One of the first lessons any of my employees gets is
“Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is a pattern”.
This rule of thumb holds true in many situations and it helps to spot oddities and find things that do not…
This show has an affinity for all things flying, and I think the wallpaper is reflecting more than just the characters of these women that they’re associated with; yes, I agree the main women in Sherlock’s life have bird symbolism, but I think they also link to Sherlock and the plot and other things. The wallpaper bleeds into all areas of life. Here are my ramblings. Sorry if I babble, it’s very late and I’m tired and I really should be in bed.
Mrs Hudson lived in Florida, and flew back to the UK once Sherlock got her husband the death sentence. The harmless finch is a fallacy; we’ve seen that she’s a feisty older woman and she’s always happy, just like the bird symbology depicts. But, what the bird also represents is: “If the finch comes into your life it may be a signal to get more involved with social activities”
Now, might we know of someone whose life considerably changed by moving into a new flat, voicing flatmate finding problems and getting a flatmate that would change your life? Sherlock. The finch is security, happiness and safety.
Next, to Irene. I do indeed think that the bird on her wallpaper is the Chinese bird of paradise, which is often interpreted as the inspiration behind the phoenix, the immortal bird which is reborn from the ashes. Irene dies and comes back, then dies and comes back, much like her counterpart Jim Moriarty in the final episode of series 3. I think it’s important that this bird is hers as one of our major links to Moriarty was the Chinese smugglers in Ep 1 series 1, and showed his ruthlessness in cutting out those who betrayed him (although do we ever know if it’s actually him??)
What is interesting is that there’s a constellation called Apus, Latin for ‘Bird of Paradise’ that was named because in the late 16th Century, the Dutch East India Company were exploring the far southern hemisphere and whilst they were there discovered and named 12 constellations, and is defined as:
“the prominent triangle of stars that make up Triangulum Australe, the ‘Southern Triangle’ constellation. Apus is faint and does not present any readily identifiable shape, although three of its brighter stars can be seen as a small triangle.”
Now, where have we seen important clusters of three? The original Sign of four is centred around the East India Company, and in the BBC adapted Sign of Three, which is about the main three characters and the vows made in the episode. Now, make what you will of the links between the symbolism behind Irene’s character and this is up to you, but I think that we might be seeing more of her.
But again, back to The Sign of Three. Anyone spot the wallpaper at the wedding?
We can see there are birds on there too, which are swallow tailed kites. A Swallow teaches the power of objectivity and communications in a group environment. They can teach discernment and proper actions to avoid threats.
Now, isn’t THAT interesting, especially since there are three birds on Sherlock, John and Mary in the scene? A bird each for each character, all with their own ways of dealing with threats. Notice how Mary’s appears to be drained of colour, John’s is half and half and Sherlock’s is a strong blue? I feel that this is showing the duelling feelings he’s having over his life with Sherlock and his life with Mary: excitement vs domesticity, and then later her lies and Sherlock’s near-misses. It shows how Sherlock brings colour into John’s life.
And, speaking of Mary: parrots. That really is such a busy wallpaper for a bedroom, and I think this reflects her mental state and way of life: too many identities, too many times speaking words she doesn’t mean from other parrots who don’t say what they mean. She copies from the originals: Magnussen and Moriarty. I’ve not seen as much symbolism for parrots relating to Sherlock, but remember that parrots were exported by the East India Company and discovered on journeys and then trained to speak, so perhaps this bird is not so much about freedom as it is about being manipulated.
There’s also an interesting story called ‘The Final Solution’, the title influenced by the explosive story between Sherlock and Moriarty in ‘The Final Problem’. It’s about an old detective (thought to be Sherlock) living in 1944, looking after bees who helps a mute Jewish boy find his pet parrot. A problem must have a solution, after all, and the Final Solution name was also taken from the Nazi plan to rid the world of its Jewish population.
There are Jewish themes in Sherlock. Remember in the beginning of The Blind Banker when Sherlock travels to Belarus? Before the Holocaust, 10% of the country was Jewish. Now, only 0.1% is. I am in no way comparing Sherlock to this, but I do think it’s important to look at the way one man with an idea can do so much damage. The Golem in the episode is a Jewish folk legend that is created from clay and is brought to life by writing the Hebrew word “emet” (truth) on its forehead, and killed out by erasing the first letter to leave the word “met” (death). Truth and death are closely tied together in this case, as are the assassins and the powers behind them. I also think it’s interesting that this character is combined with the smuggling and trading, reflecting the East India Company and the associations with China (Irene’s bird) in the same episode.
The Golem is but an assassin in their world; why should there be only one? If all assassin’s are Golems, then Mary’s definitely one. Each assassin is crafted and is closer to death once the truth is discovered. Mary’s secrets were coming out, and to protect herself, she chose to kill. Who is AGRA? The truth is being rubbed out. What will it be the death of Mary, or will it be her past, or something else, like the pregnancy? Is it even John’s, or real? The only way she can be free is in a death of sorts.
Now, back to Sherlock. I hate to think that all these girls relate back to him, but in true Moffat style (looking at you Clara ‘I was born to save the Doctor’ Oswald) it wouldn’t surprise me. I guess he is the main character, after all. But let’s look at Sherlock’s links to flights.
Remember in A Scandal in Belgravia, where Sherlock figures out that the US and UK governments have decided to fly an unmanned plane full of corpses so as not to alert the terrorists while avoiding casualties? Also, ever considered that an aeroplane is called an aeroplane because, like birds, they can go to a higher plane?? Birds and feathers have long had a spiritual representation to the afterlife, and many artists including Edgar Allen Poe have depicted them as message carriers. The plane is full of dead people that they’re using as a ruse. The people Moriarty stopped bombs to are parroting back his messages, and they’re on the brink of death. Ever think about how all three ladies have also deliberately or indadvertedly had their hands in death?
Also, remember that old nursery rhyme, ‘There Was An Old Woman’ ? We all know how it goes:
There was an old lady who swallowed a fly, then swallowed a spider, then swallowed a bird. A spider made Sherlock fly: Moriarty. He killed himself to put Sherlock in an impossible situation, to fly to his death; falling is just like flying, after all. So, what catches the spider? A bird, if we’re going with the idea that Mary and Magnussen are the same, that they’re ‘parrots’, then perhaps they’ve got some reason as to why he’s back.
Now, what comes after the bird? A cat. Remember Sherlock’s deduction?
And who in this series has a cat?
That’s right, Molly Hooper. There’s a lot of ideas going around that Molly is actually working with Moriarty, is an agent or that her new boyfriend is John’s assassin and is Sebastian Moran; Moriarty used her to be closer to Sherlock, so perhaps another assassin might? If Mary is a bird and a cat lover, she might find herself in danger around the wrong feline…
Remember: if these secrets are all in the wallpaper, remember Mark Gatiss’s comment: Molly is moving wallpaper. As offensive/ sexist as the comment seems, perhaps there’s more to it than that? Because really, there’s no such thing as moving wallpaper. The wallpapers we’ve seen are art; the birds are all busy and beautiful. They can tell a story to some extent. But the closest thing we have to it is TVs, tablets, phones: anything with a screen. And who’s face just loves to be on the telly? Moriarty. A phoenix risen from the ashes.
As for those birds on Sherlock’s wall, one of them is an exotic bird with a quizzical expression, much like the Mary and Irene’s in his life do to him, and the other is a carrier pigeon. A common British bird, delivering a message, and pigeon’s are everywhere in London. They’re considered vermin, but they’re also used as a network. Sound familiar? I think that Sherlock is this grounded thing that has birds ‘flock’ to; he gets information from the homeless network, what’s familiar to him, who help him when they jump, because they hide in plain sight.
Finally, I just want to end on this: the birds and the bees. It’s well referenced that Sherlock Holmes likes bees, and in canon he retires to look after them.
We all know that Sherlock kinda freezes up when it comes to intimacy and sex, so it’s interesting that the three main women in his life with a bird reference tie in with that old idiom ‘the birds and the bees’, which is a scientific expression and euphemism that refers to courtship and sex. The bee lands onto flowers and fertilises them that way; in The Sign of Three there’s a lot to be said about flowers, though this excellent post explains it all, but as an extract from it on Sherlock’s boutonniere:
“The centrepiece is a white rose, surrounded by what appears to be cornflower and Sweet William…Sweet William is often associated with masculinity and gallantry, and giving someone a bouquet of Sweet William is said to mean that the recipient is ‘as good as it gets’. Furthermore, in a poem by John Gay (feel free to raise a quizzical eyebrow here), Sweet William and Black-Eyed Susan are lovers who are forced to separate. Baby’s Breath, alternatively, symbolises everlasting love and innocence.”
It’s interesting then that Sherlock’s flowers are the same as John’s, and as you can see from the post, Mary’s wearing primroses, which symbolises infidelity, but also renewal, which Mary does over and over again. Primroses are also a late winter flower, and it’s a harsh time to be a bird in the winter.
And as for the birds, they lay eggs and are representative of the female reproduction cycle.
Take what you will out of the birds and the bees theory, but I think it’s a reflection of Sherlock’s debated sexuality and his lack of understanding to really understand these women, especially if you read the blog post I put earlier. Bees are also deaf, and perhaps this is some dig towards Sherlock who missed important information about Mary and Irene; the more exotic the bird, the less he understands it. The birds, then, are women because they are the few females who’ve surprised and duped him. They are birds because he cannot fly; he came home after taking off in the final episode of series 3. He fell from Barts. He stopped the plane taking off. He stopped Irene and Mary’s plans. In all the wallpapers, the birds and the flowers are all together.