theawilford asked prettyarbitrary:

Very much like and generally agree with your post on how much blame should be assigned to each character! One disagreement, though. 

You say “And in TEH, the story goes out of its way to lay out the fullness of the jackassery he pulled on John and does some heavy implying of just how badly it damaged John, but it never addresses that imbalance. It can’t.”  Yes, the story can address that, and should have.

For me, it is the great flaw of Series 3 that it never addresses the issue of how he sees Sherlock now. This ties in with the idea that Series 3 is mostly from SH’s POV, and so the other characters can get a bit blurry. For John, SH was the best & wisest of men, & did not lie. In TEH, John discovers that his faith was misplaced, as Sherlock did lie to him. “I’ll never believe he lied to me,” has changed. In the bomb scene, John reveals he still thinks of SH as the best & wisest of men, and he says he forgives SH, presumably for lying.

So now John sees Sh as liar & now believes lying is compatible with “best” and “wisest”? How does that work? How does a man “with trust issues” just go on believing what is told to him by a man he KNOWS lies to him? And no, SH’s “sorry” isn’t an apology for lying, because SH is lying about the bomb during the so-called apology.

For me, this leaves such a hole in the character arc (& really in the plot line too, because John inexplicably believes SH in the face-flicking scene instead of just killing CAM with his bare hands), that I can no longer identify with the story. After the bomb scene, nothing in the series makes any sense to me. Lots of people have written their own marvelous S3 fan-fic, filling in that hole. But for me, “Sherlock” now seems meaningful only as a lot of separate little pieces that are very interesting and entertaining taken as isolated sketches. But what was for me the very heart of the story, the intensely believeable relationship between John & SH, is now just a blur.

“Sherlock” has been my favorite of all TV shows ever, & my favorite of all ACD adaptations. And it would have been so easy to fix! How about in the bomb scene, John saying, “You can’t control my life or keep me safe in a glass bubble like a pet fish!” And SH suddenly understands & is horrified, saying “I was wrong. No matter what Mycroft says, you aren’t a goldfish.” And as John sputters, “Mycroft said what?” we’re back to the comedy. Help me here. How does John now see SH?

I think that John sees Sherlock as a human being who is capable of making sometimes massive mistakes.

John does idealize Sherlock to some extent, but he is well aware of Sherlock’s flaws, including his ego and his tendency toward amorality.  I think he was shocked and hurt to find those turned on him, but on reflection, it was not inconsistent with Sherlock’s character.  I think John wants to believe that, in making and then admitting to this terrible mistake he made with John, Sherlock has learned better.

When I say the show “can’t address this imbalance” I mean that there is no way to reconcile it.  There is no “I’m sorry” that’s big enough to fix something like that.  Sherlock says it himself:  ”I can’t fix this.”  And it’s true.  He can’t.  No one can.  The show could have him groveling (it basically did), and it can never make up to John for the hurt and the lies and the damage.  Nothing Sherlock does will ever be able to reach back in time and unmake what he did to John.

And so, that’s what we’re given.  A heartfelt apology that can never be sufficient, an admission ON HIS KNEES (on the part of perhaps the proudest man on the planet) that nothing he does can ever be sufficient…and then we have a pure, vast act of love on John’s part in accepting Sherlock back.

Because that is the ONLY thing that can bridge that gap.  Sheer, loving forgiveness.

Have you ever been betrayed in a truly deep, cutting way by a loved one?  Someone you trusted, someone you had real, total faith would be there for you, who even PROMISED to be there for you, and then when the time came and you needed them most…they weren’t?  I have.  That person is still one of my dearest friends.  They are still all the things I loved and valued about them.  And I forgive them.

But notice I said that in the present tense.  There is a thing about forgiveness that we don’t talk about.  It is not one act.  The scar lingers. And every day, we revisit it and decide again whether it’s enough.  Whether our love for that person is more than the pain.

That memory will always be there.  Both for me and for John.  

There is a difference between forgiveness and forgetting.  For any person, love and trust are always an equation. The older we get, the more we learn about how others can hurt us.  And somewhere in our hearts is a scale, where the trust and the pain are weighed against one another.  The balance can change, now and then.  But when you know you love someone, and they hurt you a lot, but you decide that the scale is still going, then slowly, day by day, act by act, you relearn to trust them.

Or not.

When it comes to John, this is a point of his characterization that each fan has to decide for themselves: based on what we have seen, how do we believe the scale weighs in his heart for Sherlock?  Do we believe that he could accept Sherlock back into his life?  Do we believe that just because he has, just because he still loves him, that the hurt doesn’t still poke at him in the middle of the night?

And related to that: “How does a man “with trust issues” just go on believing what is told to him by a man he KNOWS lies to him?”  This is a tricky question.  I don’t know how ‘a man’ does it.  They’re not all the same.  Again, the question is how John Watson goes on believing in Sherlock Holmes.

And for John, I think the question is more complex than ‘Sherlock lies.’  He knows that.  He always knew that.  He knows it to a greater extent than he did before, but perhaps he believes that that is a mistake Sherlock won’t make again.  Or maybe not.  Maybe he will be more cautious from now on.

But also, John’s faith in Sherlock Holmes is different from John’s belief that the words coming out of Sherlock’s mouth are true.  John still believes—has always believed, has not ever discovered any occasion to disbelieve—that Sherlock will always win.  He will always find the way through, even if that means faking his own death to do it.  John knows that as surely as he knows Sherlock lies sometimes.  And just as surely, he knows that Sherlock will always find his way back to John.  He’s proven that, too—took his time, but he did.

And maybe, that explains some things about John’s composure at the goodbye, too.  Maybe he has more faith than Sherlock does that this is not goodbye forever.

And if that’s the case, then may I just point out that John was right?

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