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John Watson Meta Series: A Study in Pink

A short disclaimer, I have not seen yet the pilot. I own it, but I haven’t seen it yet because I’m saving it for when I really need new Sherlock material. But that means I can’t compare this episode to the original version, I can only draw comparisons between what we see here and what happens in later episodes. But I think that’s more than enough to be getting on with, so, without further ado, let’s get down to business.

In the original Sherlock Holmes stories, John Watson is our narrator (for most of the stories) and thus he is the first person we meet,  originally by being told he was recently sent home from war in Afghanistan. The show begins similarly, though this time through what seems to be a PTSD induced nightmare. But of course we quickly find out that Dr Watson is not haunted by the war, he misses it. This is not the only nightmare we see John have, and in both the beginning of this episode and HLV his nightmares are a symptom of an emptiness. Something is missing in John’s life, and we are given the chance to see it very early on.

The empty space here is overpowering. We see John isolated and alone, and all the while his theme plays (which we hear a lot less in later series). His room is sparse, it almost looks like he’s expecting this to be temporary. Even the place he’s living at during Many Happy Returns is homier than this.

Then there’s this shot in the morning after when he pulls out his laptop and just under is his gun

This does more than just establish the fact that he has a weapon so that the audience won’t be confused later. He is keeping his weapon nearby, somewhere easily accessible. He can’t leave that part of his life behind him, the part that wants to face dangerous situations. So he leaves this reminder of what his life was, and his preparation for what it could be again right below his laptop. And seeing as how as soon as he opens his laptop we are immediately shown his empty blog, and then cut to a scene of therapy which clearly isn’t working, the laptop is tied with that failed attempt of normalcy. So right from the first few minutes we are introduced, albeit inadvertently, to John’s main conflict throughout the series: his internal struggle between what he knows he wants and what society says is healthy.

And we already see how approaching things the “normal” way is never going to make John happy.

"Nothing ever happens to me"

Fortunately, when we next see John, he’s limping his way into the best thing that could possibly happen to him, in the form of an old friend Mike Stamford. He goes through the motions, calmly replies to Mike’s inquiries why he isn’t abroad getting shot at by calmly answering “I got shot”, laughs halfheartedly at Mike’s weak attempts at humour, scoffs at the idea of going to his sister for help, and snaps a bit when Mike says he’s not the John Watson he know, because he’s not anymore. He doesn’t let on how lost he is, because that’s not something John Watson would ever purposefully do. Despite being a nice(ish) fellow, and a doctor and a war veteran, he honestly cannot imagine anyone wanting to live with him. He’s so desperate that he’s instantly interested in the first mention of a potential flatmate.

"Who was the first?" 

This handsome lad right here. John Hamish Watson, it is your lucky day.

What does he read in that first glance of John Watson? Whatever it is, it’s enough to make him immediately start showing off, first by asking for Mike’s mobile, no doubt knowing he does’t have it with him, so that he can get more information about him and so he can stand next to him and almost touch hands. And then he’s extremely polite. For Sherlock. A small “Oh, thank you” is like most people greeting someone with a hug and a puppy. He’s never this polite to a stranger again, and it’s not because he desperately needs a flatmate. People, after all, are idiots. But not this particular one it seems.

For his part John seems much as he has been for the last ten minutes: polite but definitely disengaged. That is until Sherlock says three fateful words:

Afganistan or Iraq? 

John’s reaction is dubious at first, but as soon as he processes a bit, he is visibly shaken.

He stays in this state throughout the rest of their conversation. He assumes that Sherlock must have been told about him prior to meeting him, but Mike assures John that he didn’t say a thing. Sherlock explains just a bit of his logic, and then buzzes off to get his riding crop, or attempts to. John recovers a bit here, and questions him, "We’ve only just met and we’re going to look at a flat". In response to Sherlocks calm reply of “Problem?" we get John’s first genuine smile of the show. 

Something is definitely happening, and it’s definitely not ordinary, and may not be safe, and John is thrilled, though he quickly suppresses the smile for annoyance, a combination of emotions that resurfaces throughout the series. And then Sherlock deduces John, still trying to impress him, and the amusement is gone, and he’s back to shock. 

As if all that didn’t make enough of an impression on him, Sherlock leans back into the room to give his name and address and then winks at John.

"Shall I smile and wink? I do that sometimes, no idea why. People seem to like that. Humanizes me."

So John, being a fairly sane and practical fellow does what any of us would do when confronted with an arrogant and otherworldly good-looking man with stunning cheekbones who wanted us move in with him: search his tumblr tag. 

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John Watson Meta Series: The Blind Banker

After the high of A Study in Pink it’s difficult to face what is widely considered to be the worst episode of Sherlock. But why is The Blind Banker so universally hated, or at the very least so universally unloved? Other than the racism I mean. The crime being solved is moderately interesting, and anyway The Sign of Three didn’t even have a mystery until the very end and it’s a favorite of many, myself included. And in comparing those two, it’s easy to see what the issue is here: there is little to no chemistry between John and Sherlock in this episode. Of any kind. So did the Motfiss entirely drop the ball here? Well, while it’s tempting to say yes and move on to the next episode, there are things worth studying in this episode, even if the start of the episode is a bit rough. Sherlock and John had a good twenty four hours of adventure and dead cabbies, but John hasn’t been on another case since then.

How can we tell? The same way we know long before he mentions Sherlock in His Last Vow that the two haven’t seen each other for quite a while. Just as he will later snap at his neighbor and wife because he hasn’t gotten his much needed Sherlock fix, in the beginning of The Blind Banker, John here is similarly unable to handle normal situations.

The first we see of John, he’s attempting to buy groceries for the flat and struggling to use the automated checkout machine (a struggle that I am sure many of us can relate to). 

"Yes! Alright!

Meanwhile, back at the flat, Sherlock is engaged in a daring sword fight. Again, John isn’t being included in Sherlock’s cases anymore, and when he gives up and returns to the flat Sherlock doesn’t offer any information. 

John looks around uncomfortably when he enters, knowing he has to ask for money which, like asking for help in anything else, is not an easy thing for him to do. Sherlock doesn’t notice his discomfort. He makes a joke about John taking his time, which John doesn’t understand means he’s missed something interesting. John’s still quite snappish and explains why he didn’t get the groceries.

I had a row. In the shop… with a chip and pin machine.”

I’m beginning to notice that John has quite the temper in this season. More so than usual I mean. Like his exclamation of “Damn my leg” what he’s saying is closely linked to his anger, but not in the way one would think. If John had been in an actual row I can guarantee you he would be in a much better mood than this, and he knows it too. No, the only fight he’s been in is his own frustrating battle to behave normally. He looks away as he asks Sherlock for the cash, again embarrassment at asking for help, and Sherlock is quick to oblige.

"Take my card"

He’s still being surprisingly pleasant actually. John ignores this though and continues to be an irritable jerk.

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What We Know About John Watson

Before I attempt to get into the mind of John Watson during the events of the series Sherlock, I want to talk a little bit about what we know about John before the show begins, both in this canon and in our general imagining of the character.

Given that Sherlock Holmes is the most portrayed character in all of film, it makes sense that his partner in crime would also have wide recognition. Just say the name Sherlock Holmes and the next name to pop into the mind of your average person is Dr. Watson. Regretfully the conception people have of him is a bit skewed. He has too often been portrayed as a lovable but bumbling simpleton, someone who follows Holmes around simply because he’s too dimwitted to come up with anything else. To a smaller extent, this even exists in the Sherlock fandom: there have been countless renderings of John in fic that portray him as idiotic or unobservant. He is only these things when compared to the brilliance of Holmes, but then again, he is not the brains of that pairing, as we all know.

From a psychological standpoint, John Watson is probably one of the most well known characters of his Meyers-Briggs personality type: ISFJ. (If you are unfamiliar with this form of personality typing  I would strongly recommend you check out this link which explains how it relates to the BBC John). Because of the common understanding of Dr. Watson, when I was first typed as ISFJ and saw him on the list I was disappointed. I didn’t want to be a helpless doormat who rode along on the coattails of someone more intelligent. But in the canon, and in the BBC version, this isn’t who John is. The basic rundown is that, as an ISFJ, John’s main mental function revolves around his past experiences and what he knows to be true about himself, while his secondary one is gauging the emotions of those around them and generally wanting to create some form of stability for them. This leads to the strong moral compass that causes Sherlock to deduce exactly who saved him in the first episode, but I’m getting ahead of myself. 

The main reason I bring this up is to explain an assumption I have about John Watson’s character that I have seen a lot of people disagree with. John Watson is not oblivious to his own mental and emotional processes. “ISFJs are extremely aware of their own internal feelings”. We ISFJ’s know ourselves well, and when a situation sheds light on an aspect of ourselves that we weren’t aware of, we attempt to incorporate that knowledge into our core understanding of our self as soon as possible, because it is through that understanding of self that we understand the world. So while I do think his early interactions with Sherlock challenge his own belief of his identity, I don’t think he remains hung up on this fact internally for more than an episode or two. But he doesn’t share this with others, again, a very typical trait for this type. “They do not usually express their own feelings, keeping things inside.” Beyond the normal ISFJ reticence though, a lot of this has to do with his own understanding of Sherlock, but again I’m getting ahead of myself. This is all just explaining my assumption that John isn’t blind to what is inside his own heart. He knows, he just doesn’t choose to share it.

What do we know about this particular Watson before he meets his particular Holmes? Well, not a whole lot. He trained at Barts and went to war, a healer and a protecter. His family is now veiled in even more secrecy than the Holmes family, but we know his sister is an alcoholic and as of now is still alive  He has left a trail of exes in his wake, including, as Sherlock aptly phrases it, one Ex Commander: Major Sholto, with whom John developed a miniature of his eventual relationship with Sherlock (I don’t think he talks about this as much as Mary tells Sherlock, but I’ll get to that in TSoT). He was wounded in action and sent back home, feeling worthless. He went about the traditional method of getting better, even though it clearly wasn’t helping him “nothing ever happens to me” until one day something does. And thank God it did, or else what else would we have to write about. Until ASiP, my friends.

A Study in Pink

The Blind Banker

The Great Game

6

My Top 20 Bollywood Songs

 ↳ 13.) Yeh Ishq - Jab We Met

I used to listen to this song whenever I felt down because it just makes me feel so fuzzy inside. It’s one of those songs that you listen to and can just FEEL the happiness of the lyrics and the music itself. It’s one of those songs that just makes you want to be in love.

I have so many ideas for meta I want to write, but what am I doing? Playing video games and procrastinating my homework, which I have to do before I can do any fun writing. I’m the worst.

On the upside! I hope to have the next entry in the John Watson Meta Series up for you all a week from today. So, yeah. Feel free to nag me about that. I need the motivation.