Janet King is back and all the lesbians are alive and having sex
Janet King Review / Recap S3.01
Janet King is back
for a third season, and if you haven’t seen it you are missing out. This is
Janet King on the screen, the way I’ve been dreaming about her.
Sadly, I missed the start because I turned the tv on and it
was men talking about sport, so I went out into the kitchen to stock up on
snacks. When I came back, I realised that the sport talk was part of some sort
of court case and Janet was on the screen! Almost as importantly, next to her,
was Ellen Mackenzie, I mean BIANCA. And she wasn’t wearing her “in disguise as
a straight person” earrings.
As this was the beginning of an eight part season, I began
to try to pay attention to the plot. The biggest surprise was that Poor Woman’s
Stephen Fry is on the other team this year. He’s arguing against Janet in court.
The camera panned around and there were a number of familiar
faces, and some expository dialogue to explain who’s who. Janet’s been in Fiji
with the UN for two years, other people have had babies, changed jobs, etc. There
are lots of well-known faces, many of which were on tv last Thursday night in Seven Types of Ambiguity, and pretty
much every other show ever made, so all the explanation helps me out. This small
pool of actors/actresses is what can help make Australian tv so rich, because of
all the possibilities that open up if these shows are thought exist in the one universe.
It’s why I am fully accepting that Bianca is just Mac from Stingers, all grown
up. This time however we’ve expanded the borders and PC Garfield from the Bill
is in sitting in court…
A new face to this franchise is Susie Porter. I squeed when
her name came up on screen. But, when did that round-faced, freckled-faced
young woman I had pictures of everywhere when I was a teenager, become old
enough to play the slightly-corrupt, gin-soaked matriarch??
Hold on tight, because when Bianca and Janet are together
outside the courtroom, it’s not in our imaginations, it’s not just touching;
there is kissing. And more kissing. It is kissing well beyond anything required
by the plot, well beyond anything that any straight person has got to do this
Back in series one I was the downer who, rather than being
excited by a lesbian as the titular character on a show, was angry that Ash and
Janet showed so little affection in the first ep that many people thought that
Ash was the nanny! (Meanwhile straight characters were humping and thrusting at
every opportunity). So, all this gratuitous queer snogging is making me excited
intellectually, and in other ways.
The show returns to plot. Sport, corruption, blah blah blah.
Luckily Janet and Bianca are on screen a lot, and Janet knows so little about
sport that there’s plenty of plot-necessary exposition for those of us who’ve
THEN, FANFICTION HAPPENS. (Honestly, I wrote this once. I
Basically, there’s some sort of work reason for Janet and Bianca
to go to Melbourne and stay in a hotel. They have to swagger down the hallway.
They have to cutely get inside the door. They have to have a bath. Together.
And kiss. And Janet has to kill the mood, because she’s Janet King, but by now Bianca
knows to let it go, and wait for her girlfriend’s mind to switch back to the
good stuff, and then there’s more kissing and some giggling. And maybe some
talking, but I was completely distracted by trying to breathe and tweet and not
die all that the same time.
Cut away to the moon, and then to Janet and Bianca in bed the
next morning, holding hands.
Janet Does Not Enjoy Sport. Neither am I: there are too many
men on the screen. Bring Back the Lesbians, I yell at the tv.
Meanwhile, in the land of plot. Poor Women’s Stephen Fry is getting
flirted with by someone called Lucy. Lucy turns out to be the gf of someone
else. As to be expected. Straight white men do not do well in this show. This
is shaping up to be 99% queer women and Muslims and twitter is going wild.
Some more new characters come and go, but as there are
already two queer women, I naively assumed that all these ones are straight and
failed to concentre very hard, until I remembered that this is Janet King, and this universe has had
space for multiple queers before.
I’m not the only one struggling with plot and all the new
characters. Everyone I follow on twitter has long ago stopped trying. We’re
still processing that bath scene from twenty minutes ago. However, some themes
for the series are clearly emerging: parents and children, and when does doing a
favour for a mate become corruption.
The episode ended with a death, but, as @PBearfiftyfive
pointed out on twitter, at least it wasn’t Bianca!
Love and Breadcrumbs: The Relationship Development of Sherlock and John in BBC Sherlock
Being yet another very long, long post about what’s going on in Sherlock.
**MAJOR SPOILERS for Sherlock Season 1, 2 and Season 3 **
** Now Updated to include His Last Vow"
There have been so many wonderful metas and dialogues floating around about johnlock and signposts and all of that (especially by 221beemine, loudest-subtext-in-television, and Sherlock meta). I’ve written a few myself. My realm is not film choreography and visuals, like some of these brilliant people who have been so amazing and helping me see narrative. So I am really in their debt. But as a writer, I do know storytelling and character development. So I decided to look back over the entire series and pull out what I think are the highlights of character development and story arcs in the relationship between Sherlock and John.
I didn’t have time to rewatch each show in toto, so I’m going from my memory, which means I’m probably missing lots of things. Please correct me if I get anything wrong.
S1, E1: A Study in Pink
Sherlock and John meet, having been set-up as potential flat mates by a mutual friend. Any first meeting of 2 people for whom the relationship will be a key factor in the story is incredibly important. And from that first meeting, there is chemistry. John surprises Sherlock by loaning him his phone and Sherlock, deducing him, sees a recently discharged soldier and medical doctor with a psychosomatic limp. Intriguing. John is equally intrigued by the unusual, rather posh, brilliant, and enigmatic Holmes. (My own take: John also finds Sherlock immediately attractive, because John always responds very quickly to physical attractiveness in women. But John is at least primarily straight so he probably pushes this aside as an aberration.)
John goes to see the flat. Sherlock takes him on a case immediately. John is eager to go along.
At the crime scene, people tell John, both in text and subtext, that no one likes Sherlock; he is a ‘freak’. Sherlock confirms this in the car “they say ‘piss off’”. This is a typical ‘beauty and the beast’ set-up. You set-up that one of your MCs (main characters in a romance) is unliked and misunderstood by everyone so that the other MC can be the only one who understands him.
Sherlock impresses John with his brilliance at the crime scene; John praises Sherlock out loud, which Sherlock loves. Then Sherlock dumps John at the crime scene. What an annoying git. (this is a negative beat in a positive/negative flow – I love you; I hate you, it builds tension and keeps things interesting)
Mycroft kidnaps John. Mycroft tells John how dangerous Sherlock is, warning him away. (psychology: makes John even more interested). Mycroft deduces that John LIKES danger (key character point). Mycroft makes the first allusion to a potential romance (“When should I expect the happy announcement”) which John dismisses.
Sherlock calls John to the flat just to hand him his phone. Others have pointed out how Sherlock is testing John this episode and I agree. How far can I push this guy? John’s response is that he’s not a weakling. He calls Sherlock on his behavior, but he doesn’t dislike Sherlock for it. Right answer.
John and Sherlock go to dinner (key scene). John tries to suss out if Sherlock has a girlfriend. Sherlock says “Not my area”. John, only momentarily fazed, then asks about a boyfriend. Sherlock shuts him down “I appreciate your interest, but I’m married to my work.” John, flustered, denies he meant anything of the sort. This is a funny moment, and you can take away what you will. Based on what we are shown of John’s character (that he is easily attracted to attractive people and comes on to them very quickly – this is shown by the interaction with Anthea in the car), his immediate fascination with Holmes, and the way Martin played it (that eye language is charged) my own take is that he really was trying to suss out if there was any potential there. At that point it might only have been a glimmer in his mind, but it was there. However, Sherlock tells him in no uncertain terms: that’s never going to happen. John accepts that. It was only a stray thought anyway, right? I’m straight.
They run after a murderer. Sherlock cures John’s psychosomatic limp (within the first day). John is hugely impressed. They laugh together in the hall like friends. (Has Sherlock ever had a friend?)
Sherlock dumps John a second time to go with the murderer (negative beat on the John/Sherlock sub-plot and also setting up a ‘loner’ character trait for Sherlock which John can and does overcome).
John tracks him down and shoots the murderer, likely saving Sherlock’s life (big positive beat). This is a key moment. On the surface what we have is John being BAMF and saving Sherlock. Which, fuck it, impresses the hell out of Sherlock (and maybe, somewhere deep down, is a little titillating too: “all girls like a soldier”). And, of course, indicates that John is going to be very useful in The Work. But on subtext/char development level John is already saving Sherlock from himself—from his over-focused obsession with his cases and self-destructive arrogance. John even calls Sherlock on it in the text: “You would have done it.” Sherlock may well have died young because he is so reckless but now, John is protecting him.
As they walk away, Mycroft clearly calls them out as an established team “Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson”.
Callbacks: In S3:01, TEH, the heart-like bomb stops ticking down at 1:29. Jan 29th is the day Sherlock met John and this all happens. John saved Sherlock that day, literally and figuratively.
Clearly this is a HELL of a set-up for this relationship. This is going to be a HUGELY significant relationship for both of these two men. But we don’t yet know if that relationship will be purely platonic, romantic/nonsexual, or romantic/sexual.
My own opinion: John and Sherlock both show immediate romantic/physical attraction to one another both in their actions and in the actor’s performances. In real life, looking at each other the way that they do, and immediately wanting to be around each other, has only one interpretation (sexual attraction). And that’s the way Ben and Martin played it. However, in TV it’s more iffy because it’s a well-known device to put in attraction like this to engage the audience without any intention of ever realizing it in the flesh, particularly when it comes to male ‘partnerships’ like this. (Teen Wolf, etc etc).
Fan ships were launched in a big way.
S1, E2: The Blink Banker
John starts work at a locum and immediately asks out a co-worker, Sarah. (Char dev: John craves a sexual/romantic relationship, he goes for it doggedly, and he’s not all that picky where he gets it.)
During this case, they meet Sebastian, an old school mate of Sherlock’s. This reinforces the idea that Sherlock was bullied and has had very little friendship in life. John responds by being more protective of Sherlock. (more beauty and the beast). Subtext: Sebastian might have been a past abusive lover; Sherlock might be gay. I think John at least wonders about it.
Sherlock is jealous about Sarah. He horns in on their first date, insults her, and cockblocks. Text: I’m a selfish git who wants you to be at my exclusive beck and call like a servant. Subtext: I don’t like it when you pay attention to anyone but me, and especially not sexually/romantically. My own opinion: Sherlock already is interested in John but he is in total denial about the nature of that interest. He has no experience with sexual/romantic love and he has shut himself off from it.
John says he’s going out on a date – where two people who like each other go out and have fun. Sherlock says 'that’s what I was suggesting’. He doesn’t get the difference here, because to him going out with John is like a date. (thanks, angstidote)
John leaves the attractive Soo Lin to go after and protect Sherlock in the museum.
John is already proving to be indispensable in the The Work and he loves doing it. This is a match made in heaven, though of what kind, again, not yet established.
John is now living in the flat in the role of caretaker (making sure Sherlock eats, etc)
Sarah is put into danger because of John’s association with Sherlock. Subtext (which John is not yet ready to accept): you can’t have me and a woman too. And already, John is choosing Sherlock.
John is still dating Sarah but there are cracks—Sherlock cockblocks and John always prioritized Sherlock. We can see John/Sarah as a pairing is doomed.
We see in countless ways by their domesticity, Sherlock talking to John when he’s not there, etc, that Sherlock does have at least platonic feelings for John, he is just doesn’t recognize his own attachment at this point, or at least doesn’t call it by the name ‘friendship’ (not til Baskerville).
During the “pips” sequence, John calls Sherlock on his lack of human emotion for the bomb victims and Sherlock says ‘caring’ won’t help him solve crimes. They argue. Subtext: John is saying I’m frustrated that you’re incapable of really have feelings for me of any kind. And Sherlock’s reply: I can’t allow myself feelings because I have to be cold and rational for The Work. (this is a negative beat in the story arc – it looks impossible at this point).
This is a key theme in this episode because in the end we see that Sherlock DOES have feelings, it DOES impact the work (Moriarity uses John as a weak spot) and yet, in the end, John’s friendship is what offers to save Sherlock.
Moriarty threatens to ‘burn the heart’ out of Sherlock and then kidnaps John. Like we’ll see with Irene, here we have a super villain, this time an expert on human weakness, telling John and Sherlock what’s going on—that John is Sherlock’s weak spot (subtext: literally his heart – on some level Sherlock loves John and doesn’t know it yet).
Moriarty kidnaps John and when Sherlock first sees John at the pool, there’s a moment where he thinks John is Moriarty. We see by the momentary flash of hurt how much Sherlock has come to trust John.
John, in a bomb jacket, grabs Moriarty and tells Sherlock to run. John is now not only willing to kill for Sherlock, he’s willing to die for Sherlock (season 1 character progression). And yes, this impresses the hell out of Sherlock once again. Subtext: By this action John is a) being a soldier and b) saying that Sherlock’s life is more important than John’s –he’s the unique one. He’s also c) saying he loves Sherlock enough to die for him, however you want to take that.
Sherlock also demonstrates here (subtext, acting, facial expression as he frees John from the bomb) that he cares a lot about John and would have been devastated if John had died.
Season 1 Summation:
John and Sherlock are an immediate, perfect-for-each-other team. By S1 end, John is showing in many ways that he’s obsessed with Sherlock, and that Sherlock comes first – not only over any potential relationship with a woman but even over John’s own life. But I think John is still in denial about this being sexual/romantic until ASiB. Sherlock, on his part, is oblivious to sexuality and romance and even friendship at this point, though I think all of that is there under the surface, unrecognized. All Sherlock knows consciously is that John is 'different’, John likes him and takes care of him, and he strongly wants John around in a 'that’s mine!’ sort of way (he has been lonely, though he’d never admit it). John is trying to date women to fulfill his sexual needs, but it’s not going very well because his heart’s priority is always Sherlock.
S2, E2: A Scandal in Bohemia
It’s significant that this is the series opener, because the series opener really sets the stage for what this season is about—what the character arc is. In S1 it was John and Sherlock’s newfound partnership and John coming to complete dedication to that. In S3 it is Sherlock and John’s reunion and re-cementing that partnership. What is S2 about? It’s about Sherlock ability (or lack thereof) to deal with feelings because that is the obstacle limiting John and Sherlock’s relationship. So S2 is about Sherlock learning to care.
Scandal fills in some backstory on what’s been going on with John and Sherlock:
Since TGG, Sherlock and John live together and are co-dependent. John cares for Sherlock (like a maid/domestic partner) and they love solving crimes together. This part of their relationship works like gangbusters. I imagine the events of TGG made them both appreciate each other more.
They have no physical contact—sexually or romantically. They don’t cuddle on the couch. Sherlock still often treats John as “his little assistant”, which rightfully pisses John off.
John dates a string of women, trying to get from them what he doesn’t get from his key relationship with Sherlock – sex and affection. This has not worked out because Sherlock always is jealous and cockblocks and John’s heart isn’t in it. We see in the episode with Janine over the Christmas party that Sherlock treats John’s girlfriends appallingly and John himself can’t even keep them straight in his head (“I’ll walk your dog.” “I don’t have a dog.”) Subtext: You’re not important to me; I’m just going through the motions because I think I should. Janine tells John straight up in the text – no one can compete with his loyalty to Sherlock Holmes.
But ASiB is key because it addresses Sherlock’s ability to feel desire and attraction to another person. And it address it in an ambiguous way:
In Buckingham Palace, Mycroft indicates that Sherlock is inexperienced at sex (“I’m not alarmed by sex.” “How would you know?”). We’re being told that Sherlock is a virgin or, at most, maybe had 1 or 2 early encounters. This is setting up the “starting state” for this episode’s arc, the thing that will change.
Sherlock is clearly rattled by Irene’s nudity; he over-acts pompously, he stumbles over his words. Subtext: This is making me think about sex and I don’t know how to handle that. Is Sherlock sexually attracted to Irene herself? It’s ambiguous, but I think it’s possible. Irene is beautiful and naked: she’s definitely poking Sherlock’s dormant libido.
John, upon coming across naked Irene and Sherlock, demonstrates more jealousy over Sherlock’s reaction than he does display his own interest in her naked body. Is this normal straight man behavior, especially from I-love-women Watson? No.
John and Irene are both threatened by the gunmen. But it is the threat to John that makes Sherlock panic and figure out the safe code. (“You only figure things out when they’re critical” – as Mary tells Sherlock in S3). This foreshadows what Sherlock figures out at the critical last second of John’s wedding day in S3.02.
Sherlock and John escape Irene (or vice versa) but Irene starts to regularly text Sherlock. John displays jealousy over this fact. Sherlock doesn’t text her back but is intrigued.
Irene ‘dies’: Sherlock seems genuinely upset about it. Mycroft warns John that Sherlock may do self-harm. John is worried. Again: Sherlock feels something for Irene but it is ambiguous. John doesn’t like it.
Irene is not dead: she has John brought to meet her. This is a touchstone scene. Irene tells John that they’re both attracted to/mesmerized by Sherlock even though he is not the gender of their primary orientation for either of them. In the dialogue, John denies it, but by his facial expressions and the screaming subtext in the scene we can see that he realizes it’s true. This scene is a key signpost for several reasons. First, as with Moriarty, Irene is an expert–the show’s expert on human sexuality. Just as you wouldn’t have Sherlock, the crime genius, make a blatantly erroneous mistake about something he should know, Irene does not misread this. She is telling the audience what’s going on. I think she sees, not only John’s jealousy over her, which is obvious in the literal text, but she sees Sherlock’s attraction to John, which is not yet obvious to either John or Sherlock. John says “We’re not a couple.” And she says “Yes, you are”. This is important because usually John says “I’m not gay”, which is only about him. By saying “We’re not a couple”, he is including Sherlock’s feeling as well and Irene is saying You are a couple, meaning she is confirming that Sherlock also has feelings for John.
Sherlock overhears this conversation, meaning that he is now consciously aware that John may have romantic feelings for him and that Irene sees him as returning them. Sherlock may be oblivious but he’s not stupid. He hears this and I think he really considers it.
Irene shows up at the flat. Freshly showered in a robe, she plays flirtatious games with Sherlock in John’s presence: Sherlock responds with fascination. John is jealous (“Hamish—in case you were looking for baby names”). Subtext: Sherlock is starting to be in touch with his own sexual feelings. He’s not as immune as he thought.
Irene and Sherlock are alone in the apartment. Irene comes on to Sherlock in front of the fireplace, offering him sex, right there, right then. However, when Sherlock first comes out of his ‘mind palace’ trance, his first words are “Where’s John?” And Sherlock doesn’t take the bait. He does not reject Irene, he seemingly plays up to her. But he says they are not going to ‘have dinner’ because he is ‘not hungry’. He doesn’t seem disappointed when they’re interrupted for a case. It’s ambiguous how much of this scene was Sherlock really being attracted to Irene and how much was him playing a game for info (later, we learn that he was taking her pulse during this exchange, a coldly logical thing to do.) But I think he’s smart enough to not trust her here and not give in.
Irene betrays Sherlock. Sherlock is genuinely horrified that he’s been played. In Mycroft’s office he says “Sentiment is a chemical defect found on the losing side.” He talks about how he took Irene’s pulse. Subtext: I was playing you back. More subtext: Nevertheless, I did feel something and you made a fool of me—See? I was right all along.
When John brings Sherlock the “file” on Irene , he again displays some jealousy and concern over Sherlock’s feelings for Irene. He tries to suss them out, but Sherlock won’t give him the satisfaction of an answer.
We’re told Sherlock goes out of his way to rescue Irene, yet he doesn’t stay with her, he returns to Baker Street and John.
It’s left ambiguous exactly what Sherlock felt for Irene and where his head is at about sexuality/romance at the end of all this episode. However I think the key progression is this: 1) John now recognizes his romantic attraction to Sherlock, having had it pointed out to him by Irene and his own feelings of jealousy, 2) Irene sparked Sherlock’s sexual libido (which is ultimately good for John), and 3) her betrayal reconfirmed for Sherlock that he should not allow himself to have those kinds of feelings (bad for John). It’s a case of 2 steps forward, one step back.
My take on Sherlock/Irene: I think Sherlock was genuinely attracted to Irene. I think he’s also attracted to John. It’s possible he’s a demisexual, someone who is more attracted to a specific person than a gender, but I think it’s more likely that he is attracted to men and Irene was an aberration–much like her own attraction to Sherlock was an aberration (and John’s too). Sherlock being primarily gay seems to be confirmed by the male theme in the sexuality of TSoT. Nevertheless, though Sherlock was attracted to Irene ultimately she is untrustworthy—she is not good, decent, kind, wise, etc etc like John. So Sherlock would never enter into a relationship with her.
S2, E2: The Hound of the Baskervilles
In keeping with the arc of the season, this episode addresses Sherlock’s ability to deal with emotions.
After the events of ASiB, it seems John is no longer dating women. He seems to have given up on that, either because he’s just resigned to the cockblocking or the case with Irene made him realize his feelings for Sherlock are romantic. In HotB, Sherlock asks John to woo a woman for information and John does, but he is cockblocked once again by being called Sherlock’s ‘partner’ and seems resigned to it.
John impresses Sherlock with his BAMFness at the military compound. John comments on Sherlock’s cheekbones. (minor things in their own right but the attraction is becoming more textual)
Key scene: Sherlock gets emotional in front of the fireplace (parallels his earlier encounter in front of the fire with Irene). He’s losing control because his logical mind has been compromised – he was afraid on the moors and he is half-convinced something paranormal is going on. This is very threatening to his state of mind because Sherlock does not feel these things. He tells John he ‘has no friends’. John gets pissed off and leaves. Subtext: Sherlock is unable to deal with it when he’s forced to feel emotion. He has shut off that part of himself. (Negative beat)
The next day, Sherlock apologizes to John and acknowledges out loud that John is his friend. “I don’t have friends. I’ve only got one.” This is a significant moment for Sherlock’s emotional growth because he is for the first time consciously acknowledging that he has an emotional attachment to John, albeit one of friendship. It’s important that Sherlock give this to John here, because I think John is really at the end of his rope. He cares about Sherlock and sacrifices a lot for him, but Sherlock has been unwilling to give John open recognition in return (though Sherlock has demonstrated many times that he does rely upon John and only John, which is flattering and what keeps John around). Positive beat on their arc.
Sherlock then experiments on John by giving him a drug. What an arsehole! Negative beat. This becomes more significant in S3 because it’s one memorable time Sherlock has shown that he’s willing to abuse John and doesn’t care about his feelings.
In the end, John forgives Sherlock but not before pointing out to Sherlock how selfish he can be and that if he continues on in that way, he will lose John. Sherlock very much does not want to lose John. He is forced to become more self-aware of his behavior and treat John better.
(There are likely more beats in this, these are just the ones I can remember off the top of my head. I’ll rewatch someday and update this.)
S2, E3: Reichenbach Falls
Here we have the culmination of the season’s character arc – which is Sherlock developing conscious feelings of the importance of his friendship with John.
At the end of Season 1, we had John offering to sacrifice himself to save Sherlock at the pool. John was already there by the end of season 1. The final high point of season 2 is that Sherlock sacrifices himself to save John. He is now reciprocating consciously.
In TRF, John sticks by Sherlock even when everyone else turns against him. Sherlock is surprised and moved by this. (Reinforces the ‘you’re the only one who gets me’ theme) (positive beat)
In the lab we again we have John getting very pissed off at Sherlock for not showing feelings (about Mrs. Hudson being shot) just as he did in TGG about the bomb victims. Subtext again: I care about you so much, but you’re incapable of caring about me and that hurts. This time, Sherlock lets John think that. He has to in order to do what has to be done and get John out of the picture. This is a standard ‘drive them away for their own good’ plot device, which always means just the opposite – I do really love you. (negative beat)
During the jump from the roof sequence, Sherlock seems genuinely distressed by the idea that he has to say good-bye to John. He fakes his own death to save John. Now the ‘reveal’ in TEH puts this into doubt, rather confusingly, by suggesting Mycroft had already called of the snipers so John wasn’t really in danger. On the other hand, it’s implied Sherlock may have been telling Anderson a tall tale. I don’t know what to make of this. But it seems to me that the emotion Sherlock displayed at the end of TRF, and his sacrifice, were genuine. I hope this gets better resolution in HLV.
John is absolutely devastated by Sherlock’s death, more than you would expect from a mere friendship. There are ‘things he didn’t say’. Subtext: John had romantic feelings for Sherlock he was never able to express because their relationship just wasn’t that way. This might be a bit much to read into it were it not for ASiB, but as is it, it’s not. Negative/cliffhanger.
Summary of S1 and S2
By the end of S2, John and Sherlock’s relationship has progressed to the point where John has even stopped trying to date casually. He’s resigned himself to having basically a monk like existence. Sherlock and John both have demonstrated that they care enough about each other to die to save the other. They are living co-dependently. However, they are at a stalemate. Their relationship is unlikely to develop any further. It’s gone as far as it can as a friendship. And maybe it would have stayed that way indefinitely, though at that point, the show would have had to switch to being more case driven and less about the relationship because they’ve taken that friendship as far as it could possibly go. Once you’re willing to die for one another, what’s left?
But what happens? Sherlock ‘dies’, John grieves, and there is a forced separation. This is a new obstacle/challenge put in their path. Will it ultimately ruin their relationship? Or push them into new territory? Since the show is so heavily focused on the development of their relationship, it must have some important impact.
S3, E1: The Empty Hearse
On first viewing, this episode was confusing to me, because it didn’t show the reaction from Sherlock and John to their reunion that I would have anticipated. I expected more emotion on both parts – Sherlock showing more jealousy towards Mary, Sherlock being more visibly hurt about John’s anger, John needing more convincing to forgive Sherlock. Sherlock was always jealous of John’s girlfriends. He always wanted John to stay at 221b, to have John to himself. And John’s level of devastation to me needed more of a sincere apology from Sherlock than he gets in TEH to reestablish trust. In S1 and S2 we see several instances of John calling Sherlock on his lack of feeling, demanding that Sherlock giving him something to show that Sherlock respected John as a partner. And in faking his death, Sherlock completely shut John out of what was going on and I feel that would have been unforgivable to John, or at least without a damn good reason why. So yes, I expected more groveling and explanations and justifications to be necessary.
But what we actually see in S3 is that the reunion is a much longer arc. It isn’t resolved in E1 at all. In fact, it’s not resolved at the end of S3,E3.
So what DO we get in TEH?
It’s revealed that John hasn’t been back to 221B much since the death—it’s too painful for him (the scene in the hall where he remembers their first case together).
John has grieved Sherlock intensely for 2 years. He has finally just begun to ‘move on’ and fell in love with Mary.
He has fallen for Mary fast and is rushing their marriage (“I know it’s only been 3 months”). Subtext: John does genuinely like/love Mary but he is also using Mary as an emotional crutch to get over Sherlock.
Sherlock initially acts arrogant in assuming that John will just be sitting waiting for him. But in the restaurant he is uncharacteristically nervous and OTT goofy. He is ‘not handling’ the strength of his emotions here, just as he wasn’t able to handle them in Baskerville. He doesn’t know what to do with all the feels!
After 3 restaurants and 3 conversations, Sherlock has still not offered John a good explanation for why he hurt John. In fact, he offers an insulting one–he was afraid John would blab. John punches Sherlock repeatedly, showing the depth of his (justified) anger and storms off. Mary says she’ll intervene.
Sherlock does not show jealousy towards Mary, merely mild curiosity. Unexpected.
John tries to stay away from Sherlock, but the lure of the chase is too great. He gives in and goes to see Sherlock but he’s kidnapped before he gets there.
Sherlock and Mary save John from the bonfire. Sherlock is clearly willing to do anything to save John.
John is drawn back to 221B, unable to resist. When he shows up, Sherlock’s parents are there. Sherlock coldly gets rid of them (because John is WAAAY more important and John has come to the flat! This is teen-with-a-crush like behavior.
Sherlock’s mom and dad also mirror Sherlock and John – his mom is dressed like Sherlock and his dad like John. This theme is carried into TSoT and HLV.
John and Sherlock go into the underground to find the bomb. Subtext – it’s like old times again. Meta: the underground/subway car represents Sherlock’s mind palace/subconscious and he is allowing John into the heart of that. (link to LSiT ‘s meta on this).
In the bomb car, Sherlock uncovers the heart of the bomb. Meta: it is designed/shaped like a human heart; it is Sherlock’s heart.
The bomb begins counting down – they’re going to die. Sherlock manages to turn off the bomb while John isn’t looking, but he pretends he hasn’t to get John to forgive him for faking his own death. John admits out loud that he still cares about Sherlock and forgives him. Sherlock then laughs. This is SOOO inappropriate, what Sherlock does here. But we have precedence that he does do incredibly inappropriate things like at Baskerville when he drugged John, particularly when he is unsure of himself emotionally. Subtext: Sherlock desperately needs John’s forgiveness even though he goes about it in inappropriate ways. It’s core to the heart of him (the bomb). John – I said I forgive you but really, I can’t trust you. More meta: The bomb stops at 1:29, which is the day John met Sherlock (Jan 29th). If the bomb is Sherlock’s heart, John’s appearance in his life stopped Sherlock from self-destructing.
At the end of S3.E1, Sherlock dons the silly hat and goes out to be “Sherlock Holmes”, seemingly with John Watson once again at his side. We all can sense the “forgiveness” was poorly done—John hasn’t been given enough reason to forgive him and Sherlock is acting OOC. Clue: it’s not resolved. And there’s a reason for that. If it were fully resolved for John, the wedding probably would not happen.
S3, E2: The Sign of Three
First a comment on the title of this episode. It has all sorts of layers. It’s obviously a reference to the canon story “The Sign of Four”, at the end it means John, Mary, and the baby. But I think it also means John-Mary-Sherlock.
There’s a weird threesome dynamic at play throughout this episode, and I think that’s what enables the wedding to move forward. John and Mary are in a sexual/romantic relationship, but both are including Sherlock. Not sexually, of course. But they are trying to include him emotionally in this relationship. After all, Sherlock is back now and both John and Mary have accepted that Sherlock must be a part of John’s life.
Is this threesome functional? Hint: It’s not. People keep telling them that—Mycroft, Mrs. Hudson. But for most of this episode the 3 parties seem to be in denial about this fact.
Now this is very, very delicate storytelling here. Because it goes against everything they have already set up about these characters in S1 and S2. We know Sherlock is jealous of John’s girlfriends and always manipulates John to get him back . And we know John always chooses Sherlock over women. Now the writers are contradicting themselves hand over foot. How can the writers possibly make it work that John would marry someone else?
If TRF separation had not occurred, this wouldn’t be happening. If Mary were any different – if she didn’t ‘get’ Sherlock, wasn’t smart and cheerful, and didn’t try to include him, the engagement would not have gotten too far. That’s my opinion, but I think it’s justified by S1 and S2.
Also, I think this is why TEH is left ambiguous. The wedding must take place—it’s part of the story/character arc of the John/Sherlock relationship. It’s the crisis that makes things happen.
A quick note about crises – humans are lazy. Normally they won’t change unless they are forced to. We saw the stalemate that John/Sherlock were in by the end of S2. So in storytelling, it’s always crisis-resolution. That’s how characters grow. And it takes something major to shake things up in John and Sherock’s status quo, to make them both leave their comfort zone with the bromance. Those things are Sherlock’s death and then John’s marriage to Mary.
So what we have through S3.E2, TSoT, is an unnatural state of being. A sort of limbo. Sherlock fears he has lost John and is willing to do anything to keep John in the picture, even help John get married if that’s what John wants. John asks Sherlock to be his best man, admitting out loud that he loves Sherlock the most next to Mary, yet he is getting married.
When John asks Sherlock to be his best man and tells Sherlock that he loves him, Sherlock is completely at a loss. Subtext: I still didn’t really comprehend how you felt about me, because I just don’t get things like that. And John is saying: I can admit I love you now, because I have Mary so it doesn’t mean anything. But I haven’t really forgiven you, nor will I trust you with my heart again because you broke it. But neither can I resist seeing you. So let’s just be chums. Mary will be where I put my heart. That will keep me safe.
Now, again, this is delicate because we have our two main MCs acting out of character, which I think is what makes people uncomfortable with S3. John is acting like an ordinary bloke, getting married, being a doctor. Jolly good. Ho hum. That is not who John is. And Sherlock is acting like the cheerful best friend making wedding arrangements and folding serviettes. That’s not who Sherlock is. So why are they acting this way? I think the trauma of the separation runs very, very deep and they are both floundering around trying to find a way back from that, to find a new equilibrium. But you can only 'not be yourself’ for so long.
During the wedding preparations, Sherlock ignores The Work to focus on wedding planning with Mary. Subtext: John is now more important to me than The Work so that’s not an obstacle for us being together.
We also see Sherlock is a bit loss as “Sherlock Holmes”. (“I don’t even know what that means.”) He’s not as clever as before, he can’t solve cases, he misses things. This is because emotions have infiltrated him and he is distracted, which is exactly why he always avoided emotions before. He was right.
Stag night and the drunken crime scene. During stag night, John shows clear attraction to Sherlock, flirting during the “who am I?” game. When the client shows up, she describes her 'connection’ with the 'ghost suitor’ in a way that Sherlock visibly responds to.
Also during the “who am I?” game, when John asks if he’s pretty, Sherlock responds by saying 'beautiful’ is a construct based on rolemodels (among other things). Sherlock’s father is like John.
Up until the very end of the wedding, we still have this illusionary threesome going on. Sherlock is dressed like the groom. He stands in the bride-groom photo, he’s on John’s left at the head table. John is cheerful and unconflicted. He’s completely happy with this state of affairs – he has his safe romance and Sherlock too. Isn’t it perfect how it all worked out!
Mary tells us what’s going on in the text at Sholto’s door – she tells Sherlock that he only figures things out when the situation is critical, when the bomb is ticking down, when the gun is to the head. That’s telling us blatantly that Sherlock is only now figuring out the solution to he and John’s relationship at the 11th hour – as John is getting married.
During the wedding speech, the moment of crisis, Sherlock has having an epiphany. His epiphany is all brilliantly tied into the Mayfly Man/Sholto case. And was brilliantly laid out in various meta referenced here. The bottom line: Sherlock confronts his sexuality. He does have sexual feelings, and he has them for a man—John. He is in love with John in a sexual/romantic context and he becomes conscious of this too late. His heart is already bleeding out, having been lethally stabbed some time ago by the invisible man, John. And he didn’t know it until he took off his uniform (stopped being Sherlock Holmes).
It’s also made clear by the very end of the episode, that the illusion of a satisfactory threesome was just that—an illusion. It cannot be John/Mary/Sherlock. That’s not reality (John: “We can’t all three dance.”), especially since there is now a baby in the picture. Both John and Sherlock’s intentions around this marriage are doomed to fail.
So at the end of S3.E2 what we have is Sherlock knowing that he’s in love with John and John being newly married with a baby on the way and his idea of having Mary and Sherlock being a disaster.
Since John and Sherlock are the primary relationship (and main plotline) in Sherlock, I assume in S4 they will reunite them–both emotionally (in terms of John really forgiving Sherlock) and physically (in terms of moving back into 221b). I certainly hope so. I can’t guess what they will do to resolve Mary, but it makes sense she would be removed from the picture somehow, though they are clearly playing a very long game. No idea about the baby. That could go either way.
As I’ve stated before, I think this is all building up John and Sherlock as an eventual sexual/romantic couple within the series. That’s entirely insane, yet with so many building blocks having been put into place, it’s hard to not draw that conclusion.
* Sherlock has come to the realization that he’s gay and is in love with John (TSoT, HLV)
* John has been confirmed as having a powerful attraction to dangerous people (HLV). The stag night (TSoT) and jealousy over Irene and Janine (ASiB, HLV) and his devastation of the fall (TRF) suggests he has sexual/romantic feelings for Sherlock. Furthermore, our series expert on sexuality and 'what people like’, Irene, tells us flat out that Sherlock and John are a couple.
From here out, it’s all about the obstacles the writers put in their path. The current big one is Mary. Yes, they could milk it forever and come up with more and more reasons why John and Sherlock are forced to stay apart, keep up a perpetual “misunderstanding”, or go for the “gay Sherlock is pining for straight, in denial John”. Personally, all of those options sound dreary to me. They have carefully built up Sherlock’s love and now romantic/sexual attraction to John and John’s attraction back, so one would hope they intend to go somewhere with that.
AAAHHHH!!!!! XD every single scene I was like “JudexZero? No? Okay maybe the next one…” THEY ARE JUST SO FLIPPIN CUTE!!! AND I CAN’T WAIT FOR NEXT MONDAY’S EPISODE!!!! ZERO’S GONNA GET JEEAALLOOOUUUSSS!!! ;)