Want to instill doubt in someone? “Change minor details in their surroundings.”
Yes, this post is about Sherlock. Specifically, about the reason for all of those pesky set design flaws that grew larger and larger as series 4 progressed.
For example, the skull picture we normally see…
…turns into this.
Or when Ella’s office looked like this…
…but turned into this.
There are hundreds of examples but how about simply one more.
John’s flat looked like this…
…but turned into this.
If you watch Many Happy Returns, which takes place before Series 3, you’ll see John’s front door doesn’t actually exist under the staircase – that was an unnecessary change in Series 4.
So what do all of these changes have to do with making an impression on the audience? Well. Everything.
When you want to get a group of people to doubt their own memory – or to plant new ones – you have to change things about what they already know, but don’t let on that you’ve changed anything.
And who does this for a living?
Derren Brown, the illusionist who had a cameo in The Empty Hearse. He’s also a very good friend of Mark Gatiss’. He has a fascinating video you can watch about this exact technique I’m explaining. By changing details visually, one can change how people doubt their own abilities to perceive reality, and also question their own memories.
Do you know all the outrageous things series 4 fed us?
– Mary is just an ordinary housewife with a good heart
– John would never save Sherlock from a serial killer
– John would beat Sherlock senseless
– Sherlock simply needs love from family to complete him
– John has a bunch of friends that love to look after his baby
– John would blame Sherlock for any harm befalling Mary
– John would easily forgive Mary for shooting his best friend in cold blood
– Mary knows Sherlock and John better than anyone ever could
These things blatantly contradict everything we’ve ever known about these characters. Still don’t believe Mary is a manipulative psychopath? Go read the HLV script; it just made its rounds on the internet today.
You’ve been wondering why series 4 is so screwed up, narratively and visually? It has a purpose. It is to make the audience doubt – to make the audience doubt their own ability to comprehend reality.
Is it working?