Why Sherlock’s return didn’t quite work

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Ambiguities notwithstanding, the presented explanations as to how Sherlock faked his death all had one thing in common: the intention to fool John. It’s all about his perspective – where he’s standing, what he can see, and so on and so forth. It’s understandable in some ways, because in that scene John is the audience surrogate; indeed, there’s a tradition dating back to the start of Watson acting in that role. Convincing John of Sherlock’s death is, in effect, necessary to demonstrate it to the audience. But, here’s the thing: in an instance of dramatic irony, it’s revealed to the audience that Sherlock is alive. Most would have been expecting it, of course, but the confirmation shifts our perspective away from John’s – suddenly, we become a confidante. We’re in on it. John isn’t.

The Reichenbach Fall indicates a need to fool Moriarty’s assassins; The Empty Hearse presents instead an attempt to fool John, with no explanation as to why. The ending of The Reichenbach Fall becomes less about Sherlock outwitting Moriarty against the clock, and more about Sherlock pulling a cruel and elaborate prank on his best and only friend.

Finally drawing a close to my series of Sherlock articles (at least until Sunday), here’s one that expands on some observations I made a few years ago.

It’s weird, I guess; I feel like pivoting away from the technicalities to focus on the emotional aspect was the most sensible – indeed, even essential – choice to make. But I don’t feel like the emotional aspect landed, given the above; I suspect that’s part of why so many people struggled on the technicalities of it. (Though it didn’t help that the technicalities were a bit ridiculous anyway.)

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On Sherlock’s death, The Empty Hearse, and John Watson

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You know, I think I’ve figured out what annoys me about the resolution for Sherlock’s death.

I think what sums it up is John’s line – “I don’t care how you did it, I just want to know why”.

And the odd thing is that everything about that explanation seems dedicated to making John think that Sherlock was dead. It was all about where he was standing, from his perspective, etc.

But I don’t see what’s accomplished from making John think Sherlock is dead? Should the assassin across the road have been the one who was to be convinced – and could see the whole thing unfolding anyway? I realise that Mycroft’s people were dealing with him, but they didn’t respond immediately, did they? There was still a chance for him to shoot John when he sees Sherlock and all the kerfuffle.

I mean, there’s the obvious reason – John has to think Sherlock was dead to similarly convince Moriarty’s network, in turn protecting everyone and allowing Sherlock to slip off the grid, as it were. But… that wasn’t used? It seemed to be missing a trick, if nothing else. (And that might have gone further to justify the pain Sherlock causes John)

It’s just… with that explanation, the ending of The Reichenbach Fall became less about Sherlock outwitting Moriarty against the clock, and more about Sherlock pulling a cruel and elaborate prank on his best and only friend.

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