During a Sherlock marathon this last week, I did my usual hammering @bonenado with tons of pause the DVR Q&A sessions, and one of the biggies was whether Carl Powers was canon, a clever adaptation from canon, or new. We both flew into phone searches and over the next couple of minutes every light bulb in my head blazed up.
I wound up on the Baker Street Wiki page about Carl Powers. Yeah, look at the dates. They didn't mention in the show that this kid was only 11 years old when he died. Now think about how young both Moriarty and Sherlock must have been at the time.
In the second season during A Scandal In Belgravia, Mycroft and John are sitting at a table in Speedy's discussing how to tell Sherlock something emotionally disturbing and how differently he handles disturbing things and how no one really knows what's going on in his head, although these two know better than anyone how devastating this information could really be to him. Mycroft poses to John, "My brother has the brain of a scientist or a philosopher, yet he elects to be a detective. What might we deduce about his heart?"
The case that inspired Sherlock to become a detective was the one about Carl Powers. Sherlock was adamant that Carl had been murdered after it was ruled a drowning accident. Sherlock seemed extraordinarily interested in this boy and more than upset about the entire thing, as we can see it changed his life's course. We never find out how Sherlock was connected to Carl Powers, why in the world Moriarty was bothered enough by Carl laughing at him to murder him, and why all these years Mycroft has very carefully done his best to keep Moriarty and Sherlock apart. Sherlock found out Moriarty was the murderer only after Moriarty finally told him through a game of clues, and from there we see the obsession between Sherlock and Moriarty sharply escalate with John now literally pulled in between them covered in a bomb vest.
Carl Powers is the secret trigger to Sherlock. He is the answer to all the questions no one can get answers to, and the answers aren't simple.
I'll tell the story from my point of view now. My best friend from school from 5th grade to college was very brutally murdered, and the case is pretty famous. I emotionally shut down so hard for so long that my family protected me from finding out it had reemerged on the internet, then in a book, and will be going to film. Imagine seeing my best friend's murder depicted on film...
In the meantime, I found another friend who fit that place in my heart that my first friend did. At the time I didn't realize it, I was still very shut down emotionally. Because I'm autism spectrum and social deficit, because I couldn't connect the dots I needed to process emotions that I'd cut off and never processed, a friend I was coming to care very deeply for slipped away from me, and as we drifted apart, the key she had turned in my heart opened a door, and for many years after that I stood caught in a doorway, still in shutdown, but able to see beyond, and not knowing how to cross that threshold to process on through and become whole again.
I sought out a psychologist, and for many years I worked diligently on my social deficit problems, my understanding of mine and other people's perspective of me in the autism spectrum, and with great difficulty and anxiety and sheer determination, I worked very hard on learning how to communicate. I had to practice on all my family, everyone I met around town running errands, everyone who helped me in health care, everyone. I came back out public from a hiatus after a very public fandom meltdown, and I have been practicing on the internet ever since.
As I broke apart and processed alongside watching the Sherlock series, I recovered a repressed memory about my friend's murder, and very quickly after that processed through several other things I'd never been able to get past for years, one being my mother's long descent into illness and finally her death. I slammed through emotionally processing one thing after another for a couple of weeks, which was both exhausting and liberating, and burst on through that doorway and I'm not looking back. I've spent the last three months dealing with emotional backlog that goes back more than 30 years.
Even so, as I have continued with Sherlock, I realized I still had a crater-sized hole in me, and if I want to keep healing, I need my friend back, just like Sherlock needs John. I call myself the blogger, naturally, but I'm the one who's lost and went through the addictions. I'm not trying to identify with either character, but both have helped me see so many things about myself, and one of these things is that I need that someone who can point me in the right directions emotionally. I need a handler. An aspie whisperer...
We don't know much about Carl Powers and why Moriarty viciously pokes Sherlock to life with that case. All we know is that a triangle exists, and we saw that played out in The Abominable Bride. Moriarty is still in Sherlock's head until John steps in. There always has to be two, but there cannot be three. Sherlock's reflection without John is self-destructive Moriarty. Sherlock with John is a problem solver. I don't know if other people get that, but ever since my friend's murder, she was always in my head, and then when my new friend took her place a few years ago, she remained in my head, every single day, even long after we'd fallen away from each other. I know why John is in Sherlock's head, and why John is the only one who can get Moriarty out.
See, the missing gap in the Carl Powers case is how in the world could Sherlock have known so much about Carl's habits if he'd only first read about the drowning in a newspaper...
Fade from that car scene to the next with this overlay prominently covering both, Sherlock looks deeply something to me besides alternately excited and frustrated about winning a game over a bomber. It's become personal.
And then Moriarty setting it all in motion, murdering Carl because Carl laughed at him. About what? With so much overwhelming fandom shipping going on, I haven't checked to see if anyone has created backstory on whether Moriarty was jealous that Sherlock liked Carl and not him, or something to that affect, and maybe Carl rubbed it in his face. Because of what happened then, everything Moriarty turned out to be mirrored Sherlock, and he was personally walled off from Sherlock's knowledge by Mycroft, and then ended up getting to Sherlock and turning it into what almost looked like a Don't Fear the Reaper marriage pact in hell on the hospital roof.
When John showed up in Sherlock's life, all of the old stuff immediately triggered and escalated and came out into the open. John stepped into Carl's spot.
That's my point of view. I think that nicely explains the whole triangle and why Mycroft had to be so invested. When we saw Mycroft's diary in The Abominable Bride, we didn't see the entire page, just Redbeard at the top and a few numbers underneath. I believe one of the reasons Mycroft has carefully helped Sherlock learn that "Caring is not an advantage" is to keep him from plunging off that abyss over and over, because Sherlock chooses to immerse himself in death- tracking death, exposing death, beating death.
What might we deduce about his heart?