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I believe in Sherlock Holmes. Moriarty was real. John Watson is not alone.

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ThB

I believe in Sherlock Holmes. Moriarty was real. John Watson is not alone.

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I used to love fandom. I think my old job dimmed my enthusiasm for public displays of obsession, but the BBC Sherlock has brought me back, at least a little, because nothing will ever change my feelings for Sherlock Holmes. So, in the last excruciating hours before the series returns, here is a post containing some original fannish conjectures onJohn Watson and sleeping pills. This is about the scene in "Hounds of the Baskerville" when John and Henry return to Henry's house. Henry is wound up, and John is going to give him something to help him sleep.

Henry might very well have his own prescription sleeping pills, but John wouldn't know that unless he'd seen them. Henry is rich and has a nice house, so he probably sleeps in a master bedroom with an ensuite bathroom; whether he kept the pills in his bathroom medicine cabinet or in his bedside table, John wouldn't have seen them on a casual may-I-use-your-bathroom run. And if John were offering to fetch Henry one of his own pills, would he phrase it like that? He says "I'm going to give you something to help you sleep," not "I'll go get you something to help you sleep" or "I think you should take something to help you sleep." I give implies I have. We know John experienced psychological distress so severe it manifested as physical symptoms -- and we knew that he had nightmares. That stuff doesn't go away because you make a new best friend (though friends are great).

John picks up a water bottle on Henry's desk, as if he's about to turn around and hand Henry a pill and the water; he carries the pills on his person, at least while traveling away from home. He and Sherlock are sharing a room with two twin beds, so they're probably sharing a nightstand and bathroom as well. If there is such a thing as privacy with Sherlock Holmes involved, John has even less than usual at the moment. (And he'll keep them in his room at home -- they share a bathroom.) If John carries them everywhere, they're his, for him to take.

I think we have deduced John's pills into existence. Now let's find them, in a game I like to call "fandom button, button":

Henry and John walk into Henry's house; John turns on the lights.


John removes his gloves: left...


...and right...


...and both are in his left hand when he touches Henry's back with his right.


Gloves still in left hand, John reaches into a pocket with his right hand. Jacket pocket? Front jeans pocket? Can't tell, because as he says "I'm going to give you something..." we cut to close-up.


John finishes, "... to help you sleep." You can see from his shoulder that he rifles in his pocket for a second and then takes his right hand out. What is he looking for? Is he checking to make sure the pills are there, since he's already offered one to Henry? His left shoulder isn't moving too much, but a moment later, when he goes over to the desk, the gloves are gone.
Watson9 Blurry hand holding no gloves, reaching for a bottle of water. Maybe the gloves went into the left jacket pocket as he was checking his jeans pocket for the pills during the close-up, or when John's left shoulder briefly passes out of frame on his way to the desk.


John opens the bottle. It looks like he spins the bottle cap open with his fingers -- his wrist is very still -- rather than grabbing the cap in his forefinger and thumb and twisting it, which would be more likely if he were holding a pill in his pinky and ring finger. (I have written an extensive monograph on the subject of opening water bottles while holding varying numbers of ibuprofen in the same hand -- it's called "A Study in Sixteen Years of Menstrual Cramps.") But if he's not holding the pill, why check the same pocket again? Reconsidering his offer? (Which is fairly irresponsible, given that he hasn't talked to Louise Mortimer yet about what Henry may or may not be taking, doesn't ask Henry, and hasn't seen Henry's medicine cabinet. No one says it has to be a powerful, interfere-with-all-your-psych-meds sleeping pill -- could be a Benadryl -- but STILL.)

John smells or tastes what's the in the bottle (habit from living with Sherlock?), and with that, the the camera moves away from John and we come to the end of our little game. Honestlym I'm not sure it's meant to read the way I argue. I want it to, though, I really want to attribute this thoughtfulness to the writers. TV shows should, but so often don't, address the aftereffects of the shit they love to put their characters through. (See this excellent series on PTSD in fiction over at Tor.com.) Of course, in the interests of tight narrative, there's often no time for a detailed psychological portrait. I know it's a lot to expect, basing a hypothesis on some subtext and the intricacies of pocket-reaching in several takes that were cut together, but I done supported it from the screencaps, and that's satisfying enough for this English major. Long live the text!

Enjoy the new season, friends.

And as a side note, I started this entry on 15 January 2012. Dude.
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