How to Ship Johnlock without Really Trying
I. The Soundtrack Does It
Listen to this audio clip. The notes you hear are the motifs for “John Watson’s Theme” (first) and for “SHERlocked” (second.) “SHERlocked” is the music that plays during the scene in the Battersea station between Irene and John and continues playing while Sherlock is walking down Baker street as he opens his eyes.
Both pieces have four note motifs (but they’re different chords) and very similar contours.
The very musical themes that stand in for John and Irene, that color their characters on screen and jerk our emotions are quite connected but different- just like their relationship to a certain consulting detective. (I dare you to listen to John’s theme and not feel a pang!)
II. The Editing Does It
(a longer clip of this scene)
Here’s yet another example of why the editing of Sherlock is so damn good. Irene enigmatically says to John, “I don’t think so, do you?” and the camera jump cuts from Irene to a very still John. Then there is a slow fade out over John’s face to total black— as if we’re looking at him and closing our eyes on his unmoving, and fraught face. The next edit is a jump cut to Sherlock opening his eyes as the music titled “Sherlocked” swells. These three are so intertwined— by shot selection, editing, music— that beautiful music that wells up in them all, in us. Irene is outspoken about her sexuality and desire and she’s outspoken about John’s. He does not contradict her when she says “Look at us both.” In fact, she has seen right through John. He’s not gay— on the whole. But he is Sherlocked. Irene knows what John likes. They are a little jealous of each other. Sherlock intentionally lets them know he’s there.
The scene has opened Sherlock’s eyes. Not because he didn’t know Irene’s true feelings, not because he is in love with Irene, not because he is touched that she is still alive- remember John says that the moodiness Sherlock is enacting is what he normally does anyway- doesn’t eat, plays sad music, etc. Sherlock has no sentiment towards her. She intrigues him and at this point is winning the game. Irene was easy to see though emotionally— well Sherlock proves her attachment by cooly taking her pulse. No— the eye-opening moment for Sherlock is that he begins to see John’s attachment— not that he understands it. In Hounds he says he has no friends but smartly reconsiders when he sees he has wounded John (as he had Molly before). In Reichenbach, Sherlock can’t understand why John would be upset at disparaging things people say about him. But I happen to think that by the time he makes his final call to John from the roof, he does care.
This short little edit, this blink-and-miss-it moment is the exact point in time that the CAMERA ships Johnlock— not in the sense of them having actual sex in canon— but in the sense that their bond is real, mysterious and eye-opening. Strong enough to last their whole lives.