problem series

On the Essence of Recovery: The Necessity of Arc V’s Unsatisfactory Ending

So, lately, I’ve been rewatching Penguindrum.  I’ve also been reading a lot of analyses of Penguindrum, and in turn I’ve been looking up analyses of some of my other favorite surrealist anime, mostly Ikuhara’s work.  And remembering how Penguindrum ended, I found myself thinking about how almost all of Ikuhara’s main works end sort of…bittersweet.  Progress has been made, but something huge has been lost as well, leaving the end feeling almost unsatisfactory.

And that’s gotten me to thinking about analyzing shows that have similar endings, that aren’t necessarily made to be…well, as dense as that particular brand of anime.  Specifically, I’ve been thinking about Arc V, and again about the ending that left a lot of people upset.  I was and still am to a point one of those people who was disappointed with how it ended, but looking back at it in hindsight, and especially through the lens of the previously mentioned anime, I wondered if maybe there was something more to the decision than first appeared.

Now before I start the actual meat of this post, let me disclaim that I would be among the first to admit that it’s probably “not that deep.” But there’s the distinct possibility that it is, and regardless of whether my conclusions were intended conclusions, the act of analyzing fiction against one’s own individual interpretation is an important final step in the process of any creative endeavor.

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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?

shoutout to the raven cycle for being one of the few series where i actually like every single character. a bunch of nerds looking for a dead welsh king? sign me the fuck up. strangely polite hitman? where have u been all my life? a villainous weird couple obsessed with their own aesthetic? double yes. magical psychic ladies, how about 💯 👌👌

This is the part they didn’t show you in The Final Problem.

That rope was for Sherlock to climb down into the well to John. John had been struggling to keep his head clear of the water for a good while, and he was getting exhausted; hypothermia starting to set in. It was going to be another 10 minutes or so before the police arrived to unchain John and get all of them out of there, but that could seem an endless and fatal time for a fatigued man barely able to get a gasp of air. 

Sherlock was quite a bit taller than John, so he took it upon himself to clamber down into the well and take on John’s weight so his friend could rest. How overwhelmed with relief he must be to be able to finally save his best friend from that cursed well. At this moment, it’s just the two of them, nothing else and no one else mattered.

(Discontinuity Error: I forgot to add the skull and some bones; I might add them later but who knows)