Sherlock, mysteries, and ‘rehearsing’ for bad times

Happy New Year! Thank you for reading and sharing.

Could I be accused of using a popular cultural phenomenon to draw eyes to the site since I probably could have launched this post from lots of other source material? Jim Moriarty would insist, “That’s what people DO!” To be fair to myself, this question was genuinely inspired by my recent bingeing on BBC One’s Sherlock.

If you are up-to-date, no issue, but if you are just getting into the series (and have managed to miss all of the season 3 press!), this post contains pretty much THE spoiler for The Reichenbach Fall in the imminent paragraph. So stop now if you don’t want to know.

Much about Sherlock is enjoyable and entertaining. Some moments escalate to great. For me the cheeky devils are in the details, and I am particularly fond of the asides and non-plot moments that make the show snap. And it was just such a well-wrought moment, though not on the playful side of the register, that inspired this post: Martin Freeman’s spare lines and physical acting as Watson goes to Sherlock’s body at the end of The Reichenbach Fall. 

The sequence from John starting across the street to him pushing away the final concerned stranger is not quite two minutes, but you can see his whole arc: Watson’s attempt to remain remote and clinical about what has happened; the disabling sorrow of realization -not just that Sherlock is dead, but perhaps also how important he was; and finally comprehending that there’s nothing else to be done. There is just a heavy, confusing nothing.

Martin was aided and abetted by slow-mo, disorienting camera angles, and slightly heavy-handed incidental music, but I still think he nailed it. My first question was “Where did Martin have to go, mentally, to get the emotion for the scene?”

I know where I would go. And somehow that made me wonder about all of us. Why do we watch and read mysteries? Why do we seek out these opportunities to take death lightly? Are we practicing for those moments in our lives when the worst happens, and even though there are no camera crews, we somehow feel like the whole world is watching?

Oh come on! It’s just entertainment. Yes, of course I get that. And I could probably make a well-supported case for the entertainment-value of blood sport through the entire history of humanity. But I get a little ill facing the predilection for strength and winning, even when it is unjust and cruel. So, for comfort, I wonder about the other explanations: inuring ourselves to that which is awful in the world; feeling sympathy for those who face these disgusting, awful scenes every day; finding someone whose life is darker, grimmer, sadder than our own; curiosity about what we would do if we found a dead body, or created one; seeing every kind of person, but particularly ordinary ones, in mysteries -sometimes reaching above themselves to do something extraordinary.

Do you love mysteries and crime procedurals? Why? Which characters do you relate to, do you look for?

While you’re figuring that out Sherlock Season 3 started in the UK on Jan 1. It will air in the US on your local PBS affiliate starting Sunday January, 19th.

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