Sunday, July 7, 2019

Still puzzling over season four

"Give the people what they want." -- Season Four John
"Never do that, people are stupid." -- Season Four Sherlock

It probably goes without saying that there was some weird stuff going on in season four of BBC Sherlock at this point. This week, however, I read an unrelated tweet that a writer named Sam Sykes put out there while hammered. Don't know anything about the guy, but this sentence seemed to have a certain insight to it:

"The nerds who spend years writing about relationships with fictional people are in a WAY stronger position than the nerds who spend years writing about magic systems."

Sherlock Holmes had people saying "You are a wizard!" to him long before Harry Potter, so, for the sake of Sherlockian matters, let's take the phrase "magic systems" in the quote above and substitute "consulting detective methods." Sherlock's very own magic, as he pulled off his latest "trick."

Mystery writers have been trying to emulate Conan Doyle's skill at pulling off the Sherlock Holmes trick for more than a century. Now TV and movie writers are trying to get there as well . . . and in almost every attempt, attempts to repeat those tricks.

In the era following Sherlock Holmes, mysteries almost would up with a technical quality to them. Read a book like Murder Ink, and you can see them analyzed all sorts of ways. The legacy of the 1940s murder mystery scene is one of the nerdiest areas one can get into. So what does all this have to do with season four of BBC Sherlock?

I think someone was trying to have it all -- relationship stories AND the Sherlock Holmes magic. And trying way too hard at forcing the two together.

All of the original Sherlock Holmes stories had relationship stories in them -- about the clients. Holmes and Watson came in as the frame around those relationship stories. Sherlock didn't spend a whole story tracking down Mrs. Watson. He did set a "Dying Detective" trap using Watson, but it didn't involve a troubled, grieving Watson who had to fly into cathartic violence. And giving Sherlock Holmes an origin mystery that tears through his entire life . . . well, it's hard to be a "wizard" and amaze the client when you are the client and just unveiling your own personal trauma.

Relationship stories can be great. Mystery stories can be great. Something about trying to do Sherlock-level with both at the same time, however?

I have to wonder if that's a dangerous mix.

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