The fortress of many solitudes: Sherlock and the ‘emotional context’
I love BBC’s Sherlock Holmes exactly because he cracked.
So here we are. After six glorious years and four seasons, one of the most compelling and beautifully written, directed and played tv series of all time is over. BBC’s Sherlock, created by Stephen Moffat and Mark Gatiss, met its inevitable end (maybe, more likely, who really knows with those people?!).
The only sure thing about “The Last Problem” is its controversial reception by fans and Sherlock-ed all over the web: although some of them freaked out, cried and preached its emotional turmoil, many raised their voices in disbelief, describing the episode, the characters and the whole forth season, as cheap, cheesy, too emotional, and ‘incomprehensible bollocks’.
It’s true, it was too much: Mary, drugs, tears, Moriarty (God Bless you Andrew Scott, always and forever AMEN), forgotten sisters, tears again, emotional-Mycroft, tears, tears, emotional-Sherlock, more tears, a fortress borrowed by Black Mirror’s wet dreams, and a season which didn’t answer to any question.
True again, “It is what it is” might not be the answer the fandom was waiting to hear, especially not now, that it seems to be the last episode ever and everyone was probably craving to know where the frack are Irene Adler and Jim Moriarty (do someone really believe he’s dead?)
It wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t impeccable. It wasn’t brainy, exciting and satisfying enough for the most of us.
But what I found missing in many reviews I read in the last few days was what Eurus’d call the emotional context. Emotions are not very popular nowadays: emotional means cheap, easy, not smart enough, the entire opposite of a good script. Digging into human turmoil is a strategy for not really talented writers and directors. Even if emotions are the substance we made of, we don’t really want to swim into that river.
Well, we actually want to, but we tend to separate a good script from an emotional one. We simply don’t want it to be the focus of a product like Sherlock. What we want Sherlock Holmes to be is an archetype, a rational, smart, cold and uncaring detective, someone whose brain, acumen and sharp intuiton spare us to feel weak and powerless, to despair.
And then the East Wind blew.
I wasn’t ready for Eurus, no one was. Where Jim Moriarty was an umpredictable but familiar villain, Eurus is the unknown, the unexpected. Where Jim Moriarty was an intellectual challenge, Eurus is the emotional one. The loved one. Her manipulative abilities are the product of an unexplicable and unstoppable brain, a brain so sharp to cut to death.
It wasn’t about who’s the smartest in the family?, it really never was. Sherlock’s aways been a show about loneliness, distance, incommunicability and masks, the ones we wear in order to survive.
Sherlock was a roleplay where weirdos tried do disguise as socially integrated people. It was about shock, trauma, the lack of words in a language that is not able to depict emotional reality. About masculinity and the failure of it, about rationality and the uselesness of it when it comes to people and relationships, and expectations, about certainty, and the failure of it when it comes to the realm of otherness. It was about building human connections above the detritment of sidereal space.
It has always been a shelter to me, a show about “a junky who solves crimes to get high and the doctor who never came home from the war”. Addiction, grief, trauma, and the excruciating struggle of living with it and to accept other people in the doomed perimeter of our emotional space, its monsters, leaking memories and misconceptions.
“I suppose it’s that Sherlock now finally understands that’s he’s stronger and smarter than Mycroft in a way. But not because he is actually smarter — he’s less smart — but because his emotions, his connections to other human beings, the wisdom he has gained from his connections he has made in the world, make him stronger.” — Stephen Moffat at the BFI screening in London
Eurus allowed Sherlock, Mycroft and Watson, and us all along with them, to dig into that emotional context, to tear off layers and layers of masks and survival strategies. Her game was the final one because there’s nothing else to play once you reach your deepest self. Once you accept your fallibility and imperfection, once you embrace the trauma and the horrors of your memory, you become someone else. In spite of QI and genius, in spite of the bigger picture and the moral compass you followed your whole life, in spite of the excuses and the mechanisms that lead your idea of yourself, the East Wind blows everything off.
The big bad wolf, the main villain, the unstoppable sociopath is an nemesi for a different Sherlock Holmes. Eurus is a lost soul, a lost cause, a lost child, a little girl all alone on a plane which is about to crash.
Who wins when no one is playing anymore?
The Final Problem is a problem with no solution, a simphony of attempts, adjustements, faux pas, played at the bottom of a shaft by two drowning musicians who play the same notes but with different shades of pain. It’s a ballet performed in a house on fire, coreographed by a cripple and made of false steps.
- Well, you gave her what she was looking for — context
- Is that good?
- It’s not good, it’s not bad, it’s…It is what it is.
There is no such a thing as final; not a problem, not a solution. There is not a proper end. Not in real life, nor in fiction. Even if there is a last physical page, or end credits, the final curtain. Even if we need a closure in order to move on and let ourselves go with the flow of another adventure or the quiet predictability of the everyday life, there is no such a thing as closure. Not for real.
Nonetheless, there are unsteady steps, possible solutions, strategies, attempts.
There are people to come back to at the end of the day, there’s an address, in London, where desperate and lost people meet the sometimes desperate and lost people who live there, sitting on a sofa, arguing, shooting, sometimes laughing and surviving.
221B, Baker Street is the emotional context of failing, sometimes beaten up, many times lost and often desperate people. Real people. Complex people. Shocked, forgotten, emotional. Forgiven. Not so alone anymore. Together.
There is no such a thing as final problem. There is no such a thing as final solution. There is, from time to time, empathy.