Very interesting analysis of male friendship & our Baker Street pair.
I think in any relationship between two people, there will be a more dominant party and one who gives way, not just men, though jockeying for position may be more blatantly obvious in male culture. Who is dominant and less so at any one time may be situational, and the parties take turns, or the dominant-submissive dynamic may be more or less permanent, like with a boss and a subordinate. In a friendship of alleged equals, it can turn toxic if one is always dominating the other . . it really depends on the motivations of the personalities involved.
In the original Final Problem, Sherlock's disappearance wasn't pre-meditated; he went over the Falls in a life-or-death fight with Moriarty, survived by chance, not cunning, and decided after that fact that it was expedient if everyone thought he was dead. In our modern take, Sherlock's ruse is a lot more calculated, and he's playing Watson like a puppet on a string, to the point of allowing his friend to 'bury' him. Any way you slice it, staying away for three entire years is cold, even if the initial ploy is for Watson's own safety. I'm on tenterhooks to see the 'reunion' between our BBC pair; I really have no idea how they are going to explain how Sherlock pulled off that body in the last episode, or where he's been.
Watson has definite skills which have been invaluable to Holmes besides his friendship; in the last set we saw John asserting himself more in the partnership. Watson is, in his normal environments of the battlefield and the surgery, a natural leader. He was an army officer and is a very good doctor. One does not get to be either of these things by being a shrinking violet or lacking confidence in his abilities. But when he met Sherlock, John found himself giving way to a superior force. Sherlock Holmes just kind of steamrolls over everyone else with his intellect and his charisma that knows few boundaries of polite convention. It's easy to slip into thinking of Watson as the weaker of the two, but he's rather just the less showy one. Watson has guts for 2 men and Sherlock's last stunt is going to test every ounce of his fortitude. They are an endlessly fascinating study in interpersonal dynamics, and I think that's why this partnership has endured for more than 100 years. Seems that we never tire of Holmes and Watson.
Sherlock will have an eminently rational explanation and 'reason' for what he put John through . . I think the 'betrayal' in John's eyes will not be the elaborate ruse, but the fact that he was never 'read in'. Watson is not, contrary to Holmes' favorite insult, 'an idiot.' That is what Sherlock is going to have to overcome. Watson forgave him for the Baskerville episode, but the Reichenbach stunt was much, much worse.
In the final analysis, I think John Watson has always been the one that cared more and invested more, no matter which incarnation he is. Sherlock Holmes is not wired up to care about anything, or anyone, so deeply as he cares about solving a problem. He is the elusive object of everyone's regard or derision, but what he himself thinks about it all remains somewhat opaque.
Watson has made his peace with his friend's singular nature, but it's always nice to get confirmation that we do not care in vain. You remember the bit in 'The Adventure of the Three Garidebs', where Watson sustains a leg wound?--
"You're not hurt, Watson? For God's sake, say that you are not hurt!"
It was worth a wound -- it was worth many wounds -- to know the depth of loyalty and love which lay behind that cold mask. The clear, hard eyes were dimmed for a moment, and the firm lips were shaking. For the one and only time I caught a glimpse of a great heart as well as of a great brain. All my years of humble but single-minded service culminated in that moment of revelation.
This is the kind of loyalty that is waiting for Sherlock when he decides to come home. John will get over it, but I'd like to see a few scenes of righteous anger . . maybe some pummelling. He deserves it after what he's put up with.
An aside to Mr. Smith--Note Sir Conan Doyle's use of the word 'love' in reference to Sherlock Holmes. He used it first; I was only echoing the master. :)