Wednesday, February 26, 2014

On the logic of Sherlock's world

As I alluded to back in my review of Sherlock (the third season that is) I was more than a bit disappointed in how the season's "grand villain" was handled because it just didn't make any logical sense to me. Logic is a bit part of the setting for any story, it determines how the world works, how character's react, what is and isn't possible (which informs the audience of what may or may not happen) and when you have a story where this isn't made clear usually it becomes a plot point in and of itself. So when Sherlock, which had already done a good job at establishing that it was set in a world like ours, just one with a genius detective in it, started to have it's villain act differently, well, it meant that the world stopped working for me too.

(spoilers ahead)

For those wondering, I didn't have this problem with the first or second seasons of Sherlock at all. I had accepted that it was a fairly standard mystery world, we have a great detective and an awful lot of murders just waiting for them to be solved (even though in the original Sherlock Holmes he does solve things other than murders, those cases tend to get pushed to the background here however) and the character have such a way with the local law-enforcement and government that their rule breaking discoveries usually don't land them in too much hot water. That all comes with the territory and that I was okay with, if I blamed Sherlock for having that setting then I'd have to blame a dozen other shows for it took and quite frankly that's not a discussion on fiction I want to waste my effort on right now.

And then came along our villain, our face-licking, black-mailing villain whose not even British so I can't understand why they haven't deported him yet. They tried to hand wave things like that, Mycroft's statement that he's valuable in his own way to the government, but considering he was actively looking for dirt on Mycroft and Mycroft appeared to be looking for a chance to take him down, well, that rang hollow to me. And then there was the reveal that he didn't have giant vaults of material on every person, animal, and plant in the British Empire, just his mind and nothing to back it up! Oh but don't worry, he's in the news so he can just publish it and people will believe it anyway, it all works! Commentary on people's blind faith in the news aside, even newspapers list their sources, heck that's why wikileaks has been such a big deal. Sure plenty of people had wondered over the years "gee, I wonder what the government isn't telling us that we really should know" but until then there was no proof to rally people around or to confront them over policy changes, even if a big name, reputable newspaper had posted facts without sources about it it couldn't have done much.

Yet Sherlock says yes, it can work without those sources, it an make a man so powerful he's not deported or smacked across the face when he starts licking a lady on the cheek while threatening her husband!* And then! Well, Sherlock shoots him and that's the end of that. While I both applaud Sherlock for just offing the bastard and letting the story move along again I feel like this highlights another problem with both the character and the setting, stories are not real life and therefore you need to structure them with actual beginnings and endings. In real life yes, you can have powerful people where there is no recourse of them short of assassination** but this isn't real life, it's a fantasy of sorts and the writers were already planning on bringing back another villain for the next season. It really felt like to me that they wrote themselves into a corner and just decided to kill him to make things simpler instead of setting up a villain with an actual weakness. As interesting as it is to see Sherlock be out-witted, if it my options are either to see him out-witted with a messy, setting breaking ending or to see him solve another case near perfectly, well, I'll just take him becoming a bit more insufferable instead.

*seriously folks, if we're going to (rightly) get on Sword Art Online's case for using that exact same movement as an "oooh look how villainous they are!" visual shortcut then I'm getting on Sherlock's case too.
**even Benjamin Franklin said that people need a way to remove rulers from power, otherwise your only course was assassination and that just isn't good for a country to go through so much turmoil on a semi-regular basis.

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