Please be aware that this is massive – bring some time if you want to read it (and it’s only the first part, lol).
Before the episode aired, there were teasers going around, one of them said that TSoT is a love letter to John Watson. Naturally, everyone, me included, assumed that this is a love letter from the show’s creators to John because he’s just as much an important person in a show where focus mostly rests on the titular main character Sherlock Holmes.
I don’t think anyone predicted that we could be wrong. This was a love letter to John Watson, all right. But not from the creators. It came right from said titular main character himself.
I wasn’t sure how to approach this review, but in the last one using headlines worked pretty well. This time though it won’t be about characters, but events. I hope it all makes sense. There might be repeats in there, but it is still the easiest way to do this review.
Storyteller Mrs. Hudson
Foreshadowing is the word. And it is what we begin the episode with (after the title sequence). Mrs. Hudson comes up with tea and finds a Sherlock who is up already, apparently early in comparison to his usual waking hours. Nice information here, that he seems to only get up late most of the times, but also important, as we see how important John and wedding are to him when he is up so early.
First of all we learn that Sherlock assumed the tea just “happened” to be there. So she must have brought him tea for a while now, probably since he’s been back, which was, if we go by the wedding invitation that says May, seven months back. So much for not being the housekeeper. Also, we can further guess that before, it was always John who made tea in the morning. Domesticity, anyone?
Mrs. Hudson is of course excited. Sherlock, of course, not so much. I find it curious how people say that this series, we see another Sherlock, or at least a different side of him. And indeed, some things he does are unlike what we would have seen of the “old” Sherlock from two or three years ago. But his personality, in essence, is still the same – at least as long as he isn’t together with John (or Mary). He still has the same snarky, broody qualities, and dismisses most of what is connected to friendship, relationship, love, emotions. Sentiment. The real shift in character we see when it is about John. And only John. Mary is part of that, of course, but only because of John.
So even now, and despite all his efforts he put into preparing this wedding – which even included neglecting his work as Consulting Detective – he mocks it and plays it down. Funnily enough, how he describes a wedding in the simplest terms had me nodding in agreement, because it is actually just that – forming a legal bond, celebrating it with a party and a holiday, and then it goes back to your normal life. To Sherlock’s understanding, Mary and John living together and sharing a flat and their life can’t be much different from John and Sherlock doing the same, or having done it.
But, foreshadowing. Mrs. Hudson has of course her own opinion – she’s been married, after all. And she thinks marriage changes people. When Sherlock disagrees, she retaliates:
Well, you wouldn’t understand, ’cause you always live alone.
And that hurts. You can see it in his face. He takes a moment, breathes in, pushes the comment away, and then changes the subject, subconsciously or maybe consciously trying to hurt back by reminding Mrs. Hudson of her failed marriage. Okay, so her husband was a murderer, and as Sherlock, rightfully in my opinion, states is she hardly an advert for relationships, or marriage. But the fact remains – the fact that she has experience, and more than Sherlock (after all, we don’t even know if he ever had a relationship), and the fact that what she has experienced reminds Sherlock of his own situation. When she starts talking about her best friend, how their friendship ended with her wedding, how she left the wedding early, he knows that this relates to him, that it could be the same for him. And as expected, he is defiant. He is indeed like a child when he avoids the subject and throws Mrs. Hudson out.
But the moment he looks at John’s chair, we know that Sherlock has very well understood. The end of an era. John’s not there anymore. He hasn’t been for a while, sure, but now that he is getting married, it is even more final. As long as it is just a casual partnership, there were still chances. But marriage? That’s completely different. That is solidifying something, grounding it, and it is something people usually don’t tend to just step back from (at least not just like that).
Right then. Into battle.
Despite all the things that are later on said throughout the episode, these are probably the most heartbreaking words. Relationships are a struggle for Sherlock, so a wedding must be a battle(field). But is it because it is the ultimate celebration of love and relationship(s), and because he has so many people pretending to be happy around him, is it because he knows that on this very day, he’s going to lose John? The fight against himself, his own feelings, his notion of loss overwhelming him, as he watches his best friend (and maybe more) ride off into the sunset with another person. Also possible, however, is that maybe it is because he sees it as the conclusion to his own relationship: marrying John. As will be explained later on, I believe he at least partly sees this wedding as his own.
Whatever it is, the fact remains that this puts a strain on him, and while we see a Sherlock so much different in the following scenes – the rest of the episode – this makes it clear that whatever happens next is his struggle between who he is and someone who will be accepted. Someone John will love. He doesn’t recognize that John already does; either that, or he believes that he will need acceptance of everyone else as well, thus has to behave acceptable. But no matter what, he will still have to watch John and Mary getting married, and even if he sees himself as part of that, it is still not his wedding.
We’re not finished with Mrs. Hudson. We have another of her insights, after the stag night. She’s confronting John with the except same assumption – marriage changes things, changes people, and you forget your old friends. She’s turning tables now, whereas before she told the story so Sherlock could see himself in it, it now is John who can find himself in there. And then she goes on and tells John that the relationship with her husband was a whirlwind thing, and purely physical. Now, I’m not sure whether the latter can be related to John, but the first sure can – after all, he’s only known Mary for six months when he asks her to marry him. Not a very long time.
Interesting here is that the whole, you forget about your friends, and, my relationship with my husband was purely physical, seems to go hand in hand. Like a clear advice – don’t throw a friendship away for a whimsy love affair you mistake for something that could last forever. And we know for a fact that Mrs. Hudson ships Johnlock, even thought she must know they were never together, despite all her comments and implications (after all has she seen John with his girlfriends etc.), thus it would seem only logical if she tries to intervene, make sure that there are no doubts that, ignored, are going to hurt both of them (John and Sherlock).
In addition to that we have them talk about the right person, the one you click with, being the best thing in the world. First of all doesn’t Mrs. Hudson say – talking to John, who is about to get married to Mary! – “the woman you click with”. Instead, she uses the universal “person”, not specifying a gender. And as we remember, when John and Sherlock met, they did click right away. Two hermits readily moving in and starting a life together. And making it work, where they don’t seem to have that many (other) friends to begin with. We know for a fact that Sherlock’s no one to have, well, anyone, and everyone John seems even remotely close to he got to know after he met Sherlock – Lestrade, Molly, Mrs. Hudson. We never see or hear of Mike again, so theirs is an acquaintance at max. But with Sherlock it’s working, living together, solving cases together, being there for each other; being ready and willing to die for each other. If that’s not clicking, I don’t know what is.
Like Sherlock before, John also finds a way to end the conversation – by asking about Sherlock. Convenient timing, just in the moment Mrs. Hudson wants to report about a seemingly special night, and although we can assume that in the end it was Sherlock he came to 221B for in the first place, his mind wanders off to listen more closely and notice Sherlock wandering around upstairs just as she starts telling about the more racy moments. Was it just him distracting himself, or did Mrs. Hudson’s words remind him of why he is there?
Cases in relation to Johnlock
One can of course see all the cases as gift to the audience – a glimpse back to moments we’ve never seen before, which is indeed nice. Also, now that I think about it, another kind of a foreshadowing maybe: It will never be like this again. Or at least it’s not supposed to.
The Hollow Client: Important about that one seems or be that he is sitting (well, his clothes, anyway) on John’s chair. Usually we see clients sitting on the couch, with a few exceptions, but those exceptions are in general much more important than a quickly mentioned case (see Henry in HoB). Here it is a nameless, faceless client (in every sense of the word) of a case mentioned in a row with others. The significance arises with a nobody, an apparently non-existent person, sitting in the chair of the man who’s later going to leave Baker Street – another notch in the wooden table of foreboding. Soon enough, no one will be sitting in this chair anymore.
The Poison Giant: I was wondering about that for a while and finally came to the conclusion that it has to do something with the size of the guy. Most people won’t see dwarves as threat, because of their lack of height. It’s a common preconception (misconception) that dwarves are not, well, full human beings; they are being made fun of of, stared at, and pitied. Now, what I’m going at is that maybe in the beginning John and Sherlock as well didn’t take the problem/threat quite serious – until they met the dwarf. Who turned out to be very dangerous. From there I go and say that the dwarf, the seemingly small problem, is John leaving, John having Mary and a new life. Sherlock might underestimate it in the beginning (I think he does), but soon it will prove to be a real threat – one to their friendship, their togetherness. Here the dwarf aims at one of them – would only be able to take one of them out at once – and it seems to me that it is John who is meant to be hit. Which also coincides with the fact that John is probably the only one who, when hit/hurt, could stop Sherlock from doing anything and draw his attention.
I’ve seen HLV already, but try to keep it out of this review and get down my original thoughts nonetheless, even if they have already been disproven – but I want to mention that, after reading that last sentence again, it makes even more sense, now that we know that John is indeed Sherlock’s pressure point.
The Matchbox: Now that one is hard. A French decathlete completely out of his mind and 1812 matchboxes, empty except for one. And I admit that I have no idea what it could be about. But, the longer you think about something, their more abstract (and weird) ideas get – so I go for the decathlon, the most respected discipline in sports, that here is connected to a person from France, home to the “city of love”, as they call Paris (plus, France is generally associated with love). To me, this might allude to the hard fight one has to put up for their love. It is the prime discipline in live, to find a true love (I hear ya, people – stop complaining, most people strive for the one, to love and behold, because only very few can truly be alone forever). Add to that the man having gone insane, and that among more than a thousand matchboxes surrounding him is only one that has some contents, I’d say it speaks for Sherlock who had to meet so many people before he found John. The insanity of the French decathlete is here Sherlock’s social incapability. But in the end, he finally sees the light.
The indecisive client: That one is more obvious – Sherlock’s describes it himself – there is a love affair, but the client is hesitant to share her problems that come with it, even though she might need the help. Again, related to Sherlock, who I think ultimately sees his relationship to John as a love affair of sorts, only by his personal definition, and he also can’t talk about it, can’t voice it, or the problems that arise from it. The heart wants what the head can’t give.
The Elephant In The Room: Well, we all know what the proverbial elephant in the room means – something (painfully) obvious isn’t talked about. Everyone knows, everyone can see it, but everyone still keeps quiet. Now, most people see here an allusion to John and Sherlock’s relationship, and their sexuality, their love for each other, and I agree. What else is it supposed to be anyways? An elephant in the room, no further information given. Of course first and foremost it is funny, but this is not a comedy show, but one that has so much subtext, secondary meaning and veiled hints that it would be surprising if the elephant is nothing more than really just an animal in a room.
Now, Wikipedia says that it also applies to an obvious problem or risk no one wants to talk about. I actually think it could be both. The obvious problem being that John is moving out, getting married (ignoring the fact that Sherlock was the one who went away), and apparently their life together ends, something that is a huge change, and not only for Sherlock, even though it might be more severe for him. Nevertheless, primarily this will still be about Sherlock and John’s feelings for each other.
There is an elephant in the room, has been from day one, when John was not Sherlock’s date because he is not gay and Sherlock was not interested because he is married to his work and doesn’t do relationships. The elephant is trampling over them in that exact same moment, when they look at each other, smile, revisit the topic, and it needs the most ignorant, oblivious person on this planet who is not looking at them to not see the tension, the chemistry and the interest. Maybe it’s non-sexual, and non-romantic, but this fascination both display for each other isn’t the normal kind of we’ve just met and are in the progress of learning about each other, and everything is new and exciting. This is an infatuation that goes beyond your average interest in the new and unknown, and it becomes even more obvious when we later see their usual behavior towards new acquaintances.
Now we’re at a point where they face this elephant, because it’s impossible to ignore it anymore. This case happens after Sherlock has returned from the dead, so John is already with Mary, and the issue of their relationship, or its true nature, as well as their feelings for each other, is more important than ever before. We can understand it the way that, the moment they see the elephant they’ve been so good at ignoring, they can’t avoid it anymore. And yes, once more I see this as foreshadowing – and it isn’t resolved in TSoT, love confessions notwithstanding.
The Mycroft phone call and Redbeard
All right, so you know how everyone talks about Mycroft mentioning Redbeard and it is assumed that it is related to the pirate comment from series one or two (don’t remember, sorry)? Well, what if it isn’t?
In history, there is more than one Redbeard – one of them is Friedrich I., called Barbarossa, German Emperor, also called Redbeard. Okay, bear with me here, I try to make that understandable. In this theory I read, the one depicting Redbeard’s (the pirate) story for Sherlock, it was all about Redbeard’s fate and about the Sherlock/Mycroft relationship. All perfectly sound and very interesting, but I’m always focused on interpersonal relationships.
What irritated me was that Redbeard is mentioned during the conversation that was all about “getting involved” and “the end of an era.” When Mycroft mentions it, Sherlock’s reaction is “I’m not a child anymore” in a defiant way; it doesn’t sound like the reaction to a codeword unrelated to the situation, but more like a memory trigger of something that happened in the past to them, and is indeed about a similar event occurring back when they were kids, and now he tries to tell Mycroft that he won’t repeat mistakes he possibly made.
So I dug into the history of Redbeard – the Emperor – and found out that this one, among other things, tried to be a negotiator in a conflict between towns in Italy. He failed to make them agree, and faced accusations of being biased. In the following, some towns refused to accept the imperial court (decisions) and thus were punished – they were destroyed (very simply put, sorry if I step on any historian’s toes).
Now, where I go from there is that some conflict arises between Mary and John. Because of his vow Sherlock tries his best to mend fences, but because he’s anything but the relationship expert (or expert on anything else related to human emotions), he fails. Most likely it will be John who feels betrayed, for whatever reason, but it could also be that both Mary and John will break with him because, for example, they believe his attempts to help them Sherlock rather were meant to try and split them up. Further on, something happens that leads to Sherlock needing them to listen to him and his decisions/whatever, but they won’t because they are angry at him. Consequently, they get hurt; maybe – unintended – by Sherlock, maybe by something/someone relating back to Sherlock.
The other day I wrote that my greatest fear for HLV isn’t that someone dies – it’s that they’ll break Sherlock and John up in a way that makes us doubt they will ever be able reconcile. I know it sounds and looks far-fetched, but when I read about Barbarossa’s history, I immediately had this feeling that this could fit, especially because I see Redbeard connected to the Sherlock/John/Mary dynamics due to it being mentioned in that conversation between Sherlock and Mycroft.
And why would Sherlock any Mycroft have this as a reminder/codeword, while the pirate would fit so much better because of Mycroft’s “initially he wanted to be a pirate”? Well, they are both extremely clever, and political/historical scenarios might be what is stored on Mycroft’s hard drive and what he refers to when he needs to. I also believe that they have encountered similar situations before, or Sherlock has – we know since TEH that they’ve been around other children, and I believe it possible that once they both did have friends, or tried to have them (before they decided that normality doesn’t work for them), and when it happened, Mycroft created this analogy for Sherlock, since politics/historical events might be easier to understand than human emotions.
Ultimately, Redbeard could refer to some fallout between Sherlock/John(/Mary), a repeat of the past Mycroft warns of, but Sherlock can’t prevent. And Sherlock’s attachment to John suddenly being severed will cause serious trouble for our favorite Consulting Detective, who is, at the moment, so focused on John that I really don’t want to see them when a permanent separation happens.
Other than that, the phone call is of course interesting in general, as it seems like a cry for help from Sherlock’s side. Now, maybe Sherlock doesn’t quite understand how weddings work. Maybe he doesn’t know that the brother of the best man with whom the groom isn’t exactly friends isn’t expected to appear at the wedding. Or maybe Sherlock understands perfectly well – somewhere, in his subconscious, where this isn’t the wedding of two, but of three people. John’s wedding is also his wedding, because he and John belong together. They must not be separated, so the logical consequence is that Sherlock sees himself as a part of it – and thus, his brother should of course be there. It doesn’t coincide with how Sherlock is clearly distressed because of his tasks, the people surrounding him… but maybe it’s just that last part. Too many people, too much happening. It is a lot for Sherlock to take, of course, even if John is there, and as much as Sherlock may ever claim to dislike his brother (in the end it’s just teasing and the inability to confess affection, a common problem for the Holmes brother, I guess), he nevertheless relies on him. And, at the very least, if he really has that idea that it is also his wedding, he’d want Mycroft there.
The Best Man Question
Yes, that’s still hilariously funny, and I love all the gifs on Tumblr depicting Sherlock as computer that needs to reboot because it has crashed. Pretty accurate, if you ask me. In a funny way – but also in a serious way. Because Sherlock’s mind is, as he has stated himself, a computer. A hard drive. It works with facts and cases and investigations and logic. John used to live with him, they were colleagues, and he expects John to see him as a friend; knows John does the same. And Sherlock reciprocates (“I don’t have friends. I just got one.”).
But best friend? That’s a faraway thought, something very different. You don’t have a large number of best friends; you usually only have one or two. People you feel very close to, who you share a lot with, people you love for being there, people you need in your life because they complete you. Best friends can be closer to us than family members. Does Sherlock have no concept of being a best friend? Maybe. But does he know, in theory, what it is, or what it is supposed to be? Very likely.
Sherlock knows of his shortcomings (he names them), and he didn’t expect someone like John Watson, who, despite not having Sherlock’s intellect, still apparently is Sherlock’s embodiment of a perfect human being – as also indicated by Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man with John’s head pasted on it – to see him as his best friend. I don’t believe Sherlock thinks John’s body is perfect, but I do believe he thinks of John’s person(ality) as perfect, as perfect as one can be in his perception. This might stem, among other reasons (being kind and warm-hearted, being the life-safer), from John accepting Sherlock as he is, and not insulting and dismissing him like everyone else does. After all, John decides almost right away to live with Sherlock; he even kills for Sherlock within the first 24 or 48 hours of acquaintance. We clearly see here that Sherlock thinks John is perfect, and there is actually not really much one can still say or interpret about that. It fits Sherlock’s way of thinking wonderfully, to associate something he maybe can’t quite understand with something coming from logic and science (Vitruvian Man having perfect proportions according to geometry and architecture).
So yes, the last thing Sherlock ever expected is being the best friend of a perfect man, a perfect person, such as John Watson. But now he hears him say those words, and also hears him say that – and this must knock him seriously off balance together with the best friend revelation since before he couldn’t relate it to anything (or anyone) – John loves him. That he is one of the two people John loves and cares about most in this world. Think about it – marriage is (meant to be) about the unification of two people who love each other. You marry the person you love most in this world because you want to be with them. There is usually no one who exceeds that, or is even on the same level. No one else you want to share your life with, have a family with, go through good times and bad times with. You might love another person as well, friends, family, but that’s different. Here, however, we have John equating his love for Mary and Sherlock; it’s not the one person (Mary), but it’s the two people he loves and cares about most in this world.
If you are nitpicky, you could say: well, maybe he meant “love” for Mary and “care about” for Sherlock. But then he could have said so. He didn’t. He makes it sound as if both applies to both persons; as if there is no difference. Here also says he “want to be up there with the two people” – or, in other words, he wants to step in front of that altar with both Mary and Sherlock. Because that is what his words come down to. Because John Watson just as well is not only getting married to Mary, but also to Sherlock, at least in his mind.
As John says his words about love, Sherlock must realize that, no matter how this love is defined in that moment – John loves him. He’s not fond of him, he doesn’t show brotherly or parent-ly care like his family. No, he is a stranger (essentially; not one of his blood meant to love him due to genetic relation), and yet he feels strong enough for Sherlock to call this affection love.
And maybe this is another definition Sherlock knows of; best friends are what spouses are also supposed to be. Love is friendship, friendship is love. When you marry your best friend, you will be happy, because love is born out of friendship. It’s a common theory, a universal concept, and one I’m sure Sherlock will know of, even if he doesn’t agree with it. So when John tells him that he is his best friend and Sherlock freezes, I assume it is also because a thousand thoughts rush through his head – looking up all definitions of friendship and best friends and love, and every connection in between, he has stored. And when John asks him, “and how is that?” and Sherlock answers, “surprisingly okay”, I very much doubt it us about the tea with the eye. Well, John’s question is (or is it?!), but surely Sherlock’s answer acknowledges: Okay, you’ve just told me that you love me, but I’m completely okay with that. Because “caring is not an advantage” and “chemical defect” notwithstanding, I reciprocate.
The Wedding Speech
Well of course I have to talk about the speech. If there’s anything in this episode that has to be talked about, it is that speech. and there is one thing in particular I’d like to talk about.
I already noticed that the first time around, albeit unconsciously, but when I rewatched the scene later, it became all the more obvious.
Let’s get into detail here. Sherlock starts with greeting all wedding attendees. Easily done. Then he stumbles, stutters, doesn’t know how to proceed. It’s John who gives him the hint: telegrams. Ah, right. Sherlock takes them, begins reading them out loud. After three it becomes too ridiculous for him, he skips one after the other. He mocks what is said on them by summing it up with “special day” and “love” repeatedly. Not so engaged in his task, after all, is he? He’s disgusted and/or bored by it, sees no use in reading out other people expressing love towards John (and Mary). Oh, and praising this wedding between them.
He then goes on telling how John asked him to be best man – something he can probably repeat/describe from memory, because he was there and he has a perfect memory (as long as he doesn’t delete something, but I think it’s safe to assume that Sherlock will never delete that moment). He will also know what he thought, but didn’t say.
When he is finished with retelling this moment from his memory, he reaches for his cards. Apparently he had written down some of it he has already said, but as described, all that has happened so far didn’t need to be memorized – the telegrams he could read out loud (even though John had to remember him of them in first place!) and the Best Man Question was in his memory.
What Sherlock says next requires him to repeatedly consult his cards. Yes, he speaks longer passages without looking at them, but he nevertheless goes back to them now and then. The part of the speech he runs through he recites with the help of at least three times (visibly) checking his cards. Everything he says here is not really praising. It is once more demonstrating how much he loathes the whole situation; the wedding, being best man, having to make that speech, maybe even the fact that it is John who got married and who thus will now be, as foreshadowed by Mrs. Hudson and Mycroft, out of Sherlock’s life. Is it also insulting against John – Sherlock calls him a “burden”, “obsessed” with Sherlock, and overall says that John lacks “mental acuity and sharpness”, as he poses a contrast to Sherlock, who has these qualities. Apparently he noted all this down so he wouldn’t forget something, so that he would be able to get this very important message across because people need to listen to reason, see how ridiculous this all is and how perfect, knowledgeable and intelligent Sherlock is, much more than anyone else could ever be. Sounds like Sherlock? I think so.
But then comes the core part. The part that made the guests, John and Mary, and I believe also most of us in front of the TVs tear up.
During that part, Sherlock not once looks at his cards. Quite the contrary, for a moment he even seems to zone out; or, as one could also call it, looks inside himself. What he says comes from his heart. These are his deepest, innermost thoughts. For John, he acknowledges that he is a terrible person to be with, not the best company at all. What he says in those sentences, in this core part of his speech, he directs at John. This part is all about John. And he doesn’t need to read it off his cards. I even like to believe that he doesn’t even have it on his cards. What he says then might just come to him in that moment; it is a glimpse into his soul (okay, full-blown, wide-open look), and his feelings. This is not the Sherlock we know, but it is the Sherlock John knows. Maybe not openly, maybe not in direct ways. But this is the Sherlock John has always seen, been able to see; the Sherlock that made John stay. The vulnerable, gentle man who has so much love to give, but decided not to, for whatever reason.
After that part is done, after he has made everyone cry and has been hugged by John, Sherlock puts the cards away and takes his phone. He’s back to business; he knows again what he talks about. It’s about cases, and those he knows.
But even if that core part of the speech was noted down on the cards – it becomes clear that it is the only part he has memorized. He might have written it all down, but for the part directed at John he wouldn’t have needed any help. Or he tried to memorize all of it, but only managed to do so with the John part. In essence, it still comes down to the fact that the only part Sherlock didn’t stumble at, didn’t need any kind of help in form of his cards or a keyword, is the part where it is about John. The part where Sherlock tells him what a wonderful human being he is, and how much he loves him. As much as Mary. He’s always equated with Mary. Sherlock might include Mary in his speech, in his words; he even addresses her. But he never becomes the bystander who congratulates the couple; he speaks to John to congratulate him, to praise him, and he compliments Mary on her choice:
Mary, when I say you deserve this man, it is the highest compliment of which I am capable.
But these are not words of congratulation. It is granting Mary to be part of this relationship that already exists – the one between Sherlock and John. Sherlock allows Mary him, she deserves him, but she is only one third of the whole.
So know this, today you sit between the woman you have made your wife, and the man you have saved; in short, the two people who love you most in all this world. And I know I speak for Mary as well when I say we will never let you down, and we have a lifetime ahead to prove that.
It is focus back to John right away; the whole time it is John in the focus, and yes, I can’t emphasize it enough. I admit that I’m not sure what a best man speech should be like, but from what I’ve heard (in movies…) and what logic tells me, I’d say it should also be about the bride. Mary, however, is merely a side note in the whole thing. I know that Sherlock isn’t big on making poetic speeches (though what he said was close enough, if not better), but especially seeing that he had this book – we saw it before the title sequence, a “how to” book for best men – he should have known that mentioning Mary, including her more than just by equating himself with her and John between them, both literally and figuratively, belonged into that speech.
In the end, it’ll always come down to this speech being, of course, a love confession, spoken in front of an audience, disguised as a best man’s speech that could just as well have been a wedding vow.
And he speaks the truth; these are not words chosen to be sappy and move the people in the room; they are coming from his usual blunt honesty, only that this time it doesn’t hurt or insult, it touches deeply. When he sees everyone crying, he panics and doesn’t understand; he thinks he has once again done something wrong. Maybe he was aware that his words weren’t part of his normal rudeness, maybe he wanted to say something nice, but he never realized how nice it was, because after all, it was just the truth.
Sherlock doesn’t know what love is – but he knows that Mary loves John, and he sees himself in her and in her feelings for John; maybe he even thinks that he himself is much closer to John than Mary. If anything, Mary helped Sherlock understand and categorize his feelings he probably harbored for a long time now (see also my review of TEH and how Sherlock’s return seemed to be all about John). And now that he has collected all necessary data, he can proceed and voice the results of this study: Sherlock Holmes is in love with John Watson.
Sherlock’s Wedding Preparations
Now, going from there – from Sherlock seeing this wedding as his own – it suddenly also seems to make sense that he puts so much effort into preparing it. He ignores cases; he doesn’t take any up, even though John very adamantly tries to interest him in some. While Mary and Sherlock plan and prepare the wedding of Mary and John. Or is it the wedding of Sherlock and John?
But while one would expect him to exclude Mary here, it is exactly what he doesn’t do. He advices her and helps her, tells her who of John’s family doesn’t like her (would have been interesting to know why, not that just that they do – or don’t). He learned serviette origami, we can assume with almost absolute certainty that he built the model of the reception hall, he helps Mary seat everyone, he composes the waltz, he teaches John how to dance, and he scares off Mary’s ex. The last one, however, is once again something that could make one suspicious about his true reasons. Because while it is entirely possible that he doesn’t want anyone interfere with the happy couple, it could also be that Sherlock wants to avoid John getting hurt. And he would if Mary hurt him by betraying him. Thus this can be seen as protectiveness of John rather than the marriage of Mary and John.
Sherlock has an analytical mind; as wedding planner, or at least one half of a planning team, he could make a fortune (given that the other part is more romantic and emotional). He wants this wedding to be perfect, because it is John’s wedding, and because it is so also his wedding. He knows that he can’t exclude Mary, and maybe he doesn’t want to either; he seems to have accepted her, taken a liking to her. It’s fun and heartwarming to watch these two, because they apparently get along very well.
But as said earlier, this isn’t about the wedding of John and Mary – it’s about the wedding of John, Mary and Sherlock. And Sherlock of course endeavors to make their wedding a good one. That his efforts even lead to Mary being worried is an interesting take at this point. And I wonder what she really sees.
Mary ships Johnlock
When Sherlock presents her the serviettes and admits that he learned how to fold them on YouTube (which is wonderfully hilarious to imagine and still the most adorable thing ever), Mary immediately reacts. Codeword Beth brings John out of the room as well and the two of them talk.
Okay, first of all is it interesting that they need a codeword. When was it found? And why? In the context, it seems like Beth is supposed to be a friend of Mary’s, someone important, especially for the wedding. It’s a family thing (family in a broader sense here), not something general. It’s Beth, and concerns them both, so they want it to look like it’s about the wedding, about them as a couple. Therefore, I assume “Beth” didn’t exist before wedding preparations started. And I could bet that it was Mary’s idea (also sounds like it when we hear how John complains about it) – to have a reason to talk to John whenever something about Sherlock worries her, or something is up Sherlock must not hear.
As a side note at this point – they are not at John’s and Mary’s flat; instead they are all at 221B. John and Mary prepare their wedding in Sherlock’s flat. No matter whose idea this was, it remains an interesting point – because who would use the flat of a man who, at least as he always claims/claimed, despises of weddings and relationships? Even if it was Sherlock’s idea (which I assume it was), there must have been some doubts at least on John’s side – and yet they ended up in 221B. I really would have loved to see how Sherlock convinces them/him.
But back to Beth. Question is – does Sherlock know? Is he really so far gone, so concentrated on the wedding and so out of his own character that he doesn’t notice? Or does he know, but lets it go, because it’s not important, because he wants them to have their moment, because he maybe doesn’t even quite understand?
Mary has an awareness for Sherlock’s condition that is almost uncanny; something that so far always used to be John’s job. Or is John just ignorant on purpose?
M: He’s YouTubing serviettes.
J: He’s thorough.
M: He’s terrified.
J: Of course he’s not. Why should he be terrified?
M: When you’re scared of something, you start wishing it sooner, just to get it all going – that’s what he’s doing.
J: Why would he be scared that we’re getting married? It’s not going to change anything, we’ll still do stuff.
Mary says Sherlock is terrified. She notices. And she knows exactly what Sherlock would be terrified of, whereas John at first dismisses it. But his face and his choice of words speak a different language. For one, he laughs the idea off. Well he doesn’t laugh, but there’s this hint of a mocking smile, a “that’s a ridiculous notion” or “oh please, don’t be stupid” expression. And two, he chooses to say “of course (he’s not)” – already confirming what he then tries to deny nonetheless. Consequently, it means that he thinks it all a far-fetched idea, but at the same time is unsure himself. And he knows exactly what Mary’s talking about – not the wedding, but the fact that they are, that John is getting married. And that, in conclusion, he might not be there anymore for his friend, he might not be around anymore all the time. Which he won’t. He’s not living in 221B, and he has a regular job; times in which he’ll be with Sherlock on cases will become considerably fewer.
So Mary knows what’s going on and she kicks John up the backside to do something. Or pushes him, anyways, which was just as funny.
From there it goes on to John asking Sherlock to take a case – but Sherlock doesn’t even think about that then, doesn’t even seem to have an awareness for solving cases. It’s all about the wedding? When John pleads him to pick a case, Sherlock reacts. And then becomes clear – it’s not about the wedding. It’s all about John. When John asks him to get him out of there, of this madness of organizing a wedding (which is apparently pure horror for most men…), Sherlock forgets everything else and is there for John; promising him to get him out. He was buried in his wedding planning, has his deduction wall covered with everything important for the big day, and doesn’t even understand when John wants him to pick a case. Until the moment John pleads him for help. Picking a case, that would have been for himself. Picking a case to get John out, that is for John. And that it was draws the reaction.
Which leads to the conclusion: He prepares the wedding because John wants to get married. He is nice to Mary because John loves Mary and he has chosen her. He does whatever John asks him – or not asks him (not directly, at least) – to because it is John. Someone tell me that Sherlock is not in love with John, really.
What I noticed was: John has Sherlock’s emails on his mobile. He has access to Sherlock’s emails. He is going through Sherlock’s emails. At first I thought it Sherlock’s mobile, which would have been also interesting, but John having Sherlock’s inbox – that could also hold anything else – on his phone (and he says “your inbox”!) is incredible.
There are no boundaries between Sherlock and John – at least not from Sherlock’s side, it seems. For him, all that is completely normal. Remember how he walked around the flat in just a sheet in ASiB. I saw someone comment that it appeared like Sherlock must have been naked before, until John asked him to put on anything – at least a sheet. I think here comes together that Sherlock for one doesn’t care about decency, and that he also feels close enough to John to care even less. So letting John take his phone and read his emails would be completely normal and all right to him. While it is of course a strong indicator of the closeness between them.
Anyways, Mary knows. Of course she does. Those who don’t know, not from each other apparently, are John and Sherlock. But Mary plotted and manipulated and was successful (and we can talk about cinematography and how the horns are right behind her head when she gives her thumbs-up to both men, but I really don’t now). Because she needs them to be together. And here’s where you begin to wonder. Is it really just her concern for Sherlock?
I have two theories.
The first one is – she needs John to stay close to Sherlock, she needs their friendship to remain intact, so she can be close to Sherlock as well. I’ve said it before, I believe someone wants to get to Sherlock – this someone has to be Charles Augustus Magnussen as the main villain this season – and it’s easiest to get to Sherlock through John. I can even see all this, Mary being with John, as one elaborate plan. It wouldn’t make sense if Mary remained in contact with Sherlock when he and John are no longer close friends, so she has to take care that they are just that. This would make all for Mary being the villain, or at least associated with him, and there are hints at that.
Theory two has a completely different approach – Mary playing matchmaker. I even believe that those two can go hand in hand, especially if Mary is not evil, but only a tool for CAM, and does it because something she loves is in danger (her family?!). Now, one can argue how far this is supposed to go, but – it is possible that she sees the affection between John and Sherlock, the love even. Hell, everyone sees it, saw it from the very first day on. There is something between them, something that can’t be denied or ignored, coming from the sheer fact that Sherlock doesn’t have friends – he’s just got one. If anything, she wants them to remain friends, and close friends, possibly even because she cares about Sherlock and sees how much he needs John – just as much as John needs Sherlock.
We just have to watch her face whenever these two interact. Especially clear it became to my mind when Sherlock and John hugged. The smile was more than just the fondness of seeing two friends. This was unmasked happiness. She loves seeing those two together, and how much they love each other, no matter if in a sense of friendship or romance.
And after all she gives John “permission” to hug Sherlock. She knows he wants to, but doesn’t dare to because… well, probably because he’ll once again hear people call “Gay!” – or so he worries. So he tells her to stop him when he tries and hug Sherlock, but it is actually a question of whether she allows it, and she says “certainly (not)” – of course she does, of course he can, he should hug him. That John nods after she has said it is only confirmation of that – he has understood, he is free do follow this impulse if he chooses to, and she even encourages it. She wants the closeness between them, and she might just deduce for herself that those two have never hugged before, and that it is a big step, because it’s also not like John to go and hug people, or be openly affectionate in general (much less is it for Sherlock, but one doesn’t have to be a genius to know that). But they are best friends, and it’s about damn time they hugged – even if, in the end, Sherlock doesn’t reciprocate (but I guess that comes from confusion more than unwillingness).
Then there is this moment when John’s old Army friend, Major Sholto, appears at the reception and we learn that John has been talking about him to Mary all the time. Here’s my theory: Sholto is in the past. Obviously, from what we learn, he was a similarly socially inapt person as Sherlock is. But when John had Sherlock, there was no need to talk about Sholto. Like when you have a partner, you don’t talk about the ex the whole time. Which makes for an interesting perspective on Mary/John. If John has never been talking to Sherlock about Sholto because it’s like this ex-situation (and we actually get the “ex” description later on when they sit on the bench!), but he talks to Mary about him all the time (and we don’t know how much John talks about Sherlock, but we can assume that it was a lot, what with Mary knowing about Sherlock, and it still being an issue for John when Sherlock returns in TEH), then it would implicate that Mary has another standing than Sherlock (or Sholto).
There are two ways to approach that.
One: they were/are both just friends (or any variation thereof – Sholto might not be described as a “friend”). Of course he’ll mention them to Mary, like you will always mention former friends, people of significance in your life before you met your partner. There is nothing special about that, it is rather normal.
Two: John’s relationship with both men is different from that he has with Mary. And I mean in a way that secret attraction and infatuation are on a whole different level than what he has with Mary, but it is there. That would mean that John had this situation of being confused about his own sexuality before, when he was smitten with Sholto, when he was fascinated by him to a point that he didn’t know whether it was still professional/friendly adoration, or something else, something more. With Sholto, who was ranked higher and who he still calls “sir”, there was never a closer approach to the man or the subject – whereas with Sherlock, he was of course much closer; still is. John might be with Mary, he loves her and he marries her, but that he felt drawn to these men, this feeling never went away.
Ultimately, Mary could be the normal, everyday thing; being with a woman is what John knows and feels is also what he has to do. We know he has problems with even the assumption he could be gay (I know men who would just shrug it off and never react as strongly as John does, even though they are most definitely straight), so having a heterosexual relationship brings a foundation of normalcy into his life. But it is just that: Normal. Nothing special. It is what he always knew would happen one day, what he was aiming for, prepared for. His feelings for these men are anything but normal (to him), and probably also anything he wants (consciously). But they are still (subconsciously) intriguing; after all, he acknowledges and admits his adoration for Sholto (may it be professional or something else) and he tells Sherlock that he loves him, whatever kind of love it may ever be, but it is love.
Oh Sherlock. Neither of us were the first, you know.
To coincide with that, we have Mary’s words to Sherlock. First things first: She notices his jealousy. She sees it. May it come from whatever feelings Sherlock has towards John, but jealousy it definitely is. You can be jealous of friends just as well. As it was once said on STAR TREK VOYAGER: Jealousy is the fear of losing someone you hold dear. Sherlock holds John dear, very much so, he says it during the speech. Whatever one wants to see in that, however one wants to interpret it; Sherlock still needs to be the only one, the one who is special, and he needs to know that his friend will remain his friend. Sherlock has his qualities of arrogance and self-centeredness, and he won’t take it easy if he has to accept someone in John’s life who is similar to him, who can be compared to him. Sherlock will know that Sholto won’t have the same skills as he himself, that the soldier is not as clever (because no one is) and also never had this kind of closeness with John Sherlock has, or had in the years they were flatmates. There is no military structure between them, they are just friends (in a sense that there are no restrictions coming from regulations of an organization they are part of).
What Mary also does is something we’ve seen and will see John as well as Sherlock doing: One of them compares themselves in any way to either one of the other or both. All implications set in this episode point at Sherlock, Mary and John being all on the same level when it comes to their relationship; however, limited to a more intimate background when it comes to John and Sherlock. Mary says here that neither of them was “the first” for John, showing that both of them are the same when it comes to their relationship with Sherlock; even more, on her part Mary clearly speaks of other lovers, all the while comparing herself to Sherlock. We have John comparing his love for Sherlock and his love for Mary, and we have Sherlock comparing his devotion to John to that Mary as John’s love interest and wife will have. We may have a trio here, but in the end Mary only serves to clarify how close John and Sherlock are, and this situation with Sholto is yet another hint at this.
The scene appears rather straightforward at first sight. Looking closer, though, I came to the conclusion that this scene might just give us clear hints at Johnlock being endgame. The basic plot is: John and Sherlock sit on this bench and chat – a bit awkward, but they have some time to kill, so what else to do, right? Well.
First of all, a Sherlock Holmes always thinks of something to do. If he had wanted to, he could have come up with something right away. They would never have sat down. They would have done something, anything. Waiting isn’t usually Sherlock’s way of doing things, unless he’s playing a game with his brother, but… yeah. So why sit down?
Sherlock makes conversation. He wants to talk to his best friend. This is what it’s about. The sole reason for sitting down and waiting is that he tries to make conversation with John. He even jokes – or tries to joke. About bums and bum-itches. Can we have a moment to appreciate that? Of all the things he could say – all the intelligent things, the deductions and thoughts on the case – he decides to make a straight-faced joke about whether the guards learn to ignore bum-itches. What the hell. That’s one thing, the fact itself. But then there is the itch location he chooses. When I have to remain very still, my behind isn’t the first thing that starts to itch. It will usually be something that is exposed to the environment, like the face (nose is a favorite here…). Try it, observe yourself. Yet Sherlock speaks of behinds. Why? This is not him. Unless, of course, it is. Because this is all one big innuendo and when we talk about possible homosexual/homoromantic context and subtext regarding male characters, the rear end of the guy will play a role in it. No need to explain why. So in this whole row of subtle and none-so-subtle hints at Sherlock’s and John’s relationship and what its nature really is, we get another one pointing at something commonly associated with male-on-male sex, given the right corresponding context, that is. The context here being John and Sherlock, two male characters with a complex and unclear relationship that also suggests homoromance/-erotism, talking about it.
Furthermore the suspicion arising here stems from them being anything but normal blokes having a conversation and making some giggle-worthy, pre-adolescent quips; because John and even more so Sherlock are really not normal in any sense.
The bum-itch, as John readily offers, is followed by a moment of silence and a hint of smile on Sherlock’s side – is he happy that John took the bait, that he got him to talk about something that is, or could be considered, as a relatively sensitive topic for conversation? Apart from this very strange exchange at the end of HoB, I don’t remember them ever talking about the more private aspect of… anything (after they’d been living together for a while; not counting the awkward boyfriend/girlfriend question moment in ASiP). In conclusion, I see Sherlock testing the grounds here – how open is their relationship, how close their friendship, what can they talk about, how intimate can it be.
And then there is the change of topic. Sherlock’s not asking about Major Sholto, even though he is. He doesn’t say the name. He just says “why don’t you see him anymore”. And John doesn’t understand; he doesn’t know who Sherlock is talking about. They go from “bum-itch” to “seeing someone” (or having stopped doing the same). To see someone also means to date someone, something that can be easily misunderstood here. I’d even go as far as to claim that John is wondering for a moment if that is what Sherlock is talking about, because he by now is so “trained” to hear the implication that he is gay – as improbable to hear it from Sherlock as it ever is. And even though we can argue about how much of that innuendo he is presenting Sherlock is aware of, for the audience this is an obvious line of thought, one that can be, depending on your interpretations of other scenes, lead up to suspecting a rather private conversation.
We can easily continue this here with the commander part. Sherlock is talking of Sholto as John’s “previous” commander, something John of course immediately questions, since he notices that previous does suggest the existence of a current one as well. Or in other words – Sherlock can be seen as John’s commander, maybe sees himself as such, and is at least considered by John to be this, or else he wouldn’t even have reacted to it. More interesting is even how Sherlock corrects himself: he says “ex”. Now, I might be wrong in my English, but in my opinion, he could have said “former”, which also fits his way of talking (as in, style) more than “ex”. As far as I know, former suggests that something/someone was there in a certain position etc, but isn’t anymore, and doesn’t necessarily have a following person/object. But here we hear Sherlock use ex, what once again is often associated with relationships and especially romantic partners.
And no, I’m not going to talk about how Sherlock apparently considers himself as John’s commander – mostly because that was the one thing that didn’t surprise me. It makes perfect sense that Sherlock would have such a perception of their relationship. John is/was a soldier, and when they met, he was retired because of an injury. He lacked purpose, and Sherlock gave him the same, similar to how military had given John purpose and a sense of being needed, of being useful, before. Therefore, I also don’t see any innuendo in that part.
And then there is the subject change that isn’t really one. John says he does, but actually starts talking about how it won’t alter anything when he and Mary get married. Sherlock pretends not to be worried, whereas both of them know that it’s not true. John has seen how it worries Sherlock (or has, at the very least, been pushed by Mary to see it), and Sherlock – well, his behavior screams scared and uncomfortable so much that even he can’t be oblivious to it. So from the whole innuendo-loaded conversation we continue to one about their own relationship. Not suspicious at all. In addition to that I loved that moment when John speaks about the people who have completely turned his life around, and says, “…there are two people who have done that,” and he pauses for a moment and nods to himself, as if reassuring himself that it is the truth and okay to say that out loud. A subtle gesture we see more than once in the episode and in this season whenever John reveals his deeper feelings, with words or actions.
This brings me to body language and how they sit on the bench.
For one, they are separated by the middle armrest. Done on purpose? And why? One interpretation would be that they need/want a line between them. Something that keeps them apart physically. They must not touch or get too close. There are, to me, two reasons to do that – one being that it serves as a reaffirmation that they will never get close – a message to the audience. The other is that they need that barrier to be able to control themselves. It is not the wooden part of the bench that is meant by barrier; this only visualizes it. Instead, this wooden part stands in for the actual barrier in their lives they have created themselves to keep apart, each for their own reasons, but in the end because both think it can and will never be possible.
The next interpretation of being separated on the bench at all is that by not sitting next to each other on one side, but both choosing their own side of the bench, they balance each other. If the bench was a scale, it wouldn’t dip to the side and throw them off. Thus, they can remain on one level, together and safe, even if there is a barrier between them. Furthermore, they also sit close to the middle, instead of on opposite ends or at least in the middle of their respective side, so even parted, they still seek each other’s presence.
However, while there is a physical barrier between them, they are not entirely separated – because John’s leaning on the barrier, the armrest, effectively crossing or at least pushing that line. Is it supposed to tell us something? For now, we can assume that it is John who would need to take the lead and cross the line. It is John who would need to admit that he can and wants to be with Sherlock (romantically, sexually). John is the one always loudly claiming that he is not gay; he is the one who appears to be insecure enough to fiercely correct everyone and defend himself. As John said, who the hell knows about Sherlock Holmes – well, in fact we don’t. But his recent behavior gives reason to assume that if John decides to approach him, to take that step, Sherlock would be accepting. And here we see John clearly leaning towards – pun intended – this possibility, leaning on the line, the barrier, and towards Sherlock. To me, this expresses that John is willing to give it a try; even though he might be not aware of it.
As for the rest of their (basic) body language (this refers to the studies of Joe Navarro and Paul Ekman): First of all we have John’s crossed legs. Crossing them towards the other person – meaning the foot is pointed towards the other person, like we see with John here – always means that you are open to them and the conversation you’re having. Same goes for John’s fingers; he may have them crossed/interlaced, which is sometimes interpreted as placing a barrier, but then doesn’t he cross them towards Sherlock. What he does, though, is keep his thumbs upright – a sign that he is approving of something (though they vanish for a moment before/when he changes the subject!). Add to that his leaning on the barrier as explained above, and you have a very positive and open body language from John – directed at Sherlock.
Sherlock is sitting straight and is merely moving his head slightly to acknowledge John; he’s claiming his territory (spread legs) and he is very attentive, as his posture indicates. The conversation is very important to him, which supports the theory that he went out of his way (by waiting instead of thinking of something “useful” to do) because he wants to have that talk. He knew from the start that he would make use of this opportunity – they have to wait and, as long as he doesn’t propose something, also nothing better to do. What we get is bum innuendo and them talking about the “ex” (Sholto).
Sherlock’s calm attentiveness that shows only hints of discomfort (he has to chat, after all) stops the moment John starts talking about Mary and the wedding. All of a sudden his interlaced fingers, still and unmoving before, begin a wringing motion. A blatant sign of being distressed and uncomfortable, even more so when directly related to a comment, which it here clearly is.
We don’t need to talk about what follows. We only see John, and Sherlock is probably gone before John even gets around to comparing Sherlock to Mary. Because yes, he does – he says that Sherlock has completely turned his life around, just like the woman he is going to marry has. It’s safe to assume that John sees the changes in his life brought on by Sherlock being just as good as such brought on by the woman he loves and is about to take a step with that is the ultimate confirmation of love between two people, or meant to be and considered as such, at least. Whereas throughout the rest of the episode we have mostly Sherlock and this subtle hinting of him seeing himself as part of that wedding, as part of the bridal couple, here we have John making that kind of reference, comparing Sherlock and Mary, just as he did before when he asked Sherlock to be his best man because he is one of “the two people I love and care about most in the world.”
To return to safer grounds, we see Sherlock try to learn more about John’s life, the life he had before Sherlock; the life Sherlock probably doesn’t know much about past his own deductions. He wants and needs to know more about John, and I believe that is something resulting from his long absence, and his realization that something has to change. He might not change in general, but at least he tries and change smaller parts – although I wouldn’t call his friendship/relationship with Sherlock small. It is another indicator that everything that does change about Sherlock is solely about John, and happening because of him. And it doesn’t get more obvious than this, at least not for the moment: Because Sherlock is chatting.