The Holmes parents and how they mirror John and Sherlock
This has been discussed all over but I thought I’d pull it together in one post to save for my own meta files.
In Season 3 we meet Sherlock and Mycroft’s parents. Lovely! They are played by Benedict Cumberbatch’s real life parents, which is even more fun.
But the ‘rents are not introduced to little effect. They play a very important subtext role in season 3. They are mirroring Sherlock and John. One way to say something without literally saying it is to use an analogy or example. You know, sort of like Jesus and the parables. Kinda.
Anywho, here are the appearances of the Holmes and what each scene revealed about Sherlock and John.
S3.01: The Empty House
Right after this episode aired I saw posts on Tumblr that were like “Did anyone notice that Sherlock’s parents were cos-playing Sherlock and John?” It’s particularly noticable with his mother. What older woman dresses like that? She had on a dark coat with a turned up collor, white button down dress shirt, a black pants, and black dress shoes. Mr. Holmes is wearing a plaid shirt and neutral-toned sort of Army-style jacket like John.
We’re being told Mrs. Holmes represents Sherlock and Mr. Holmes represents John.
S3.02: The Sign of Three
During the “Who am I?” game, John asks if he (his person to guess) is pretty. Sherlock says: ”Beauty is a construct based entirely on childhood impressions, influences, and role models.”
Who would have been Sherlock’s childhood impression/role model? His parents (speciflcally his father, who looks and dresses like John). In other words, Sherlock finds John attractive because he’s like his father.
S3.03: His Last Vow
At the Christmas party we learn more about Sherlock’s parents. She wrote a mathematical treatise. She gave up her career in mathematics for children.
He says: ”Complete flake, my wife, but happens to be a genius. I could never bear to argue with her. I’m something of a moron myself. But she’s unbelievably hot.”
Mary says: “My God. You’re the sane one, aren’t you?”
He says: “Aren’t you?” (well no, not really).
Later in HLV, Magnussen calls John a “moron”. Again Sherlock/Mrs. Holmes is the “genius flake” and John/Mr. Holmes is the “moron”.
So what do we take away from this mirroring? What are the creators trying to tell us?
1. It’s John and Sherlock will will grow into old age together, who are the right couple.
2. John and Sherlock find each other physically attractive, which is something neither one is saying out loud.
Why do they bother? They may be trying to reassure us through all this angst, and also it’s foreshadowing of what is going to come.
Note that in the “Who am I?” game, we’re being told Sherlock finds JOHN attractive (because he looks like his father) and in HLV we’re told John finds SHERLOCK attractive (unbelievably hot).