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Sherlock series three, writing round-up, Sherlock Remix
compelling, pushing my buttons, walk the line, intent
innie_darling
Hi, everybody!

I was asked by a friend what I thought of the new series of Sherlock, and it ended up being so long that I thought I might as well post it. I have seen the first two eps of the third series of Sherlock and while some bits have been lovely, I'm really disappointed.

* "The Empty Hearse" solidified the characterization of Sherlock as a complete asswipe - first playing at his disguise and joking about John's mustache, brushing off John's wet-eyed grief, making no rational explanation for why John wasn't told, and, of course, the trick with the bomb at the end. Why does Sherlock need to hear John's "best and wisest man" declaration again when he confesses to having already heard John say it at his grave?. Because he's selfish, and it's not important to him that John truly suffered. It's like a test of loyalty, except that it seems that Sherlock's doing it more out of amusement than any worry or fear that John will walk away for good. Though I did like Mary for the most part, and found the bonfire scene genuinely disturbing.

* I thought "Sign of Three" to be much better, though it also cemented my reasons for being disappointed in the show. The things that bothered me about the episode itself: no Harry, Bill, Mike, squaddies, or Clara at the wedding. Who were all of those people, if Mary said her "side" was sparse? Also, John DOES have an international reputation! - he's Three-Continents Watson! But I loved seeing John loved publicly by Mary and praised publicly by Sherlock for being the very decent, steady, good-hearted man he is both by nature and by training. It makes a difference to so many people that John is around, and I was glad to see that celebrated. (Also, I liked that the resolution - John with beloved wife and child on the way, stating openly that he loves Sherlock and will keep a place for him in his life - was basically what I wrote in "Picardy Third.") Plus, the soldier that John saved was incredibly beautiful.

* Here's what has disappointed me - that the writers are not doing any of the work that fic writers have done. Fic writers worked with what we had, followed things through to their natural conclusions, and had considered the consequences of all of the actions we'd been shown in series 2. The writing team for Sherlock apparently did not, which is becoming a pattern (getting John and Sherlock out of the pool with the "Staying Alive" call was bad enough, but then we have this series, which has taken ignorance of its own crises to a new low). It's actually not even ignorance, it's cherrypicking, which pisses me off even more. Lestrade says that Anderson and Donovan caused Sherlock's death, but then we open "Sign" with Sally having an easy, professional (possibly flirtatious?) rapport with Lestrade. Now, I adore Sally and was glad to see her, but how has she not had any consequences to deal with? Where is Kitty Riley? How much time has passed between TEH and SOT, that after that horrible train-bomb trick, John can not only unequivocally state that Sherlock is his best friend but that he loves him? (Note that this is not helped by some confusion within the show - the invitation gives the wedding date as 18 May, but John's blog seems to put it in August - WHAT ARE YOU DOING, SHOW.) I just can't shake the feeling that the writers saw the corners they'd painted themselves into and said, "Ugh, I don't want to do any of the work - I just want to write the good parts!" The Sherlock/Moriarty kiss in "Empty" made me SO ANGRY not because it was mocking fandom - though it was - but because Sherlock and Moriarty were so gleeful, pulling their strings while John was being tricked into his heart's death. That's what it is - the whole thing felt cheap.

I liked Amanda Abbington very much. Lestrade has done nothing for me in this series. I can't tell who to blame for Sherlock - if it's Cumberbatch overacting, if the writing is just ridiculously tone-deaf, or what - but he genuinely cannot hold my interest. It's only Martin Freeman and his John Watson that I'm watching for, and to be totally honest, his decision to forgive Sherlock for the train trick shook me badly, but in all other things, he remains the one I'm watching for and loving.

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Because I'm so behind on everything, I still have two lists to put up: my 2013 writing round-up and my July-December theater excursions. I can only do one tonight, so it's going to be the former.


JANUARY:
Double Cherry: Elementary/Twelfth Night (Porn Battle)
First Sip: Cold Comfort Farm (Porn Battle)
Diamond Life: Daniel Craig James Bond films ([profile] picfor1000)
FEBRUARY:
This Old House: Elementary (birthday)
MARCH:
not a damn thing posted
APRIL:
Chips and Sweets: Sherlock
MAY:
Amphibians: Jane Austen's Persuasion/Sherlock (gift)
Redrawing the Maps (the Handle This Remix): Sherlock (Sherlock Remix)
Immediate Assignment: Sherlock (Sherlock Remix)
Clerestory: Sherlock (Sherlock Remix)
Admissions: Sherlock (Sherlock Remix)
Together in This Place: Sherlock (Sherlock Remix)
JUNE:
Pepperwood's a Snappy Dresser: Pushing Daisies/New Girl ([community profile] intoabar)
Picardy Third: Sherlock
This Must Be the Place: New Girl
JULY:
Cornstarch and Coconut: Middleman (birthday)
Teach Me How I Should Forget To Think: New Girl (Help Syria)
AUGUST:
zip
SEPTEMBER:
nada
OCTOBER:
Countdown: New Girl
The Same Bit of Carpet: The Office (UK) (birthday)
Dressing Up, Dressing Down: New Girl (birthday)
NOVEMBER:
zilch
DECEMBER:
Answered with a Question Mark: Sherlock
Compromising Positions: Elementary (Holmestice)
Totally Nectar: New Girl (Yuletide)
Doilies All the Way Down: Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Yuletide)
Like honey dripping to a waiting mouth: Goblin Market (Yuletide)
What's Good for the Goose: Better Off Ted (Yuletide)

I was surprisingly productive this year, and I had a wonderful time writing. After so many fallow periods, it feels undeniably great to be in the swing of things, and I let myself be adventurous, trying new fandoms and new ways of telling stories. I tried a poem, for the first time in way too long ("Like honey dripping to a waiting mouth"). I wrote (half) a story entirely in 221Bs ("Answered with a Question Mark"). I wrote in a fandom I knew very little of, despite a lot of canon material being available ("Diamond Life"). I posted some totally off-the-cuff fics ("What's Good for the Goose" & "First Sip"). I wrote several stories for a single new-to-me fandom, New Girl. I wrote a lot more fusions and crossovers than before, including one that seemed to be a hit not just with its intended recipient ("Amphibians"); people really like head-casting Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch in Jane Austen adaptations, I guess. I continued one of my Sherlock series, the String of Pearls series ("Chips and Sweets"), and hope to write more of it in 2014. And nearly three years after I began it, I finished my Elastic Heart series, which clocked in at 176,393 words, according to AO3. I think it's the best thing I've written, particularly the last story, "Picardy Third."

What did I learn about myself and my writing in 2013? That I should take chances more often and let myself be adventurous. That I should write what's clamoring to be written and be surprised what shows up on the screen. That I love the work of writing original characters, and that putting them into fannish contexts, interacting with fandom characters, hits my sweet spot. That I shouldn't be afraid of writing something that has the same summary (say, post-Reichenbach musings) as umpteen other fics by other authors - we're all going to do it differently, and that's great. After all, I do love to read.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Also on the Sherlock tip: I've gotten a few pokes asking about whether there will be another round of sherlock_remix. Chime in if you like - I haven't made any decisions yet.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I hope you're all having a wonderful 2014 so far! Long may it continue!

This same entry also appears on Dreamwidth, at http://innie-darling.dreamwidth.org/434833.html.

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Very interesting to see your thoughts, thank you! I see what you're saying about wishing they could make more room for subtlety, I agree that would be a big improvement to the series as a whole and Sherlock in particular.

Interesting what you say about Mary, because her storyline was the part of the episode I disliked the most, personally. But not for any of the reasons you mentioned. I don't understand the criticism about her background centering on John and Sherlock either; I had no problem with any of that, and certainly didn't see her as lacking agency or identity.

I'm also very glad they didn't kill her or the baby, of course, but I never really expected them to. Frankly, I think the fridging of Mary in ACD had very Victorian roots (women can't participate in the adventures, she's just getting in the way of my plots) and I think Moffat and Gatiss are probably not going to go that route in a modernized version. They have given her BAMF skills and a dark past I think particularly to make it possible for her to be a part of future adventures and no longer a story obstacle. I approve of all that.

The thing I couldn't stand was her shooting of Sherlock in order to keep him quiet. To me it is completely unjustifiable. Sherlock gives her a lot of credit for not killing him, but she still caused terrible, tortuous pain to the first innocent bystander who got in her way and risked his death (he flatlined on the operating table) in order to keep lying to her husband. She lost my sympathy. She never regained it, unfortunately. It didn't help that she tracked down Sherlock to threaten him further and never expressed any remorse for having shot him or for having never trusted John with the truth.

To me, it was horrifying characterization. "I love you so much I will do terrible things to keep you! I will lie to you for our entire lives! I'll shoot your friends to keep them quiet! Can't you see how much you mean to me?" = Get Out of This Relationship 101, to me personally. I really didn't expect them to be able to make me wish John wasn't married to Mary, but they did.

That is no criticism of Amanda Abbingdon, who was fantastic and terribly charismatic. It's purely a writing problem, from my perspective. I can't forgive her for the actions she took in this episode specifically.

Oh well. Having a little more distance on it now, I'm finding smaller things to appreciate along the way. I'll hope for better in the next series. Hope you also enjoy the parts of the episodes that worked for you, and especially Martin Freeman! <3

You know what bothers me most about Mary's shooting of Sherlock? That it was so stupid. Why couldn't Mary simply have shot CAM and vanished in as sneaky a way as she entered (she evidently didn't need any Janine-related subterfuge to get into CAM's office)? Even if Sherlock witnessed her killing CAM, that would still have been better all around than shooting Sherlock, allowing CAM to live with her secrets in his brain, and having to escape, not to mention that Sherlock was clearly on his way to believing that CAM needed to be killed. And given the vow he made in "Sign," Sherlock would surely have protected Mary and the fetus.

And you're right, absolutely - the whole "I'm doing this for his own good!" justification holds no water, particularly since Mary's rationalization marks the second time in not that many months since John's heard it, given Sherlock's half-assed explanation for his absence. I didn't like that at all. And I especially didn't like that John was being blamed for choosing the people who would treat him that way.

BUT. I so liked that Mary wasn't being fridged. And I very much liked John's speech forgiving Mary - like him, I believe her to be sincere in her love for him. And that speech made me start to think what that reasoning looked like in reverse - as in, not what was it about Sherlock and Mary that made John seek them out, but what was it about John that made them come to him, made them find their rest in him? Which means that BBC John is the lighthouse that ACD's Mary was (in ACD Watson's lovely simile), which - for me, anyway - is a wonderful characterization.

I really do wonder what the direction of post-series 3 fic will be. I'm quite curious, especially since I know we'll do the work the show's writers won't.

Well, as I recall they did provide an explanation as to why she didn't shoot CAM and sneakily vanish: because that would make John the primary murder suspect. She knows he's there with Sherlock, she knows he has his gun with him, they are in the middle of a break-in and did not get in as sneakily as she did, they came through the front door. If Magnussen is dead and the only witness claiming there was a mysterious third party is Sherlock, who everyone knows would lie through his teeth to protect John, then John winds up in a bad position with the police. So cancelling the hit on Magnussen makes some sense. (I think it breaks down a bit if you think about it too long - the ballistics wouldn't match John's gun, for one thing, so I don't think any police case against John would have held up, but that's probably the point at which I've thought too long about this. They provided a basic logic which I can accept).

Where it goes off the rails for me is how that translates into shooting Sherlock instead. She doesn't want John to find out about her, so the sane option would be to appeal to Sherlock: "I don't have time to explain now, but for his sake and mine give me a chance - don't tell him, we'll talk later." But that course of action would require trust, which she is apparently incapable of showing. So she shoots him instead, which does make him temporarily incapable of telling John at the cost of terrible pain and near-death, but which any sane person would expect to scuttle any goodwill on his part toward her ever afterward. Which means that she was planning to secure his silence, both at that moment and throughout their future lives, through physical intimidation. She established her credibility as a violent threat by shooting him, and then told him she would do worse if he ever spoke up. That's how she chose to try to force his silence. Ugh.

While in theory I can see beauty in John's forgiveness of Mary, it troubles me that *twice* this season I have had to watch John forgive people for behavior they have literally just repeated. In The Empty Hearse, the train scene is intercut with the Reichenbach explanation, and the parallels are to me inescapable: we see that in TRF Sherlock was totally in control and had already neutralized the threat but lied and pretended to die in order to manipulate John; we then cut back to the train, where we find out that Sherlock was totally in control and had already neutralized the threat but lied and pretended they were both dying in order to manipulate John. And this is the moment in which John forgives him; at the moment his actions prove that he has not changed or learned anything or committed to treating John better.

With Mary, they frame the issue as whether John can forgive her for this dark past and whether he can believe she has changed, but in the episode we see that she protects her marriage with lies (to John) and violence (to Sherlock). I needed her to repent/reform in order for me to approve of John's forgiveness, and in the episode I felt like I was just seeing her fall back on these same really terrible behaviors she had supposedly left behind.

I would be tempted to think that Moffat just thought of Sherlock's shooting as a cool set piece and didn't really think through what it would mean for Mary's characterization...but then we have a scene in which she is explicitly labeled a psychopath and we are told, through Sherlock, that her actions were basically OK because the violence wasn't fatal and the lies were probably somehow subconsciously sensed by John which is what attracted him in the first place????

I don't know. This may just be an illustration of my own over-analysis or something, but I wound up not being able to love two characters (Sherlock and Mary) that I was hugely predisposed and pretty near determined to love. So whatever happened to cause that, I just wound up on the wrong side of the writing this season. I think I'll be filling the hiatus by reading AUs. I'm sure I will love Sherlock and Mary in the future, but I'm going to need to just forget about their problematic actions this season, I think.

First off, thank you for writing all of this out. I'm impressed you're so logical even in the face of your frustration.

In that first paragraph, you've laid out what I'm sure M&G thought was sufficient reasoning to get Mary not to shoot CAM when she had him cowering at her feet, but all I'm seeing is how little it holds together, and how little TPTB must think of us. (These are not questions I expect you to answer - they are just me venting my frustrations.) How on earth would Mary shooting CAM have led to John's arrest? No one other than Mary and Sherlock knows John is in the building - Janine certainly didn't see him when she buzzed Sherlock in, and Mary herself only found out because she asked. If the show wants to posit that there were too many security cameras around recording John's entrance (by Sherlock's side), that's a bit of a non-starter as well: either that would only prove that John is one of two unauthorized people in CAM's office, or they would show that John was busy tending to Janine when the shot was fired. And, as you say, the bullet in CAM would not match John's gun, and John would show no signs of having fired a gun. Plus, even if that shifts all of the suspicion to Sherlock, he's frankly in a good place for it - he's the exonerated detective who proved that he wasn't a murderous mastermind, so it's unlikely anyone official would want to go down that path with him again. Plus there's always Mycroft, who has allegedly been seeking ways to bring down CAM.

Your point about Mary's untrusting response (and plan for the future) is exactly right, and has made me reconsider her. How shooting Sherlock works out to be a good option for her is never explained, really. And this to the man who made a vow to protect her! Why couldn't she have called upon that vow, at the very least?

I see what you're saying about Mary echoing the worst of Sherlock's behavior, and I do agree, but I think what differentiates them for John is that he wasn't wronged by Mary the first time around the way he was doubly wronged by Sherlock - do you know what I mean? Mary was fleeing her past, changing herself, and along the way met him and fell in love with him. While he might wish she'd trusted him enough to tell him what she'd done, he won't say, "Those things you did before I knew you matter more to me than what you've done since I knew you, and what you've done since then is love me." Whereas with Sherlock, he loved him and believed in him, and Sherlock just pissed all over that twice, which has to be making John feel like a real idiot.

And yes, I really don't like the whole John-chooses-psychopaths-to-complete-him thing the episode tried to set up. As I said before, it's more interesting to think about what those mad, bad, and dangerous people want from John.

Ugh, the whole thing is so frustrating. But you inspired me, several months ago, to write my own take on Mary, so hopefully mine will suit you better than the show's!

Hello! Sorry to be late in saying so, but thanks a lot for the lovely episode discussion and I am REALLY looking forward to reading your take on Mary! Thanks so much for writing!

Why couldn't Mary simply have shot CAM and vanished in as sneaky a way as she entered (she evidently didn't need any Janine-related subterfuge to get into CAM's office)?
YES! That ticked me off so much!

There are things I liked in the episode, but I'm having trouble getting over what Mary did and that John just accepts it. He says, "Your past is your past"—but as I think I said somewhere else, it's her present too; Sherlock's still recovering from the wound when he says it! That felt forced.

I can believe that John would still love her. I'm glad they haven't killed her or the baby.

not what was it about Sherlock and Mary that made John seek them out, but what was it about John that made them come to him, made them find their rest in him?
Yes to that too! I felt like Sherlock was projecting onto John when he said that John chose Mary. Sherlock and Mary also each chose John. Sherlock chose a man who would go with him to a crime scene after having spent a total of maybe five minutes in his presence, and who would shoot a man to death to save Sherlock a day later. I'm not sure what Mary saw, but perhaps it was the reason why the neighbor came to John when she couldn't find her son: the neighbor, and Mary, both expected him to do something.

And neither Mary nor Sherlock wants to make John choose between them.

I just wish they had not made Mary a murderer to make her exciting. A spy? I could handle that and love it. But an assassin? Who went freelance after leaving the CIA and apparently continued to kill people? No. I really liked her in the first episode and loved her by the second, but now I can just like her, if I work at it.

High-five for your icon!

I thought it through again, and you can see from my response to rachelindeed that I still can't make any sense of Mary's failure to kill CAM when he's literally on his knees in front of her and completely defenseless.

As for Mary's past vs her present, I think John's in a space where he's accepting her definition of the present: that loving, pregnant wife that she's evidently worked hard to become, leaving behind her deadly past. That baby tips the balance on so many levels.

The thing with Mary being a killer rather than a spy - there's precedent for that. Irene Adler was presented to us as Sherlock's equal, a worthy adversary, and their contest just an intellectual puzzle, but no one seemed to remember that she was a traitor, was working with Moriarty, and had caused the deaths of at least a few people. M&G don't seem to see the line you drew, which is upsetting all on its own without having a killer carrying John's baby.

Irene Adler was presented to us as Sherlock's equal . . . no one seemed to remember that she was a traitor, was working with Moriarty, and had caused the deaths of at least a few people.
Oh, I remember!—and I'm not the only one. I'm still really annoyed at Moffat about her.

As for Mary's past vs her present, I think John's in a space where he's accepting her definition of the present: that loving, pregnant wife that she's evidently worked hard to become, leaving behind her deadly past. That baby tips the balance on so many levels.
I would find this a lot easier to accept if she hadn't just shot Sherlock. If she had just knocked him out as she did Magnussen, we'd still have loads of drama as Sherlock worried about whether or what to tell John and John still had to struggle with a wife who had lied to him about everything, but it wouldn't demean any of the characters in the way that part of the episode did.

Ha! I meant no one on the show or responsible for the show, but yes - we remember.

And yes, I very much agree with your point about what's necessary to get the characters to the point of drama - your suggestion of Mary knocking Sherlock out works, as does rachelindeed's suggestion of Mary asking for a grace period. But then, of course, M&G wouldn't have their big fancy set-piece of Sherlock's mind palace, with Molly and Anderson and Redbeard and Moriarty. All of which was, to me, frankly unnecessary.

Wow, RachelIndeed, you are exactly right. I hadn't thought much about Ep 3 because I need to rewatch it and am just not in the proper frame of mind to do so. But that is so terrible to do to Mary, isn't it? They've made her basically a terrible person. And they've made John this person who HAS to be lied to for his own good. I don't like this John-is-a-delicate-flower business. Or John accepting it. I don't think John would accept it. I think he'd be highly suspicious of the two violence-prone, lying people in his life. No matter how much he loves them. At what point does it become abusive?

And innie_darling...
I just read something positing that with only three episodes a season (however long each ep is), there's no room for a day-in-the-life type of episode, where we get to see Sherlock and John in their down time, which would go far toward humanizing Sherlock and giving Cumberbatch's performance some quieter notes and a solid underpinning.

YES! And this we did see in the first series, didn't we? Dinners out, spats in the flat, it was all part of what made the whole thing work. John pacing his first flat, struggling with the chip and pin machine, Sherlock's experiments. I missed that sort of thing tremendously this series. Would have been nice to have the entire bomb plot excised from the first ep and simply shown us John and Mary being together / Sherlock angsting over his reunions / Lestrade having to put his career back together and so forth.

Remember the scene in The Blind Banker where John and Sherlock spend all night in 221B with a bunch of books and charts and stuff? And then when Sarah was there? I think something like that would have been beautifully quiet and inclusive of Mary, and would have pulled Sherlock and John back together by showing their strengths. I felt a bit of whiplash in what was transpiring this time.

I didn't think I had anything to say about Sherlock S3!!!

Hey, you! Oh, thank you for supplying such wonderful examples - the chip-and-pin machine is a great one (though even then, Sherlock was battling a Muslim warrior for some reason), and the up-all-night-decoding scene was another. Give us real emotions - show, don't tell! That whole period of time between the revelation of Mary's past and John's speech pulling a veil over it - she says that it's been "months of silence," but what does that mean? Were they living together, or did he go off to 221B or to his sister's or someplace else? Was she trying to win him back? WHAT THE FUCK?

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