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I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
We're all stories in the end??? 
5th-Feb-2017 04:45 pm
Martha: the power of stories
Thought I'd post this as well since today is shaping up to be meta day. I’ve come to “who you really are, that doesn’t matter. It’s the legend. The stories, the adventures.”


The voiceover at the end gets its own post, because I’m getting into the ~thematic significance and Doctor Who comparisons and such.

Smaller niggles first: I appreciate the attempt to give her agency via control of the story, but (a) Moffat needs to let go of voiceovers that ~Explain It All and (b) Dr Watson is the narrator. He’s the storyteller (the good one to Moriarty’s evil version: “they call me the storyteller”). Especially when they were contrasting things so clearly with the first episode, which began with a silent Watson, I’m inclined to think John should’ve had the last word.

Also Holmes and Watson as a grand legend doesn’t seem quite right to me. I’m not sure I could defend this on any grounds but the aesthetic, but still. Legends have a hint of the numinous, and Holmes is an avowed enemy of the numinous, not to mention the fact that their very concrete and fairly well-known existence within the world of Sherlock is not really a legendary sort of situation: John has a famous blog. That’s the opposite of the combination of iconic-yet-unknowable implied by “legend”.

More importantly: thematically and philosophically I find that line terrible. To begin with, while I’m not a shipper and more importantly never thought Johnlock would end up canon, it is honestly gross to take a famously homoerotic relationship, spend your first three seasons relentlessly queerbaiting it, and end on them as Just Friends with the line “who you really are? It doesn’t matter.” Especially when you’re so aware of a massive, largely queer fanbase who want so much for the queer reading to be text. Especially coming after “and if I’m gone, I know what you can become, because I know who you really are.” If the writers & producers didn’t think about that, they should have, because that’s really as explicit a slap in the face as it gets.

It also completely flips the meaning of “we’re all stories, in the end.” At least it does to me, and I’m kind of bewildered; I’m really not a big enough Doctor Who fan to rewatch, but I do kind of feel like at some point I’ll rewatch the Ponds seasons and keep this in mind. Because Moffat (and Mofftiss and Sue Vurtue etc) comes back to stories and the telling of them, and to how we self-define, and how those things are entwined, again and again.

And my reading has always instinctively been that because we understand ourselves via the stories we tell about ourselves, and the stories other people tell about us, we form our identities and ideas of ourselves and our lives via stories. And we’re all mortal, and what will remain of us in the end (and in our effects on each other’s lives) is the stories told of us. So to say stories matter but who we really are doesn’t is exactly the opposite of that: not that stories come from what we do and create how we think of ourselves and thus who we are as we go forward, but stories obscure who we are and who we are isn’t really important.

The Doctor needs River to pull him back from the vicious cycle of using his fearsome reputation and becoming more fearsome in word and thus in deed. Doctor, the word for healer and wise man across the universe. We get that word from you, you know. But if you carry on the way you are, what might that word come to mean?

I really am mystified. Particularly given that Sherlock has repeatedly shown the terrible effects of bad-faith storytellers, and inaccurate stories, on how we think of ourselves and therefore who we become. The Sherlock s2 finale is the most on-the-nose iteration of that: our arch-villain literally calls himself the storyteller, our hero is attacked via newspaper stories, and his tragic sacrifice consists of finally bowing to that narrative, mouthing the false story of himself as liar and con man to his best friend.

And there are plenty of other versions: the Baskervilles story begins with the very postmodern image of Henry, the client, in front of an episode of TV that was made about his problem, in front of an image of himself talking. And Sherlock turns it off because, “I prefer to do my own editing.” Henry is shown to have been wrecked, basically, by being made to believe a false narrative. There’s Magnussen too, who doesn’t need to prove the truth, he “just need[s] to print it” - he’s the editor, he can choose the stories he runs. A story that doesn’t reflect who you really are, in Sherlock, is the territory of villains.

The line works coming from Mary: she told a story, about herself as Mary, and John believed it and chose to keep believing it and that let her escape her assassin past. For a little while, anyway. But if you tell a story about your identity and become it, that’s a change in who you really are, not a masking of it. I don’t know. Maybe Mary dies because she’s rejected who she really is in favour of a false story - it’d explain why an assassin at a dangerous meeting doesn’t have a gun, even if it doesn’t seem to fit her using her l33t assassin skills to protect John and the baby, which I’d have thought was the two sides coming together truthfully. Even if that’s it, though, that she’s chosen a false story over who she really is [which would fix the awful plot hole of her apparent incompetence] that doesn’t work as the final series-defining voiceover!

BAH. I’ve never really watched Sherlock with my meta hat on so I’m probably missing some obvious element. But that line seems so inconsistent to me as something to be believed, the final VO with the music playing and the slow-mo hero shot. Like even aside from how it fits with the queer subtext and the horrible, horrible message it sends… *wails* ALL I WANT IS THEMATIC CONSISTENCY.


This was originally posted at http://lokifan.dreamwidth.org/356402.html. Comment wherever you like :)
5th-Feb-2017 05:18 pm (UTC)
IMO, you're searching for consistency where there is none. And I don't say this bitterly or anything, just as a matter of fact. (Of course, in my prospective)

The final episode was an incoherent mess. I was excited at the prospect of Euros, especially because the actress who portrayed her seemed really good - and she was - but it became so big it was hilarious and absurd. Moffat should try to keep it simple, next time.

As for the final speech, it makes no sense to me? Yes, Watson was the narrator and he was replaced by Mary, but what was even that bullshit about the last place where people can come and being accepted or something?


That was true for Mary. She was accepted by John and Sherlock unconditionally and I'm sure she would see Baker Street as a place of acceptance, but it's not that really?

It's literally a place where the people go to DISCOVER THE TRUTH. It's all about that. Sherlock doesn't do emotional counseling, he doesn't even particularly care about the consequences of what he discovers on the people who bring the case to him. The point is: solving the case, finding the truth.

So, while the speech is emotional and everything, I don't see the point of it in "Sherlock" because it's not fitting to this narrative.
9th-Feb-2017 09:04 pm (UTC)
IMO, you're searching for consistency where there is none.

IDK - I mean, I think you're quite likely right. But Moffat in particular out of the writers is very thematically-driven (it's super obvious in Who) and likes his symbols more than perfect plots, and stories/identity is SUCH a big thing in his writing that I can't imagine this doesn't relate back. It's just that it seems to be the opposite meaning of what I thought, said at a moment that seems to imply it's true.

Eurus still worked for me but I am all about embracing camp in its seriousness - and I do really really agree that the urge to make Sherlock bigger and more dramatic etc etc was a serious problem.

he was accepted by John and Sherlock unconditionally and I'm sure she would see Baker Street as a place of acceptance, but it's not that really?

It's literally a place where the people go to DISCOVER THE TRUTH. It's all about that...

So, while the speech is emotional and everything, I don't see the point of it in "Sherlock" because it's not fitting to this narrative.

YES. Exactly this!!! And much more concisely stated than I managed :) The speech is emotional and it fits what Mary would think, but it doesn't actually seem to fit the narrative. Like, if it was something she said I wouldn't be so jarred but as likely the final comment on Sherlock - well, until a BBC reunion in 20 years - it's SO. WEIRD.
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