How are you feeling?
Yeah, not bad. A bit… smoked.
What a wonderfully fraught moment, don’t you think? This is their first real conversation after Sherlock effected his disastrous jumping-out-of-a-cake return and John told him to fuck off. This is Sherlock after he resigned himself to not having John back in his life and started hearing John berate him in his head instead. This is after John quietly decided he couldn’t stay away, and stood there in front of the door preparing himself to fall back in (love) with Sherlock all over again, but was so painfully interrupted.
We know Sherlock is nervous and excited to have John drop by. Hope against hope! He had given up, and tried to find a replacement. He’d told everyone John was “not really in the picture.” But he must be at most cautiously optimistic at this point, right? When John drops by? Anything could happen next. Is he going to get told off again? Thank you for rescuing me, but this changes nothing? Is this a final farewell, or is John actually coming back to him? It’s either the best thing or the absolute worst. But John sits down in his chair, that’s surely a good sign.This is seconds before they start back up into a case again. For Sherlock, it looks to me as though he knows this could go either way. He doesn’t know yet if John will come back to him. He’ll know in a moment. But here, he can’t be sure. And he looks unsure.
There’s so much on these faces. John looks guarded and angry. You could be forgiven for thinking that Sherlock had just said something awful to him. He’s already resigned to forgiving Sherlock, and in that moment it looks as if he’s fighting it. He knows he’s going to go down, but he’s not going to go down easy. He has dignity, he won’t be treated that way without consequence.
He doesn’t want Sherlock to just get away with behaving like that, even though, yes, Sherlock can get away with behaving like that, because John is an addict, and no matter how badly his drug of choice leaves him in the throes of withdrawal, the high is just too exquisite to give up. The look on his face here makes it seem as though John might almost resent knowing that. I like how he’s not even facing Sherlock straight on. Such a burden of pain.
There are some incredibly emotional expressions on Sherlock’s face in this series, from heartbroken, loving, lonely, touched, thrilled, and desperately sad, but I feel like this one ranks up there. Sherlock asks how John is, and John responds with a joke. Sherlock isn’t laughing this time. This expression is all concern. It’s worry, compassion, and contrition. He failed to acknowledge the hurt John endured once, but he’s not making that mistake here.
Sherlock is about to try to lure John in, and in spite of all the caution in his expression, John is very happy to be led back. But Sherlock doesn’t know that just yet. I think this is the face of a man who doesn’t know what’s about to happen next. He’s next words could easily be I’m sorry, don’t go, please, or alright, I understand. Goodbye John. If you ever need anything from me, anything, ever, I’ll be here. Fortunately for Sherlock, John’s happy to talk shop. Sherlock must have been so delighted.