“My companion flushed up with pleasure at my words, and the earnest way in which I uttered them. I had already observed that he was as sensitive to flattery on the score of his art as any girl could be of her beauty.”
– John Watson, A Study in Scarlet, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Hello~! SF again. Welcome back to Sherlock Saturday! Just a quick note before we get started [since the recap part this week is filled with lots of super interesting stuff]: a quote graphic went up last week along with Dodo’s endorsement of the series. Please check it out!
And some background music for the recap:
John returns to his hotel room and checks the sent messages on his phone. “If brother has green ladder, arrest brother. SH” Curious, he opens his laptop and starts a Google search for “Sherlock Holmes.” [And John, seriously? Your typing…]
Elsewhere in the city, another suicide is taking place…
The next morning, John meets Sherlock in front of 221B Baker Street. MRS. HUDSON (Una Stubbs), the landlady, greets Sherlock with a fond embrace and welcomes them into the building. Sherlock springs up the stairs with a light step, but John has a bit more trouble with his leg, limping up at a much more sedate pace. Beyond the bamboo print wallpaper of the hallway is a cozy little flat, littered with boxes and other miscellaneous clutter [is that a skull?? it is a skull]. John quickly finds out that the mess belongs to his new flatmate, whose idea of “straightening up” involves pinning unopened mail to the mantelpiece with a jackknife. Alright, then.
Mrs. Hudson comes upstairs, fussing over Sherlock’s mess. She immediately makes the assumption that John and Sherlock are *winkwink* you-know and cheerfully informs John that she runs a tolerant, hate-free house, much to his bewilderment. While she’s cleaning up, John confesses that he’s looked Sherlock up on the Internet and found his website, “The Science of Deduction”.
“What did you think?” Sherlock asks, bouncing a little on his heels and sporting an eager little quirk to his lips. [I think I saw a 5-year-old do that once, when he was showing me his finger painting. Just saying.] John shoots him a stern, disbelieving look, to which the giddy expression promptly slides off his face. Before they can continue the conversation, Mrs. Hudson interrupts with the news, bringing up the three serial suicides of the past year. Sherlock looks out of the window down at the police car pulling to the curb and corrects her: “Four. There’s been a fourth. And there’s something different this time.”
Detective Inspector Lestrade runs up the stairs two at a time. There’s been another suicide at Brixton, Lauriston Gardens and what’s different this time is that the victim’s left a note. The police need Sherlock’s expertise and Sherlock coolly agrees to come after the police car. The moment the DI leaves however, Sherlock breaks into exultations, literally leaping into the air for joy and spinning about the flat:
“BRILLIANT! Yes! Four serial suicides and now a note. Ahh, it’s Christmas.”
He quickly grabs his coat, scarf, and gloves and runs out the door, telling Mrs. Hudson that he may need food when he returns later that evening. She responds drily, “I’m your landlady dear, not your housekeeper.” (We’ll find that she says this a lot—whom are you trying to convince Mrs. Hudson? Your boys or yourself?)
After Sherlock leaves, Mrs. Hudson makes the mistake of commenting on John’s forced indolence as a result of his leg and he explodes with a vehement, “DAMN MY LEG!” but immediately apologizes. Mrs. Hudson brushes off the instance (“I understand dear, I’ve got a hip.”) and goes to make him a cup of tea. As John picks up the newspaper put down by Mrs. Hudson, he’s interrupted by Sherlock appearing at the door.
“You’re a doctor. In fact, you’re an army doctor.”
“Seen a lot of injuries then, violent deaths.”
“Bit of trouble too, I bet.”
“Of course, yes. Enough for a lifetime. Far too much.”
“Want to see some more?”
“Oh God, yes.”
With this exchange, the two men leave 221B Baker Street and catch a taxi. In the taxi, Sherlock explains that he is the only consulting detective in the world. He invented the job because he is the only person in the world suited for it.
“When the police are out of their depth, which is always,” he says, “They consult me.”
John scoffs in disbelief, “The police don’t consult amateurs.”
Sherlock immediately goes about proving that John is right—the police consult Sherlock because he is most certainly not an amateur. He explains everything from his earlier, incredible deduction in the lab at St. Barts, showing that he drew out John’s life story from a few minor, often overlooked details. Having finished, Sherlock stares blankly ahead, thinning his lips [in anticipation?]. However, John’s reaction causes him to look over in surprise.
“That… was amazing.”
“You think so?”
“Of course it was. It was extraordinary, quite extraordinary.”
Clearly this is not a reaction that Sherlock is used to getting. Case in point: at the crime scene, Sergeant Sally Donovan greets Sherlock as Freak and is openly hostile. ANDERSON (Jonathan Aris), the forensic scientist who meets them at the door is no better. Sherlock retaliates at the both of them by pointing out a few disjointed and utterly inconvenient facts: Sally didn’t go home last night, Anderson’s wife is away, the two of them are wearing the same deodorant, and the good sergeant’s knees appear bruised—scrubbing the floors of the Anderson household, perhaps?
They enter a bleak, dirty old building. John is instructed to put on what looks like a blue onesie [complete with booties!] intended to preserve the integrity of the crime scene. Lestrade also puts one on, but Sherlock declines to do so [clearly he’s above such trivialities], and the three men make their way up the winding stairs. In the room at the very top, a woman in a garish pink suit lies dead on the floor: Jennifer Wilson, the victim of the latest serial suicide.
Sherlock kneels down to inspect the body. In a clever filmic technique, Sherlock’s actions are accompanied by his deductions in floating words so the viewer is able to follow his thought process. [We certainly would not be able to otherwise!] The woman has scratched the word “Rache” into the floorboards with her fingernails and when Sherlock stands up from the body, Anderson comments on this from the doorway. According to the forensic scientist, the word is German for “revenge”, which clearly indicates that the victim was German. Sherlock shows his appreciation for Anderson’s finer powers of reasoning by slamming the door in his face.
Sherlock insists that John take a medical examiner’s look at the body. Lestrade protests, saying that the police have a medical team outside who can perform that task, but Sherlock flatly refuses because the Yarders won’t work with him. [It is implicit that he doesn’t want to work with them either.] Lestrade tries again, saying that he’s already broken regulations by letting a civilian onto the crime scene, to which Sherlock retorts caustically, “Because you need me.” Lestrade only sighs and agrees.
John kneels down by the body with some difficulty and puts his face next to that of the dead woman, checking underneath her eyelids and examining her hand. He quickly determines that she has died of asphyxiation, from choking on her own vomit. Then it is Sherlock’s turn.
He reveals that the woman is in her late thirties, is a professional person (likely in the media), has traveled from Cardiff to London with a small suitcase to stay for the night, and that she is a serial adulterer. He deduced all of this from a short inspection of the body and from details that anybody could have noticed, but would have been unable to piece the facts together into a cohesive narrative the way that Sherlock does so effortlessly. John vocalizes for the second time what we are all thinking:
Sherlock whirls on him, “Do you know you do that out loud?”
“Sorry, I’ll shut up.”
“No, it’s… fine.”
Sherlock insists on looking for the woman’s suitcase, saying that they need to find out who Rachel is [because obviously only a complete idiot *ahem* Anderson would think that she was writing angry words in German]. Lestrade cuts in and says that there was never a suitcase. For some odd reason, hearing this throws Sherlock into action, running down the stairs and yelling that the lack of a suitcase at the crime scene proves that she was murdered, along with the other three victims.
The woman never made it to the hotel so she must have left the case in the car which means… Sherlock gets an epiphany then, utterly thrilled. “Serial killers, always hard. You have to wait for them to make a mistake.” And apparently, this killer’s already made one. However, the only thing Lestrade can get from him on the matter before he dashes off is one word: “PINK!” Yea, huh? It’s okay Lestrade, we don’t get it either.
As Anderson’s forensics team move into the room, John is left to trudge down all those flights of stairs on his own. Sherlock is nowhere to be found, so Sergeant Donovan directs John to the main street. She stops him before he leaves however, with a parting warning,
“Stay away from that guy. You know why he’s here? He’s not paid or anything. He likes it. He gets off on it. The weirder the crime, the more he gets off. One day just showing up won’t be enough. One day we’ll be standing around a body and Sherlock Holmes will be the one that put it there. He’s a psychopath. Psychopaths get bored.”
John doesn’t say a word, merely turns and heads down the road, but he’s thinking about what she’s said. As he passes by a red telephone booth, the payphone inside rings. John stops to look at it curiously, but checks the time on his watch [sighs because ughh, it’s late] and keeps walking.
The moment he passes by the phone booth however, the phone stops ringing…
The case that Sherlock texted about with John’s phone isn’t actually part of the Sherlock Holmes canon. If you go to Sherlock’s website, “The Science of Deduction” [hosted by the series], you can read all about that case as well as other Sherlock BBC-related goodies. John’s blog and Molly’s blog exist as well, but be wary of visiting these sites if you haven’t finished the series! There be spoilers!
In this part of the episode, we meet Mrs. Hudson, the landlady of 221 Baker Street. She’s an absolutely precious, motherly lady who seems to accept Sherlock’s many eccentricities without judgment. Perhaps it’s indicative that, despite his unrepentant disregard for social courtesies, Sherlock greeted her at the door with a hug. Take my word for it—the relationship dynamic between Mrs. Hudson and Sherlock is one to keep an eye on.
It’s amusing to note that Mrs. Hudson immediately assumes that Sherlock and John are in a relationship. Whether this is Mofftiss preempting the rabid fangirls [who had probably begun shipping Johnlock the moment John entered the lab at Barts] or simply because Sherlock’s people skills are so appalling that someone willing to live with him must be in love with him… Well. I leave that up to you to decide. I will talk more on this matter later when there’s more data to work with, and less chance of spoilers. 🙂
Up to this point, we’ve all seen Sherlock as something of a suave, if eccentric character—completely in control. However, as Lestrade leaves, we see another side of him entirely, that of a child with a new toy [except this particular child is a grown man, thrilled to pieces over a murder mystery]. Well. It’s not like we’re watching this show for the normal, well-adjusted characters, are we?
John also is a revelation. The haunted look in his eyes has not disappeared, nor has the utterly weary way he moves [it’s hard to believe he can even find the motivation to take the next step], but the first time he actually seems to take an interest in something is when he meets Sherlock and has something truly interesting happen to him after the war. From the barely bitten-off sharp retorts and outbursts of temper, we see glimpses of PTSD in John’s mannerisms, and in this part we are handed another piece of the puzzle.
“Want to see some more?”
“Oh God, yes.”
We start to see in this part of the episode why the relationship of this 21st century Holmes-and-Watson-pair work. I will talk more on why John needs Sherlock in the next part of the recap, but we see clearly in this episode why John fits neatly into a gaping void in Sherlock’s life. In the cab, John is amazed at Sherlock’s explanation [who wouldn’t be?] and doesn’t hesitate even a moment once he has processed Sherlock’s words. It was extraordinary, quite extraordinary and he has no scruples with repeating it aloud. No doubt it was acutely uncomfortable for him to listen to a near-stranger air out his family’s dirty laundry but he was willing to overlook this slight because what Sherlock had done was, well, pretty amazing. This is a kind gesture on his part and hints at the man underneath the scarred, broken exterior of the war hero.
The bland, almost hesitant way Sherlock turns to him after this is a clear indication that emphatic, heartfelt praise is not the normal reaction of the people who are the butt of Sherlock’s ruthlessly accurate deductions. [It’s a little heartwrenching, actually, how unsettled he is by John’s exclamations and compliments.] Brilliance is isolating, for many reasons, and it isn’t as though Sherlock tries particularly hard to tread softly on the egos of those around him. Stomping on them with spiked cleats might be a more accurate description—Donovan and Anderson stand in as examples of people who have been subjected to the Sherlock-treatment in the past and have hated him ever since. The way that Donovan speaks into her walkie-talkie is hardly professional [“Freak’s here, bringing him in.”] and implies that the rest of her squad feels the same way. With this kind of treatment, it’s no wonder that Sherlock does not want to work with them, and that he continues to antagonize them, which causes them to hate him more. It’s a vicious cycle that doesn’t end.
No doubt it is something of a comfort for Sherlock to have John there with him at the crime scene, someone who doesn’t hate him as the Freak. Actually, it’s interesting that although Sherlock emphatically insists to Lestrade that he requires an assistant at the crime scene, John doesn’t actually do much other than confirm what Sherlock already knows. [As a matter of fact, John doing his doctor bit takes all of five seconds to determine a cause of death and Sherlock didn’t even need his assessment.] So what exactly is John doing at the crime scene? Looking pretty? Martin Freeman isn’t hard to look at, don’t get me wrong, but in a pretty-contest with Benedict Cumberbatch in the room? Eeehh… [Best rethink that theory.]
No matter Sherlock’s reasons for bringing John to the crime scene, the fact is undeniable that no less than three times is he put in the unprecedented position of actually being appreciated for his unique skills. Who doesn’t like being told that they’re brilliant? Particularly when one deserves the adjective as much as Sherlock does?
Director Inspector Lestrade [much like Mrs. Hudson] is a character to watch out for. Rather than getting upset over Sherlock’s antics [the mass texting of the reporters] or being surprised at the consulting detective’s apparent omniscience, Lestrade is oddly accepting of Sherlock’s personality quirks and even calls him in to help at crime scenes—past partnerships, perhaps? [Although I can’t imagine it’s much of a partnership if one has absolutely no clue and the one spends half his time verbally abusing the other.]
This has already been a beast of a commentary section, so I’ll close off with some remarks on Sherlock. Far from being the cheerful intellectual in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories [Watson commonly described Holmes as “genial”], BBC’s Sherlock has a hint of cruelty about his manner and seems to be wrapped up in his own little world half the time where the people around him aren’t entirely present, or even necessary. This Sherlock is still just as brilliant, but he’s definitely not quite normal in the sense that it is rare to meet someone this particular brand of eccentric, brilliant or otherwise. Perhaps it’s for the best anyway—it’d be rather boring to watch a TV show about someone normal, wouldn’t it? [And besides that, this level of eccentricity brings a whole new dimension to the Holmes-Watson dynamic. More on that later.]
Next time on Sherlock Saturday:
I’m going to have lots of goodies for you next week! There will be not one but two quote graphics next week [because I can’t resist], and I shall have a whole slew of fandom recommendations for you [i.e. art, fanvid, interviews, graphic manips, etc.]! Stay tuned!
Screencaps: Aithine.org [some crops and edits made by me]