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 techniqueI’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.
The point isn’t that John is thrown a rope despite being chained to the bottom of the well. The point isn’t that they managed to leap to safety from an exploding flat. The point isn’t that Mycroft, previously referred to as the ice man, is terrified and repulsed to the point of vomitting. The point isn’t that we never saw the contents of John’s letter. The point isn’t that the timeline for Eurus meeting Moriarty doesn’t actually make sense within the previously established narrative. The point isn’t that a kid went missing and no adult authority thought to check in the nearby well. The point isn’t that John’s hair grew seemingly overnight. The point isn’t Sherlock failing to notice missing glass. The point isn’t that John strong moral principle Watson could have an affair and beat his best friend to a pulp. The point isn’t that we never found out who the “mutual friend” was. The point isn’t that there was a dog bowl. The point isn’t that paper somehow survived the flat going up in flames.
The point is that all these things happened together. There isn’t just one singular thing to look at and go “that’s why series 4 sucked”, it’s all of these inconsistencies put together. I just keep seeing people say things like “omg obviously we didn’t need to see John getting unchained to know that it happened” and “would people get over the fucking letter, it wasn’t important what it said its just about the drama” and I’m like that’s totally valid if we were just looking at any one (or even a couple) of these things happening throughout this series. But we’re not. All of these things happened. Yes people are making a big deal out of little things, but it’s because when you actually add up the amount of little things…well turns out that list isn’t actually that little.
This series displayed some truly lazy writing, and not on a small scale.