I’ve been collecting theories on the train scene, because everybody keeps coming up with such cool ideas.  Roughly speaking, they boil down into a few camps.

1: There’s the ‘Sherlock is a total dick and also kind of a monster’ theory, represented by my initial reaction here: http://prettyarbitrary.tumblr.com/post/71926296756/first-thoughts-on-the-empty-hearse-spoilers

2: There’s the ‘Sherlock was doing it as a cover for their emotions so that he and John could admit how they really felt and still preserve their manly unemotiveness’ as represented by madlori’s post here: http://madlori.tumblr.com/post/71892697613/in-which-sherlock-is-a-little-shit

3: There’s the ‘it’s all a kinky S&M game’ theory, here: http://prettyarbitrary.tumblr.com/post/71994048788/look-i-find-this-difficult-sherlock-spoilers

I like things about all of them.  I definitely don’t believe that Sherlock doesn’t care about John.  Obviously he does.  It’s EVERYWHERE in this story; he’s frankly OBSESSED with John.

I think he probably did MEAN to help in the train scene.  And I’ll also give them this: John was being truthful and consistent when he said “This is difficult for me.”  He sucks at talking to a therapist.  He sucks at writing about himself in a blog (but he loves writing about Sherlock).  He fails to so much as actually say word one about what the last two years have been like for him, even though going by Mary’s reaction and the fact that he shut Mrs. Hudson out, it was outright horrifying.  (“Do you know what you’ve done?!” Mary gasps when Sherlock reveals himself.)

He’s fine with talking about emotions when they’re SOMEBODY ELSE’S emotions, but when it comes to his own, he’s so private and repressed that when WE watch him mourn at Sherlock’s grave, we do it at not one but two removes (hand over his face and we only see his dark reflection in the granite).

So it’s possible that, barring such a taut, extreme situation, Sherlock might never have heard John say the words, “I forgive you,” even when the day of that forgiveness came (although I personally think John would have said them eventually, though Sherlock might’ve had to live without the ‘best and wisest’ bit).

But it was still cruelly traumatic, unhealthy for a guy who’s just spent the past few days getting over the past couple of years, and frankly unnecessary.  It was still Sherlock making (yet another) decision on John’s behalf, ‘for John’s own good,’ without John’s consultation.  

Given the situation, he essentially manipulated and coerced John into saying those things.  How do you look someone you love in the eyes at the moment you think you’re both about to die and NOT say, “I forgive you” when they beg for your forgiveness?

And though Sherlock did offer a more complete apology, along with a kind of explanation, in that scene, he did so under false pretenses, presenting it to John as if he were talking about the situation on the train rather than all the fuck-ups he’d committed with John.  And if you were a position where somebody you cared about had really, truly hurt you, perhaps in a way that fucked up your life, and they apologized but they did it in a veiled, underhanded way, do you think that would really feel like a real, meaningful apology to you?  Would YOU be okay with that?

(If you’ve ever had the misfortune to be there, I’m betting your answer is no.)

And yeah, it was unnecessary.  Sherlock had apologized at least three times during the course of the episode.  John was on his way to visit Sherlock when he was kidnapped (Mary was as good as her word about getting him to come around).  He came back after he was kidnapped.  They were already fixing things.  It wasn’t necessarily moving along in a sprint, but Sherlock simply didn’t need to push the issue on the train.  That he did so anyway indicates three possibilities:

1: It wasn’t about actually earning John’s forgiveness, but about Sherlock’s own satisfaction in getting to hear the words.

2: It was about actually earning John’s forgiveness, but Sherlock took it upon himself to force the issue (in a frightening, stressful way) regardless of whether John was actually ready.

3: S&M games, the fucked up little turkeys.

That John appeared to be okay with it once the trick was revealed honestly doesn’t matter.  If somebody chooses to put themselves in an abusive, potentially damaging situation (f’r ex, perhaps because it’s a pattern they’re familiar and, in a sense, comfortable with), that still doesn’t make it okay to actually abuse them.

But that’s how it happened, so I guess our big takeaway is that (as many of us have known for quite some time) John Watson is one supremely fucked up little puppy.

And if we’re honest, most of us like him that way.

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