Please let me introduce you to our title character: Sherlock Holmes. He dislikes most people, and most people dislike him in return. He is difficult, thoughtless, moody, relentless, narcissistic, and childish. He’s an addict struggling to contain his addictions. He likes it when people get murdered because it keeps him entertained. I suspect he would be incapable of holding down a real job, mostly because he can’t seem to resist being outrageously rude to everyone he meets. He is unsympathetic at best, cruel at worst. He doesn’t hesitate to bring innocent people to tears with his casual deductions about them or the people they love. He’s far more interested in being right than in being good or kind. Sherlock is brilliant at deducing things, but useless at human things.
I am never going to tell you why it’s okay that Sherlock faked his death and didn’t let John in on the secret. Because it’s not okay.
All I can tell you is that Sherlock clearly didn’t understand why it was a terrible thing he did, or what it would be like for John to live through it, until the moment he came face to face with John again and things didn’t go as planned. Sherlock genuinely thought John would be surprised and pleased to see him. Sherlock Holmes is emotionally tone deaf in the extreme.
Faking his death was, for Sherlock, all about Sherlock. He clearly didn’t, or couldn’t, think through what that was going to feel like for someone who loves him as much as John does. In order to even think that way, Sherlock would have to understand and accept that John does in fact love him, which had not crossed his mind at all. Does that make it better? Not really. It’s a demonstration of his incredible short-sightedness and immaturity. He made terrible decisions, and he is having to cope with the results.
Sherlock’s emotional arc in series 3 is largely one of him coming to accept that he is loved, and acknowledging that he loves in return, and facing the consequences of his terrible decisions. That might be why no one tried to convinced you that his actions were okay. They weren’t okay.
If you are under the impression that Sherlock Holmes is required to never do things that are obviously wrong and appalling inside of this narrative, I’m afraid you’re watching the wrong show. This won’t be the last time we see Sherlock do things that hurt other people, I’m sure. I’m sure he’ll even hurt John again, though I suspect never as badly as this. Sherlock is a dangerous, self-destructive, self-centred, drug-addicted, aspiring sociopath. I thought we were all clear about that.
And yet… he is “the most human human being…” and John Watson loves him anyway.
The beauty in the complexity and contradictions is why I love the show so much.