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Monday, June 30, 2014

Sherlock...yet again!

It appears to be about time for another post about Sherlock Holmes, specifically the BBC Sherlock starring Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch.
Let me begin by saying, I'm not recommending the show.  I'm redeeming it.
It's not squeaky clean, and I'm not condoning all of it, but I can say for certain that it has given me the ability to think through some very virtuous things. The themes of the show, with the brilliant writing behind it, might actually have given me a better picture of love.  Which is one of the highest purposes of storytelling.
If you need more background or you haven't seen the show,  here are a few old (very old) posts for you.
For my analysis of Sherlock Holmes in general as a character and literary type:
For my analysis of Season 1

In my last little scribble on the show, I expressed my hope that Sherlock would be humanized, unsure how else I could continue putting up with such a massively arrogant lead role. Even with this anticipation, I entered the next episodes skeptically and long after their release dates, aware that it could go either way.
It has been a slowly unfolding story.  But in the end, it did not disappoint.
To correct on my previous views of the show, I have to admit that many of the vices evident in the first season are clarified and worked out as just that, vices.  Now that I stand on the other side of season three, I'm willing to say that though the morals of the show are messy, they are not without thoughtful merit.

A few examples of redeemable material from the last season:

GRACE: John, ever the real hero in the show, depicts a stunning picture of grace when he throws into the fire a flash drive with Mary's past on it.  His complete forgiveness of her is sealed with the words, "The problems of your past are your own business.  The problems of your future are my privilege."  Few Christian-themed stories do as good as that. Very impressive.

BEAUTY: Sherlock actually falls (albeit temporarily) for Molly, a girl who works in forensics.  She was invisible to him when they had worked together previously except when she was useful for cleaning up his messes or solving a case, but by a small act of kindness in the second season, she awakens the goodness that lies underneath all that intellectual, sociopathic exterior that we love/hate in Sherlock.  She is the one woman (besides John's wife) that he learns to treat with respect and without pragmatism.  For a few shining moments, he sees her for who she is and he gains yet another friend.
LOVE: In the final moments of the final episode, Sherlock sacrifices himself to protect John and Mary.  By putting a bullet in Magnussen's head to protect Mary, knowing that he will not be spared the full justice of the law, Sherlock proves that he has come a long way.  Not to excuse murder of course, but for Sherlock, the act is a stark contrast to the first season finale which finds him hesitant and shocked at John's reckless move to save him from Moriarty.  And finally we see the sharpie line between Sherlock (who killed for love) and Moriarty (who kills for sport).

It is his own words that both condemn and redeem him in a self correcting speech at John's wedding. "I am dismissive of the virtuous, unaware of the beautiful, and uncomprehending in the face of the happy." Sherlock almost overdoes his apologies and appreciations in this emotional and out-of-character display of affection.  He further admits that while he can solve crimes, he can't save lives.  It takes John to understand people and to show Sherlock his complete inability to do so.
And so John is rightly recognized for his part in the slow, fascinating journey of saving Sherlock from himself.

At long last, consistent contact with people who stubbornly love him has chipped away at his heartlessness.  Of course, he is still Sherlock. By his own admission, he is no angel and there is evidence of that.
But even these glimmers of humility, however small are enough to make me excited that season 4 will not let me down.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Harry Potter

Fandom doesn't impress me.  Usually, I dislike things for the mere fact that others like them.  Which is, of course, not a very rational way to handle preferences, but I can't remember a time that this wasn't my modus operandi.  Here on the threshold of my 24th birthday, I humbly admit my long-delayed and profound appreciation for Harry Potter.

I was attending camp in the summer of 1998 when Harry Potter's name entered my vocabulary. But it wasn't until a few years later, after the series was in full swing and gaining popularity, that I began vigorously resisting its attraction.  Though I recant my former position, I'm glad I didn't read them in junior high.  I'm glad I waited until I could appreciate the weight of what Rowling was trying to communicate.  
Book one pushed an eyebrow up in moderate interest.  But by book three, I was completely taken in. Days after finishing book seven, I'm still reliving the moment when love conquered evil.  

Some redemptive highlights of the story include believable characters, a creative setting, surprising plot twists (I was back and forth on Snape almost every chapter...), and a beautiful return to Truth at the end.  (Additionally, I was able to add a few British words to my repertoire: snogging, jumper, dodgy, and wotcher.) Whatever else can be said for Harry Potter, you can always count on the fact that he will choose to save others instead of himself.  And in the end, that is his redemption as well  The narrative points to the Biblical truth from Mark 8:35 and other passages referring to the kind of Life that conquers death.  
With an artful use of major motifs and minor allusions, the classic themes of death, courage, and love find a home in the orphan boy whose opportunities to advance his own fame are conquered by his growing selflessness.  How could I not be gripped by a story that ends with the hard-earned words "all was well?"   

I am glad on this side of the books to join the many who applaud J.K. Rowling for her deeply human (and so consequently deeply complex) story.  It is a signpost to many things greater than itself.