I’ve been meaning to write this post ever since the third Sherlock series concluded, but I never had the time to. Mainly because of laziness, but lack of time sounds cooler.
Contrary to popular belief, I didn’t find it disappointing at all. I honestly felt that it was one of the most intriguing, well-written and wonderfully directed series currently on air. Even the second episode – The Sign of Three – was an achievement in character development, pacing and writing. I’m not here to talk about the show in general, though. I’d like to focus on a cheeky move Moffatt & Co. pulled on us all.
They decided to introduce a new character to the show.
Well technically, he wasn’t a new character. He was an existing one.
It was Anderson. You are Anderson.
Ever since Sherlock jumped off the rooftop of St. Barts’, fans have spent countless hours coming up with meticulous theories, each more convoluted and contrived than the previous. We spent two years watching and re-watching the final moments, trying to figure out what we missed. We even extended our scope of study beyond the final episode, linking theories with events from the previous episodes (a theory said John was still under the effects of the nerve gas in Baskerville). We obsessed over the tiniest details, convinced that they were vital to the theory we were constructing. I was particularly obsessed with some chalk markings on the road which outlined the path for the cyclist who hit John right after Sherlock fell. I was convinced that these had been deliberately laid out by Sherlock to ensure that the cyclist (obviously from his homeless network) crashes into him while Sherlock pulls some stunt in the confusion. All this despite being repeatedly told the chalk marks are simply production markings.
So, Anderson. In the Christmas special (which was the perfect birthday gift, btw), we see an obsessed Anderson. Gangly beard, surrounded by notes, building theories and analysing patterns. He’s convinced that Sherlock lives on, and he’s coming home.
Cue the first episode of the series. Anderson is delighted to see him back, as the very foundation of his many theories was Sherlock’s survival in the first place. We see a group of like-minded individual from all walks of life who participate in formulating theories – some as enthusiasts, and others equally as obsessed as Anderson. In fact, he loses his cool when they don’t take the entire process seriously.
His wall is littered with photos and notes and those threads from detective movies to make connections and come up with wild ideas. He’s formulated multiple ideas by now, each of varying degrees of complexity, knowing that Occam’s razor doesn’t apply to Sherlock and doesn’t put hilariously complicated methodologies beyond him. This increases his expectations by several notches, as he expects the actual escape plan to be a brilliant, yet simple procedure which would explain everything.
At the end of the episode, Sherlock “tells” Anderson the details of his plan. Anderson listens intently, paying attention to each detail, after all this, he has a look of dissatisfaction on his face. He’s disappointed that it wasn’t as clever as he thought it would be. He even exclaims he has a better way to do it. Of course, it’s still not clear if Sherlock revealed the actual theory to Anderson, as Anderson would be the “last man” who Sherlock would tell anything.
Doesn’t this all seem familiar? Anderson is simply a mirror for your thoughts about the show for the last two years. You have built plans, scrapped off old ones, debated vehemently with friends and lost yourself for hours looking for that crucial piece of information. Obviously, there was no way to satisfy you, the audience, with any theory, as everything would feel unsatisfactory. While the writers have written brilliant scripts in the past, they wrote themselves into a corner at the end of the second series. They’d set up a conflict splendidly, but the cliff-hanger had to be resolved very delicately, especially after keeping audiences guessing for so long. Any other writer would’ve tried to make up some far-fetched theory that would leave us shaking our heads in frustration. Not Moffatt & Co., though. They attempted something unique and pulled it off with some style. They both, gave us and did not give us, a theory, and will probably never tell us. Like Anderson, we realised what fools we’ve been made off and tore away all our theories, never to be resolved. We’ve gone back to our lives, knowing we’ve been tricked. That, or we’re satisfied that our theory is better than Sherlock, giving us a sense of superiority.
To summarize, you are Anderson. And you’ve been played.