Sherlock and Marriage



Last night PBS aired the second episode of this year’s season of BBC’s  Sherlock, a critically acclaimed show with a wide fan base that re-imagines  Sherlock Holmes as a man of the 21st Century rather than the Victorian Age. This week’s episode focused on the wedding of John Watson.

A lot went on in the episode, but I want to focus on what the show said about British young people’s views of marriage where sadly Americans aren’t far behind:

Is Marriage Significant?

Holmes, while agreeing to be Watson’s best man, views marriage as something that is really quite irrelevant.  Said Sherlock, “Two people who currently live together are about to attend church, have a party, go on a short holiday and then carry on living together. What’s big about that?”

Holmes’ statement sadly makes a lot of sense in light of the current trends of cohabitation where the wedding just formalizes what’s been going on anyway and gets any religious relatives to stop bothering about it.

Write and executive producer Steven Moffat is an atheist and while its shown that John and Mary were married in a religious ceremony we don’t see the exchange of vows, implying that the actual vows were insignificant and irrelevant. Of course, we could imply that Moffat did this to avoid padding a packed story. Of course, the only way we could argue the story was packed is if we didn’t watched this padded episode.

To be fair to Moffat, he’s hardly setting the tone for England but reflecting the mood of an often secular country where religious rites are performed as a matter of ceremony more often than out of conviction.  The Nerdist, summarizing the story, omitted even the mention of church.

However, without God and with the availability and social acceptability of cohabitation, is there any reason to go through the expensive process of actually getting married? Is there any meaning to it? Surpringly, Moffat proffers an answers of yes here, just as he did on Doctor Who on the Rory and Amy marriage. Certainly John and Mary’s marriage has a great effect on Sherlock as he becomes the couple’s defender and seems to in some ways accept that there’s an important.

Why is it important? In a society where there are so many divorces and limits by marriage, why bother. There isn’t really a reason even attempted. Old answers such as, “Marriage is God’s plan,” or “Marriage is the bedrock of society,” are discarded for an idea that marriage is magic. We don’t understand how it works or why it works, but it just that marriage to the right person is unexplainable non-religious magic. Somehow I don’t suspect that will do much to reverse the declining  marriage rate, but perhaps it can serve as a mars hill moment for Christians to talk about the source and reason for marriage’s power.

Sherlock Holmes, Defender of a Marriage

However, I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight something that exemplary if a bit over the top. Sherlock interviewed a friend of the bride’s who was to be an usher (and had also been the bride’s boyfriend for two years) and confronted him.

Sherlock had examined the man’s use of social media and the way he posted pictures of the couple and saw a pattern in the way that only Sherlock Holmes could that identified the man as still being in love with Mary. Sherlock orders the man to back off and to move into a place of being an occasional acquaintance rather than a continual presence in the young couples life.

The man replies, ” They were right about you, you’re a bloody psychopath!”

Sherlock corrects him. “High functioning sociopath. With your number.”

Sherlock, later in the episode, promises to be there for the couple no matter what.

What Sherlock does in his own way is to be a supporter of the marriage. We often will tell a couple getting married that they’re on their own, but the more we read the vows and the historic version of the vows, the more we see the assumption that those who attend the wedding are not just there to eat food, but to promise to uphold and strengthen the couple in fulfilling their covenant.

Despite Sherlock’s secularism, the show serves as a powerful reminder to Christians that we should uphold and bless the marriages of those we know in prayer.