Sherlock Holmes and the Currency of Life

Sherlock[1], 2017, is a well-crafted take on a contemporary version of the Sherlock Holmes myth. The writing is superb, as we will see from the examples below, and the Sherlock Holmes that is depicted in this series is the epitome of self-absorption who is genuinely unaware of the emotional needs of anyone around him. His great intellect and deductive skills come from a constant focus on details and connections between networks of people and institutions. He stores all this information in his “mind palace” which can be accessed by intense concentration and by completely ignoring all people and things around him. At one point as he is assessing a crime scene, we hear this interaction between characters:

Sherlock Holmes: Shut up.
Lestrade: I didn’t say anything.
Sherlock Holmes: You were thinking. It’s annoying.

Despite his great intellect and skill as a “consulting detective,” Sherlock is never quite comfortable in his own skin. He avoids emotional entanglements so that he might evade difficult choices between love and justice and consequently cannot quite love himself. He tells himself that he does not have friends and from almost all perspectives it seems he is correct. Yet, the inner circle of John Watson, Mary Watson (wife to John), Mycroft Holmes (big brother to Sherlock), Mrs. Hudson (the land-lady), and Molly Hooper (pathologist and unrequited love) senses that he just might have a shred of care for them. In the first episode of the season, the writers wrestle with whether Sherlock could truly be considered a great or even a good man. At one point, Watson is puzzled by the behaviour of Holmes and asks Inspector Lestrade for an explanation. Lestrade explains that he does not actually understand either before saying that despite having been acquainted with Holmes for five years, he really doesn’t know Sherlock. He then says,

“But you put up with him.”

“Because I’m desperate, that’s why. And because Sherlock Holmes is a great man. And I think one day, if we’re very, very lucky… he might even be a good one.”

In one of the last episodes, we see Lestrade interacting with a uniformed police officer who says that Sherlock Holmes is a “great man.” To which Lestrade says,

“He’s better than that. He’s a good man.”

The episode entitled, “The Lying Detective” follows after Mary Watson has jumped in front of a bullet to save the life of Sherlock Holmes and dies in the process. Sherlock is later heard to say,

“In saving my life, she conferred a value on it. It is a currency I do not know how to spend.”

These are profound words upon which we might all reflect. For truly, when a life is saved, we realize the value of that life. Just ask anyone who has successfully battled cancer, been rescued from a disaster, or who has experienced an immediate healing from a life-threatening situation. Perhaps the Sherlock in this series has come to realize that there is only one way to live such a life; and that is a life of gratitude for the gift of life. When someone gives their life to save ours, the rest of our days will be lived in gratitude toward that savior and anyone else toward whom we might show some gratitude. Perhaps there is a deeper meaning here.

[1] Sherlock, 2017, The Lying Detective, Director: Nick Hurran; Writers: Steven Moffat, and Mark Gatiss

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