Tag Archive | Sherlock

But What Happens Next?! (A.K.A. Cliffhangers and Story)

Oh, BBC’s Musketeers…how you have made my week agonizing…

(spoilers ahead!)

In case you missed the recent episode before the series 2 finale, life was becoming a tad complicated for our beloved French soldiers and their friends.  Constance’s fate is in the balance and Aramis’ affair with the queen is about to throw him in loads of trouble.  The queen is imprisoned in her own home with Rochefort’s schemes about to tear everything apart.  And then, once the credits role, we find we have to wait another week until everything is concluded.  Will our heroes save the day?  Will some characters be like Cardinal Richelieu and not show up in series 3?  Will the king ever stop listening to bad advice?

Honestly…if I wasn’t a Sherlock fan, the wait really would be terrible.  Thankfully I have practice in being patient.  (*cough* waiting two years for Sherlock Series 4 *cough*)

Anyways, last Saturday’s episode got me thinking about cliffhangers.  As readers or viewers, many of us tend to hate them.  We want to know what happens now and being left in suspense is about as fun as being stuck in an elevator with someone who ate way too many beans for lunch.  These are the characters we’ve invested time and emotion in, after all.  Having to wait and learn their fates later just doesn’t seem right.

But being a writer, I do have a confession to make.  As much as I hate being the victim of a cliffhanger, I can’t help but love writing them.  And here’s why:

  • A cliffhanger leaves you wanting more.

When Sherlock Series 2 ended some years ago, fans were left speculating as to how on earth Sherlock Holmes survived that fall.  Now, with Series 3, we’re left speculating how Moriarty did the same thing (or did he?????)  Regardless, even though we were left in suspense, the ending of both series got fans wanting more.  We couldn’t wait to find out how Sherlock did it (I’m still believing Anderson’s Sherlolly theory.  Don’t judge.  Ha ha!)  Instead of forgetting about what we just watched, it replayed in our minds and made us count down the days to when we could find out the answer to our questions.  Which leads me to my next point…

  • A cliffhanger can unite the fans.

I don’t know how many theories came up after Series 2 ended, but I know it was a lot.  And these weren’t just simple theories, either.  Some went as far as using knowledge of physics and all sorts of science to explain how their theory would work.  I’m sure even the easily-displeased Mr. Holmes would be impressed with their work.  But what made it so interesting was that fans were together talking.  They were united in a common love for a story.  If Series 2 had ended with a resolved plot, would the fans have talked as much?  I’m not sure, but I doubt they’d still be discussing some things months (and even a year) after the finale aired.

  • A cliffhanger can show how invested you are in a story.

If we didn’t care about the characters, we wouldn’t care what happens next for them.  Cliffhangers that leave us with emotions flying prove to us that the characters, and their story, mean something to us.  I’d like to think that if we care that much about what happens to someone who isn’t even real, the author is doing his or her job and doing it well.  To me, an author’s job isn’t just to write a story.  It’s to write an experience for the readers.

I’ll admit that when I wrote “The Ripple Affair”, I had planned on ending it with a cliffhanger.  Bad, mean author (I know.)  But even though my readers weren’t too happy with it (I can’t say I blame them), it still served its purpose.  It left them wanting more.  It gave them something to talk about.  It showed me that they really did care about what I was writing about.  Thankfully, the sequel to “The Ripple Affair” didn’t have a cliffhanger ending (uhm…sort of…), but it did teach me something about endings and how we are to approach them in story.  Are cliffhangers a good way to always end a story?  To repeat many of my fellow readers and viewers, no way!  But they aren’t always bad, either.  Sometimes they can serve their purpose, and depending on how its written, serve it well.

How or Why?

Now that “The Empty Hearse” has premiered in the U.S., I can now talk about the biggest answer to the biggest question of the BBC Sherlock series:

Just how did Sherlock fake his death in “Reichenbach Fall”?

(And just as an FYI, there be spoilers ahead from “The Empty Hearse”!)

After two years of discussions, research, theories, and just plain head-scratching, fans of Sherlock were finally going to get the answer as to how the clever detective managed to survive jumping off the roof of St. Bart’s and surviving it.  In “The Empty Hearse”, we go through a few of Anderson’s (and Anderson’s club of Sherlock believers) theories, but in the end Sherlock explains to Anderson the steps he took to manage his survival.  He jumped, his helpers set the stage, he landed on a big airbag, and the rest was pretty much Oscar-worthy acting.  Anderson, in the end, doesn’t believe it, as there is no way that Sherlock would ever tell him the truth and it has too many variables (just how did he know John would stand at that spot?) for it to be believable.

In the end, the “big reveal” of Sherlock’s plan left many happy-they had their answer in what Sherlock revealed or they were content that the show primarily focused on the “why” of the Fall instead of the “how”.  But for other fans, they were left feeling like Anderson-was it really as simple as falling into an airbag and putting on a production?  Was everything really that staged?  And just how did Sherlock fake his death?  Was the big question really answered?

As someone who is still planning a plot reveal in my own story, I’m debating with myself on whether I should explain the “how” of the reveal.  Do I want to be helpful to my audience and provide them closure to a question they’ll undoubtedly want an answer to?  Do I want to keep everything hidden and leave them trying to figure out the “how” in the end? (This sounds fun, mwa ha ha ha ha!  Just kidding.)  Or do I do a little bit of both like how they did in Sherlock?  Provide some closure, but leave it open enough for those not pleased with the reveal to still have their own theories?

I’m not going to lie-I’m in the camp that actually enjoyed “The Empty Hearse” and its treatment of the Reichenbach jump.  I’m content with Sherlock’s explanation to Anderson as what really happened, although I think the first Fall theory with Sherlock and Molly is probably my head-canon (ha ha).  Regardless of my reaction, though, seeing “The Empty Hearse” and reading fan reactions on forums afterwards made me realize that the audience of a story are a lot like the characters on Sherlock.  When a pivotal question or plot point happens, some are like Anderson: they want closure-they want to know the how of the plot.  Some are like John: they aren’t as concerned with the how so much as they want to know why.  Some are like Lestrade or Mrs. Hudson: they don’t mind not knowing how or why-they’re just glad the story got resolved.  Finally, some are like Sherlock: they’re writing the story and they know everything, and all they can do is smile.

Sherlock and Sentimentality: A Lesson on Character Development

I admit that with the Sherlock Series 3 premiere just a few days away, I’m sort of going on a Sherlock binge, so forgive me for my latest post being an ode to Sherlock fans.  🙂

I’ve only become a recent fan after being wowed by Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance in Star Trek: Into Darkness and Martin Freeman’s work in The Hobbit, and since I’m prone to watch BBC television anyways (thank you, Dr. Who and Robin Hood), it was only natural I’d become “Sherlocked” after watching the first episode.  Two days and a boat load of popcorn later after viewing A Study in Pink, I had both series’ finished and have been patiently waiting for Series 3 ever since.

But one of the things I love about the Sherlock show (besides the amazing acting) is the character of Sherlock himself.  Yes, he’s quirky, brilliant, and quick, and that makes him stand out as a character, but what enamored me the most with him is the growth he goes through as the series progresses.

When we first see Sherlock in A Study in Pink, he’s a bit of a loner.  He doesn’t have many friends.  He isn’t on the best of terms with his brother.  His ability to relate to people is questioned by everyone around him.  He’s almost seen as this cold-hearted, un-compassionate genius who loves nothing but solving cases.  The guy left poor Watson in the middle of a street, for crying out loud.  But by the time we see him in Reichenbach Fall, we see a different Sherlock than what we saw in the beginning.  We see him teary and risking everything for the sake of the few friends he has.  As the series progressed between episodes, we saw Sherlock slowly transform from a cold piece of brilliance to someone who really does have a heart buried beneath the intelligence.  Grant it, he’s still not as sentimental as Watson, and probably never will be, but if there’s anything we’ve learned at the end of Reichenbach, we’ve learned Sherlock really does care.  (He just may not know how to show it properly.)  In essence, his character developed over time.  He grew in his interactions with others.

Character growth, or development, is essential to story.  As an audience, we want to see that the hero (or even villain) has grown and learned his/her lesson or has become a better person in the end.  A character who hasn’t experienced growth simply remains the same and may leave the reader or viewer unfulfilled with the story.

I’m still hearing from fans about their reaction to the character of Loki in Thor 2: The Dark World.  Though I enjoyed the film, I can see the point of many fans when they say the last scene involving Loki and Thor (*spoiler* throne room *spoiler*) felt like an incomplete ending to Loki’s character growth.  In Thor, he was seen as the misunderstood brother just wanting to be Thor’s equal.  In The Avengers,  he was the maniacal villain.  In Thor 2, he’s at his lowest point, but this time finally finds redemption and reconciliation with his brother.
At least until the last scene-because when you see that, then you start to question everything he’s done in the film.
For some, this was a brilliant move on the writer’s part.  It keeps Loki’s true character in the dark and gives him a sense of mystery, strengthening his position as one of Marvel’s best villains.  But for other fans wanting to see growth, this left Loki’s character incomplete and inconsistent, and that left them somewhat unsatisfied with the film.  Whether it was a good move or not is still up to debate, but the point it makes about character development still sticks.  Character growth matters.
So as Sherlock Series 3 approaches, I’m curious to see how Sherlock’s character will continue to grow.  Will he become more sentimental?  Or will he just finally learn to be nice to Molly?  Only time will tell…

How Did Sherlock Survive?!

I admit I’m a bit late to the BBC Sherlock scene.

I’ve heard bits and pieces about it before, how it was an amazing show and that the actors were brilliant in every scene they were in.  And being familiar with both Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman’s film work (both were brilliant in their most recent films, Star Trek: Into Darkness and The Hobbit), I decided to check the show out.  I’ve loved other BBC shows like Dr. Who and Robin Hood and figured Sherlock would be just as great.

So I went to YouTube.  I watched a few trailers and scenes released for show promotion.  I also read viewer comments.  And the one thing I heard over and over was how brilliant the series two finale “The Reichenbach Fall” was.  It got me intrigued seeing such a positive audience reaction, so I ordered both DVDs and decided to check the series out.

I wasn’t disappointed.  Series one and series two were both well done and I’d honestly put the show as one of the best I’ve seen in a long time.  But then I saw the ending to the Reichenbach episode.

(Spoiler alert!  If you haven’t seen the episode, note that some spoilers are below!)

I didn’t expect the show-down between Sherlock and Moriarty to be so intense.  It was a battle of the brains in which both players lost (or so it had seemed).  Moriarty died by his own hand to basically force Sherlock to jump off a building to save the people he cared about.  And Sherlock jumped-of course after a good-bye phone conversation with Watson that was both beautiful and heartbreaking.  The hero died in front of his best friend and the audience was left wondering-“Is this how it ends?”

But then there’s the funeral.  There was Watson and Mrs. Hudson grieving at Sherlock’s grave site and Watson left asking for one last miracle, for his best friend to be alive.

And before the episode ended, I saw Sherlock-alive and well-standing in the distance watching everything play out.

By the time the credits started rolling, I had one question in my mind.

How did Sherlock survive that fall?!

I’ve been fortunate that the answer to that question will come soon with the arrival of Series 3.  But for many fans who saw the episode as it premiered, they were left with a cliffhanger– an ending that leaves a part of the plot unresolved until the story continues-and they were going to have to wait for the answer longer than a few months.  It would be practically a year.

For many fans and audience members, stories that end with cliffhangers can seem dreadful as we are left wondering what, how, when, or why about a specific plot point or character.  Audiences analyze, debate, discuss and dissect every bit of information from the cliffhanger just to figure out what happens next in the story.  For some, this is the fun part in the wait, but for most, having to wait is the worst idea of fun one could think of.  Audiences often say they don’t like the cliffhanger simply because it drives them nuts having to wait (so long…) for the answer.

So why do storytellers use them?

I think the answer varies between storytellers.  I’m sure some will say they use cliffhangers simply to play with the audience.  Some may add them because it adds to the plot.  Some may add them just because there’s nothing else in the story that will fit.

For me, however, a main reason for cliffhangers can be found with my (and other’s) reaction to the Reichenbach episode.

After the episode aired, I searched for fan comments and opinions, wanting to know their theories on how Sherlock survived.  I researched the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle story that the episode was based on, just to find a clue.  I also planned that I would watch the series 3 premiere of Sherlock no matter what so I could finally find out how that brilliant detective faked his death.

In other words, the cliffhanger had me invested in the show.  It made me want to watch it even more, despite the fact that being left with such a cliffhanger drove me nuts wondering how it was done.  This isn’t to say this is the reason the writers of Sherlock put the cliffhanger in there-who knows what the reason was.  It was just how they wrote it.  But for me, this was the effect of the cliffhanger on myself.   It made me want to hear more of what happened next and it allowed me to connect with other fans to discuss the show.  It promoted a greater love for the story and a tighter community with the audience.

So when series three does air, I (along with so many other Sherlock fans) will finally have our answer as to how Sherlock survived.

And then the question will be-who’s prediction on how Sherlock survived was right?  🙂