Before we get started: I know a lot of people aren't big fans of this episode because of the racial elements. And I can see where they're coming from here, the treatment of Soo-lin leaves a lot to be desired. I suspect a bit of that was trying to translate "The Dancing Men" (we can all agree that's the canon inspiration here, yeah?) which relies on a focus on honor and secrecy I don't think translates all that well into modern Western culture. Maybe they felt a need to make that seem "exotic"? (Which is still problematic.) Also there's the ending, where Sherlock lets the pretty white receptionist keep a very valuable, historically noteworthy piece of Chinese jewellery. It's played up as a sweet moment, but I wonder how people would react if we were talking about the Elgin marbles or some such. Which we are, it's just not recognized as such.
So, yes. I get why some folks would be more than a bit turned off by all that. I'm choosing to focus on other things, just because I don't feel all that qualified to talk about those other problems. I did want to at least highlight them, though.
Last week I talked about how in ASIP, John and Sherlock are actually very comfortable in their skins but a bit blind to how they might improve. This episode, the focus is much more on how incomplete they are. How they need to move forward.
Let's start with John. Last week I mentioned how beautiful he was, how self-assured and natural and at ease with himself, with a gun in his hands. Or running across rooftops: you know, in action. But he's been booted out of the army, and he's not perceived as capable of that kind of life anymore. (By anyone other than Sherlock, anyway, and I'll get to that.) The solder side of his identity, the man of action in a warzone, isn't enough to pay the bills. He's proud. Having his inadequacies laid bare by the cold machine (the automated teller in this instance, though the analogy holds) is hard. Asking for help is harder. So he takes a job that bores him to tears because he needs the money, and winds up quite bad at it. It's a bit depressing, actually - for the audience and certainly for
I actually think this is a lot of the motivation behind asking Sarah out. He's trying to readjust to civilian life, and failing at it. Enter masculinity, and another major area where he can succeed as a man, by making it with Sarah. All of which makes it a bit funny how thoroughly unprepared he was to have guests back at the flat, and how he brought her back anyway. I suspect he genuinely does have a connection to Sarah (she's actually quite lovely, and has enough adventure in her to be a good match for John), but that his own life is so impermanent at the moment, he really doesn't have the stability a serious relationship requires.
Now, to Sherlock. Over and over again in this episode, there's such a neediness about him, isn't there? Not romantically, so much, but definitely in terms of emotional connection, and validation. It hurts him, when Sebastian Wilkes makes fun of him in front of John - and equally when John corrects him about the nature of their relationship. Same too when Dimmock turns up and he's so hard to work with. There's a world-off-kilter wrongness when the people he's used to aren't there. I'm not sure I'd call it natural relationships, but certainly there's this fondness, this familiarity for the people he's used to.
But at the same time... He repeatedly separates himself from John (staying beside when John goes shopping, breaking in to two separate flats). He shams Molly and takes advantage of her fondness for him, and to resolve a fairly minor point. He excoriates Dimmock more than once, and we know he knows how to manipulate people's emotions. But he's also pulled toward John again and again. Rescuing him and Sarah makes sense, practically, but beyond that the show focuses on John and Sherlock together in the aftermath: talking to Dimmock, working out the case. I don't mean there's a romantic connection there, and I'm not even sure they've reached the level of friendship. But there's something, a drawing together and pushing away at the same time. It's like Sherlock's a bit at war with himself over just how close he wants to be, how involved he wants John in this whole thing.
(And the deductions. It's really revealing to me who Sherlock will make his deductions to. He'll do it for John, I think because he feeds off of John's awe, and also because he genuinely likes dazzling him. And he'll be provoked to bring them out, almost like a weapon, to prove he's right. But sometimes he holds back, too. In front of Sebastian, for instance. It's not something he whips out as a party trick. This makes me genuinely sad for Sherlock in his uni days: wanting to fit in so badly, not sure how to do it other than deducing for his dormmates. It's just.... ugh.)
Beyond that, I loved how practical John was. Not feeling the need to poke around in soiled clothes for a case. Taking a photo rather than trying to remember the graffiti, etc. Sherlock and John need to complement each other, but it's not meant to be the great brain and the great heart here, I don't think: because this John's heart isn't so great (he's not morally perfect by a longshot), and this Sherlock was never a mind separated off. He's a bit uncomfortable around his own emotions, he tends to undervalue them, but they are there. What we get instead is a Sherlock who's a bit "in his head" (overexcited at crime scenes, at the thrill of the chase) and a John who as the common sense to see where Sherlock's making things a bit harder than they are. Up to a point, at least. It's actually a pretty interesting dialectic this can set up.
But at the end of the day, what most stays with me about this episode is how Sherlock and John seem so complementary. They're drawn together, and each seems to scratch a very particular itch for the other one. There's a problem there, though, because that sort of codependency has a tendency to get carried away. John has a need for the spectacular, and it's not really healthy for Sherlock to be spectacular, in the way John needs and on a permanent basis. And Sherlock needs an emotional connection with someone else, but John has so many trust issues, and such a deep-seated need to have his own worth (which isn't bad on its own), there are problems getting to bound up with another person before he's really sure of his ability to stand on his own two feet. He seems just the sort who will get overinvested, and equally be wary of whether tat overinvestment is safe, okay, a sign of his personally being incomplete.
Enter TGG, but that's going to have to wait until next week. This entry was originally posted at http://marta-bee.dreamwidth.org/6265.html. Please comment there using OpenID.