Let’s use the new series of Sherlock as a jumping off point to talk about some stuff. It is great to have our man back. I enjoyed the first episode for what it was meant to be. It was a bricolage and sort of had to be in order to tie up the last series and open the new one. It could not really be taken too seriously, and it was a fun and funny episode. The ambiguities left over, such as who is this new villain and why would he want to almost kill John Watson, need to be taken up soon in the next episode, and I’m sure they will.
The first part of the new episode was very self-consciously about Sherlock the cultural phenomenon. There were lots of jokes about the Defensively Heterosexual John Watson, but much more import than that, the theorising of the Empty Hearse group, led by former forensic gone to seed Phillip Anderson. It was a practically direct comment on the post series two fan frenzy.
How did Sherlock escape? We sort of know but don’t really. Sherlock admits everything to Anderson but then leaves us in doubt. I mean, can you really stop blood flowing to the arm by putting a squash ball in your armpit? I’m not so sure and I certainly don’t think anyone should experiment to find out. This ruse was suggested online. Quite probably the writers picked up on it on purpose (though perhaps they planted it themselves, who knows?). Is the fact we still don’t know how Sherlock defeated Moritary a kiss-off or is it just giving the fans what they really want, another mysterious twist to puzzle over? Are the writers sharing a joke or laughing at the devoted?
The phrase “Worst… Episode… Ever...” transmigrated from a line in a forum to Simpsons episode into a popular trope. According to legend the forum user was referring to an episode in Season Four of The Simpsons, now accepted to be one of the greatest, if not the greatest, Simpsons series. This Guardian piece mentions in passing about concern over the “putrefaction of fan communities” into ‘Standom’. Judging by the reaction on CiF the popular reception of the new episode is decidedly mixed. Perhaps the lengthy trailing of the new series didn’t help. There was a time when Sherlock was once a sleeper hit, now its event TV.
I have a suspicion though there were more than a few people priming themselves to be disappointed, even to hate the new Sherlock. There is something odd in modern fandom that seems to provoke either extravagant love or flamboyant bitterness. Then again perhaps Nathaniel West was onto something with Day of the Locust. The violent, cultish passions of modern culture frequently play out in a safe space (safe enough though tell that to John Lennon). That said they are eerily like the passions generated by fascism.