended into his adult life. Sherlock learned from this experience not to love anyone because it will only lead to loss and heartbreak; hence, his apparent lack of emotion towards anyone. He has closed himself off to the world. He disconnects himself from all other humans and thinks only logically and practically, this we already knew. Mycroft asks John in "A Scandal in Belgravia" what we are to make of Sherlock because he has chosen a career path of a detective. Well, we can deduce this about his heart: he separates himself so he doesn’t get involved. He doesn’t want to make connections and friendships with people because it will hurt too much when their gone, something he learned from losing Redbeard.
For me, the most striking moment during this scene was Sherlock's interaction with Moriarty. Just as Sherlock slips into a coma, he enters a padded room holding a chained up, deranged Moriarty. As a viewer of this scene, we have to remember that this is not Moriarty; this is a figment of Sherlock’s mind, so first we need to disconnect ourselves with any idea that this is, in any way, Moriarty’s character. Because of the physical state Sherlock’s body was in, it’s safe to say he was very deep in mind. He is in a place he probably wouldn’t have been if he was simply searching his mind palace.
I interpreted this scene as Moriarty is the evil within Sherlock. Moriarty plays the role of the hatred Sherlock has for himself, the mental instability that is rising, and his psychotic nature. Like I said in my review of this episode, this scene plays out like a physiological thrill. Have you ever seen the film Fight Club? In the film, Brad Pitt’s character is a figment of Edward Norton’s mind. Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) represents the evil, madness, and pure insanity within the narrator’s mind. That is what’s happening here. Benedict plays the part of Sherlock that is, should we say, “human,” and Andrew plays the part of Sherlock that is pure evil; hence, why it has Moriarty’s face. This “Moriarty” is the driving force that is leading Sherlock into insanity. In this scene, he is the force pushing Sherlock towards death. "Moriarty" is always there in the back of Sherlock's mind, leading him away from the side of the angels.
That's some powerful stuff, eh? I absolutely loved that sequence. Go back and watch from this point of view, and it is even more powerful. Benedict and Andrew's performances are so impeccable and insightful; I wouldn't have noticed any of this without their superb acting.
Originally Posted on ActorNerdFashionista.blogspot.com on January 21, 2014
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