Sherlock – the BBC’s updated Sherlock Holmes reboot – is excellent. If you haven’t seen it, there are copious spoilers ahead. Major spoilers. Huge ones.
Seriously. I give away some good shit. And the huge plot twists are a big part of what makes it so great. Watch the show. All three seasons. Then read this.
Sherlock Holmes is written and played as a textbook Enneagram Five – the Investigator. Here’s how:
He’s brilliant. Any type can be intelligent, but Fives identify with their exceptional minds to an extreme degree. Fitting in with the longstanding hook of the character, Holmes infers elaborate things from the tiniest clues. When asked how he knows something, he’ll give an explanation at lightning speed, at one point making a flabbergasted Watson exclaim “That’s fantastic!” to which Sherlock responds “Do you know you do that out loud?”
Fives know how smart they are. They’re proud of it. And they look down on anyone they consider ignorant. At average and unhealthy levels, Fives will shame others for operating at a lower mental gear.
Sherlock: John, I envy you so much.
Watson: You envy me?
Sherlock: Your mind; it’s so placid, straight-forward, barely used. Mine’s like an engine, racing out of control; a rocket tearing itself to pieces, trapped on the launchpad.
Average Fives believe themselves to be completely rational. In his best man speech at Watson’s wedding, Holmes tells the assembled guests:
All emotions, and, in particular, love, stand opposed to the pure cold reason I hold above all things. A wedding is, in my considered opinion, nothing short of a celebration of all that is false and specious and irrational and sentimental in this ailing and morally compromised world.
But of course Fives have feelings, even if they deny it. Sherlock comes to care strongly enough for Watson to fake his own death in order to save his life.
Watson is written and played as a Six – the Loyalist. When he and Holmes meet, he’s recently returned from service as an army doctor in Afghanistan, and is going nowhere, tormented by dreams about the war. But it’s soon revealed he misses it. When nothing’s going on, an average Six’s mind goes into overdrive, thinking of worst-case scenarios and second-guessing the Six into paralysis. But as soon as Watson accompanies Holmes on a murder investigation, he comes alive. His psychosomatic limp disappears.
Sixes search for someone or something they can believe in, and for Watson, that’s Holmes. Watson is a valuable assistant on his investigations, without having to take the lead. He has a purpose. Holmes’ supposed death devastates him.
When Holmes appears after a two year absence, Watson’s furious with him. Holmes makes a flippant remark and Watson punches him in the face. Repeatedly. A stressed out Six is very reactive. They can go on the attack in a second, like an Eight.
In another episode, Watson walks into a crack house in order to retrieve his despairing neighbor’s absent son. When confronted by a knife wielding junkie, Holmes approaches him with a steady demeanor, and disarms him, sweeps his legs out from under him, and leaves him groaning on the floor. Sixes will go into the fire for someone else. And when doing so, their anxiety vanishes and they’re all business.
In that same episode it comes out that Watson’s wife has covered up a former life as a spy and assassin. Watson is livid, exclaiming: “Is everyone I’ve ever met a psychopath?” Holmes responds:
You were a doctor who went to war. You’re a man who couldn’t stay in the suburbs for more than a month without storming a crack den, beating up a junkie. Your best friend is a sociopath who solves crimes as an alternative to getting high…. John, you’re addicted to a certain lifestyle! You’re abnormally attracted to dangerous situations and people, so is it truly such a surprise that the woman you’ve fallen in love with conforms to that pattern?
So the series provides insights into what both types can work towards. Can a Five see the value in feelings, and accept them as a part of herself? Can a Six quiet her mind in times of calm, and rise to the occasion in times of stress, not to relieve overactive anxiety, but because it’s appropriate to do so?