Monday, March 11, 2013

Journey to Reichenbach Four: The Savage Dance

At the pool, Sherlock learned that solitary pursuit of his quarry with reckless disregard for his life resulted in mortal danger to someone else, John Watson. He also discovered how it felt to be valued by another enough for that person to offer to die in attempt to save him. This is part of what must change before "The Reichenbach Fall" begins.  From  Journey to Reichenbach Two: The Curtain Rises,
  • Estrangement from Mycroft that continues to exist by his own choice.
  • Working alone as much as possible, wanting no help from another. 
  • Motivated primarily by selfish needs with little regard for the needs of others.
  • In need of an audience and validation of his genius and worth.
  • Unable to anticipate how his actions affect others or care when he observes they do. 
  • Does not place a high value on his continued existence: reckless with his life.
These six things must change and do, by the end of "A Scandal in Belgravia."  But while wholesale changes in personality often begin in momentous events, character only changes in enduring ways when those events are integrated into daily experience.  We've seen Sherlock begin integrating them in the early parts of  "Scandal," but on Christmas Eve, emotional stress causes Sherlock to revert.  He insults John's girlfriend, informs Lestrade his wife is having an affair, tells John his sister is still drinking.

This isn't an idle reversion to casually selfish, thoughtlessly cruel behavior.  As noted in Psyching Sherlock: the Impossible Sociopath, he uses intellect  as a weapon of punishment or revenge (i.e. Sally Donovan S01:E01).  Something threatened him.  Why has Sherlock taken to attacking his friends?  What's triggered this old behavior?  And what does it have to do with "The Reichenbach Fall?"

Everything. What happens in these few minutes on Christmas Eve bring Sherlock to a critical point in development.  Without these events, he will  never get to the ledge of the roof of St. Bart's and survive.  What happens here saves not only his life, but the lives of three of his friends, and nameless other future victims of Moriarty.
Borderline personality disorder (BPD)   ... marked by a pattern of emotional instability, impulsive behavior, a distorted self-image, and unstable relationships.

Some characteristics are:
  • Efforts to avoid abandonment, even when no real threat exists
  • Unstable and intense relationships with alternating extremes of love and hate
  • Impulsive, self-destructive behavior
  • Frequent, intense mood swings or emotional over-reactions
  • Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger
  • Chronic feelings of emptiness
  • Temporary episodes of paranoia or loss of contact with reality

The most savage scherzo is the one we dance with ourselves.

From the beginning we've seen several pivotal moments for him: in the cab where John doesn't tell him to "piss off," but instead appreciates his gift.  In the parking lot where he realized John killed the cabbie, by the pool where John offers to die so he can live.  On his phone, hearing the shot and the silence, knowing the old woman is dead. 

Now we come to Christmas Eve. Molly Hooper arrived. When she took off her coat, Sherlock saw she was intentionally overdressed for an evening of drinks with friends.  He misinterprets this, thinks she has someplace else to go, somewhere she'd rather be with someone else more interesting to her. Molly greets and speaks to everyone but Sherlock. Through her exchanges with the others, we learn that Sherlock will be left alone on Christmas.  John and Lestrade have family to be with, they have relationships that are healing.    

Then Molly reveals to everyone something personal Sherlock shared with her, exposing feelings he guards so obsessively from others:

John, I hear you're off to your sister's, is that right? 
... Sherlock was complaining...

Sherlock shoots her the briefest possible glance, but she is so attuned to him she notes it and immediately tries to correct herself:


Too late.  Added to everything else he has misunderstood, Sherlock's feeling of betrayal and abandonment well up suddenly and in the throws of  his most disordered thinking, plunged into the love-hate  self-destructive compulsion to lash-out, Sherlock Holmes reverts to his most basic defense mechanism: he mounts a vicious assault on Molly Hooper.

"I see you've got a new boyfriend, Molly, and you're serious about him ... in fact you're seeing him this very night and giving him a gift.  (John and Lestrade try and stop him)  Oh, come on, surely you've all seen the present at the top of the bag, perfectly wrapped with a bow, all the others are slapdash at best, someone special, then.

Shade of red echoes her lipstick, either an unconscious association or one she is deliberately  trying to encourage.  Either way, Miss Hooper has love on her mind.  The fact that she's serious about him is clear from the fact she's giving him a gift at all, that all suggests long-term hopes, however forlorn, and that she's seeing him tonight is evident from her make-up and what she's wearing, or else she's trying to compensate for the size of her mouth and breasts..."

... at which point Sherlock opens the card on the box  revealing  that everything he said was correct, except that the object of her love as well as her forlorn hopes is him. Being Sherlock, he understands in an instant why she was shy about speaking to him, recalls how much she has done for him in his work, how little she has asked in return, how many times he treated her with smug contempt.  Sherlock feels shame.

Molly voices her pain, tearfully saying simply what is true about him and her:

"You always say such horrible things... every time... always... always."

He looks away from her.  Sherlock Holmes looks away because he cannot stand her pain, not just the pain he has caused tonight, but all he has put her through during the time they have known one another.   He turns even further, takes a step to  escape, but there really is nowhere to go.  He cannot escape himself.

As important as it is that he has felt this pain, someone else's pain and the pain of his own guilt,  impossible for a sociopath, it is in the next moment that Sherlock Holmes finally grows up: 

He quickly pivots back to her, though not quite yet able to look at her, saying for all to hear,  "I am sorry.  Forgive me." 

John Watson is completely startled by how out of character this is for Sherlock Holmes. Unprecedented.  Molly, too, is surprised and silent, perhaps waiting for the joke. Sherlock then gives Molly as much as he possibly can at this point, he wishes her a sincere Merry Christmas, and gently kisses her cheek.

Lestrade once said Sherlock Holmes was a great man and if there they were very very lucky, someday he might even be a good one. After Sherlock's  apology and demonstration of affection for Molly, Lestrade and Watson are both watching Sherlock, perhaps seeing him as more truly himself in this, his least "Sherlock" moment.  The good man begins to emerge.

Changing Partners:

At this moment Sherlock's text alert for Adler sounds, he withdraws into himself, resuming his more usual persona.    The action swings midway through the most perfect of the six 90 minute films that comprise the first two series of SHERLOCK, and he is set firmly on the course that leads to the death of James Moriarty.

Journey to Reichenbach Five: Reconciliation.

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