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Sherlock | Quadrant Method

So thus far in our examination of writing through the first episode of BBC's Sherlock, "A Study in Pink," we've looked at Watson's Story Circle as well as the Four-Corner Opposition for the episode.

How do we do this? We start by breaking our Story Circle into Quadrants at North, East, South, and West, making a cross out of the existing lines we divided it into when we first divided it into eight points, as in the picture above. You should have four equal Quadrants, hence the name of this method: The Quadrant Method.

At the tip of each of these points we're going to put parts of our theme, and these parts will inform where the main character / main narrative is in their journey. It'll keep us on track thematically. In each Quadrant of the Story Circle, two things are always true at all times, and which two are true are dictated by the section we're in.

Looking at "A Study in Pink," we know that the episode starts with Watson alone, so the first Quadrant has to feature that trait. But how do we decide if it's at the North position or the East position? Well, we ask ourselves: does he return to this state? Is he alone again, at the end of the episode?

And the answer is yes, Sherlock abandons him to chase the killer, much like he abandoned him earlier in the episode. So knowing that he Returns to this state Having Changed, it's safe to assume that that trait goes up top, at the Northern Position.

So if Alone is North, then "Together" must be South. So where do "Good Men" and "Great Men" go? Let's look at Watson's character... is it the story of a Great Man becoming a good one? No (although that is the arc of Sherlock over the entire show's run). It's the arc of a Good Man becoming an Action-Hero Man-of-Action. Of a Good Man becoming a Great Man. So Great Man gets the West Position as that's what we finish with, and Good Man gets the East Position as that's what we start with. Solid.

So attaching this to the 8-point Story Circle, let's beat out this story.

  1. Show who your character is. We're in the top-right here, so according to our Quadrant Method, we're showing that he's a "Alone" and "Good." We definitely slow him being alone, but the 'Good' part is more debatable. But we do show him as a medic soldier who was injured in battle, so that's enough for us to like him.

  2. They Want Something. This one is easy and obvious. He says it out loud: he WANTS to find a roommate so he can afford to live in London. And he says it to Mike Stamford, while snapping at him. Mike is portrayed as a good man, a nice man, so if we're going to conflict with someone here in the Top Right Quadrant, it'll be someone Good. We have a want in this narrative, but also a need that clear on repeat viewings: Watson needs to stop being alone, overcome his bitterness, and become a Great Man.

  3. The Enter an Unfamiliar Situation to get what they want. At this point in the story the character changes / does something unfamiliar to accomplish that want in the last part. According to our map, what's changing is that he becomes willing (or is coerced into) not being along anymore. This is the scene that transitions us from Top-Right into Bottom-Right, when Watson is first introduced to Sherlock and is intrigued by him. But he hasn't made the choice to partner with him yet, and stepping through that threshold requires agency. So later in their new apartment, Sherlock at first abandons him but then returns and offers to partner with him, to which Watson says "Oh God, yes." He has entered this unfamiliar world, no longer alone, but together.

  4. They adapt to that new situation: Still firmly in that Bottom-Right, we see our Good Man Watson adapt to being Together with Sherlock. They get to know each other on the cab ride over, Watson is impressed as they examine the body of a victim, and Watson is abandoned by Sherlock again. We're seeing how this formerly-alone Good Man adapts to Being Together.

  5. They Get what they want: This is another transition point, we're going from "Lower-Right" to "Lower-Left." There's a major shakeup in Watson's world-view as he discovers that being with Sherlock has healed him not just emotionally, but physically: he no longer needs his cane to keep up with Sherlock running through the streets of London. Not only has he found his partner (gotten what he wanted) but he's accepted him totally (gotten what he needs).

  6. They Pay a Heavy Price for it: Sherlock is accused of being an addict by the police, Watson's faith in Sherlock tested. But he is firmly "Together" now, and stands up to the police like a Great Man would, in defense of his friend.

  7. They Return to where they started,

  8. Having Changed: In this last section we're in the Upper-Left Quadrant. Watson has been abandoned by Sherlock for a third time to go chase the killer alone. Watson has "Returned" to his original state of "Being Alone," but he's "Been Changed" by his adventure with Sherlock and no longer reacts with sadness. He's become a Great Man. He tracks the phone Sherlock has on him, overcomes his limp scaling dozens of stairs, and overcomes his hand tremor firing a shot across two buildings, saving Sherlock. As if that wasn't proof enough, in the last scene Sherlock describes Watson as a man-of-action outright:

"...That’s a crack shot you’re looking for. But not just a marksmen, a fighter - his hand couldn’t have shaken at all, so clearly he’s acclimatised to violence. He didn’t fire ‘til I was in immediate danger, though. So, strong moral principles. You’re looking for a man probably with a history of military service and nerves of steel --" -- Sherlock, describing Watson at the end.

So this works, and the map also tells us WHO Watson should come into conflict with mainly in each Quadrant, when you compare the Quadrant Map to the Four-Corner Opposition and where each character lies.

In Quadrant One he should conflict with the character who is Alone and a Good Man, and he does: himself, John Watson (and to a lesser extent, Mike). In Quadrant Two he should conflict with the character who is also Good but not Alone, Detective Inspector LeStrade, and he does, along with the rest of the police who share the same traits, while at the crime scene. This is where his reactions differ from LeStrade's while looking at the body, and where he comes into conflict with Sgt Sally Donovan after. Might you even be able to replace "LeStrade" on our Four-Corner Opposition with "All Police"? Maybe, that would make sense as they do work together as a unit, "are together."

In Quadrant Three he comes into conflict with the Great Man who is open to being Together with others, Sherlock, as we see cracks in their relationship for the first time. Sherlock is revealed to be a drug addict and abandons Watson yet again.

Then finally in Quadrant Four, despite never sharing the screen with him, Watson is in conflict with the serial killer Cabbie, the man who is Great (and Terrible) but also Alone. He shoots and kills the Cabbie, vanquishing his own dark reflection.

This method works very, very well for examining how the writers of "A Study in Pink" so effectively fused Story to Theme.


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