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Sherlock | A Study in Pink | Scene Breakdown | Scene 06

We always find here that things are better with example. And just like all these rules apply to the larger narrative, in this case, the July 2010 Sherlock episode "A Study in Pink," it's also supposed to work for every scene. Every scene should have a Story Circle. Every scene should be concise.

So, let's continue to look at Sherlock: A Study in Pink. Every scene, in intricate, to show how this is done at such a high level of expertise. Continuing on to Scene 06, where Watson definitely, finally Enters Unfamiliar.


This is, without a doubt, one of the most pivotal scenes in the episode in not the entire run of the show: this is Watson choosing to adventure with Sherlock.

Let's not bury the lead: that's the Conciseness Triangle Point at the end of this: Sherlock asks Watson if he's game for more danger, and Watson says "Oh, God yes." And it's brilliant. It's fun.

And it's necessary.

In fiction, it is a bad idea to have a lead character that doesn't have agency. You want them to make choices themselves, you want them to make the affirmative choice to go on an adventure. It's why even when circumstances are out of the character's control (for example, a prison break movie), they're still making choices (they choose to escape, choose to survive, choose to retain themselves). It is very hard to write a narrative where the protagonist isn't making active choices. Not only is it hard to write, but it's even harder to be engaging. Can you do it? Sure. Will people like it? ... probably not. So we need Watson to make this choice, that is the point of this scene, ergo it should be the last thing that happens in the scene: and it is. Nothing will be the same after this.

Looking over what the scene actually entails, we get a bit of business about the boys seeing 221B Baker Street for the first time, meeting the landlady Miss Hudson, establishing through her past with Sherlock that he's been helping people a while... nothing crazy at the start. A bit of jokes, a bit of business. Lots of quirkiness that makes us like the characters, nothing terribly substantial.

That is, until Watson reveals that he'd Googled Sherlock, and found his website on the Science of Deduction. This is an important Remind. In Scene 04 we had Watson see first-hand for the first time the almost telepathic results of Sherlock's deductive mind, that's the Setup. We see the magic trick, but see no explanation. Now we get Reminded of it, and Watson is expressing skepticism. In the very next Scene, we'll get the Payoff, at which point, Watson (and we) will be believers in the method. This particular Rule of Threes is confined almost totally to the first act, and does a lot to establish their relationship.

We also get the tease, here, of how Sherlock knew all those things about Watson, but they're interrupted.

LeStrade comes in, and reveals that there's been a fourth murder / suicide. And says, cryptically: "This one's different, they left a note." Once again, this is a magnificent Payoff using Rule of Threes. We showed the three "normal" murders in the second scene, establishing a pattern, and here we break that pattern. We only know this to be special because of the others. And Sherlock knows this, too, calling it "Christmas!"

In some ways, Sherlock's magic power is that he can see the Setup, Reminds and Payoffs that the writer is using, the things characters aren't typically privy to.

In this moment we also have the reveal that Sherlock needs an assistant, but that the police on call won't work with him. This reminds us about his antagonistic relationship with Sally and Anderson, but also cleanly hints at his teaming with Watson. Setup: LeStrade and Sherlock run off together, leaving Watson behind.

This, specifically, is going to happen three times in this episode: Sherlock will run off and leave Watson behind. The first two times he will react with sadness and depression and negativity, and we'll get the return of the "sad Watson" music from the first scene. The third time he'll act differently, and in Story Circle terms, will show that he has changed. This is important. To show character change, you have to show a character act one way in a situation, then show them act differently when presented with that situation again. Typically this happens in Act 1 and then differently in Act 3, this episode goes the extra mile and has a Remind in Act 2.

We also get a Remind to this point here: When Sherlock and LeStrade leave, Miss Hudson empathizes with Watson. She says Sherlock is always "running around" and calls Watson "more the sitting down type" because of his leg.

Watson yells at her and lashes out, possibly the meanest we will ever see him. He immediately apologizes, but it's clear: she's hit a nerve.

This episode shows us character growth through Lacanian Mirror Staging. That is, characters see themselves through the eyes of others, and we see them through the eyes of others. This was Setup when Mike Stamford saw Watson still as the man he was in Scene 03. Here in the Remind, we see how Miss Hudson sees him: as an invalid, on par with her, an old retiree. And Watson hates that he's seen like that.

If you call someone a name long enough they'll accept it. We are, in some way, what people say we are. Watson is being defined by how other people view him in this moment, and he doesn't like what they see.

And then, Sherlock comes back in. And he re-evaluates John Watson. And we get our first Payoff. This actually manages to Payoff twice and that's amazing but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Sherlock evaluates Watson as: "You’re a doctor. An army doctor. Any good?" Watson answers that he was very good. This is like a job interview. He stands at attention, like he's back on the job. "Seen a lot of injuries then. Violent deaths? Bit of trouble too, I bet." Of course, yes. Enough for a lifetime. Far too much. "Want to see some more?" Oh, God yes. And the scene (and the First Act) ends with Sherlock announcing "The Game is On!" (Note here: three questions. Rule of Threes. "Any good? Violent Deaths? Want to see more?")

In this moment, if it's not clear, we see Watson reevaluated. We don't see him the way Mike Stamford sees him or the way Miss Hudson sees him: we see him the way Sherlock sees him, and it's like Sherlock can see through to the potential of what this man could be. And Watson? Finally, Watson likes the image of himself he sees reflected in others. He does not chafe against it, like he did with Stamford or Miss Hudson. This is how he wants to be seen, who he wants to be, and as a result it affects how we see him.

The Story Arc to this scene is minor, it's all about serving the larger story-arc of the episode. But it's there. Watson and Sherlock are looking at the apartment but are not partners yet, Watson clearly wants to know more about Sherlock. He learns more about him: from his living conditions, to his history with Miss Hudson, to his working with the Detective Inspector. He Gets what he wants when he finds out Sherlock is a real-deal adventurer, but Pays/is disappointed when he is left behind. When he's Returned to Sherlock's presence, he isn't doubting him anymore: he's in. Actually, that's a decent little arc, I shouldn't have undersold it.

There's some conflict, too. Tellingly, there's conflict in how everyone sees Watson. Mis Hudson undervalues him, he knows he can be move. LeStrade barely even sees him, but Sherlock knows he can be more. Two of the people are adventurers, two of them civilians. At least for now, this is the last time Watson will be able to be called that. In a scene that the Conciseness Triangle tells us is about how people view Watson, having that be what the 4-Corner Opposition for the scene is about seems smart, no?


See? This is how it's done. All tools used. Perfectly balanced. And as the viewer, you're none the wiser. It seems like magic, it seems like it just happened. It seems fresh and original, but it's done using the same tools of the trade that have existed for a hundred years. Join us soon for Scene Seven!



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