A Crisis of Faith, or, The Why of EMP
Watching The Lying Detective again, it becomes clearer and clearer that we’re in some variation of a dream, a trip, an alibi, Sherlock’s mind palace - some sort of false reality. There’s plenty of good meta on this: see the EMP masterlist (someone lmk if there’s a more recent list to link to). There was a compelling case for it before TST & TLD, but I resisted, because I didn’t get why they would do this.
(I’m a bit like John Watson when he gets angry at Sherlock - not interested in the how, but the why. Plenty of amazing meta writers worked out the how of TJLC, but I had to write a 13k word meta before I could accept the why.)
Anyway, I can deny it no longer, EMP is happening. But… why?
Here’s my best guess (and, not coincidentally, my greatest hope): EMP is happening because they want to get even more metafictional.
I haven’t watched all of Moffat’s Doctor Who episodes. In fact, they used to annoy me – Moffat uses the sci-fi setting to set up really fantastical plot twists. In Sherlock, Moffat’s plots are bounded by reality, plausibility, science. Or, well, they were.
To be fair to Mofftiss, BBC Sherlock is still bounded by plausibility. They’ve gone to the trouble to present multiple in-universe mechanisms for us to be watching a false reality. Interestingly, these are all introduced in the second series. We get drug-induced dream sequences in ASiB. We get drug-induced hallucinations and memory-altering substances and the mind palace in THoB. We also, in Series 2, get the first truly metafictional storylines: Irene Adler and the destructiveness of love; Henry Knight haunted by his own story, a distorted truth; and of course, Moriarty, telling Sherlock’s story all wrong.
Prior to Series 4, I thought this was more or less the limits of their metafictionality. Sure, they’ll throw in a lot of imagery and symbolism, but they wouldn’t go further than that, would they?
Of course they would. They ended Series 2 with a character called The Storyteller writing Sherlock to death. That was half a show ago. They had go somewhere after that.
But where exactly are they going?