Bros Before Hos: Holmes & Watson Bromance in SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS

There are those who suggest that the brilliant consulting detective and his physician best pal are in fact “more than friends”...

When watching Guy Ritchie€™s Sherlock Holmes movies, the term €œbromance€ comes to mind often. There are those who suggest that the brilliant consulting detective and his physician best pal are in fact €œmore than friends€. In the newly released sequel a confrontation over Watson€™s engagement to Mary Morstan is speculated by some to be the result of the unrequited romantic feelings Holmes has for him. This is an easy argument to make, but perhaps with further probing we may find a more rewarding conclusion as to what this argument might really represent. In both recent Ritchie films, the relationship between Holmes and Watson is threatened by Mary, who as a governess represents both adulthood and authority, both things that Holmes in his and Robert Downey Jr's performance seems to be opposed to. While it€™s initially tempting to assume Holmes€™ distaste for the relationship comes from his own sense of loneliness - that seeing Watson pair up with someone reminds him of his own impending solitary demise, something which Game of Shadows does address - it€™s more likely to assume that Holmes does not hate Mary or hope their marriage fails, but is instead upset that Watson is leaving behind the adventurous lifestyle they both share in favor of a traditional way of living. To Holmes, such a decision is absolutely ridiculous. Holmes does not appear to have any other good friends, as far as the movie universe is concerned. He undoubtedly has allies, well wishers and thankful former clients, but Watson lingers in his life not out of duty or gratitude, but of desire; Watson actually wants to be involved with investigations. At least he did until Mary came along. Considering that Watson is quite possibly Holmes€™ first and only real friend, it is not hard to empathize with what he€™s going through: who among us hasn€™t been forced to say good-bye to a friend or loved one before we were ready? It€™s an almost universal feeling, most commonly associated with both aging and death. Holmes, despite his brilliance, is essentially a child, especially in the Ritchie films. Whereas others who share his observational powers may join the police force or position themselves in valuable occupations to which their gifts make them indispensable (as his brother Mycroft clearly did), Holmes instead chose to invent the title of €œconsulting detective€ and refused to compromise; he would only do what he wanted to do. This is very important. Compromise is the life-blood of any healthy relationship between two people, especially when romance is involved. To Holmes, the types of concessions a person has to make while in a marriage are horrible potentialities to which he thinks no person of sound mind would ever expose himself, especially in place of the thrilling adventures he€™s accustomed to; Watson€™s decision to move forward in the relationship turns Holmes€™ stomach and confuses him. Holmes simply does not comprehend why anyone would ever want to get married. He lives his entire life toward a single goal, so the idea that others just simply live their lives from day to day seems tremendously boring. Holmes and Watson represent the two dueling aspects of one individual: the Watson aspect is ready to grow up and move on into real adulthood while the Holmes side is staunchly against any sort of maturation and wants things to be the same, forever. These two disparate views are also reflective of the characters themselves. Watson, described as a €œman of action€ is a pragmatist who will kick in a door while Holmes fiddles for his lock pick. He is intelligent in his own right, but is reactive rather than proactive. He€™s always moving. Holmes, however, can turn seconds into hours. His is the realm of the formulating thoughts and reaching conclusions. While he€™s certainly a capable fighter, he functions best when he makes a plan and sticks to it. He creates a snapshot of how things are and then works from there to achieve a specific goal. Watson is ready for the next adventure; Holmes still hasn€™t finished with this one. Looking at the two friends as different sides of the same coin, it becomes clear that the dispute over Mary doesn€™t actually have anything to do with her: it€™s instead a battle over how to proceed into the next stage of life. The Holmes side of the equation throws up constant setbacks to the relationship, not out of malice toward Mary, but because she will force maturation, which Holmes is not ready for. Watson is, but he still has aspects of his personality that prove he might not be as ready as he thought. Throughout the first movie, Watson constantly puts Holmes€™ needs above Mary€™s, even winding up in prison after blowing off a date for tea with Mary and her parents. Yes, Watson involves himself with Holmes under the impression that it will be a short, ten minute affair, despite the fact that the situation is unpredictable and dangerous. He allows himself to be duped by Holmes, knowing (at the very least subconsciously) that there€™s no way he€™ll be finished quickly. Holmes acts as the Id, daring you to stay up until four in the morning watching Community even though you have work in the morning. Holmes tempts Watson away from adulthood and back to childhood; Watson ignores the voice of reason and flirts with returning to childhood completely, but the problems that arise from that decision are his to bear, not Holmes€™. It€™s this realization that represents growing up. By the time of Game of Shadows, Watson has made every attempt to fully inhabit the role of the adult. It€™s only when circumstances make his involvement absolutely necessary that he returns to Holmes€™ side instead of Mary€™s. Holmes€™ role in the proceedings is natural for that of the hero, but if we return to the metaphor, the Holmes side of the coin regresses when Watson leaves. His rooms at Baker Street become more obsessive and €œHolmes-like;€ Mrs. Hudson says he barely eats and he shoots darts at Watson while playing dress-up. We, as the audience, know that this is just Sherlock being Sherlock and while all of these behaviors seem silly to us, because he will save the day, it€™s forgiven. But, since Watson is the lens through which we are viewing Holmes, one could argue that the awe-inspiring methods of Holmes represent the rose-colored nostalgia through which we view our youth. We remember college being €œawesome€ and how great all of our friendships were, but at the time it was all standard. Just the act of remembering something means we€™ve altered it, since we€™re less likely to remember all of the bad, embarrassing, boring memories from the past. Watson imagines his youthful side (Holmes) to be so amazing as to offer a powerful counter-argument against getting married. Holmes seems to say €œRemember how great it was when you were single? We had so much fun!€ Watson allows himself to get caught up in this feeling, leaving aside the emotional abuse and physical injuries he tends to sustain. (The following passages contain major spoilers for Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. If you would like to avoid them, skip to the final paragraph.) It€™s often said that Professor Moriarty is the dark, twisted version of Holmes and that analysis still fits for our purposes. Moriarty is also immature, much more than Holmes; he thinks of nothing else but his own desires and will kill people without a second thought. This lack of maturity makes a €œWatson€ method a bad option for dealing with him and it€™s the reason why Holmes is the only man who can stop him. Holmes is the only one who can match not only his wits but his unwillingness to compromise. Holmes is the one whose dedication to the elimination of crime makes it necessary for him to confront Moriarty and he does so with a very childish way of thinking. Despite his injury he meets him alone and unarmed. A more mature person might simply shoot Moriarty even with the absence of hard evidence. If Moriarty is evil and the only way to really stop him is murder, there are few who would object, but it€™s not enough for Holmes to know he was right; he needs everyone else to know he was right as well. It could be argued that Holmes€™ final sacrifice was the ultimate sign of maturity - the knowledge that your death will result in the greater good is definitely a positive one to have, but really if it does elicit thoughts of maturation, it€™s because it was a very Watson thing to do. Holmes€™ traditional method of anticipation and planning fails him and it€™s a last gamble, a desperate act, a quick thought that ultimately saves the day, flying right in the face of his usual methodical approach. Throughout the movie, Ritchie shows us some problems with Holmes€™ old trick. It doesn€™t quite fail, but it doesn€™t achieve the desired effect either. For instance, Holmes envisions his plan of attack for defending Sym from an assassin. After we see his projection, we go to the events as they fold out, only for Holmes€™ elaborate blueprint to become moot as he did not expect Sym to throw a knife at the attacker. This shows that the method is not always foolproof and perhaps dangerous; if you go into a situation with a specific plan (€œI€™m going to be a doctor.€) and don€™t account for unforeseen variables (€œI€™m no good in Medical School.€), you may find yourself in a heap of trouble. It€™s the ability to adapt and deal with things that are outside of the plan that is the reflection of true maturity. When we look at Watson€™s behavior at the end of the film, we can see that he has pretty much completely matured. While he is saddened by the death of his friend, he copes in an acceptable way. If Watson had died, Holmes might personally swim all of the surrounding waterways searching for his corpse; he might rededicate himself to his war on crime in the hopes of keeping Watson€™s death from being in vain. Watson puts his emotional turmoil into writing and then moves on with Mary. Being able to accept the circumstances of life, to understand them and to be able to carry on is the badge of maturity. And of course, Holmes, still playing dress-up, spying on his grieving friend and making alterations to his manuscript, shows us that he€™s still firmly immature. He will remain to cause problems for Watson because he can€™t express himself in mature terms. We all want to be Holmes, a super genius who always gets the last word and is always right, but those are not mature or healthy desires. We should all hope to be like Watson: to be able to go forth and lead good lives. As much as it hurts, we have to grow up, we have to leave our childish natures behind, but that doesn€™t mean we can€™t drop by 221B to visit.

Trevor Gentry-Birnbaum spends most of his time sitting around and thinking about things that don't matter.