Because I KNOW y’all have just been DYING to know what I thought about it. 😛
So, the first time through this episode, since everything was new to me, I was basically just working to figure out what was happening, with a little how.
The second time allowed me to figure out more how, but more importantly the why. Because, honestly, while Sherlock talks like it’s the how that’s important, when it comes to the actual writing of the show, it’s always the why that’s more important. Because this show, first and foremost, is about characters and psychology.
This episode centers around Sherlock’s little sister, Eurus. A secret sibling that has been hinted at, pretty much since the beginning of the show. She is a super genius, capable of manipulating people with a speed and power beyond comprehension. But emotionally, ethically, she is a cypher. No understanding or appreciation of right or wrong. Intellect only.
So why is she important? Why has the entire show been leading to this? She’s a sibling, but Sherlock doesn’t even remember her. Why? What is her purpose? What is she supposed to show us?
The key is in Mycroft’s explanation of Sherlock’s selective amnesia, he says, “you do remember her, in a way. Every choice you’ve ever made, every path you’ve ever taken, the man you are today, is your memory of Eurus.”
So what do we know about Sherlock? His choices, his paths? From the beginning, he seems cold, aloof, supercilious. And yet, he reacts with passion. Excitement for murders. Anger. It is summed up and quantified well in episode two of this season, by Mrs Hudson, who understands far more than we have previously been led to believe. He is FULL of emotion. But he tamps it down, denies it, suppresses it. Over the course of the series, he develops one primary object (aside from solving crimes), despite his denial of emotion: protect John Watson. How does this make sense with his self-proclaimed indifference?
It all goes back to Eurus.
Three siblings. Mycroft, Sherlock seven years later, then Eurus one year after that. None of them ordinary. I’ve thrown some guesstimated numbers into this graph to display some of the basic differences. Now I will explain why they are important.
IQ, of course, is Intelligence Quotient. EQ is less familiar to most: Emotional Quotient, or in other words, emotional intelligence. It became clear over the course of the series that Mycroft, though having a higher IQ than Sherlock, did not have the same level of emotional intelligence. Sherlock’s is not good, particularly in the earliest episodes, but it increases because of his relationship with John.
In my fanfic Something New, and some of the background vignettes for it, I postulated that Sherlock’s emotional and social ineptitude was not so much natural as almost forced by Mycroft. That Mycroft had a sort of jealousy bred from his lack of understanding of the emotional elements which Sherlock had come with, so he belittled, mocked, and devalued the emotional intelligence, until Sherlock began to hate and suppress those qualities in himself, then his lack of practice and derision of social graces made him even worse. While I did not know and could not guess at the particulars of how this had come to pass, I was more correct than I would have given myself credit for.
Eurus, as a child, understood many things. One thing that she understood was that Sherlock, not Mycroft, possessed a skill which she did not understand but which she needed and did not know why. The skill to care. Hence her obsession with him from a young age, but because of her lack of moral compass and emotional understanding, she hadn’t the faintest idea what exactly she needed, why she needed it, or how to properly get it. So as part of a game borne from lack of understanding, she killed his best friend.
Traumatized, Sherlock blocks all memories of her, and alters the memories of his friend into a dog–a more acceptable loss. He suppresses the emotions that seemed at the core of the heartache, and vows to pursue only intellectual stimulation. That was safe.
I cannot express how much this resonates with me. Many years ago, after I had finished college, I moved to an area far from home where the culture was very different. It was very cold, unappreciative, and kept using then discarding me. I was too poor to move back home, so I was stuck, and it was hell. During this time, I had a dream. In this dream, I was in a department store, because I needed a new brain. The one I had was killing me. I needed a guy’s brain. Basically, though to a lesser extent, I needed to do what Sherlock did: compartmentalize. Prioritize. Eliminate the emotional component for survival. Because feeling hurts. Kills. Destroys. Mycroft had been able to survive Eurus’s betrayal. Sherlock had to dump the element which made him weak. He had to stop caring.
So for most of her life, Eurus had been incarcerated. And apparently, at least a good deal of the time, still obsessed with Sherlock. Mycroft, she knew. She interacted with. He meant little, though. He was a game. It was Sherlock who held that mystery that she had never been able to unlock. It was Sherlock she wanted, needed to understand. So she patiently, meticulously, planned, plotted, manipulated and observed. Season/series 4 is when it finally all came to fruition.
We first see her–though we don’t know it–in episode, flirting with John on the bus. She had to suss him out, of course. She knew that he was ‘best friends’ with Sherlock, but even more importantly, he was the first real friend Sherlock had had since Victor Trevor, whom she had murdered when they were all children. Was her brother starting to regain the ability to care? Was he regaining that quality that had so fixated her, all those years ago? Apparently, yes. It is even possible that Moriarty’s focus on Sherlock and John–including some of the statements he made at the swimming pool way back in series 1–were fed and fueled by information he had received from Eurus in those five unsupervised minutes.
Now, though, having taken over her prison, she can do more hands-on, direct observation. So there was the fake relationship with John. The posing as Faith Smith. Part game, part experiment, all driven by the pain and obsession even she did not quite understand.
So, after the ridiculous charade with the explosive drone at 221B, we are put into the prison, her laboratory and domain. It is here the most direct and twisted experimentation begins. No more need for costuming or facades. Now she can directly see how her emotional brother is affected by various emotional circumstances.
First, the choice of the warden. Would Sherlock allow the murder of one innocent to protect another? No, she found he would fight to the end, however illogical, to save both, even if it lost both.
Then, death of the guilty or the innocent? How would pressure to protect the innocent affect his ability to deduce? Then how would he react if they all died anyway?
Then the tests became far more personal. Molly Hooper was brought in, over a connection. Eurus had been observing Sherlock for years, of course. She knew–more than Sherlock did, more than he would ever admit to himself–how he felt about Molly. Irene Adler is a lust-filled distraction. But Molly is different. She is…more. Yet Sherlock refuses, and will always refuse, to ever cross that line. That much has ever been obvious, both in his spoken statements and in his behaviour–but his regard for the medical examiner has also peeked through in unusually thoughtful actions over the years. Yes, he has been rude to her, but he’s rude to everyone. Only for Molly has he, unprompted, apologized. She is incredibly important to him, in a different way than John. A way in which he feels compelled to hide it as often as possible. And what emotion does he suppress, does he insist on suppressing, more than any other? Romantic entanglements. He feels more safe feeling and showing his regard for John and Mary. But Molly–that one he hides and protects. But Eurus saw it. Eurus knows, not by feeling, but by observation. So she arranged this test, this horrible test, to push her brother. What will you do to protect the woman you won’t admit you love? Will you go so far to–as I know she will require–tell her you love her, say that truth, though you firmly choose to never follow through on those feelings, despite the fact that the combination will destroy her? He did. He did it, not fully realizing the consequences until Eurus made sure he knew the pain he caused. Then his reaction was very emotional, far more extreme than it had been with any of the others Eurus had actually murdered throughout the tests.
The final test, of course, was pitting best friend versus brother. The person Sherlock spent the most time with voluntarily, and the one he grew up with. But Sherlock, at last, saw through the game. Out of every test, the one life that had never been remotely at risk was his. Tortured, yes. But at risk, never. He knew he was the object. And he called her on it, threatening his own life to end this forced unacceptable choice.
This forced Eurus’s hand. Mycroft, though a thorn in her side, was not her object, and was removed from the equation. It went back to the beginning, the very first question: what is a ‘best friend?’ Why do you have one? What does that mean to your decisions? I want to know what it is because for some reason, I want to be treated like this. She didn’t understand, and she wanted to. I believe that was the true object of the game even as children–the puzzle song, as Sherlock discovered, was neither a map nor a clue to Redbeard’s location. It was a cry to her brother for affection and attention. Once she had obtained her brother’s affection, as the poem begged, then she would reveal the location of Sherlock’s best friend. The fact that the child died before anyone figured it out was irrelevant to her, as she did not have that level of moral understanding. The object was understanding and acquisition of something she absolutely did not understand–affection.
The final moments revealed not only this in its entirety, but the lonely confusion that was her life. Because everyone craves attention and affection in some form, even psychopaths. She did not understand the pain she felt. She did not understand the loneliness. It manifested in her mind as though she were trapped as a child, the only one awake, on a plane. She could see other people, but could not interact with any of them in a way they understood. And the rest of the world–well they were so far removed from her that interaction was impossible.
And so it goes back to the beginning. But this time, Sherlock deciphered the song. This time he came to her. Saved her. Because he realized what she had needed all along–she needed her emotional brother to show his emotions for her. Once that occurred she showed where John was trapped–where Victor had been trapped–and Sherlock was able to rescue them both.
Two very important parts to the ending: first, that Sherlock recognized that Eurus had gone in the wrong direction before, and could now go in the right one. Because Eurus does not have any natural understanding of morality, she did not understand the moral values of her choices. So she did not choose to save Victor Trevor as a child, because she neither understood nor cared that killing him was wrong. And I don’t mean that she didn’t care as though she had derision for him. I mean she had so little understanding of emotion that even if the thought of someone’s life ending would have brought her pain, she wouldn’t recognize it as such. Any child who cuts themselves open to see how the muscles work, but does not have the ability to recognize that the physical sensation involved, pain, should be translated as negative and something to be avoided, cannot possibly understand the sensation that comes when an emotionally negative sensation exists and should be avoided. Sherlock, going back to the beginning, told her that, this time, she could choose the correct path. This time, he was teaching her what pain, what wrongness, was. What was to be eschewed and avoided.
The second part, which seems almost an afterthought, was what happened when their parents were told that Eurus had never actually died. He says it is pointless to see her because she will not communicate with anyone. Sherlock’s mother says, “Sherlock? Well? You were always the grownup.”
Because this is the point.
Mrs Holmes recognizes that Sherlock is the grownup. Has always been. He is not as quick intellectually as his brother or his sister. But because of his emotions, he understands things which they cannot. He understands why. Why we save others. Why the entirety is more than the sum of its parts. Why visiting his sister, even wordlessly, is still important. Why knowing she is alive is still important. Why caring about others is still so damned important and why it is why we do what we do. Mycroft never understood that much. This is why he doesn’t like leg work. People are more numbers to him, not worth the effort to save. But Sherlock does. This is what makes him different. This is what makes him the hero. This is what makes John a touchstone for him, so that he does not get sucked up into the intellectual vacuum. Because it is not just the intellectual ability to be full of information and deduce rapidly that makes him what he is. Mycroft can easily do that. It is the fact that, unlike Mycroft, Sherlock cares enough to do something about it. This makes him superior.