It’s a well-known fact on my side of the Pond that everyone in London LOVES Christmas. Even high-functioning sociopaths.
If you don’t know where this gif comes from, you need to clear your schedule and watch Sherlock tonight, because BBC’s modern re-imagining of The Great Detective is one of the best dramas currently on television, and should certainly be one of the most appealing to nerds. It stars the two coolest actors ever to play a hobbit and a dragon, and it’s written by two of the men behind the current run of Doctor Who (one of whom also stars). Unfortunately, it also has only nine episodes, total. So far there hasn’t really been time for a whole Christmas episode (though rumour has it that will change next year…).
In the meantime, holiday celebrations have featured prominently in two episodes: “A Scandal in Belgravia” and “His Last Vow.” Let’s break those scenes down:
“A Scandal in Belgravia”
The festive scene in this episode occurs about halfway through. It’s a few months after the events that took up the first half of the episode, in which Sherlock and John encountered Irene Adler, a dominatrix who threatened to cause a scandal in the royal family. The Baker Street crew, having seemingly restored order to London, is now in the middle of a Christmas celebration. Mrs. Hudson, of course, is hosting, Sherlock plays the violin, John Watson is there with an ugly jumper and another interchangeable girlfriend, and Lestrade and Molly Hooper are guests.
But once the guests arrive, the fun stops. Sherlock doesn’t display great social skills at the best of times, but during the party he really outdoes himself. He confuses John’s girlfriend with a few of the previous ones (she breaks up with him later that night), and then delivers the most crushing in a long line of insults to Molly, who tried extra hard to impress him. This is the first time, by the way, when Molly’s crush on Sherlock, and his utter indifference to her, are not treated like a joke. Then, while he is making a bumbling effort to apologize, he gets a text from Irene Adler and discovers that she has sent him her smartphone for safekeeping.
This ends the festivities pretty quickly. Since Irene had previously told Sherlock she would never give her phone to anyone, he deduces that she must be dead. Sure enough, a trip to the morgue turns up her disfigured corpse. Sherlock is uncharacteristically upset by this–he accepts his brother’s offer of a cigarette and starts musing on other people’s capacity for emotion, asking Mycroft, “do you ever wonder if there’s something wrong with us?” This is enough for Mycroft to put John on suicide watch for Sherlock. A rather depressing Christmas, wouldn’t you say?
But don’t worry, Sherlock gets better–and so does Irene. This is a Moffat episode, after all.
“His Last Vow”
In this episode, the Baker Street gang (which now includes John’s estranged wife, Mary) celebrate Christmas at the Holmes home (hehe) with Sherlock’s parents. Mr. and Mrs. Holmes are actually quite lovely, normal people who have the power to make their ridiculously intelligent and powerful sons look like whiny teenagers, so this scene starts out pretty funny and low-key.
Then we have the reconciliation between John and Mary. This is the first time they’ve seen each other since Sherlock got out of the hospital and revealed that Mary is a dangerous ex-assassin who nearly killed him. Last time they spoke, Mary gave John a flash drive containing all sorts of secret, compromising information about her past. Now we find out that, not only did John never read it, he’s decided he doesn’t care what’s on it at all. He still loves Mary and wants to make their marriage work. “The problems of your past are your problems; the problems of your future are my privilege.” Awwwww!
…And then Sherlock drugs everyone in the house except John so that the two of them can investigate Magnussen, the episode’s villain. And that investigation results in blackmail, murder, and Sherlock’s exile from England–plus the most emotion we’ve ever seen from Mycroft. Those Holmes boys sure know how to celebrate Christmas! Sheesh.
And now that I come to think of it, both these episodes were written by Steven Moffat! Maybe it’s just Moffat who loves Christmas. Or loves ruining it. Probably both.