The Deconstruction of John Watson
I’ve been thinking about the John characterization in Hubblegleeflower’s post-S3 fic ’In the Dark Hours’, in the context of S4 and specifically The Lying Detective. It really seems on-point, even prescient. I was also thinking about what Ivy said about John’s inherent violence, how “when John is bad, he is terrible”, and how disappointed in himself he was in TLD. The fic makes me think about what John must have wondered about himself *before* Mary’s idealization to have the dissonance hit him *so* hard, that he’d have to punish himself and Sherlock and lash out so extremely. In the fic, a younger John sounds like shades of Sherlock– wondering if there something ‘wrong’ with him for being addicted to danger, for getting off on the rush, enjoying these things to make himself feel alive. That tendency to say and act the right way in order to 'seem normal’– he actually has that in common with Sherlock, except that (of course) John is much better at it.
On the other hand, I agree with John’s own conclusion in the fic and with Ivy that John is actually not 'like that’. He’s definitely not like Mary (as per all those endless debates post-HLV); he *is* a good moral compass after all *because* “he knows exactly what it means to be pointed the wrong way”. At the same time, the fact that he’d wondered about himself seems realistic. Seems *likely*, even. If Sherlock is someone who has tried– and ultimately failed– to make himself into a high-functioning sociopath after Eurus, as I wrote recently, John is coming at his persona from the other direction. Trying to be *normal*, trying to do good, trying to be someone he thinks– he knows– he’s not.
A lot of people depended on John to be Series 1 John even after Series 3, essentially, even though Sherlock told us in HLV that John is addicted to a 'certain lifestyle’ and 'abnormally attracted to dangerous situations and people’. John is not surprised, he just says *Mary* wasn’t supposed to be 'like that’; he’s not happy about his attraction to all these things but he was *aware* of it, and he wanted to get away from it. It seems to be that instead of an arc, what we have here is a sort of deconstruction. We started out with John and Sherlock in opposite corners in Series 1, and they’re in opposite corners again in Series 4, except they’re the flipside of each other. Sherlock is the 'good man’ even though he’d shot someone to protect someone else, and John… John is a bit 'not good’, but he has a heart. He’s still human. On the abstract level as well as implicitly, being truly established partners in TFP, they’ve met in the middle.
I know I’ve said yesterday that my problem is that Sherlock’s arc encompasses and sort of *consumes* John’s role, with John not really being able to match Sherlock’s growth due to being the deuteragonist. I agree with @plaidadder’s comment on @ravenmorganleigh’s post, about the growing fannish consensus that “John and Sherlock’s emotional arcs are no longer intertwined” in Series 4. I do still disagree that this means Sherlock’s growth in Series 4 is somehow more about Eurus and Mycroft (and Mary!) instead. Certainly (but more subtly), John’s arc also didn’t suddenly become about Mary either, if nothing else then because everything (but everything!) in this show has always been about Sherlock. Although this means Mary’s not the *point* in TLD, in many ways it also means that unfortunately, John is not the point either. I do agree with the analysis in that the plot of TLD is essentially *all* orchestrated by Sherlock (including John’s beating, which was demonstrably part of Sherlock’s plan to stop Smith). The only bits Sherlock didn’t predict were to do with Eurus, and more broadly the fact that Mary was shown to be wrong, because she didn’t know John the way Sherlock did. As I said, and I cannot emphasize this enough, this is because everything is about Sherlock.
Basically, Sherlock never had to manipulate John into saving him. Rather, he needed to save John Watson in a different way– and in the end, Sherlock did.