We’re all stories in the end...
What will follow is a very long explanation of why I think BBC Sherlock has become fan fiction in every sense of the word, applying a technique called estrangement effect to achieve as well as envision this. It has been happening since S3 - but came into full force in S4 and especially TFP.
Let me state at first: Sherlock Holmes is dead. He died after jumping off Bart’s. That’s the one thing Mofftisson did that no other adaption has dared to do. Not even ACD did describe Holmes dying. But Mofftisson showed us: Sherlock jumped and hit the pavement. We saw it, and it was never explained how he survived. Because he didn’t. What we watch in TEH is altered footage, like in the beginning of TST. Alienated ficitional reality.
But still Sherlock came back. How is this possible? Because Sherlock Holmes never lived, and so could never die; because Sherlock Holmes as a fictional character has long ago crossed the line between ficiton and reality. He exists in both worlds, the ficitonal and ours. Schödinger’s Sherlock, so to speak.
Mofftiss (and Steve Thompson) have adapted Holmes for the 21st century - with all its consequences. They are the first who allow Holmes to die - as it should have been, in Watson’s arms. This is truly new - like it or not.
But why could he survive? Because of the fans. Fans brought Holmes back in 1903 - and they brought him back in S3 (or even MHR). Whereas S1 and S2 might still be somehow canon compliant if modernised, with S3/MHR the show left the realm of ACD and became something else. It became our story. We are the narrators. Therefore, we appear, for example, as Anderson or the Empty Hearse Club, before we, in TAB, leave this concrete narrator position behind to ascend onto yet another narrative level.
Many commented (and lamented) the change from S2 to S3. The show became a romcom! The cases didn’t matter anymore! All those new characters! All true - because the BBC adaption had detached itself from ACD and started to become its own work of art, it’s very own pastiche. That might be self-referential; and perhaps wasn’t even always well made (TFP!) - but I think we should stop applying real life structures and standards to this work of art - because it simply doesn’t work. (And, as every writer, Mofftiss have the right to fuck their own story up).
The audience and fandom struggle with a lot of twists after S2 because making the distinction between canon compliant fictional verisimilitude and the realm of associative fan fic is especially hard to mark with a figure like Holmes - who seems real and yet never was. On the other hand, he is the perfect character to undergo such a narrative transformation.
If this interests you, please continue under the cut.