Sherlock and the Gherkin
This blog owes its existence to loudest-subtext-in-television. I never thought I’d ever write a blog myself, until I discovered her blog and was just stunned by her mind-blowing metas on Sherlock. I started to look at Sherlock in a new way and to notice details I hadn’t seen before. And suddenly, I felt the urge to share these details with other people, so here I am, starting a blog on tumblr. I dedicate my first post to loudest-subtext. Thank you for your inspiration!
When I read loudest-subtext-in-television’s meta on TBB (x) and watched the video showing Sherlock stepping onto the ledge in Sir William Shad’s office (Sherlock on ledge), something really struck me.
When we see Sherlock taking photographs of the yellow ciphers, there is something lurking in the background: the Gherkin.
Well, the Gherkin happens to be visible from Tower 42 (Shad Sanderson’s bank inTBB) and it could have been chosen by the writers just in order to show an iconic view of modern London. After all, as Mark Gatiss says in the DVD commentary “Unlocking Sherlock”: “We wanted to fetishize modern London. […] Episode 2, which is largely set in the City, we wanted to capture the look of the Gherkin and all those kind of big glass-and-steel cathedrals of finance. It’s part of a vibrancy, which is very exciting to see.”
As an iconic part of modern London, the Gherkin appears in two shots as we follow Sherlock and John on their way to the Shad Sanderson Bank, first in the background of a wide shot displaying a view of London across the Thames, and in the shot immediately after, halfway hidden behind a multi-storey building.
But I think there’s more to the Gherkin than just representing modern London. I mean, this must be the most phallic-looking building in … the world? At least in London, I suppose. So let’s assume there’s some sexual subtext about the Gherkin. More specifically: sexual subtext linked with John.
Why John? Not just because I believe in Johnlock, but rather because of this scene:
When Sherlock, Sebastian and John first enter Sir William Shad’s office, Sebastian leads the way and we see a profile shot of him in front of the window behind which, as we know (looking back from the later scene), the Gherkin could be seen. But there’s no Gherkin. Neither is there when Sherlock joins Sebastian. Only when John joins the two of them, the camera moves around to reveal the Gherkin, towering above John’s head, even for a moment completely framing John. So this iconic building that is heavily charged with subtext is visually connected to John.
So, now to the scene with Sherlock alone in Sir William Shad’s office. (In the following analysis, what we see is written in normal script, followed by the subtext in italics.)
The Gherkin is out of focus first, and Sherlock just seems to notice it when he looks ever so slightly to the left. He frowns.
There is something. What is it? Well, maybe it’s better just to ignore it.
Sherlock continues to take photographs, then starts to think about the ciphers, turning around 180 degrees. But there the Gherkin is again, this time to his left and – like before – standing between Sherlock and the ciphers.
This time, he turns his head to look at it for a moment, then looks back again - just a bit disgusted?
There it is again. Something irritates Sherlock – it’s trying to distract him from thinking. He doesn’t want to deal with it for the time being.
Sherlock then decides to open the door to the ledge. He raises the blinds, opens the door, and instead of immediately looking down the façade (to find out how someone could have entered the office from the outside), he looks at the Gherkin for rather a long time.
Then he looks down the whole length of the building, and that’s when the music’s tension increases dramatically and the camera movement gives you a feeling of vertigo.
Only then Sherlock studies the façade of the Shad Sanderson building, getting back to work after a long moment of distraction.
Sherlock decides to confront whatever this distracting feeling is. He raises the blinds and opens the door to his heart. What he discovers in there is huge and disturbing, and looking at it causes vertigo, maybe even suicidal feelings. No, confronting your feelings might not be a good idea just now, so better turn back, close the door and return to work.
That’s exactly what happens in this episode: Sherlock tries to open his heart, but doesn’t succeed, so he goes back to working alone. As LSiT has pointed out in her meta on TBB, Sherlock distances himself from John during his investigations in this episode. But he doesn’t do that from the start. He takes John with him to the bank, but then things go wrong: Sherlock introduces John to Sebastian as his “friend” and is rebuffed by John immediately (“colleague”). From that moment on, he pretty much excludes John from his investigations: John isn’t in the office with him when he tries to figure out the ciphers.
Neither is John with him when Sherlock tries to find out who could see the ciphers from their desk, bobbing up and down behind the desks on the trading floor.
It looks almost like dancing, and if dancing is a metaphor for sex, then Sherlock prefers to have sex on his own. It’s safer, no sentiments involved.
Btw, any ideas about the paintings of the huge breaking waves in the background? Like, the danger of being drowned by emotions is still lurking in the background? Or is it rather a hint towards the equation between Sherlock’s intellectual epiphanies and orgasms, beautifully demonstrated by LSiT in her meta on A Study in Pink (x)?
Just to clarify my point: I don’t think Sherlock is yet consciously aware of any unsettling romantic sentiments / sexual feelings towards John. The Gherkin as subtext rather reveals his subconscious.
Two more details that support this interpretation:
Immediately after Sebastian’s phrase “We’ve had a break-in”, we see a close-up of the news ticker behind the reception desk, entirely filling the screen with red colour. Red could be a symbol of danger, but it could symbolize love as well, thus reinforcing the metaphor of Sherlock’s heart as a locked room by connecting the actual break-in at the bank to John’s attempts at entering Sherlock’s heart.
And look at this:
Although the name of the bar at the top of Tower 42 (the Shad Sanderson Bank building), “vertigo 42”, hasn’t been invented by the filmmakers, isn’t it a nice touch to see Sherlock and John walking past the sign, the words quite close to John (John causes vertigo)?
Let’s admit it: Sherlock is in love with John head-over-heels, he just doesn’t know it yet.