The death of Ophelia and the true death of Ophelia
A little while ago I was thinking about an idea for a painting where Sherlock falls on his back after getting shot and he looks like Ophelia in the water, surrounded by flowers. It’s always stood out to me how many shots of a very beautiful fallen Sherlock there are in the shooting/mind palace scene,
I was then googling Ophelia and reading stuff, my understanding of her being pretty basic, then I found this tv trope: Unrequited Tragic Maiden. She is the Anna Stern to your Seth Cohen, she’s wise, she’s generous, she’s perfect for the lead guy and yet, he chooses another.
This is how Sherlock feels as he dies. This is how he sees himself,
He is the tragic romantic false lead in his own mind. He tried to be supportive, he stepped aside for his beloved’s happiness and now he’s doing the final noble thing to do: literally getting out of the way. And he is so tragically beautiful as he does so.
This could be why there are flower-like patterns on the wallpaper as he falls: the mirrors could be seen as the water, the wallpaper as Ophelia’s flowers. This could be why Molly, someone we could see as Sherlock’s own Ophelia, is wearing a shirt with little flowers on it (pansies: for thoughts?). We see Molly toughen up and stop being Ophelia, too, when she slaps him earlier in HLV. We see her in the mind palace start out speaking very sweetly and meekly and then she turns very assertive and stern. Molly is done being his Ophelia and this will inspire him in being done being John’s. This could also be another reason why, as Sherlock falls, flowers seem to get closer to Mary. Ophelia gives a series of meaningfully chosen flowers to various characters before her death, after her apparent descent into madness,
Here, Sherlock reaches the climax of his own narrative as Ophelia. He allows himself to die as not-the-one. The man he loves got married, he died inside and now he’s dying on the outside, too. This part of him is perfectly ready to die. As Sholto said, ‘there’s a proper time to die’, and the Unrequited Tragic Maiden is wise and fair, she knows exactly when to get out of the way. (See Anna Stern at the airport, leaving for Pittsburg).
Except that John is in danger from his chosen love interest. She is the romantic false lead not Sherlock. It is this realisation that brings Sherlock back. He’s not the tragic, rejected love interest, he’s the true love interest: he’s the one. When Sherlock comes back from the dead, he kills Ophelia: his tragic sense of himself as not-the-person-that-John-wants. The part of him that gave up dies. He is in the game, now, he’s no longer on the sidelines. He is in love with John and he is the right person for him; he’s going to fight for him, now.
This is how Sherlock’s idea of himself as Ophelia dies. First by enacting Ophellia’s fate of dying/stepping aside and second by not dying she stops existing: he stops existing as her. His idea of himself as the tragic false romantic lead dies. Basically, he dies as her and then he kills the idea of her. It won’t be this way, he’s not bowing out, he’s not leaving John to whatever fate awaits him with Mary: he is the knight in shining armour and he will not be muscled out. All that matters is Mary, now, she’s the dragon and his damsel in distress must be protected.
Goodbye, Ophelia. Hello, Knight in Shining Armour.