Truthfully, I am a bit incandescently pissed about the decision the writers made here.  That is just too much self-sacrificial Sherlock.  I’m not clear on why it’s ticking me off to this level, and I’m still trying to sort it.  But I think it has something to do with how single-mindedly the narrative focused on Sherlock this season.  It’s his show, of course, but when he is both the subject of the narrative and the central POV…it had the effect of shutting out any of the other characters.  Their actions still made the plot move along, but…there was too much of a sense that they were all there for Sherlock’s benefit.

I wrote a bunch earlier about this:

Because things are About Sherlock. Even when he’s playing the martyred hero, he’s still doing it with a self-conscious awareness of his role as the protagonist.  Sherlock ALWAYS makes the story about him.  He is truly egocentric; he truly does see the world as revolving around his narrative. Which as you may remember, Moriarty understood and played into, with all his little fairy tale nods.  Sherlock sees everybody else as his supporting character (although he has developed somewhat more respect for them as the show goes on), and he treats them that way.

When Sherlock is both the subject of the narrative and also the POV/narrator, it creates a sense that the story is complicit in his behavior, is approving of it.  Because Sherlock sees himself as the protagonist of his own grand, sweeping story (much like Moriarty; remember his fixation with fairy tales?).  And sometimes he uses this to justify the crappy way he treats other people.

So, we have Sherlock treating people like his own private storybook characters.  

We also have the fact that he is a controlling, dominant kind of person.  Sherlock often lays sweeping, manipulative plans that work an incredibly complex web of angles and variables.  Sometimes he does this on a moment’s notice, and frequently (more often than not) he doesn’t tell the other people involved.  (See, most infamously, Reichenbach.)  These plans don’t always work out 100%, but they’re usually pretty damned effective.  (And he’s equally good at improvising, so he often manages to jump in and fix it somehow.  Shooting CAM in the head is an example, though it’s a pretty crazy one.  But he didn’t do it on a whim; he figured that one out sometime while he was standing in the background watching John get his face poked.)

And he ENJOYS this.  He gets off on being steps if not miles ahead of everybody else.  He wields his intellectual dominance like a weapon.  

He works people like chess pieces and he likes it, is the point.  He’s gotten better about not dismissing their humanity while doing so (although not great; hi Janine), but he when he’s not being mindful about it, he still treats them like they’re his toys, meant to entertain him when he wants, serve his purposes when he needs, and shut up when he wants to think.  The ones he likes best, he ‘takes care’ of them in the way he believes is best.  It’s important to note that, with John’s influence, his concept of ‘best’ has improved a lot, but there’s still an element of ‘what suits him’ to it.  Sometimes he just does stuff apparently because it amuses him (after all, he copped to slipping various drugs to John, to see what he’d do).

And John.  John most of all is HIS.  John is the one Sherlock cares about so much that he tries to shape John’s life for him—sometimes to John’s specifications (see: the wedding) and sometimes to what Sherlock considers as optimal for him.  Sherlock is willing to share him with Mary because John has chosen Mary in a way that says to Sherlock, “She’s with me.  We come as a pair, so you take us both or leave us both.”  And Sherlock is willing to take them both, to count Mary as part of John, partly because Mary is just as crazy-protective of John as he is and partly because he has decided he will take care of John and make him happy no matter what, and so now that just means also taking care of Mary.

Even now, he STILL conceals things from John, doesn’t give him the full story.  Not with Mary, though, he gave John the full story on Mary because Mary was trying to do the same thing Sherlock does; shape John’s knowledge and understanding to suit her needs and desires.  That’s okay when Sherlock does it to John, but when somebody else does it to John, THEN John deserves the full truth.  He doesn’t tell John he’s probably going to his death.  (Though he does say they’ll probably never meet again.)  He does what he can to form John’s life into a shape that (Sherlock believes) will best make him both happy and (to the degree John can tolerate) safe.

So in this way, Mary is a reflection of Sherlock (she’s also partly a reflection of John).  We can look at Mary and understand that in her amoral, ruthless devotion to protecting John and their life together, we can also come to understand things about Sherlock.  In fact, in HLV, we almost catch them sharing knowing glances over John’s head.  They both live in a way that John doesn’t, with a cold hard determination to achieve their goals at any cost that, crazy as he can be, John does not possess.  And we see them almost using that shared understanding in a parental way.  ”I’ll keep him in trouble.”  ”That’s my girl.”  It’s just just a joke.  Sherlock is entrusting Mary with John’s keeping.

CAM is also a reflection of Sherlock—a hideous, twisted one, because CAM doesn’t just like to benignly express his proprietership of people through gently managing their lives and occasionally terrorizing them.  He likes to force people to feel his ownership of them, and he likes to degrade them while he’s at it.  CAM is a consummate rapist, where Sherlock just wants to, you know, manage his friends’ lives for them in the way he thinks is best.

So where am I going with all this?  I’m saying that having Sherlock throw away his life to save John’s is a false martyrdom.  He’s better than CAM, yes.  He’s probably a better person than Mary.  But he’s not doing this because he’s learned his lesson and become selfless.  He’s doing it because 1: he has a murderous hate for CAM to begin with and 2: John Watson is a PART of him, so far as Sherlock is concerned, and so this is less about self-sacrifice and more another kind of selfishness.  

This is NOT a Sherlock who has learned to be a better person.  This is more of “Sherlock backslid while he was gone and has yet to bootstrap himself back up to functioning as an empathically enabled person.”

And I think that the reason it pisses me off that Sherlock shot CAM and then we did the whole ‘ship him off to get himself killed for the Crown’ is because Sherlock keeps indulging in these false martyrdoms that then get framed by the narrative like he’s done something truly heroic rather than kind of nasty.  And I wish John had shot CAM instead, because then we would have seen what real selflessness looks like.  But we never get to see John exercise that—that most unique part of his personality, that one part of him that is a truly transformative force on the people around him.

And that is bugging me because when Sherlock has too much control of the narrative (both the one in his head and the one that we’re watching), then things easily skew awfully twisted.  They go dark in the way that he does when he has no one to moderate him, and the beautiful partnership that is Sherlock and John gets lost in favor of John as pet or sidekick, because John’s input and the balance he brings to their relationship gets drowned out by Sherlock’s egotistical certainty that he’s got the best idea.

Sooooooo on the one hand, I consider this awesome, because I do in fact love that kind of dark story and these kinds of messed-up characters.  It’s very cool in the short term, and even useful as a narrative device, because when the inside of Sherlock’s head is reflected more fully on the world around him, we learn so much about how he sees the world and his life and choices.  

But on the other hand, if this continues in the long run then it is NOT going to bode well for the show, because in that configuration, the core relationship between Sherlock and John is likely to slowly slip away as John becomes relegates to an object/sidekick and those delightful glimmers of the better person they can each be with each other get lost.

So while I loved the hell out of this season, I’m hoping that some elements of this are temporary, and I’m really hoping that we get to see less of false martyr Sherlock and more of John as an active hero.

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