21 10 / 2014
Sherlock and the Gherkin
This blog owes its existence to loudest-subtext-in-television. I never thought I’d ever write a blog myself, until I discovered her blog and was just stunned by her mind-blowing metas on Sherlock. I started to look at Sherlock in a new way and to notice details I hadn’t seen before. And suddenly, I felt the urge to share these details with other people, so here I am, starting a blog on tumblr. I dedicate my first post to loudest-subtext. Thank you for your inspiration!
When I read loudest-subtext-in-television’s meta on TBB (x) and watched the video showing Sherlock stepping onto the ledge in Sir William Shad’s office (Sherlock on ledge), something really struck me.
When we see Sherlock taking photographs of the yellow ciphers, there is something lurking in the background: the Gherkin.
Well, the Gherkin happens to be visible from Tower 42 (Shad Sanderson’s bank inTBB) and it could have been chosen by the writers just in order to show an iconic view of modern London. After all, as Mark Gatiss says in the DVD commentary “Unlocking Sherlock”: “We wanted to fetishize modern London. […] Episode 2, which is largely set in the City, we wanted to capture the look of the Gherkin and all those kind of big glass-and-steel cathedrals of finance. It’s part of a vibrancy, which is very exciting to see.”
As an iconic part of modern London, the Gherkin appears in two shots as we follow Sherlock and John on their way to the Shad Sanderson Bank, first in the background of a wide shot displaying a view of London across the Thames, and in the shot immediately after, halfway hidden behind a multi-storey building.
But I think there’s more to the Gherkin than just representing modern London. I mean, this must be the most phallic-looking building in … the world? At least in London, I suppose. So let’s assume there’s some sexual subtext about the Gherkin. More specifically: sexual subtext linked with John.
Why John? Not just because I believe in Johnlock, but rather because of this scene:
When Sherlock, Sebastian and John first enter Sir William Shad’s office, Sebastian leads the way and we see a profile shot of him in front of the window behind which, as we know (looking back from the later scene), the Gherkin could be seen. But there’s no Gherkin. Neither is there when Sherlock joins Sebastian. Only when John joins the two of them, the camera moves around to reveal the Gherkin, towering above John’s head, even for a moment completely framing John. So this iconic building that is heavily charged with subtext is visually connected to John.
So, now to the scene with Sherlock alone in Sir William Shad’s office. (In the following analysis, what we see is written in normal script, followed by the subtext in italics.)
The Gherkin is out of focus first, and Sherlock just seems to notice it when he looks ever so slightly to the left. He frowns.
There is something. What is it? Well, maybe it’s better just to ignore it.
Sherlock continues to take photographs, then starts to think about the ciphers, turning around 180 degrees. But there the Gherkin is again, this time to his left and – like before – standing between Sherlock and the ciphers.
This time, he turns his head to look at it for a moment, then looks back again - just a bit disgusted?
There it is again. Something irritates Sherlock – it’s trying to distract him from thinking. He doesn’t want to deal with it for the time being.
Sherlock then decides to open the door to the ledge. He raises the blinds, opens the door, and instead of immediately looking down the façade (to find out how someone could have entered the office from the outside), he looks at the Gherkin for rather a long time.
Then he looks down the whole length of the building, and that’s when the music’s tension increases dramatically and the camera movement gives you a feeling of vertigo.
Only then Sherlock studies the façade of the Shad Sanderson building, getting back to work after a long moment of distraction.
Sherlock decides to confront whatever this distracting feeling is. He raises the blinds and opens the door to his heart. What he discovers in there is huge and disturbing, and looking at it causes vertigo, maybe even suicidal feelings. No, confronting your feelings might not be a good idea just now, so better turn back, close the door and return to work.
That’s exactly what happens in this episode: Sherlock tries to open his heart, but doesn’t succeed, so he goes back to working alone. As LSiT has pointed out in her meta on TBB, Sherlock distances himself from John during his investigations in this episode. But he doesn’t do that from the start. He takes John with him to the bank, but then things go wrong: Sherlock introduces John to Sebastian as his “friend” and is rebuffed by John immediately (“colleague”). From that moment on, he pretty much excludes John from his investigations: John isn’t in the office with him when he tries to figure out the ciphers.
Neither is John with him when Sherlock tries to find out who could see the ciphers from their desk, bobbing up and down behind the desks on the trading floor.
It looks almost like dancing, and if dancing is a metaphor for sex, then Sherlock prefers to have sex on his own. It’s safer, no sentiments involved.
Btw, any ideas about the paintings of the huge breaking waves in the background? Like, the danger of being drowned by emotions is still lurking in the background? Or is it rather a hint towards the equation between Sherlock’s intellectual epiphanies and orgasms, beautifully demonstrated by LSiT in her meta on A Study in Pink (x)?
Just to clarify my point: I don’t think Sherlock is yet consciously aware of any unsettling romantic sentiments / sexual feelings towards John. The Gherkin as subtext rather reveals his subconscious.
Two more details that support this interpretation:
Immediately after Sebastian’s phrase “We’ve had a break-in”, we see a close-up of the news ticker behind the reception desk, entirely filling the screen with red colour. Red could be a symbol of danger, but it could symbolize love as well, thus reinforcing the metaphor of Sherlock’s heart as a locked room by connecting the actual break-in at the bank to John’s attempts at entering Sherlock’s heart.
And look at this:
Although the name of the bar at the top of Tower 42 (the Shad Sanderson Bank building), “vertigo 42”, hasn’t been invented by the filmmakers, isn’t it a nice touch to see Sherlock and John walking past the sign, the words quite close to John (John causes vertigo)?
Let’s admit it: Sherlock is in love with John head-over-heels, he just doesn’t know it yet.
LMAO THIS IS FUCKING ME UP
I CANNOT WITH THE GHERKIN THIS SHOW LMAO
21 10 / 2014
Sherlock tries several different ways of introducing John to other people.
To Sergeant Sally Donovan: “Colleague of mine, Dr Watson.” – Not successful, Sally just snorts at the thought of Sherlock having a colleague.
To Sebastian Wilkes: “This is my friend, John Watson.” – Not successful either, Sebastian just meets him with disbelief.
This way works though:
That’s all you have to know about John.
21 10 / 2014
John turns his coat collar up to impress Joe Harrison.
He has learnt his lesson from Sherlock.
Oh man, I love this part. I’ve been meaning to put it in the S&S entry for TGG but then I got sidetracked by everything else. I love how early they start the “I’m you, aren’t I?” thing with John and Sherlock: lots of people don’t realize it starts in S1, at the same time the Sherlock/Moriarty “You’re me” metaphor kicks into gear too. As soon as John has to go off and play detective, he turns up his coat collar.
21 10 / 2014
Sherlock and John’s first meeting and the flashback to his deduction on John are certainly two of the most important scenes in the first episode in terms of subtext and it’s definitively worth examining those scenes in detail. Quite a lot has been covered by LSiT in her fantastic meta on “Subversion and Sherlock – a Study in Pink”, but I hope I may be able to add a detail or two. Because – what I didn’t notice at first sight – what we see in the flashback wasn’t there in the first place.
Let me try to explain. What do we see in the flashback? Sherlock and John are staring at one another. They seem to be locked in an intense gaze, completely oblivious to their surroundings.
The camera moves forth and back between John and Sherlock, over and over again, for more than ten seconds. But in the original scene of their first meeting, there’s no such shot, not even a much shorter one.
To start with Sherlock: This is his position in the flashback:
It must be something that happened between these two shots:
To be more exact, it must happen between 9:25 and 9:27, when we see John and Mike Stamford enter the lab. It could be this moment:
But at that time, we don’t see Sherlock (not even his back).
So, the first intriguing point: Sherlock’s very first view of John – which can’t last more than a second – is only revealed in retrospect.
Now let’s look at John in the flashback. We haven’t seen that shot before either. Again, it’s similar to some shots in the original scene, but not exactly identical. This is John in the flashback:
During the first meeting, we see some similar shots, but not exactly the same. The moment John first notices Sherlock is probably this:
This happens about ten seconds after Sherlock’s first view of John (or I should say, ten seconds after the moment I suppose to be the moment of Sherlock’s first noticing John).
We’ll get some shots similar to the flashback later, but never exactly the same as in the flashback. The most similar one is this (but you’ll notice that in this shot, John’s head is tilted to the left, not to the right, and his look is less intense).
So, why is this all so important?
During the flashback scene, the camera pretends to show something that didn’t exist in the first place. The shots of Sherlock and John that are combined in the flashback never happened simultaneously.
The audience is lead to believe it’s watching Sherlock making a deduction about John, whereas, in fact, the flashback isn’t about the deduction at all. Nor is it about finding out as much as possible about a flatmate-to-be. That all happened in an instant in the original scene. The flashback, on the contrary, shows us how Sherlock sees John and vice versa. Sherlock is mesmerized by John the moment John enters the room, and so is John by Sherlock, just a bit later.
Thus, the flashback deliberately combines two shots originally distant in time to show Sherlock’s and John’s respective moments of being instantly fascinated by each other, as if those moments took place at the same time.
I can’t imagine a better way to visualize the idea of “love at first sight”. The flashback shows us exactly where the show is heading, even though Sherlock and John will have to overcome several obstacles before the promise of the first meeting will finally be fulfilled. And I believe it will.
21 10 / 2014
Here are the gifs from the opening titles I promised in my last post, reblogging kinklock’s list of expected sexual innuendo. Just look at the Gherkin rising through John’s head.
Opening titles, season 2:
(note the newspaper headline: Sherlock & John)
Opening titles, season 3:
I find it hard to imagine a more blatant erection visual metaphor.
lmao both times the word “Sherlock” accompanies it
21 10 / 2014
Don’t you think the title sequence to Sherlock would be a good place to hide subtext? Well, let’s have a look at one detail (I already talked about the Gherkin in the title sequence here): the blood.
The title sequence ends with a few shots of a petri dish with blood and a chemical reaction that’s part of a forensic analysis of the blood.
Due to the position of these shots at the end of the title sequence, I suppose a) they’re important and b) they tell us something about Sherlock.
On a literal level, they show a substantial part of Sherlock’s work, i.e. chemical experiments and forensic analyses.
But there’s more to it: the blood seems to boil when the reagent is added. This could be part of the idea of “solving crimes as a metaphor for sex” (see LSiT’s meta on A Study in Pink): solving crimes excites Sherlock, it stirs his blood.
But I think we can take the subtext even further. The blood Sherlock analyses in the scene these shots were taken from is Ian Monkford’s. Those are the original shots in The Great Game (33:26–33:32):
Remember? Ian Monkford’s blood had been frozen before it was applied to the abandoned car (that’s one of the things Sherlock found out by his analysis). Anticipating the possible objection that “frozen blood” might refer rather to Mycroft, the “Ice Man”, than to Sherlock, let me answer: Yes, that’s right. But the show is called “Sherlock” and not “Mycroft”, and therefore I’d argue that the title sequence tells us something about Sherlock, not about Mycroft. Then again, Sherlock can be rather frosty himself.
The name of the man whose blood Sherlock analyses from is telling: Monkford. A monk is someone who – like Sherlock – has chosen to lead a celibate life. But as for Sherlock, his celibate life gets disturbed. Something or someone makes Sherlock, the cool and (sometimes) seemingly asexual man who is “married to his work” become hot-blooded and passionate. Guess who that someone is. I’ll just mention the drop lingering on the pipette’s tip for ages and leave you to your own deductions.
(Another possible objection: It’s Sherlock himself who adds the reagent to the blood, not John. Yes, right again, but Sherlock has chosen to let John enter his life. He has chosen to include John in his detective’s work. And (again, see one of LSiT’s amazing metas) during the best man’s speech he’ll deduce himself into being in love with John.)
So, to cut a long story short: The shots of the blood in the title sequence show Sherlock’s sexual awakening triggered by John in a nutshell. They are the culmination of the title sequence, so we can safely assume that’s what the story is heading for and has been from the beginning. Long live TJLC!
I love this idea. I’ve always felt like the blood appearing to sizzle in the title sequence was symbolically suggestive, but I’ve never seen any meta exploring it. :D
19 10 / 2014
yo btw I have answered several of the questions y’all bought with donations to Auriana and I’ll be working on the rest tomorrow. I’m also working on the fics requested~ THANK YOU EVERYONE WHO HAS DONATED OR REBLOGGED! There’s still a ways to go but we’ve already made a lot of progress!