I recently re-watched the BBC series Sherlock Holmes with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman and I think I enjoyed it even more than the first time. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea as the Brits would say, but this time through I paid closer attention to the relational dynamics. The first time around I had gotten sucked into keeping up with the clues as the cases unfolded.
Cumberbatch’s Holmes is a character we’ve seen variations of before—Star Trek’s Spock, Law & Order CI’s Robert Goren, House, Monk, etc. They’re highly intelligent, intuitive and quirky individuals who have trouble relating to people. As Goren told his partner Eames, “I am an acquired taste.”
But Spock had Kirk, Goren had Eames and Holmes has John Watson. He’s not without his own issues of course, but still, he’s a gem of a person. He sees Sherlock for all that he is and chooses (as few others do), to hang in there with him. He is the epitome of loyalty. When Sherlock stages his own death and goes into seclusion, a few others know about it, but he leaves Watson completely in the dark—convinced Holmes is dead. It’s only after two years of grieving and mourning that Sherlock finally appears to him to let him know he really isn’t dead after all. After expressing his considerable outrage, the good doctor is able to find it in his heart to forgive Holmes and move forward in their relationship. David had Jonathan, Paul had Barnabas, and if you have a John Watson in your life, you are richly blessed.
Having said that, there’s an episode (A Scandal in Belgravia), where even the relationally challenged Sherlock shows some of these qualities toward Mrs. Hudson, who is their landlady and lives in the downstairs part of their Baker Street residence. Three operatives have broken into the house in search of a phone and when they can’t find it, they rough-up Mrs. Hudson and drag her upstairs. Holmes arrives and quickly reverses the situation. Dr. Watson shows up not long afterwards and takes Mrs. Hudson downstairs to attend to her.
After the police take away the operatives, Watson tells Holmes that Mrs. Hudson will have to sleep upstairs with them tonight and afterwards she will need to go stay with her sister—she needs some time away from Baker Street. “Doctor’s orders,” he tells him. Holmes protests saying, “She’s fine,” and telling Watson, “Don’t be absurd.” Then it’s Watson’s turn to protest and sigh at yet another instance of Sherlock being Sherlock—being completely insensitive to all that has happened to the poor lady.
Except this time, he’s not.
Watson wants to know where the phone is and Sherlock tells him, “Safest place I know.” It turns out that Mrs. Hudson had the presence of mind to get the phone and hide it in her blouse. She tells them she managed to do this when the men thought she was “having a cry.” Sherlock hugs her and says, “Shame on you, John Watson.” “Shame on me?” the doctor incredulously asks. Holmes replies, “Mrs. Hudson leave Baker Street? . . . England would fall.”
Watson is beat and he knows it. Not just to know that Mrs. Hudson is better than he thought and more capable than he’d given her credit for being, but to see Sherlock out front in recognizing and acknowledging her contribution and value. It’s a good moment and even in defeat the doctor has to smile.
God made us for relationships and life is oh-so-much richer and beautiful because of them. We neglect this truth to our poverty and embrace it to our benefit and the good of the world. Even if it’s just something we see in Sherlock Holmes.