The Blue Skull
Like many of you, this season’s skull picture in 221b has bothered me, so I set my mind to figuring it out. Truthfully, I am not absolutely sure I have, but I wanted to share my observations with you all. Who knows? Maybe something I say will spark an epiphany within someone else.
I’ve seen the post with Arwel’s tweets on the vase and how that relates to the mystery of the skull and its newfound ability to change color. Maybe they ARE doing it just to screw with our minds, but I doubt it. That would mean they chose the color of the skull in the 221b scenes at random, then? Nah.
So, I began by creating a grid and watching the episodes again, noting everything from scene content, to people in the scenes, color of skull, and even whether Sherlock was using his cell phone in the scene. Unfortunately, there are no easily recognizable patterns that I can see, but I sure could have missed something.
I did have a moment of inspiration though, related to the Shakespeare we’ve been seeing this season!
We have a bit from MacBeth in TST, and then the fabulous Henry V scene in TLD, and I was suddenly reminded of a bit of horror story lore that I have come across in my reading.
In fact, this superstition appears in Shakespeare’s Richard III, Act 5 Scene 3.
After dreaming of the ghosts of all of his victims, Richard says:
Give me another horse! Bind up my wounds!
Have mercy, Jesu!—Soft, I did but dream.
O coward conscience, how dost thou afflict me!
The lights burn blue. It is now dead midnight.
Cold fearful drops stand on my trembling flesh.
What do I fear? Myself? There’s none else by.
Richard loves Richard; that is, I and I.
Is there a murderer here? No. Yes, I am.
Then fly! What, from myself? Great reason why:
Lest I revenge. What, myself upon myself?
Alack, I love myself. Wherefore? For any good
That I myself have done unto myself?
O, no! Alas, I rather hate myself
For hateful deeds committed by myself.
I am a villain. Yet I lie. I am not.
Fool, of thyself speak well. Fool, do not flatter.
Essentially, Richard is haunted by the ghosts of all the people he wronged, and he has a conversation with himself about his guilt vs. innocence. (I do know that Benedict Cumberbatch has portrayed Richard in this play.)
I definitely think there are some parallels with Sherlock here, so:
What if the skull painting turning blue is a sign that “spirits” are near? Not that we have actual ghosts in the show, but we definitely do have the hallucination of Mary lurking, and we have evidence that Sherlock is being “haunted” by her as well.
Let’s look at each episode:
(I apologize in advance for quality of the screen shots. I have the episodes on DVR.)
The Six Thatchers- Sherlock is telling us a story. We know the episode is his retelling because we see aquarium images at the beginning, and Sherlock’s voice telling us the Samarra story we hear later on from others, and that he references at the very end of the episode. He is telling the story filled with lies for John’s sake, so it makes sense that he could be haunted by Mary the whole time he tells it.
This may explain the number of times the skull glows blue within TST, the most of any episode. It’s like a neon sign signaling the points where Sherlock is haunted by Mary’s memory during his retelling of events. It may even explain all the blue lights we see during the episode.
The first time we see the blue skull is during the scene where Sherlock learns of the Wellsborough case. The scene where he does this:
Could he be looking at his vision of Mary?
The next time the skull is blue is during the scene with Balloon John.
What is this blurry haze that lingers during the whole scene? It’s not the red balloon.
Next, we see Sherlock in 221b waiting for Greg after his fight with Ajay. He’s fiddling with the AGRA stick (Mary is certainly at the forefront of his mind.), and his eyes appear to flick toward the fireplace.
The Lying Detective- Sherlock is out of his head, high on drugs this entire time, and the skull glows blue only once at the very beginning of the episode when he is home alone, in pain, and “Faith” comes to present her case. He keeps glancing at John’s chair here. Remembering John, or is he seeing someone else sitting in it?
Mary did sit there. (Check out how far apart those chairs are in this scene, BTW.)
Plus, during the “Unto the Breach” scene, Sherlock mentions hallucinations to Mrs. Hudson when she asks about the picture in the room. He says,
“Oh, these pictures! Oh, you can see them too. That’s good.”
And then he looks at the envelope from Mary on the mantle.
Now, remember “Mean Mary”?
She appears alongside John’s nice Mary in the same hospital scene, leading me to believe that MM is Sherlock’s hallucination.
Mean Mary. In the same scene with Nice Mary.
There is further proof that Sherlock has been seeing her himself when he speaks to her about the hat before leaving 221b at the end of the episode.
The Final Problem- This entire episode is John’s dream, so there is no blue skull at all in this episode.
A Few Words about the Black Skull:
The skull picture appears very dark in the ‘Unto the Breach’ scene.
I think this is symbolic of Sherlock’s descent into the drugs. Recall that Sherlock says this to John right after we see the darkened skull,
“I’m at the bottom of a pit and I’m still falling and I’m never climbing out.”
(Can this also be a foreshadow for the well in TFP? Maybe this where John got the idea for his dream.)
The next time we see the skull picture, Sherlock is really at rock bottom. He is drugged out, dying, beaten by John, and willing to be smothered by Smith. His apartment is full of people, and Sherlock is in the hospital utterly alone.
This is the only scene where we see 221b without Sherlock in it and the skull is utterly blacked out.
What does this mean in the context of my theory about the blue skull/lights?
I don’t know.
I told you I didn’t have all the answers.
Tagging: Apologies to those I have forgotten and those who don’t want to be tagged. Feel free to tag others!