If you are in the UK you may well be amongst the many that have been avidly watching the new Sherlock Holmes. I have enjoyed it far more than I ever believed I would, as a real fan of the original written works and the films with Basil Rathbone, followed by the brilliant TV adaptations with Jeremy Brett, I was surprised to see that this new series was a modern version, I was worried it would be either too far from the original feel or too close (and therefore ridiculous) but amazingly it was (as Goldilocks would agree) just right!
I adore the portrayal of the main characters, Moriarty is camp enough to appear amusing and then horrifically terrifying by turns. Watson is perfect as the slightly bemused but never stupid side kick and Sherlock, well he is Sherlock!
So rather than blog about the episodes, the plots the genius rewritings, rather than argue that Irene Adler is still a feminist that bests Holmes or that the scenes in Government buildings are hilarious in the space and cleanliness they show I shall comment on how I see Holmes and his relationships; with Watson (“we are not….”) and with Moriarty and maybe even with ‘The Woman’.
I plan to rewatch the first two episodes in this series, so if I’ve missed anything I apologise. And these are only my rambling ideas anyway. But the main thing I think is that Holmes is a distant character who does not form proper attachments in an emotional sense with anyone. Watson comments, in an overheard conversation with Lestrade, that Holmes has aspergers and indeed he sometimes shows traits of aspergers, autism, and other conditions related to emotional detachment. This is true to the original character who always put intellect before emotion. I enjoyed Watson’s jibe “alright Mr Spock”.
Now I can hear you all ‘but he loves Watson’ ‘he is friends with Watson’ ‘He likes Mrs Hudson’ ‘He lusted or loved Irene Adler’ etc etc
But I put the preposition that he did not and does not, do anything of the kind.
He needs Watson in a way that perhaps even the great Sherlock Holmes does not understand, he needs someone to show off to is the most basic of these needs, he constantly admits to being a show off – he thrives on his own cleverness and the demonstration of his powers. He needs Watson to do the mundane tasks such as writing the blog (and probably buying the groceries, paying the bills, etc), to read the papers for him (much as an MP has researchers) He needs Watson to help him to interact and to understand the emotional side of the world. He is concerned when he realises that Watson may leave him, not because he will miss his friendship, but because he will lose his sounding board, his guinea pig (“you thought the drug was in the sugar! And you gave me the sugar!”)
Mrs Hudson’s character is very similar, she keeps him ‘normal’, she rents him a home and ensures he keeps it habitable. Without her one imagines he would never clean or tidy. He uses her ruthlessness and bravery also, such as when she hides things for him and resists interrogation for him. It is clear she loves him (and possibly Watson) as the sons she does not have. Her ‘boys’.
Sherlock has a relationship with Moriarty that is equally complex,. He both loathes him (for his evil nature) and loves him (for his intellect and ability to challenge Holmes) The real complexity is, that given Sherlock’s lack of emotions, inability to understand ‘caring’ (shown when he couldn’t understand why anyone would not have a vicious dog put down) why is he on the side of ‘good’ at all? After all he sneers at Mycroft and the government, he appears to have no care about many small cases at all, so it is not a desire to help that causes him to solve cases, no of course, it is the challenge of the case. Perhaps the reason Sherlock loves Moriarty so, is that he knows that he could be him, that if the cases dried up, if the criminals became easy and boring, he himself would be drawn to crime just to stretch himself. I have always imagined him as something of a sociopath.
I also believe his relationship with The Woman is similar, he is fascinated by her in non sexual way, as one would be fascinated by an alien species that has bizarre mating habits. He is interested in how she feels about him, he understands the physical aspects of love (the increased pulse, the pupils dilating) and obviously of sex but he himself does not feel them, rather he loves her in the way he loves Moriarty, she is his intellectual equal. She challenges him and makes his life interesting. If he saves her life it it’s not because he loves her, but because his world would be more boring without her in it, and to Holmes, his world is all that matters. He is the most selfish man I have ever seen. And maybe, just maybe this is what makes him so desirable to so many who watch the TV show, or maybe it’s that he is played by Benedict Cumberbatch.