Been listening to them for the past week and this has been my inspiration for the latest ’The Perfect Fall‘ chapter. Which WILL BE updated either tonight or tomorrow. People been asking about that update and I didn’t have a real answer until now.
So, I was watching Folding Ideas (a brilliant YouTube channel) critique of the editing in Suicide Squad, and he started talking about the Rule of Threes. Basically, the rule states that when you are communicating an idea in film (this idea can take the form of a concept, motif, image, etc), a typical way of doing it is by mentioning the idea three times. The first time you introduce the idea, the second time you mention the idea to remind the audience of its existence (often this step is repeated more than once, but the function is the same each time: to remind the audience of the idea’s existence, often while adding new information or context), and the final time the significance of the idea in relation to the story is fulfilled and/or revealed.
A good example of this is The Merchant of Samarra in T6T. After the credits the episode begins with the introduction of the story (setup). Later Sherlock and Mycroft discuss the story, both reminding us of its existence and expanding its significance in relation to Sherlock’s life (reminder). In the final scene it is repeated one more time, and this time it is directly related and tied into the events of the episode (payoff). This isn’t a perfect example because the payoff isn’t complete–we don’t quite understand the specifics of how the story ties into the Final Problem of staying alive–but you get the idea.
This Rule of Threes has a double significance for BBC Sherlock because of its three episode structure: while each episode (of the first three seasons) more-or-less stands on its own, the first two episodes contain many little Setups and Reminders to increase the Payoff of the third episode. The most obvious example in Season 1 is Moriarty: in episode 1 we are given his name (Setup) in episode 2 his involvement is occasionally mentioned or implied (Reminder) and in episode 3 we actually meet him (Payoff). Another obvious example in Season 1 is the confirmation that Sherlock has a heart: episode 1 raises the question of whether he is a sociopath (Setup), episode 2 implicitly but insistently poses the same question (Reminder), and episode 3 answers the question: he absolutely is not (Payoff). Again, these are just two of the most surface-level examples; you could go crazy identifying all of the ways in which the first episode of each season sets up ideas which episode two reminds us of (and usually expands upon) and episode three pays off. There’s nothing extraordinary about this; it’s a normal tool employed by many storytellers.
So what’s my point? Well, “People always give up after three,” not just because we have been told that there will be three episodes, but also because that is what we have been programmed to expect by both generalized storytelling patterns and by the storytelling patterns of BBC Sherlock specifically. TFHC has done an admirable job of collecting all the ways in which TFP failed to pay off what was set up and what we were reminded of in the first two episodes (@sherlock-overflow-error just updated a fantastic collection of all the fans observations), so I won’t go into that. In the end, I’m just saying the same thing as everyone else: TFP broke the rules of storytelling and BBC Sherlock’s own storytelling methods at the most fundamental level. Either it is a massive failure, or it was a brilliant way to discomfort the audience and make them feel like something is off; because we are so used to these rules of storytelling that we subconsciously recognize when they are being violated even if we can’t consciously identify the issue.
But it’s even better than that. Because at least when it comes to this issue, if there is a fourth episode it means that they didn’t break the rules of storytelling at all. They just misrepresented which part of the story story they are telling: they told that this episode was the Payoff when in reality it is the continuation of the Reminder. And here’s my favorite part: this means that, insofar as we recognize this rule being broken, what we subconsciously assume is not simply that there is something wrong, but that there is something missing–that there is more to the story.
In other words: by choosing to break this particular rule, Mofftiss subconsciously nudges even casual viewers to want and on some level expect a fourth episode–the payoff they never received.
I’m disgusted and dissapointed. I hated TFP. It took me almost a bottle of wine to survive this shit. The thing they’ve done with Moriarty is the most stupid and senseless ‘plot twist’ I’ve ever seen. I don’t know if I would me able to watch TFP ever again. Terrible, idiotic, TERRIBLE. 2/10, you know why it’s not 1/10? 'Cause I can make new gifs with Moriarty (gifs, not short movies since I wouldn’t bare all the nonsense that was being said) and think of all 'fix-me-fanfics’ which I need to write to pretend that TFP has never happened.