Saturday, May 9, 2020

Reaction to a Resurrection

In the end, we can only say what comes from our own hearts.

It's not often that I approach a Sherlockian subject with pure emotion, but during a discussion of "The Empty House" in a Zoom meeting of the Parallel Case of St. Louis, I found a point in the Canon in which my opinion was based upon no logic whatsoever. Just emotion.

In BBC Sherlock, we know how the Reichenbach fall played out. Sherlock made John watch him die, hid behind a crypt while John mourned over his grave, then showed up later with a cute moustache and a goofy waiter act when John is having dinner with his wife. This John then flew into a recurring rage and bashed him repeatedly. That makes sense.

In the original "Empty House," every part of that story is tempered. Watson doesn't see Holmes die, just gets a note. Holmes flees over the mountains, knowing he's still being stalked, and doesn't hang around, peeking around corners for the readers to see. When he comes back, he's in disguised, yes, but he's also avoiding a sniper until he can end the threat. He takes risks, but has returned at a time when Watson seems to have lost his wife, and is alone again. And Watson shows no sign of anger at seeing his friend alive again. They have a few hours of private time together that we readers are not privy to.

Until BBC Sherlock came out, I don't remember hearing a lot of thought that original Canon John Watson would have been furious with his Sherlock Holmes. His joy at Holmes's return was the reader's joy at having our old friend back. And without the added theatrics of BBC Sherlock, watching the fall, toying about while not far away, I still just cannot see why OC Watson would feel anything but pure joy upon finding his friend was once more alive. Am I a sociopath, who can't empathize with human feelings? Quite the opposite.

My youngest brother died last fall, and I feel that loss all the time. It was the hardest death I've had to face thus far in life, and were he to suddenly show up at my door, laugh in my face, and flat out go "I tricked you!" would my immediate reaction be anger? If it was there at all, it would be buried in sheer love and I couldn't punch the guy with arms that were just hugging the shit out of him. I think of other friends, and the feeling is the same. Grief is hard, loss is hard, but to be given the gift of a return at a point where you truly had come to understand how much that person meant to you, the kind of understanding that only comes with loss?

I don't think I could feel much outside of the joy at that point.

You know we quote that damned Vincent Starrett poem far too much, but, oh boy, did he hit the nail so many times in that one poem. When it comes to Sherlock Holmes, "Only those things the heart believes are true," and sometimes your heart just makes your headcanon . . . or is that, then, "heartcanon?"

Adaptations will go where they will, and often shade our images of our two friends. But I think I've found my baseline when it comes to a reaction to a resurrection: Heartcanon.

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