Sherlock: A Review

Until last year I had never watched or read anything to do with Sherlock. The little I knew about him at the time consisted of him being a detective of crime who wore a deer stalker hat and had a doctor for an assistant.

I don’t particularly like crime books or tv programs. I usually find the characters quite dull and samey and the plot lines a little stretched. Naturally I had dismissed Sherlock as being just another one of these.

In January 2010 I watched the film of Sherlock with Robert Downey Jr as the dashing Mr Holmes. While I was still left with a slight feeling of this being just another random plot that wasn’t amazing and Sherlock was nothing that special, I was impressed that the film managed to get across how Mr Holmes saw certain things coming, just from observational clues, so he could forward plan for them to be prevented or encouraged (as he desired).

This was the over all impression I went away with, nothing great, but an underlying, perhaps unappreciated gift that Holmes had for observation.

Then I saw the BBC version of an updated Sherlock Holmes. Suddenly my whole opinion was turned upside down. Sherlock embodied something I couldn’t help but love. He was arrogant, rude, incredibly untactful, deliberately antagonistic to anyone he didn’t like and blunt to those he did; and I fell head over heels in love with him for it. I can’t entirely explain what it was I liked so much about this version of Sherlock, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, but he captivated me and I watched every episode at least twice each and some of them more, within the space of only ten days.

After spending a month or two thinking I then devoured the entire set of books and stories. I then spent another month thinking. From that point on I decided to make it my mission to figure out why exactly this character resonated so strongly with me and I think after a total of six months processing I may finally have figured it all out.

I want to challenge Sherlock Holmes. I want to fight him and I want to lose, just.

I naturally really enjoy dissecting characters and trying to figure out what the author intended him to be like and with Sherlock I was in heaven. Where other people saw his rudeness to people like Dr Watson I saw a care that ran so deep that Sherlock was doing everything he could to keep Watson safe, even if that included pushing him away on occasions. I essentially Sherlocked Sherlock. And not just from one point of view. I looked at him from the author’s point of view as well as the actor’s.

As I thought more and more about Sherlock I realised that he lives for only one thing and it totally consumes him. He’s so passionate about doing what he believes to be his ‘higher calling’ in life that nothing else really matters. He also appears to be both left brained and right brained. In the sense that he is both logical and yet very creative. There is nothing better in his eyes and nothing I enjoyed watching/reading more than the parts when Sherlock was getting to use both sides of his brain at the same time. He was so alive and aware that he was doing exactly what he thought was the best use of all of his life skills. He had created the perfect job out of knowing exactly what he was good at and combining them all into one task.

I guess you can say I felt challenged by Sherlock’s character as a person. Sherlock embodied some of the things I value about myself. I too enjoy using both sides of my brain. It was one of the sole motivators for my new language. It was even more than that though. It was the journey the author went on as well.

Reading through the written works in chronological order showed not just an evolving Sherlock but the author’s evolving idea of who he was and by the time it reached the end Sherlock was a masterpiece of character creation. Not only did the author turn Sherlock into a genius people could love and hate at the same time, he managed to knock off some of the rough edges and still keep the feel of the character consistent.

Now before anyone gets really worried I’m not about to turn to a life of crime and become the next Moriarty. I don’t actually view Moriarty as a good nemesis, and therefore a good role model. I think Sherlock would be infinitely more threatened by someone solving crimes better than the great detective does, than someone actually challenging him to solve their crimes. I want to respond to the challenge I felt Sherlock was issuing to me. The challenge of using both sides of my brain to their full potential, to use all my varied skill set together in one task and to analyse situations, circumstances and people so accurately from the clues the world naturally gives that I can stay one step ahead of anything that comes my way.

And the reason I want to lose despite wanting to fight him, well if I was the best where would the motivation be?

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4 Responses
  1. Chrysalis says:

    The curious question though is whether it is good to have a single focus. His ruthless approach to what he deems his higher calling seems to me to be very arrogant and selfish. He keeps his mind shut to the possibility he could be doing more than just what he enjoys. With Sherlock, there is almost no sacrifice involved. He does put his life on the line, but this is all part of the fun for him. He won’t however take cases that are not sufficiently enthralling. There are advantages to his ruthlessness though, as he wouldn’t have been able to solve as many complex cases as he did if he was bogged down with more menial matters. His pure focus gives him a familiarity with the phscyologcal make up of the villains he pursues that is second to none.

    Another question is whether this is even possible in real life. I know of no one that has a single interest. A solitary mad passion maybe, but I have never met someone whose drive is obtained from one solitary wish. His pursuit of justice is admirable, but is a lifestyle that intense sustainable?

    However Jess, if you wanted to challenge him you’d have to stop writing, something that we’d all miss. Please don’t, we’d all miss it so.

    • Jess says:

      I’m not really sure it is possible. It’s very clear Sherlock has essentially devoted his whole adult life (possibly more) to this passion and nothing else. To some degree that is quite praise worthy, as he’s never faltered from his ambition or his quest for Justice, but persued his career choice with an unrelenting devotion. It’s really not very easy to do. Most of us will doubt at some point or try something else.

      I’d suggest its potentially sustainable because he’s so selective of his cases though. If he tried to do every single one of them then he would burn out instantly, but by selecting the harder most intriguing ones, he is leaving the less difficult ones for the less good detectives. You could argue that he’s actually not being selfish at all when rejecting cases that are not difficult, but in fact making sure he can put his talents to the best use. That does of course depend on his attitude and the author does often imply its out of a selfish motive not a sensible one.

      I’ve realised there is not way I could ever actually get as good as Sherlock and I do love writing far too much. Maybe I can write up a character like Sherlock and make her/him a little less flawed and a little more well rounded and see if it works. We might not love to hate them quite as much as Sherlock though.

      • Chrysalis says:

        I think the origin of a Sherlock like character might be a good original story to start with, as they must have made the choice at some stage to become that selective. It would be interesting to see them fight off temptations to do other things and struggle with their own personal mission. Eventually though they would grow into to though and we could celebrate that achievement with them.

        I would actually argue that Sherlock would find it almost impossible to relax, leading his lifestyle to being completely unsustatinable. He will be partially energised by his successes, but he never lingers on them, always moving on to the next scenario.

        I really should read more Sherlock, but I’m rarely focussed enough to remember that I want to read it. The paradox of learning to concentrate!

        • Jess says:

          An origin would be good, I’d want to branch off from there though and not necessarily follow Sherlock’s exact path. Unfortunately it would not be very original to write Sherlock related stuff though and I don’t think I’d write it for any reason other than the fun of exploring the Sherlock character further. We’ll see, I’ll put it on the possibly list.

          Sherlock does find it almost impossible to relax and there are a few short stories where Dr Watson has taken him off to the country to try and get him to stop making himself so sick and to rest. I guess he suffers from burn out too.

          Yes you should read more for sure, though thank you very much for lending me your copy of all the written work before you had read it yourself. It was much appreciated.

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