Friday, March 8, 2013

Journey to Reichenbach Three: Scherzo

"Why are you doing this?" Sherlock asks Moriarty
 in The Great Game.

"I like to watch you dance," Moriarty replies.

Developed from the minuet, the scherzo  is a piece of music, often the 3rd movement of a symphony.   The scherzo is classically a lighter interlude within the larger work.  The word "scherzo" means "joke" in Italian and in musical notation, the word "scherzando" ("joking") means that a passage should be executed in a playful manner.
...  it was Ludwig van Beethoven and Franz Schubert who first used the form widely, with Beethoven in particular turning the polite rhythm of the minuet into a much more intense — and sometimes even savage — dance.1

In "A Scandal in Belgravia," Sherlock Holmes finally grows up, completing his evolution from self-involved narcissist to one of the heroes in which he does not believe.2 In doing so, he becomes the man who ends up, ineluctably,  plunging from the roof of Saint Bart's in "The Reichenbach Fall." 

The episode begins in the middle of the encounter with James Moriarty at the pool.  There, Sherlock experienced love, the real thing: the action of one for the benefit of another: John offers to die for him.  ("Greater love hath no one than this: to lay down his life for a friend." John 15:13) Sherlock is so startled, he has no idea how to take advantage of the situation.  Moriarty leaves, and then returns to finish them off.  

In "A Study in Pink," the first movement in Gatiss' Holmesian symphony,  Sherlock is willing to carelessly risk his life for a thrill.  Indeed,  "The Great Game," in which the pool scene begins, Sherlock is still acting alone, still walking into a meeting with a dangerous but fascinating psychopath with no cover, no back-up, no one even knowing where he is.

He puts John Watson at risk, and even though it's Sherlock's fault, John offers his life.  When Moriarty returns, Sherlock takes aim at the bomb, willing to die.  But this time when Sherlock puts his life on the line, it's in service to something larger, in intimate union with a brother.  The first of his two most significant moments occurs when Sherlock does not decide and take action alone, but for the first time, uniquely, looks for agreement, trust in his actions, from someone else. In the exchange of glance between John and himself, John gives him that trust, and affirms that Moriarty's death is the victory on this field worth dying for, if they must. 

In terms of Sherlock's character, this is what evolutionary theorists call a stochastic leap: an unpredictable change that opens up a whole new vista of possibilities.  But Moriarty, also unpredictable, decides it's the "wrong day to die." 

Scherzo:  Now we see Sherlock and Watson working together, finding cases, solving, blogging, living.  They become closer, comfortable with one another, more like brothers.    Sherlock even seems to be working better with Lestrade, who recommends him to another detective on an out of town case, the stranded motorist and dead hiker.
Fun at the Palace.
When Sherlock's actual brother forcibly intrudes on this idyllic interlude, Sherlock rebels in childish fashion, finally  deigning to take the case and obtain the scandalous photos held by The Woman.  (In Sherlock Backstory: the Privateer, it becomes apparent that he is also employed in some fashion by the British government.  He may loathe being handled by Mycroft, but he does have a job to do and he knows it.)

Inviting Sherlock to dance.
Sherlock sallies forth with his usual complete confidence to recover the photos only to be defeated by Irene Adler, who started out leading in the dance, and then engaged with him in a mental and physical tug-of-war to keep it.  It is in the defeat that he becomes fascinated by her, learns to admire her.   She alters his mobile phone, adding a special sound to signal her texts.  While he doesn't respond to her,  he also doesn't remove the special signal. 

Taking Adler's pulse.
On a more practical note, for the producers to keep selling us Cumberbatch as sex symbol, and to deal with the classic conundrum in the Canon of  Holmes' sexuality, (As [Sir Arthur Conan] Doyle remarked to muse Joseph Bell, "Holmes is as inhuman as a Babbage calculating machine and just about as likely to fall in love"3) there needed to be a clarification of Cumberbatch's Sherlock.  Gatiss' handles it all masterfully, remaining true to the essentials of the Canon, giving the Cumberbatched viewers Sherlock as powerful seducer (I took your pulse) while maintaining Sherlock's Spockian detachment for the future of the show.

Irene Adler is also preserved as a possible ally in future, as well. But Sherlock's experience of weakness in decision, due to his psycho-biological reaction to The Woman, inoculates him against future entanglements of this sort.  As Doyle tells us through Watson in "A Scandal in Bohemia,"
To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex. It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler...yet there was but one woman to him, and that woman was the late Irene Adler

Mycroft's Big Mistake

At the second critical juncture in the evolution of Sherlock Holmes, on the plane when he learns how he has been manipulated and used and what the consequence of that, Mycroft apologizes to Sherlock for "driving" him into Adler's path saying, "I'm sorry, I didn't know." Mark Gatiss does a lovely bit of acting here as he looks down and away, averting his eyes from Sherlock's humiliation

But Mycroft's big mistake happened months before in 221B Baker street, when Sherlock asks what else Adler has on the phone, knowing the Americans wouldn't be interested in some scandalous photographs.  

Mycroft refuses to tell him and then "orders" Sherlock to stay away from Adler.  Whatever the problem between the brothers, it clouds both their judgement.  Mycroft should know from long experience that ordering Sherlock to do anything always results in the opposite behavior.  And, if Sherlock had known going in what was on the phone, he would have been forearmed against Adler's attempts to get him to decipher it.

Thus Mycroft sets up Sherlock for his biggest defeat, and in turn, Mycroft's own.  First, he puts Sherlock onto Adler presuming Sherlock cannot be affected by a beautiful, clever woman.  Then, he places his need to exert control over Sherlock above an objective assessment of the situation. Thus Sherlock is primed for his last transformation.

Journey to Reichenbach Four: The Savage Dance

1 See Wikipedia "Scherzo."
2 See Journey to Reichenbach 2: The Curtain Rises for more on his evolutionary process
3 from Wikipedia's "Sherlock Holmes" page: 
 Although Holmes appears to show initial interest in some female clients ...Watson says he inevitably "manifested no further interest in the client when once she had ceased to be the centre of one of his problems". Holmes finds their youth, beauty, and energy (and the cases they bring him) invigorating, distinct from any romantic interest. ...  Watson states that Holmes has an "aversion to women" but "a peculiarly ingratiating way with [them]". Holmes states, "I am not a whole-souled admirer of womankind"; in fact, he finds "the motives of women... so inscrutable.... How can you build on such quicksand? Their most trivial actions may mean volumes;... their most extraordinary conduct may depend upon a hairpin".
As Doyle remarked to muse Joseph Bell, "Holmes is as inhuman as a Babbage's calculating machine and just about as likely to fall in love". The only joy Holmes derives from the company of women is the problems they bring him to solve. In The Sign of the Four, Watson quotes Holmes as being "an automaton, a calculating machine", and Holmes is quoted as saying, "It is of the first importance not to allow your judgement to be biased by personal qualities. A client is to me a mere unit—a factor in a problem. The emotional qualities are antagonistic to clear reasoning. I assure you that the most winning woman I ever knew was hanged for poisoning three little children for their insurance-money". This points to Holmes's lack of interest in relationships with women in general, and clients in particular, leading Watson to remark that "there is something positively inhuman in you at times". ... Watson notes that while Holmes dislikes and distrusts them, he is nonetheless a "chivalrous opponent".

1 comment:

  1. CONTESSA VAN RIESENApril 26, 2014 at 8:41 AM

    Absolutely no sexual chemistry between Irene Adler and Sherlock - she looks old enough to be his mother!
    She is too hard, too thin lipped and even when she was standing in front of him naked there was nothing. She should have taken a leaf out of Rachel McAdam´s book. He has chemistry with every other character but not her. It´s hard to believe he would "fall" for this woman. His scenes with ´Janine' are charged as are those with 'Molly'.
    Get another actress who actually exudes sensuality instead of trying to act it because Lara Pulver failed miserably.
    Hope she won't appear in the next series as it will be spoiled for me.