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Sherlock | A Study in Pink | Scene Breakdown | Scene 07

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 07, we jump into Act 2 with a bit of an explanation / breather.


This is the first scene past Watson's "Crossing of the Threshold / Entering Unfamiliar." He's in a new world, he's got questions, and so do you, the audience. So we'll give you some answers.

Sherlock confirmed that he's a Private (or rather, Consulting) Detective, and that he's good. We do this with a very clever Rule of Threes Setup, Remind and Payoff. They talk about his role and banter back and forth about it, this is the Setup and the Remind. At the end of this interaction, once Sherlock has proven himself, we'll tie it off with Sherlock saying "See? You were right. The Police don't consult amateurs."

There's a lot in this scene, it's all dialog, and to explain it would just be to transcribe it. So let's instead look at it from a Story Circle perspective: We already know the situation of this scene, the Introduction, it's carried over from the last. Watson wants to know more about what's happening... but what's more, here we learn that Sherlock wants to show him. We learn that Sherlock is a showoff.

So they Enter Unfamiliar, Sherlock trying to prove himself to Watson, Watson asking questions. We return to Sherlock having known so much about Watson in Scene 04, and he explains how he knew all that: he's explaining his method, how he deduces things.

We get a number of Returns in this dialog. Watson's military history is brought up, explaining that Sherlock read his military history in his tan and posture and how he carried himself.

Sherlock also notices the "bit different from my day" line and concludes Watson is an army doctor. This really reinforces my point of how the writers do this: they just have Sherlock notice the things that really the audience is only meant to notice in a usual narrative.

We get the Return of the Diagnosis that Watson's limp is psychosomatic, that he got it because Watson forgets about the limp when distracted from it, and how that leads to further deduction about how he'd been shot.

And then we get the Return of how Sherlock knew about Watson's sibling, through the inscription on the phone case, and that he knew that that sibling was a drunk because of the scratches on it where the charger goes in "Tiny little scuff marks all round it - he plugs it in every night to recharge, but his hands are shaking. Never see those marks on a sober man’s phone, never see a drunk’s without them." This is a Return to the Scene 03 mention of Harry when Stamford asked why Watson wasn't just staying with them: and why.

But hold on, this line is doing a lot. It's also a Setup for the fact that Sherlock can be wrong. This will be important for the climax of the episode and the general stakes of the show -- he infers, but sometimes takes educated guesses and is wrong. This makes it so that later, in his fight with the Cabbie, there are stakes: we worry that he won't be right. Is that a Setup and Payoff? ... Maybe? But it might just be a necessary acknowledgement: hey, this is not an all-knowing God.

Sherlock is proven wrong by the assumption that the name Harry denoted a brother, when it was in fact short for Harriet, his sister. He was however right about her being a drunk...

... but by chance. Did you catch the other remind there? "Tiny little scuff marks all round it - he plugs it in every night to recharge, but his hands are shaking. Never see those marks on a sober man’s phone, never see a drunk’s without them." This is a Remind about Watson's hand tremors. If you look back, you can see it in his reaction. Those scuff marks aren't show Harry's drinking, they're from Watson's hand shaking. So Sherlock guessed at the right conclusion, but inferred it from the wrong thing. Moreover: Watson does not correct him on that point, showing he's in some way ashamed of this. (Some of this isn't revealed until the next scene, but they kind of bleed into each other a little as they get out of the cab, I'm going to count them here).

Isn't that fun? I've never seen anywhere mention that before. This narrative holds such treasures.

And then we get the moment at the end, when Watson says "that was extraordinary" and admits to being amazed by what Sherlock has just done. So Sherlock gets what he wanted, to show off, and we learn that he usually pays a price now as people tell him to "piss off"... but not this time. This time' he's admired.

So the Concise Point of this scene would be: Sherlock and Watson do get along. One likes to show off, and the other enjoys watching him show off. Simple, effective. We get there through a Story Circle based around that showing off, where that is the majority of the Adapt to It stage, and the only Conflict in the scene is Watson's slowly eroding disbelief at Sherlock's abilities.


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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