So I went back and looked at a this thing that I posted a while back about watching “Study in Pink” with my partner. And I was struck by this paragraph:

So, Martin Freeman’s Watson is brilliant because it reveals something that the Doyle stories hide more successfully—which is that it’s Watson, the more superficially normative guy in this partnership, who actually has the most difficulty with his emotions and who puts the most effort into repressing them. Freeman does a terrific job with something very difficult, which is preserving an unemotional front without seeming blank or empty. He’s much calmer and stiller than Sherlock most of the time, but you look at him and you know it’s only because he’s so tightly wound and putting so much energy into keeping the lid on everything. It fits in with Mycroft’s note about how John’s response to stress is actually to become steadier and calmer, and with what Sherlock says in his profile of the as-yet-unknown shooter about him being “acclimatised” to violence (but not necessarily, on a deep level, OK with it). Which is so much more interesting than nearly anything else I’ve ever seen anyone do with Watson.”

Boy, does “Empty Hearse” make that SO MUCH MORE TRUE.

Though I initially complained about the non-operatic quality of the reunion scene, on rewatch I am  better able to appreciate it, and thing that I appreciate about it is Freeman’s performance of John’s initial reaction. Because it is totally consistent with the characterization he’s developed for John in the first two seasons. In the first few seconds he barely actually moves; it’s more of John responding to stress by becoming calmer and stiller, only the tension he’s suppressing in order to maintain that response is highly visible and just about unbearable. The strain of not exploding all over the restaurant makes it nearly impossible for him to speak. And, again, Freeman makes visible everything that’s *not*  being expressed. 

So in the end I think I have to applaud the decision to do the reunion in a public place, because that actually brings out in spades all the things on which Freeman has always based his performance of John and his emotions. Hooray for that.

Yes, yes, yes! Oh yes, John really is repressed (as I said in my response on biromantic!John) to a point that almost everyone weirdly ignores. It’s how he balances with Sherlock, who expresses with no filter (but is barely aware of anything inside), while John is so deeply controlled and ‘calm’ but raging out of control inside and he knows it, too. Their neuroses match so perfectly I just want to cry, hahah.

Anyway, I was always a bit uncomfortable that the reunion was in public (and with Mary!), but on the other hand this way, the unspoken tension just ratchets up, and the fact that John still jumps Sherlock (repeatedly!) and the sheer ridiculousness of the whole thing (oh god they’re both idiots) is so clear. I mean, John is so perfectly John, but Sherlock is just so ridiculously, obliviously Sherlock as well! It wouldn’t be the same if he wasn’t, if he wasn’t so tone-deaf and yet wanting to please, thinking that even now he’s being cute and is going to get away with it. Like a manipulative toddler with a mom that has PTSD and is about to snap (and then does snap). It’s just so painful and ridiculous at the same time. Sherlock isn’t operatic, and John never is anything but clothed in his metaphorical jumpers with tea (about to shoot you); I mean, Sherlock’s opera is a farce. Sherlock himself is a farce (‘a ridiculous man’, he admits later). John needs to be calm, but his calm is always different than Sherlock’s calm; Sherlock is disconnected, while John is just compressed into predatory stillness.  

Oh John. I actually think this is Sherlock’s ‘in’ way more than any biromantic tendencies he supposedly shows in the next episode: it’s the brewing violence and John’s addiction meeting Sherlock’s, and it always was. It’s not about John expressing his feelings, but Sherlock allowing John’s feelings a concrete expression. Like a weird sort of ventriloquist, Sherlock’s whole existence acts out John’s repressed desires. As long as Sherlock speaks in John’s silences and John speaks through Sherlock’s, that’s more sexual and more romantic than I can even imagine a love-confession could be. 

This is what I’m saying.  Maybe they have sex, and maybe they don’t, and fundamentally it doesn’t matter, because their primary, hm, form of union takes a different shape.  But they do totally HAVE a form of union.

I still say the closest analogue is probably non-sexual BDSM (yes, that’s a thing).  But I know that some people find ‘BDSM’ a problematic term here, because whatever these two are up to, it’s not always safe, sane or consensual.  So maybe go for the broader term, ‘kink.’  I mean they’ve DEFINITELY got SOME kind of non-sexual but still passionate kink relationship going.  Could anybody even argue otherwise?

(I always found Sherlock the more predatory of the two.  John reminds me more of the more badass species of herbivores.  Technically he may be a prey animal, but if you want to take him down, you’d better have brought your pack along.)

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