Heroes Shouldn’t Exist

The new BBC series “Sherlock” is Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson adapted to the post-9/11, Information Age.

The eponymous character’s eccentric work-ethic, adventurous curiosity, and supersonic observational skills remain illuminated in contrast to the humanism of his chief associate and Afghan war veteran, Dr. John Watson (although not quite so much and in comedic contrast to his older brother, sibling rival, Mycroft).  It is a thrill to see Sherlock Holmes put a smartphone (text included, scrolled along the television-screen) to good use, which has a bit of John Henry-type appeal – to go with a less bulky, flip-open, hand-held magnifier – run parallel with the show’s use of visual editing coinciding with his deductions, as well as the mix of Victorian-against-21st century architecture of London.

But what I most enjoy watching – and re-watching – is the dynamic, true friendship between Holmes and Watson.

Writing for this show must be a very complicated undertaking, hence the only three, 90-minute episodes, per season.  The genius of the show for me plays up the classic superhero-versus-super-villain, in a league-of-their-own battle of wits extremely well.  For the acting and writing of the seemingly incredible mindsets of the two adversaries, Holmes and James Moriarty, dueling it out in the modern maze of our collective unconscious, are made to feel tangible.

Take the following clip from a scene halfway through the season one finale, “The Great Game”…  Holmes and Watson had just fought the clock in order to solve a case dictated to them over the phone through yet another innocently connected hostage, by a so-called ‘fan’ of Sherlock’s (later, to no real surprise, confirmed to be Moriarty).  Although they solved the case, they are sitting in their living room having just watched footage of the hostage’s unforeseeable mistake in judgment: she had begun to reveal an ever-so-slight part of Moriarty’s identity, resulting in her and a large section of her apartment-building being ripped apart, killing 12, in total.  After shutting off the television news in disgust (something we should all do more often, in general) and deliberating over where the bomber might be with his latest case, Dr. Watson asks why he might be playing these ‘games’ with them in the first place.  Holmes then coolly replies in his suddenly detached way, believing it maybe because he is bored – or, as he puts it “distracted”.  This finally brings things to a head for the good doctor (not before muttering under his breath, “You two would be perfect together”)…  http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=5yN5O2XG-Mk

What an audacious thing to say from a self-proclaimed “consulting detective”, no less, to someone who is a doctor, war-veteran, and lives in reality at least as we know it.  But he gets no argument in return.  This to me would become the signature line/defining moment of the series.

Anyone has the capacity to be selfless.  S/He would, at best, humbly, mortally acknowledge any a special action.  Anyone else would more or less be considered an asshole.  Nor would anyone wish to be portrayed as some sort of valiant disconnect for any a villainous entity to seek to manipulate.  Thus, the term ‘hero’, in this sense, becomes completely relative and obsolete.

Make a difference, stay true to a calling, but not without some basis of understanding.  It is very fortunate many of us do not live where violence occurs in any of its forms, to various degrees, on a daily basis, but what of the many persistently made all too aware of such surroundings?  Instead of obliging to more shallow and rehashed manifestations of scapegoated fears, never intending to separate the ‘super’ amongst us to begin with, why not recognize our better capacities now?  It is enough for me to try and stave off cynicism, for the time being.