“She was different from the beginning. She knew things she should never have known. As if she was somehow aware of truths beyond the normal scope.”
~Mycroft Holmes about Eurus
With her extraordinary perception of the universe and deductive intelligence which surpasses that of her older brothers, Eurus Holmes, the secret little sister of Sherlock and Mycroft, presents herself to be a rather unique character in the season four finale of BBC’s Sherlock.
It is not rare for a manipulative antagonist to have aspirations of being loved. What is unfamiliar, however, is for said character to try to achieve this goal by directly playing intense mind games and sitting back to objectively gauge the results. This tactic is usually employed by people like the Joker and other villains who do not seek to be loved or admired. But in general, antagonists whose greatest desire is to receive affection do not deliberately and repeatedly toy with the emotions of the person whose love, understanding, and acceptance they seek most. They may argue, lie to, manipulate, or even kill this person (think Commodus from The Gladiator), but it is uncommon for them to – and these are the key words – deliberately and repeatedly play with the subject’s feelings as a game or experiment.
For example, Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, another manipulative villain with aspirations of being loved and admired, performs a lot of actions that anger his adoptive father, Odin, the person whose acceptance he craves the most. However, Loki does not attempt to play the role of a scientist observing behavior of experimental specimen by objectively gauging Odin’s emotional reactions to the situations he creates – and certainly not with the curiosity that Eurus exhibits. In Thor, Loki believes his father will see him as equal to his brother if he becomes a powerful king – to him, the ends justify the means and once the goal has been accomplished, the path taken to get there should become irrelevant.
On the contrary, Eurus kills people without blinking in order to expand her logical blueprint of human nature and by doing so, help Sherlock learn more about the little sister whom he had forgotten. Eurus does not want the means she used to become irrelevant. She wanted Sherlock to understand the means as much as the end goal – the final problem – because it is only through these strange means that he can understand Eurus. In essence, there is a difference between caring for people because of their potential to do what you or society consider to be “good” and caring for people despite the attributes they possess that would be deemed by the majority as “flaws”. The specificity of Eurus’s elaborate scheme in the episode heavily suggests that she wants her brother to care for her because of the latter reason: Eurus chose to seek Sherlock’s help by using a very particular series of mental puzzles with a metaphorical phone call from a little girl alone on a plane because it showed Sherlock she is not just lonely due to being friendless in an isolated prison; Eurus has always been lonely in her way of thinking as well.
“You didn’t win, you lost. Look what you did to her. Look what you did to yourself. All those complicated little emotions, I lost count. Emotional context, Sherlock, it destroys you every time.”
~Eurus to Sherlock
In true Freudian spirit, one must, at the very least, take a brief look into the childhood of Eurus in order to understand her thinking and behavior as an adult. When she was a little girl, Eurus once cut herself to understand how her muscles worked and thought “pain” was a name for one of them, not a word to describe severe discomfort. After Sherlock did not play with her, she left his best friend, Victor, to die in a well. A reactive murder like that could possibly be expected from an exceedingly jealous person (though usually not from a child), but what is even more odd is Eurus’s response to the situation. Whenever she was subsequently asked about Victor’s whereabouts, young Eurus only answered by singing the following song:
“I that am lost, oh, who will find me?
Deep down below the old beech tree.
Help succour me now the east winds blow…
Sixteen by six, brother, and under we go.”
Indeed, Eurus Holmes’s intellectual capabilities are so different from that of an ordinary human, her thought process and perception of pain so far removed from that of the average person, that it only makes sense for her to seek assistance through unusual manners – such as hiding messages for her brother to find and experimenting on him the way scientists experiment on lab rats.
“Look how brilliant you are.
Your mind has created the perfect metaphor.
You’re high above us,
all alone in the sky,
and you understand everything except how to land.
Now, I’m just an idiot,
but I’m on the ground.
I can bring you home…
Open your eyes.
You’re not lost anymore.”
~Sherlock to Eurus
What Sherlock ultimately realizes is that in Eurus’s self-created airplane metaphor, the unconscious passengers and pilots symbolize the majority of people in this world, and Eurus represents the scared little girl – the one who is awake but also fearful and lonely due to being the only “awoken” person. The little girl knows where the plane is headed, she knows what is going to happen, but she does not know how to land. And Sherlock Holmes, being someone on the ground with a connection to the little girl (symbolically via the phone call throughout the episode), being someone who learns more about her and starts to understand her situation, is the only one who can help her.
The concluding violin duet with Sherlock and Eurus, in which she does not participate at first but later joins in, is representative of their atypical bond, which is primarily intellectual but with a definitive emotional component. Eurus even said in their first meeting at Sherrinford that she never knows if her music is beautiful, only if it is right, to which Sherlock responded that he often finds they are both the same. As a result of the complexity and abnormality of their sibling relationship, communicating through the music of violins is perhaps the best method to keep Eurus on the ground; in other words, it is likely the only way in which Eurus can finally feel like she is connecting with someone.
Perhaps during her pursuit to comprehend human nature from a more objective standpoint, from her intellectual place above everyone else, Eurus began to understand she is a human, too.
“I never had a best friend. I had no one.”