Character Mirrors that are Actually Relationship AUs in BBC Sherlock: How to Predict the Improbable by Examining the Impossible
That title is a bit confusing, yes? Let me explain a little better what I’m about to analyze. BBC Sherlock has multiple representations of the main characters, Sherlock and John, as seen through the other characters in the show. These “character mirrors” are emphasized through matching outfits, lines of dialogue, backstory, camera focus, and personality traits. What’s worth noting is that many of these character mirrors for John and Sherlock are two people who are, or could be, romantically linked. These parallel relationships serve more than one purpose, though. First, they’re meant to ease the viewer into realizing the impending canon Johnlock. Second, and what I am to argue through this meta, they are meant to show the viewer the ways John and Sherlock’s relationship could have gone in an alternate universe, leaving no other choice but for their actual relationship to go the way it’s been predetermined. Each relationship, platonic or not, that serves as a character mirror for these two people has a fundamental flaw that makes it different in the end. Sherlock and John’s ending will be different from those of their character mirrors. Once we’ve eliminated the impossible whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. And the truth, dear friends, is canon Johnlock.
I will address eight different relationship/character mirrors - even though there are so many more character mirrors - for the sake of everyone’s time and sanity.
Mrs. Hudson and Chief Bridesmaid Margaret
Our favorite land-lady is a character mirror for John in every episode, however, in TSOT she opens up about her best friend Margaret and her husband Frank. Margaret cried the whole day of Mrs. Hudson’s wedding and ended up leaving the wedding early - exactly the way Sherlock and John handled the Watson wedding. (Frank is obviously a mirror for Mary, so you can all guess exactly what’s going to happen to her in S4). Mrs. Hudson never saw Margaret much after that day. Sherlock and John were headed straight down that route, until Sherlock’s plane reversed and brought him back to John. We see here that their relationship will not follow that of Mrs. Hudson and Margaret. John and Sherlock will have some future together.
Eddie Van Coon and Amanda the P.A.
These two made a minor appearance in TBB. Eddie was the trader shot in his apartment and Amanda was his P.A. who he was dating. She felt under appreciated, much like John does to Sherlock in S1. John is often called Sherlock’s “P.A.”. Eddie was always dashing about, flying off somewhere on a moment’s notice. Sherlock does the same thing and John is usually struggling to keep up - physically and mentally. Sherlock and John are colleagues, like Eddie and Amanda. Amanda didn’t take her relationship with Eddie seriously, because she figured he didn’t take her seriously. Sherlock and John will not have that flaw - they’ve been given ample time to develop mutual respect and trust.
Irene Adler and Kate the P.A.
It’s easy to see Irene as a mirror for Sherlock - her physical features, cleverness, riding crop, drug needles, always needing the last word - the list could go on for miles. Kate is not seen often, however she is a P.A. (like John) and was drugged by Irene (like John is by Sherlock we’re told in TSOT). Irene is a self-identified homosexual who claims to have fallen for Sherlock against her usual instinct. Irene and Kate have a professional relationship, but it could be understood that they are more than “friends”. However, Irene has been at the center of two political scandals and had an affair with two married people - if she’s also romantically connected to Kate it is probable that she is not monogamous. This relationship is everything John and Sherlock’s is not. John and Sherlock will not be romantically linked AND polyamorous. Sherlock is not a homosexual who also claims attraction to women.
Soo Lin and Thomas
Another pair from TBB whose relationship never gets off the ground. Thomas, who dresses much like John and who is a colleague to Soo Lin, tries very hard to get her to date him. She is too focused on her work to comply. She also doesn’t seem to like him at all in that way. She, like Sherlock, is self-deprecating. She’s linked to drugs and to a brother who associates with “M”. She and Sherlock share knowledge of the smuggling ring. This relationship is not what John and Sherlock will have. Sherlock will not pick his work over a romantic relationship. John will not be rejected. John and Sherlock will not stop working together.
Alex Woodbridge and his Female Flatmate
Alex was the gallery attendant killed by the Golem in TGG. Sherlock literally dressed as him when he visited the gallery. John went to investigate the flatmate and we saw them both reflected in a literal mirror on the wall. She was dressed much like John. She and Alex were only flatmates - nothing more. She liked him, he was nice. His job was just a job - he rather adored stargazing. We saw Sherlock look up and compliment the stars, too. Later, stars are projected onto John’s face, further implying their subtextual connection, but that’s a whole different analysis. John and Sherlock’s relationship will not follow this one here. John and Sherlock will not be platonic flatmates.
John and Major Sholto
If TSOT didn’t make the connection between Sherlock and Sholto incredibly obvious then I suggest you go watch it again. John is, in a way, his own mirror, because we’re focusing on the John that Sholto knows - Captain John Watson. Sholto and John were colleagues with a huge amount of mutual respect for one another. Sholto sees John as a friend, which is why he called him “John” and not “Watson” after awhile (this same theme gets used in TAB). John beams at being called his first name by such a remarkable man. It is arguable that Sholto was also, at one point, pining for John, but the relationship never progressed to a romantic or physical one. The relationship John and Sherlock will have will not be confused with pining. John and Sherlock will not be just colleagues and friends.
Sherlock and Molly
Molly is a mirror for John in every episode. She reacts to Sherlock in the same ways John does, yet the average viewer sees Molly as crushing and John as platonic. Unfair? Oh yes. But still very important. Molly and John both use the phrases “I’ve moved on”/”I’m moving on” and “It wasn’t working for me” in regards to Sherlock or something Sherlock has said. But this is the important part: John is not Molly. Sherlock tries to replace John with Molly in TEH but he just can’t do it. Molly doesn’t love it either. While they are mirrors, they are not the same person. Sherlock and Molly’s relationship is not a precedent for Sherlock and John’s relationship. John will not be rejected. John’s feelings for Sherlock will not be a crude deduction and humiliation. Sherlock will not use John’s feelings for him to his advantage in his work.
Holmes and Watson
This is by far the most important mirrored relationship in the whole narrative. This friendship is what Sherlock and John would have had given the circumstances of society in 1895. Their future was shown to us at the end of TAB: Holmes and Watson sucking pipes in front of the fire, nobody else to come between them, happy with each other’s company. But this future is not what’s actually in store for these two. This is the ultimate Alternate Reality. Sherlock and John will not be best friends obeying a strict societal code of bachelorhood. Sherlock and John will not be sucking pipes in front of the fire.
We don’t have to worry about what might happen to Sherlock and John in the future because we already know what won’t happen. Thank goodness we have all those other characters to try out the remaining scenarios for us. Nothing like knowing the two main characters will live happily ever after. We’ve eliminated the impossible and the improbable is what remains: canon Johnlock.
It’s the only possible solution.