Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sherlock Holmes & the Temple of the Four Orders

Guy Ritchie's 2009 hit Sherlock Holmes was an enormous gamble: revisiting a franchise many considered "owned" by Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce was a huge risk in trying to adapt it for contemporary audiences; additionally, casting Robert Downey Jr. as the British super-hero was unlikely at best, but the marriage of Downey and Holmes succeeded and Jude Law as Dr. Watson balancing the whole act beautifully.
This is the surface of the film, the glitz and the glam, but the real success lies in the writing, in the story and not just how Holmes solves a resurrection from the dead, rather, how the story itself resurrects Sherlock Holmes from the dead and makes him a powerful hero on the world-stage today. The film does this with symbols and an understanding of how perverse evil is.
I'm going to try and not make this as long as all my other posts,.... but I am apt to fail in that pursuit. I know you probably don't read everything on each blog, and that's fine; I am always worried about overlooking (or just choosing not to include) that one scene or line which concerns you; that's what the comment/question form is for beneath each post, so please, do not hesitate to use it. In the opening sequence, what is most interesting about the first man Holmes takes out is that, after the man is down, Holmes takes his Derby hat, flips it over, and puts it on himself.
When Watson appears, as they tag team strangle a man together, Watson says, "I like the hat," and Holmes replies, "I just picked it up."  This could let us know (as there is this trend in contemporary films) that Holmes is not really different from the villains he hunts down, that he "thinks as they think" (the hat emphasizes the head, the thinking processes and what "governs" a person is thereby implied by it symbolically) but I don't think that is the purpose of it.
After Lord Blackwood has been "revealed" to be the engineer of the young girls' deaths, Watson starts walking towards Blackwood and Holmes stops him to reveal a trip-line in the air; "How did you see that?" Watson asks, and Holmes said, "Because I knew to look for it," and that is the purpose of the hat Holmes wears in this scene, he has remembered that he must think as they think so he can be on his guard, unlike Watson who continues to think as a doctor and a war hero (which he is).
But what of the girl being sacrificed? Its important to note that she picks up the unholy dagger with her own hand, thereby letting us know that she's being led into "self-sacrifice" for Blackwood's cause; she represents nothing less than England itself, on the alter to be served up and butchered for private entertainment (please see my post Sherlock Holmes & the Religion Of Evil for more on this line of thought). The important note for us to make is: she is willing to pick up the knife and use it to take her own life (this idea is mentioned again in the next Sherlock Holmes, A Game of Shadows). But let us speak of Lord Blackwood for a moment.
Note, please, how he wears layers of clothing, meaning, he hides himself. This is not only true of his birth (since he is a "Lord" one would think his lineage would be public knowledge but Holmes doesn't know that until he meets Sir Thomas), also, he hides his methods, preferring everyone think it is black magic or power from Satan rather than the "conjuring tricks' Holmes exposes them as. The full length black leather jacket he wears links him to "the beast" of the Apocalypse: since leather comes form animal, and it's black, it means that he covers himself in the "beast of death." He also wears the same clothing throughout the whole film, meaning that "he doesn't change, but stays the same," he never has a moment of conversion.
Before we even see Blackwood's face, we see his crooked tooth. Why is that important? Cinematically, Jude Law's character in Contagion had the same trait, meaning that he "wasn't talking straight" (for more, please see Contagion: Bats and Pigs) and, a distinct characteristic of the teeth is retained for Professor Moriarty in A Game of Shadows. For Blackwood, because the mouth always symbolizes the appetites, it means he has "distorted, crooked or bent" appetites, and his licking his lips when the police officer talks to him in his cell emphasizes this again (Blackwood licks his lips and says, "There's someone I want to see"). His name, Blackwood, of course, refers to his satanic practices because the "wood" of the Cross is desecrated towards death (the color "black" in his name) and not life the way it is meant for Christians. Lord Blackwood, then, is the ultimate perversion of evil because evil craves that which is bent towards evil and destruction and turns that which means death for us into life for them,and vice versa.
The little "ordeal" with Captain Phillips is rather interesting. First we see Watson tending to a young girl about to be killed in an underground satanic ritual and next we see him tending to a very old man, with nerve problems who was a captain. Symbolically, it's because the girl has been saved that the "elders" of England (the military) can relax their nerves; Captain Phillips complaining about gunfire in a domestic environment is right, its not right that there should be gunfire in domestic England, gunfire is reserved for foreign wars, not wars at home; but Captain Phillips isn't aware the way Holmes is of the war that is about to be released, so while everyone is against Holmes in this scene, he's the only one tending to the real business that needs looking to.
Why does Holmes have that nasty little exchange with Mrs.Hudson? Holmes constantly has to have people's loyalty proven to him, and knowing that Mrs. Hudson's affection for him is genuine is a testing of unconditional love.
When Watson enters "the armory," and finds Holmes, in the dark, shooting bullets into the wall, what do the initials "V.R." stand for? "Victoria Regina," or "Queen Victoria," his true love (he doesn't shoot "I.A." into the wall, does he?). Within their "inner rooms," we note two things: Holmes likes the darkness and Watson's more pronounced limp from his war wounds. The rooms and Holmes being inside for so long points to his strong, meditative streak which--along with all his study--is the real source of his intellectual powers: because he knows himself, he's able to figure out others, too. If you don't know yourself (that which is most present to you) how can you possibly know anything else? But why would we notice Watson's limp now? We are also witnessing the drawbacks to Holmes' powers, in short, he can run but he can't walk, and Watson, likewise, adores his friend, but finds him in day-to-day situations as being a burden (too heavy for him to carry, hence, the limp).
Watson wants Holmes to find another case and Holmes says that his mind rebels at stagnation, "give me problems, give me work. The sooner, the better." As Watson reads the notes from potential clients and Holmes all ready knows the answer to their problems, we realize how difficult of a problem Holmes requires for his own sanity. So why does Holmes kill the dog Gladstone all the time? Since the dog belongs to Watson, it's rather like the tests which Holmes puts Watson himself through (testing the unconditionality of their friendship) and constantly killing Watson and then resurrecting their friendship again (the same way he will do it when they are in the carriage bound for Blackwood's prison cell after Holmes' disastrous meeting with Mary the night before).
We should, however, take the statement, "There is nothing of interest for me, out there, on earth, at all." It's very possible that the entire Lord Blackwood "case" is a dream that Sherlock has to properly employ his mind because there isn't a sufficiently clever villain for Holmes to actually give him a problem he has to work at solving (I will elaborate on this below). Holmes willingness to stay in the room counters with Watson's eagerness to get out: whereas Holmes can't form relationships easily (we've seen how he treats Mrs. Hudson) Watson is far more charming and bonding. Why doesn't Holmes want to leave the room? He sees everything, but nothing is as interesting to him as his own self; to some degree, that is the way it should be. There is an unbalance in this world between what is genuine self-love and narcissism, what is entertainment and what is distraction.
Holmes is full of meditation, in a way most people don't realize within themselves; years of intense self-examination has led him to being able, after knowing himself, to know others and this is what makes him a great detective. In the Royale, hearing all the gibberish of other patrons, to Holmes, it is gibberish: they eat their lives the way they eat their expensive dinners, distractedly, and what to Holmes is idle talk is the only thing these others really have within their lives. Holmes' curse is that he's not shallow. However, he automatically assumes that Mary Morstan is shallow and this is why he doesn't want to meet her: the pain of seeing what Watson has chosen for himself over Holmes and their friendship (when he sees her better sides, he repents of this and doesn't mind her so much).
What's interesting about this scene is that Mary has read detective novels (about men like Holmes) the way Holmes will read her (and read Irene's name all over crimes throughout Europe in newspaper clippings). In an attempt to keep this post from epic proportions, please visit Irene Adler vs Mary Morstan: the Women Of Sherlock Holmes  where this scene has all ready been discussed (I will include the link again at the bottom of this post so you can continue reading this one if you like, or visit the other one now). Why does Holmes now go to the boxing match?
Holmes gets beat-up pretty badly when we see him, and that's the purpose of the boxing match: Holmes wants McMurdo to beat him up as punishment for "beating up" Mary in front of Watson; if McMurdo can defeat Holmes than Holmes will be suitably punished for what he has done and, if McMurdo doesn't, than (Holmes reasons) he didn't do such a bad thing after all. When Holmes sees the handkerchief of Irene Adler folded on the railing, it's literally a sign of her; her mark is exactly what Holmes looks for in the file he has assembled on her and her "methods," and the red lettering of her initials tells us that she is a woman of appetites (red is the color of appetites) and when Holmes sees her at the bar, looking around, she winks, indicating that she keeps one-eye closed (she is smart, but she is not wise).
Why does Holmes do so much to incapacitate McMurdo? Because that is what Irene has done to him. Just seeing Irene in this moment is enough that Holmes has to do all these things to McMurdo to feel better (the way Mary Morstan threw wine on him to feel better herself). Holmes telling McMurdo that he won is the worst thing that Holmes can admit: someone else won, but Irene has him so upset, the source of his punishment (for the way he treated Mary) now comes from Irene and not McMurdo. Irene getting his attention and then leaving without a word to him is Irene spitting on Holmes the way we see McMurdo spitting at Holmes. What does Holmes do then? Since he can't collect Irene, he collects his winnings (having made Watson's customary bet on himself that he would win) and then he goes "upstairs," a higher level of thought, back into his self-meditation; we know that Holmes will start capturing the flies, and this foreshadows how Holmes himself will be "lured into" Blackwood's new crime.
When Watson enters the next day, Holmes strumming the strings on his violin having caught all those flies, and insists that he's figured out a way to impose order on chaos, this is really Holmes entire purpose in life: to create order in information that others see as chaos, the harmonizing of the chords of evidence to make it sing a tune of comprehension that others, such as Lestrade, would not be able to make sense from. Watson picks up a bottle and says, "You do know what you are drinking is meant for eye surgery?" and some have taken this to be a homage to Holmes' cocaine addiction because cocaine was applied topically as an anesthetic during surgery; I disagree, however, and think it refers to the preparation of himself that he is making. The eyes are symbolic of wisdom, and to be drinking a liquid meant for eye surgery means that he is preparing himself--in terms of wisdom--to see what others will not see.
For more on this part and the importance it has for Sherlock Holmes, please see Sherlock Holmes & the Religion Of Evil. What is important about this scene with Watson is the fight over the vest: "I thought we agreed it was too small for you?" An article of clothing is very personal, it says a lot about us; for them to be fighting over it means that they are disagreeing on their roles. Watson in the role of wearing the vest is too small for him, but that role fits Holmes; what would that be? Being upset and holding a grudge in their relationship, and that's why Holmes mentions the money he "won" for him last night at the fight, that Holmes literally "has value" for Watson as a friend.
Being upset with Holmes, again, is a role too small for Watson to wear, and he knows it so, upon "reflection," he throws it out the window of the carriage, symbolizing the reflection on the vehicle of their relationship and how he can't get upset with Holmes for this because that's the way Holmes is. (FYI: as a man on the street picks up the discarded waistcoat, to the right of the screen passes a carriage with the advertisement for Standish Soap on it, suggesting that the American Ambassador is being "cleansed" of his cult connections and will not die in vain, as I will detail below).
There is an important link to Holmes mentioning the opera Don Giovanni and I will discuss it in the next posting on A Game of Shadows because it plays a role in that film as well. Watson punching Holmes in the nose symbolizes that Holmes' "nose for trouble" is making trouble with Mary, not solving trouble with real criminals like Blackwood and Holmes has to figure out the difference.
When Holmes enters the prison, it's important to note that he descends into the cells: going down and digressing into the region of the appetites, not the region of higher thought. Having this important visual clue clues us into the inmates shallow fear of Blackwood "getting into their heads." The first discernible words we can hear Blackwood saying from his cell is, "If any man have an ear, let him hear." This one line answers two important questions for me about two their lines, namely, in the opening, why does Blackwood call Watson Holmes' "loyal dog?" and secondly, why is Blackwood always saying, "You seemed surprised,"?
The motif of writing/drawing on the wall is interesting because it was done in Stigmata, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, The Skin I Live In and Sherlock Holmes. It suggests, of course, the Biblical tale of the Prophet Daniel reading "the writing on the wall" and it foreshadowing doom and destruction.
First, it's obvious that Blackwood is thrilled that Holmes came to see him, so--as the norm goes with power-hungry psychotic serial killers--he wants attention, and specifically, he wants Holmes' attention; calling Watson a "loyal dog," is a way of putting Watson down so Holmes will put Watson down, too. "Why do we seemed surprised?" I think the film makers want to emphasize that there are actually Satanic groups in the world and we shouldn't be "surprised" to see them trying to take power in a major Hollywood film.
Why does Blackwood tell Holmes that he would have "made it all possible?"  After Blackwood's hanging, the next scene, we find Holmes asleep on the floor. I don't want to seem like a party-pooper, but the truth is, Irene suggests they have a tea party, and what is the most famous English tea party? Alice In Wonderland. What happens to Alice? She falls asleep and goes through the rabbit hole on a fantastic adventure. Holmes sleeps and we could say, like Detective Somerset in Se7en, that the rest of the film is Holmes' dream. Why? His mind rebels when he doesn't have problems and none of the problems he has been given are "good enough" for his genius so, using what Blackwood says in the prison, the brief glimpse of Irene from the boxing match and the pending loss of Watson's friendship, Holmes constructs a dream sequence in which there is a case that only he can solve, he keeps Watson at his side, and he gets Irene back for having outsmarted him once before; that is one way in which Holmes makes "all this possible" as Blackwood suggests. (For more on dreams in films, please see Se7en and the Eighth Deadly Sin).
In Holmes' apartment after Blackwood's haning, Irene Adler takes the tea pot and walks around to where Holmes lies on the floor; to the left of the screen is an artist's board with drawings of the human skull (and, with Blackwood, Holmes brought up the suggestion of dissecting his brain). The two consecutive references to the mind invites us to look into Holmes' mind. Before we entered 221B Baker Street, the camera went up to the lamp light hanging over their entry, telling us that we are about to be "illuminated" by what happens (for more on Irene Adler in this scene, [because I am going to skip most of it here] please read Irene Adler vs Mary Morstan: the Women Of Sherlock Holmes). The way Holmes sleeps on the floor, with his head atop the head of the leopard ("the beast" as Blackwood was reading in his prison cell before Holmes came in), shows that Holmes is close to his animal appetites, but his mind is not the mind of an animal (although Irene does seem to bring out the animal in him). Lastly, Holmes is curled up with a book; it would be too much to suppose that is was Lewis Carroll's classic, however, the reference to a book and a tea party at the same time does set-up the situation for our consideration.
When Irene has her back turned, Holmes checks to make sure his safe has not been cracked. This is a significant role reversal because a woman "breaking in" on a man and "cracking his safe open" is rather like a rape, and physically, psychologically, emotionally and intellectually, I think we would be safe to follow Holmes' lead and deduce that this criminal mastermind who steals and sabotages without leaving a trace is happy to do the same to Holmes. If you notice the way Holmes' hair looks in this scene, it's the worst bed-head I've seen in a long time, meaning, symbolically, that his thoughts are all messed-up about his attraction to her and what a genuinely dangerous criminal she is. (The hat and dress Irene wears in the photograph of her that Holmes puts down on the table is the hat and outfit she wears in A Game of Shadows so I would like to reserve our discussion for this aspect in my next posting on that film).
The two necklaces of Mary and Irene are important: the neck symbolizes what dominates us because the neck is the area where a yoke is placed, so what drives us or dominates us. Mary has borrowed a necklace with a ruby and flawless pearls from her employer for having performed well in her duties with her young charge. Irene has stolen a large diamond. Rubies are rarer than diamonds and, due to the red color, symbolize "precious love" because rubies are precious; pearls, because they take a long time to form, symbolize contemplation and wisdom; these are Mary's trademarks and what guides her although nothing could have prepared her for meeting Holmes. Irene, on the other hand, is guided by wealth and luxury, obvious wealth and luxury; I don't know much about her background, but this suggests to me that she grew up poor or at least hard-pressed because other people's estimation of her is important (even though she hides the diamond from sight, she feels better about herself wearing it). Its a greater risk to Irene to be without the diamond and how it makes her feel wearing it than that she will be caught with the stolen goods on her person.
If the rest of the film is a dream, with Sherlock Holmes not only proving to London and the world that he is the greatest detective of all time, keeping his boon companion Watson at his side for one more case, bringing Blackwood to justice (again) and, quite frankly, having a truly challenging case that is enjoyable for him to do, why is Irene Adler the first part of it? As I noted, bringing her to justice for outsmarting him may be a wish-fulfillment but Holmes also tries emotionally separating himself from her: we see, in this scene, not only from the newspaper headlines that she is dangerous but that she has seriously hurt Holmes in the past and he probably fears (guessing that she is working for someone) that she is going to be used against him (for example, in Blackwood's warehouse, when she's hooked and exposed to the fire so Blackwood can escape).
One more point in the Alice In Wonderland equation: when Holmes is back in the apartment after he's followed Irene, his reflection is upside-down, which is what happens to Alice in Wonderland. The "acts of theft" which Holmes commits as he follows Irene shows that she brings out the worst in him, and brings him down to her level. When Holmes watches her stealing the wallet and flowers and murmurs to himself, "That's the Irene I know," he relates to us the audience that she had been wearing a disguise of decorum in his apartment moments earlier, but now, Holmes is the one wearing the disguise.
When Holmes comes back from following Irene, Watson reads the paper, so all the nasty things he says about Irene means that Watson is reading the Irene-Sherlock love affair "like a book" the way Holmes tried to read Mary "like a book."
When Holmes and Watson arrive at the cemetery to inspect the scene of Blackwood's resurrection, the tomb of Blackwood sits beside two sphinxes, meaning, that the riddle of Blackwood's rising from the grave is akin to the riddle that Oedipus answered of the sphinx, so Holmes will, like Oedipus, become immortal (instead of having to rise from the grave like Blackwood) if he can solve the riddle of this case.
Is Luke Reordan a dwarf or a midget? Speaking in terms of height, there is no difference, but "midget" is considered to be a pejorative phrase; Watson, being the doctor, makes the correct diagnosis, so why does Holmes insist on "midget"? Reordan is a scientific genius: to have invented the remote control and all the other elements he did and be a drunk on top of that is pretty impressive, but Reordan doesn't "live up to the standard" of his level of genius and for that, Holmes pejoratively describes him as a midget. Why does Watson call him "ginger?" Technically, he has red hair, but it also refers to him "being a man of appetites" (ginger is a derivation of red) and, from the discussion of his watch, we know he's a drunk (he probably had more appetites that aren't mentioned and that's why the formula is distilled in the bellies of pigs). The absence of Reordan's front teeth, like the teeth of Blackwood himself, illustrates for us the type of appetites he has: drink. Without teeth, you can't eat anything, so symbolically, we know that he's a drunk before Holmes and Watson deduce it from his watch.
The diptera Watson measures on Reordan's decomposing body refers to the maggots eating away at him, and this verifies, symbolically, that Reordan is "rotten" because of the maggots eating at him. Lastly, please note the earth buried in the coffin with him; why is there dirt in the coffin? Dirt/earth is one of the four elements, and is important to Blackwood in the scheme of his killings (his father, Sir Thomas, will die in water, Ambassador Standish in fire and the members of Parliament will be poisoned by the air).
Watson listening to Flora the gypsy woman giving him his "fortune" about life with Mary. The scene proves that, when it is particular to us, even the most skeptical people will listen "to their fortunes" no matter how ridiculous it is.
Back at the coffin, when Holmes removes his hat, just as the groundskeeper comes up, that's a good sign that Holmes doesn't know what to think; he doesn't know what to do until he sees Reordan's watch which could be a clue for him. What do the words the groundskeeper speak mean? "When the dead walk, the living will fill the coffins," as the "grounds keeper," he keeps us "grounded" in what reality is: those dead in sin who are free to do and go as they please (Blackwood, Irene Adler, Luke Reordan, Sir Thomas, Lord Coward) seek to rule and destroy those living in the Light of Christ.
"Does your depravity know no bounds?" "No," replies the detective, and this is important, because Holmes is manipulating just as decisively as Blackwood; so what's the difference? None.
After Watson has his ring, and some change in his pocket, he makes a curious glance backwards as he starts to go off and have tea with the in-laws; why? Holmes has been taking very good care of him, exhibiting jealousy over being displaced in Watson's heart and helping him to find a ring by keeping his money safe for him, then wishing Mary and her family well when Watson goes off to have tea with them. Why does Watson turn around and and look back at Holmes? Watson can't help gambling. It's not that he's tempted by the dice game going on, rather, he wants to gamble on Holmes being a good friend. You draw flies with honey, not vinegar, and Watson is feeling guilty about leaving Holmes alone because Holmes is being so un-characteristically sweet.
Next, we see Holmes again engaging in criminal activities: breaking an entrance by picking a lock, at which he has all the necessary tools, but Irene got there first. In the first sentence, Holmes mentions Irene's Parisian perfume and in the next sentence he mentions putrefaction. The writing on the wall, again, is like that in Blackwood's cell, so we might deduce that this lab had become a cell to Reordan to make him produce what Blackwood needed and Reordan probably knew that he was working towards his death.
There are two interesting things about the chase scene with Dredger: first, when they are running towards the slipway, the camera gives us a view that says "THIS SIDE UP" and then we realize it is upside-down; this provides us with a foreshadowing of what Christopher Nolan would do next year in his thriller Inception and alerts us to how Ritchie is "turning things upside down," again, a reference to Alice In Wonderland; if that's not enough for you, please consider why Dredger says, "Run little, rabbit, run," referencing the White Rabbit who is always running away from Alice. (For more on how a film is turned upside-down, please see Inception: Power, Revenge and Frustrated Staircases).
What I particularly like about this scene after Watson comes in shooting the gun, is the barrel that Dredger throws tripping up Holmes, then throwing the chain at him and him hitting his head, being knocked unconscious and the ship being released into the water. The barrel symbolizes the mistake Holmes will make in the end of chasing Irene who has the poison instead of guarding the remote control device that Moriarty will steal. The chain is Holmes being "bound" to Irene and how the whole case will potentially bring down the "ship of state," with either Parliament dying or the scandal of the cult Blackwood takes over being realized by the public to be a cult running the country.
"Watson, what have you done?" Blaming the sinking of the ship to Watson is revealing for Holmes because Holmes is also viewing this sinking ship as their "sinking friendship," after all, Holmes reasons, Watson tarried behind at Reordan's while Holmes was facing the enormous Dredger all by himself, and if Watson had ignored the ring, none of this would have happened. That doesn't mean that Holmes is right, but it's possible that this is his line of "logic."
Which is why this scene in the prison yard is so important. I am going to leave most of this to discuss in my next post on A Game of Shadows because it doesn't really become obvious until that the consequences of Watson's accusations. I will say, however, that we now know why Watson's glancing over his shoulder at Holmes before he went off to have tea with Mary's parents shows Watson as he really is here: it was Watson's choice to turn back, like Lot's wife looking back at Sodom and Gomorrah as it burned, Watson chose to go back (Watson says, "Having been talked into going with you" which is utterly inaccurate) and help Holmes and now, that his gamble didn't pay off, he's blaming Holmes for his own decision to go into Reordan's with him. (For more on Watson and his gambling, how it "plays into" the larger picture of the film, please see Sherlock Holmes & the Religion Of Evil).
Watson concluding that he is "Psychologically disturbed," is a mis-diagnosis: he's taking something highly subjective--his friendship and bond that he has with Holmes--and looking at it objectively; Watson goes with Holmes because they are friends, Watson believes in the cases which Holmes has and the importance of the case and Watson enjoys being "in the action" like his military past suggests.
The reason this shot of Mary seems so strange is because, . . .  it is. She's waring black, so unconsciously, she's in mourning, for whom? For Holmes, because she had such high hopes at meeting him and he disappointed her because he's not Watson. The strange thing about this outfit is that it completely covers her: her black hood symbolizes that she has only thoughts of death for Holmes (not maliciously, but that she wants nothing to do with him), and the extra cape-like fabric on her shoulder signifies that her strength in this situation comes from her confining Holmes to "social death" in her mind; she has an almost triumphal look in her face, not only that she has come to save Watson but that she hasn't been fooled enough to also save Holmes. She feels that she's wiser now than before dinner at The Royale, but, like Watson, she learns what the demands of friendship really means and both she and Holmes come out better for it.
This momentary break-down of Watson also reveals that Watson can be as selfish as Holmes: Watson lists a laundry line of complaints against Holmes and then, in a few moments, accuses that "You're not human!" to Holmes, but Holmes is all too human, just like Watson. But this is the foundation of great friendships: they explode and then they are re-built. (We will visit this scene again).
Lestrade hands Holmes a handkerchief and tells him to make himself presentable; Holmes blows his nose and then hands it back to Lestrade and Lestrade doesn't accept. "Cleaning his nose," will help Holmes "smell trouble" and giving it back to Lestrade, suggesting he do the same thing, is rejected by Lestrade because, as a member of the Order himself, his sense of smell has left him a long time ago. In addition to lacking smell, he also lacks imagination; Lestrade mentions playing "Victoria and Albert," but, as Holmes would say, "There is a much larger game afoot," and Lestrade can't see it.
Holmes blindfolding in the carriage when "friends in high places" bail him out (as opposed to his friends, like Watson, or even Lestrade, bailing him out) is just that: he doesn't know who they are and more appropriately, they don't know who he is. Holmes is being blindfolded not for the journey to St. James, rather, because he doesn't know the turns this case is about to take, specifically, that Blackwood intends to rise in the House of Lords once more.
It's by the eyes and the ears that Holmes detects Blackwood is the son of Sir Thomas; why? Symbolically, because Blackwood and his father "see" things the same way and "hear" things the same way: how to get what they want and not pay the consequences for it; the Order is a vehicle of personal power and pleasure. While Sir Thomas tells Holmes, "Be as skeptical as you like, but our secret systems have steered the world towards greater good for centuries." Then we learn the "fruit" of that secret system: Blackwood. "He was conceived during one of our rituals." So that's the "good" enticing Sir Thomas: sex on demand with no fear of blackmail for an extra-marital affair because it was a "ritual." And speaking of sex,...
When Holmes gets to The Grand to see Irene, this shouldn't surprise us: Watson is being consoled by Mary, so of course, Holmes will want to be consoled as well. Does he really have trouble getting the door open? I don't think so, I think he does this intentionally to make Irene confident so she will give something away; does he succeed at this? No, and that's the purpose of him drinking the drugged wine: he's been had. It's important, however, for A Game of Shadows, that Irene recognizes Holmes after he reveals himself as he relates to her in this scene.  The wine Holmes drinks is from 1858, "A comet vintage," and Irene asks him, "Can you taste the comet?" What does this mean?
1858 was the first time a comet had been photographed. On the night of June 2, Donati's Comet streaked across the sky, but I think film makers wanted to draw our attention to 1858 for two other reasons: first, Charles Darwin presents a paper on a theory of evolution and natural selection; secondly, the Virgin Mary first appears to a girl in France named Bernadette. What is the comet we are supposed to be tasting in the wine Holmes has just drunk that has stunned him? Which of these events, in terms of the Temple of the Four Orders, would be of greater significance, the theories of Charles Darwin or the appearances of the Virgin Mary? Since Holmes staggers under the influence of the wine and is ultimately knocked out by it, the prevalence of Darwin's theories--which denies the existence of anything unseen--would be enough to knock him out to the possibility of the invisible world and its influence on our lives.
Why does Sir Thomas die by water? Water is a two-way symbol: it can refer to the cleansing powers of Baptismal Grace, or to the destructive powers of sexual pleasure. Knowing what we do about Sir Thomas (how Lord Blackwood was conceived, for example) and that the copper tub is a sign of luxury, we can deduce that his "sexual excess" is the cause weakening his soul so that he is unable to withstand his son's murderous intentions: you know a tree by the fruit it bears, and the fruit of Sir Thomas' life has killed him. Instead of being in the posh St. James' Square, we see Sir Thomas naked and helpless, truly paralyzed by what he himself has brought about.
When Clarkie and Holmes go to Sir Thomas' residence to investigate his death, Holmes tells Clarkie that the religious fervor troubles him because there's no room for misunderstanding. It's too bad that the lack of religious fervor doesn't trouble him, because if there were more of it, perhaps someone like Reordan wouldn't be using his gifts to kill people, instead, he would be benefiting society. It's important to mention this because of one word that Holmes says while at Sir Thomas'.
As Clarkie gives Holmes the details of what they know and Holmes knocks on the wood looking for the secret entrance, over Holmes' right shoulder, in Sir Thomas' bedroom, is a painting of a Dominican, specifically, Sir Thomas' namesake, St. Thomas Aquinas (St. Thomas is my patron saint, I would recognize a painting of him anywhere). The painting of the "Angelic Doctor" in the room, and the disturbing cult emblems "within" the private chamber of the cult, the inner sanctum, lets us know why Sir Thomas has died (instead of being strong enough to withstand his son's attempted murder, especially after Holmes' warning): Sir Thomas was devout and orderly on the outside, but thoroughly rotten on the inside. St Thomas Aquinas was nicknamed "the dumb ox" ("dumb" because he was very humble and tried not to let anyone know how intelligent he was, preferring people think him dumb instead of brilliant, and "ox" because he was so large) but it's not the relic of St. Thomas that Sir Thomas wears (the name "Thomas" means "twin," and it's as if, in his double-life, as Head of the Justice Department and head of a secret cult, he is his own twin) it's the ring of the Sacred Ox as Head of the Temple of the Four Orders that he wears, and that Blackwood takes.
Holmes makes an important reference in this scene: "I cannot make bricks without clay," which harkens to the Old Testament account of the Children of Israel enslaved in Egypt when Pharaoh bid them make bricks without straw. As Holmes will leave the "temple" in Sir Thomas' bathroom, faintly but definitely, he says, "Adieu," which is French for good-bye, but it specifically invokes God as a part of the parting, the care of God. After being in a place such as a cult temple, even Holmes wants to invoke God's protection, and part of this may be because he's starting to realize how vast Blackwood's scheme is.
As I mentioned earlier, when Watson throws his waistcoat out the carriage window, there is another advertisement wagon passing with a Standish Soap sign on it, suggesting that, perhaps, Ambassador Standish's willingness to "stand up" to Blackwood and sacrifice his own life is a sign of his redemption from the cult he has practiced. Why does Standish die by fire? In addition to the death by the four elements mentioned earlier, fire is purgative, so even as he burns, Standish is doing penance for his sins, making it possible for him to be converted, even at this moment so his soul can be saved.
This is a good point to mention Holmes' bandaged hand: after the fight with Dredger, Holmes was wounded and he's still bandaged; since it's his left hand, it signifies Holmes' strength is weakened, but he's not out of commission. What specifically does this refer to? Since he started bandaging it when he and Watson were talking in the prison yard, and Watson is not with him now (when Holmes would want a medical opinion on Sir Thomas' condition) the bandaged fingers refers to Holmes being weakened being without Watson.
Over Blackwood's right shoulder is the burning figure of Ambassador Standish. As Standish burns, he cries out, "Save me!" and this should be taken as a prayer, because he jumps out of the window, meaning that, even in this moment of death, he has the ability to reflect (the window) on what he has done with his life and can repent. Dropping onto the carriage translates as the "vehicle" of his conversion and salvation. How can I say this? We clearly see the Black Raven, Blackwood's partner in his crimes, arriving with Standish's carriage at the beginning of this scene, but we don't see the Black Raven leaving, supposedly with Standish's soul, the way we will see it fly off, for example, at Blackwood's hanging on London bridge. The devil didn't collect on this job.
This is imperative to an insignificant gesture Holmes makes back in the apartment as Watson packs his things and the police bring in the body of one of the men trying to kill them at Reordan's. As the police are leaving, Holmes,  takes the bandages off his hand and throws them to Watson's side of the room, meaning, that the wound is healed and no longer needs to be bandaged. Holmes bets that Watson can't live a life without the thrill of the macabre, and he wins his bet, Watson follows with the revolver. The next scene is Watson and Holmes on the boat going down the Thames, and what's most important is the name of the boat: the Lucy. Anyone who read my posts on vampires and Dracula will remember what I am about to say next: Lucy comes from the Latin word meaning "light," so they are using the vehicle of light to conquer the darkness Blackwood is trying to bring into the world.
Why is the formula distilled in the bellies of swine? Pigs are the ultimate symbol of the appetites, so it is by means of the appetites that Blackwood plans on winning his followers who are reluctant to follow him. In the previous scene, Standish's humility seems to have been sufficient to lead him to standing up to Blackwood and earning him conversion ("These powers, no one can control," Standish says) but Lord Coward and the other members want to share in the glory that Blackwood promises and that's because of their appetites. The formula that will be used the next day on members of Parliament is meant to kill those who will not be enticed. Because our appetites tend to weigh us down in our decision making processes (we make decisions that will keep us comfortable, secure, well-fed and clothed and provide for us "necessary luxuries") it's easy to control people who are not led by ideals and honor. Those who are, just get killed.
 Here is a very interesting article on guns used in Sherlock Holmes here.Watson and Holmes are in the warehouse and Watson wants Blackwood to show his face, Holmes tells him, "Save your bullets," then Blackwood appears right behind them and Holmes unloads his gun trying to hit him; "What was that about saving bullets?" Watson asks. It's important because this joins with the scene in the sewers when Dredger comes in and Irene unloads her gun trying to shoot him and she misses each time. In this present scene, Holmes misses the mark because he's not "aiming" at the right target of his investigation (he still hasn't figured everything out and where it's taking him) so he's firing wildly. Irene will miss her shots because she lacks wisdom, generally.
Irene has followed Holmes to Blackwood's warehouse (so Blackwood tells us) but she's hardly a lamb: her being put on the line with the pig carcasses says more (especially with her history of appetites we see displayed throughout the film) but compared to Blackwood's appetites, she probably is a lamb. However, if the fire won't get her (fire got Standish and that's purgative,) then the band saw might, and it nearly does; this is important because it's Holmes symbolically and literally pulling her back from destruction at the very last second. (This will be important in A Game of Shadows).
Note, please, that Irene is handcuffed the way she handcuffed Holmes earlier. This makes a nice mirror image for comparing the two, because Irene is what "binds" Holmes, or enslaves him to his passions, but his devotion to justice and police work is what frees him (the chambermaid complains and the police come and get him). Irene is also handcuffed, by forces greater than herself, specifically, her pride and arrogance at "not being in over her head" and enjoying the game that she's playing and the wealth she accumulates as a result. Holmes has saved her this time, but he won't be able to again. Holmes is able to pick the lock on the handcuffs with her hair pin; why? She's grateful for the help they have given her and that humility shows that she has "realized" that she's in over her head (she tries to make a break for it the next day) and since the pin comes from the region of the head, it symbolizes her thoughts and how thinking through what it is she has been doing will set her free. But not for long enough.
Why does Watson not remember to look for the trip wire from the beginning of the film? For one thing, he's not Holmes, and that's Watson's strong point and his weakness; secondly, while Watson and Holmes will get hurt, more good comes from Watson setting off the explosion than if he hadn't: Holmes sees the "pinkish hue" that will explain to him how Standish dies; Irene will realize she's in over her head and try to get away (but fail) and Watson's injuries will lead Mary to his side when Holmes and Mary can "heal" their relationship even as the doctor himself is ill. This is why we don't really hear the noise of the explosion, we hear the violin music instead, because these explosions are the "instrument" of Holmes' understanding of what Blackwood's doing.
As the explosions go off, Holmes grabs a wooden box and uses it to shield himself from the explosion. This is significant because, of course, it's wood, i.e., the Wood of the Cross with which he shields himself. It's important to note that Blackwood is a satanic fraud, he's not using powers of darkness to commit these crimes, but he is using the power of sin to gain power (e.g., other members of the Four Orders are willing to follow him for power and he's counting on man's fallen nature to gain other followers).
When Holmes goes back to the upper room at The Punchbowl were he boxes, the last time we saw him in there and he was playing with the violin, he was luring all the flies into that clear jar and trying to get them to form order out of chaos; this is what he's doing again with the evidence he has accumulated throughout the investigation. After Irene and Watson are sitting comfortably in the room, Holmes talks about re-enacting the ceremony they had interrupted at the beginning of the film and it "taking me further down the rabbit hole than I had intended and dirtied my fluffy white tail" which is another reference to Alice In Wonderland.
The writing on the wall which Holmes creates on the walls likens his investigation to Blackwood's prison cell and Reordan's laboratory, in other words, he does it to help put himself in their place and see as they see, think as they think. In this scene, after Irene holds up the newspaper with Holmes on the headline, he takes his handkerchief and wipes his eye with it, relaying that he "sees clearly" why Irene is really there and he's wiped away anything that can impair his vision of her. In this scene, she's wearing the outfit she wears in the photograph on Holmes' table in his apartment, so this is literally "his picture of her" they way she really is, but he knows it is only a picture and not the real thing. Likewise, Watson with his bandaged arm, sits beside Holmes on the bed, putting himself on the same "level" as Holmes in his commitment to "see this through." In ancient traditions, specifically the Song of Songs, the bed can be symbolic of the Cross; Watson, then, joining Holmes, is committing to help bear the Cross that Holmes is and that Holmes will have to bear in order to stop Blackwood. Watson's comment about "taking the shrapnel out himself" refers to the "injuries" Watson has sustained from Holmes' treatment of him and how Holmes himself hasn't done anything to "doctor" up their relationship.
The foot of a lion, the tail of an ox, the wings of an eagle and the head of a man: it's the cross that we are now interested in. It's interesting that Holmes decodes the references as he does, because there are other ways of decoding them: for example, Luke Reordan can also be the Ox because the Gospel, Luke is known as the Ox and, in Reordan's lab (specifically when Holmes was fighting Dredger) there were drawings of an ox on the wall. Irene could also be the eagle, not only because, like Standish, she is from America (New Jersey) but because, in German, "adler" means eagle. Because "Thomas," as I have mentioned, means "twin," it's possible that instead of being the ox, Thomas is the man. The lion? Lord Coward, because he has a black statue of a lion kneeling over its prey in his office (a lion is known for its appetites and Coward craves wealth and power). We can, however, also consider Blackwood himself to be the lion: it's a lion's tooth Holmes finds in Sir Thomas' secret temple and it is Lord Blackwood who has the unique tooth, the crooked tooth, thereby linking those two together.
This shot comes from the opening fight scene in the film where Blackwood performs a ritual to get the girl to commit suicide. It's here because, on the right side, there is a lion standing with a crest; since this is where Blackwood is, it creates the symbolic possibility of understanding him as the lion.
It doesn't make a lot of difference, but it is important that the symbols (ox, lion, eagle, and man) correspond to the Book of Ezekiel and the symbols of the Four Evangelists: Matthew is the winged man, John the eagle, Mark the lion and Luke the Ox; anyone who has studied medieval art history has to be able to remember that. In other words, this correspondence to the Bible demonstrates what the Order considers "order" to be: turning Christianity upside-down.
When Holmes is taken to Coward, Lestrade punches Holmes, supposedly to carry on their act, or at least to legitimately get away with doing something that he has genuinely wanted to do for a long time. Yet, there is a symbolic reason as well: the stomach, where the appetites are digested, has been damaged by this punch, so Holmes can't be tempted (or led astray) by his appetites because Lestrade has helped him. If, for example, Lestrade had punched him in the face, it would have had more to do with Holmes' identity than his appetites.
What was the link connecting Coward to the murder in the beginning of the film? His handmade shoes. The feet, of course, symbolize the will, and his handmade shoes, a sign of luxury, tells Holmes that Coward's will was led by the promise of luxury goods, which was what Blackwood promised to Coward in exchange for his support.
When Holmes closes the flue on the chimney and gets the smoke to build in the room so he can hide, he's holding a mirror up to Coward and doing to him what Blackwood has been doing to everyone: hiding in the confusion that smoke creates. This technique foreshadows what Coward is willing to do to the members of the House at noon, suffocating them and choking them to death.
Why does Lord Blackwood want to take power at noon? Noon is the hour when Christ ascended the Cross and, by taking on the sins of mankind, also became ruler of mankind because of his divine love for us. Blackwood wants to become a "strong shepherd for the weak masses" as Coward tells Holmes, and undo what Christ did for us on the Cross.
Why was the final ceremony performed in the London sewers? First, the sewers, like London Bridge where the final scene will take place, is the sign of industrial genius and modernity, making this meeting in the sewers a part of our own time, that this isn't just something that happened in 1890, but in 2009, as well, because the sewers and London Bridge are still with us. Secondly, the sewers invoke disease and excrement, which is where Blackwood and Coward belong; they are both Lords who should be sitting with the other Lords in the House of Parliament, but have lowered themselves to the level of filth and decay. Where they have fallen, so shall they stay.
Why does Holmes smoke his pipe in this scene? It's not to add more smoke to the room, rather, for Holmes to "digest" over what has been revealed to him. In my post on Young Sherlock Holmes, I noted that a pipe is fitting to Sherlock Holmes because, as a citizen of the Victorian Era, he was also witness to the Industrial Revolution and the rise of factories; just as "smoking stacks" symbolized industry and productivity in factories, Holmes "smoking pipe" meant that he was pondering and producing answers to the riddles his cases presented.
Coward opens a window to clear the smoke from the room, but that symbolizes "opening himself up" and his thoughts to Holmes; Coward says, "I have told you nothing," but Coward doesn't need to; instead of his spiritual devotions to better his soul and mind, Coward has sought power, wealth and affluence, so he's not smart enough to be able to withstand Holmes' ability to gain knowledge. Opening the window is also how Holmes will escape because Coward's "opening up" is going to help the whole world escape the plot of Blackwood. Holmes sliding the handcuffs on the floor to Coward not only symbolizes that Holmes' hands are now free to act and stop Blackwood (the handcuffs symbolize the knowledge he was missing that chained him to his ignorance) but now the handcuffs are in Coward's arena because Coward is the one who is helpless to stop Holmes.
This is the second time Holmes has been in the Thames and the second time he's boarded the Lucy. Being in the Thames is rather like bathing in the Jordan River, it's a national baptism of patriotic sentiment and filling himself with pride and love of country, he boards the Lucy (the light of the west) and prepares to save his country and the world.
When they get into the sewers and Holmes tells Watson and Irene that the "chemical weapon" is the first of its kind and Blackwood's magic, it's from the tail of a rat that he deduced it because of the smell of bitter almonds (a common ploy in the Sherlock Holmes canon, although I have never smelled bitter almonds). Why is this revolutionary? It's not the killing of a lot of people (well, it is) but perverting the air that we breathe into something that kills us. As noted above, each of the killings invokes the four elements and this final one, air, completes the turning of the earth (God's gift to humans to care for and tend and so receive all our needs from it) into a death trap instead of a blessed, life-giving garden.
This is a good shot of Watson. Please note, he usually always wears a hat, translating that he is one who "keeps a lid on it," keeping his thoughts to himself and not letting himself get carried away. Note that he also wears gloves, brown gloves, brown is the color of humility so his strength comes from his ability to be humble (not thinking of himself as being on Holmes' level). Putting the gun to his mouth in the "silent gesture, means that the gun is as much a part of him as his own hand, so he's confident and skilled in his ability to do what has to be done in the upcoming scene. What, specifically? If you watch, he uses the blade within his cane, the award for his service in the wars, and it was his service in the wars which makes him capable of fighting this homeland battle, now.
Why is this important for film makers to do? It demonstrates how perverse cults are. Again, when Blackwood steps onto the platform before the House of Lords, he will say, "You seem surprised," but we should not be surprised, we should not be caught off our guard that such forces exist and want to take over the world, literally and spiritually. In the image below, Holmes gives us the best answer to all these problems created by the Blackwoods of the world: use your spyglass. The optics of the glass invokes wisdom, the long-distance capabilities signifies the ability to project consequences and the future based on historical knowledge and that Holmes has Watson steadying the glass for him invokes brotherly love and camaraderie.
"She loves an entrance, your muse," Watson tells Holmes as Irene starts shooting while Holmes and Watson tried to make a plan. Her rashness demonstrates, once again, that Irene has no wisdom nor foresight. She may impress with knowledge, but just as Blackwood turns everything upside-down for his purposes, so too does Irene. When she fires her gun, she misses, and that's directly linked with her "grace" and "eye." If she were more "graceful" (read: Baptismal Grace) she wouldn't miss her mark and, if she had better eyesight (read: wisdom) she would be able to see her target better. Dredger is the largest person in the entire cast, and emptying her gun and still missing him means that she has no "power" (loss of fire power) of her own.
From out of nowhere, a man wearing Asian dress appears and fights Holmes; Holmes yells to Irene, "Woman, shoot him, now!" and this is actually a compliment to Irene (I don't have time to elaborate on it here, but I will in a later post). The purpose of this Asian man coming out exemplifies that this is an international crisis and not just an English or British problem. What is the problem? There is the sabotaging of free will.
When Blackwood talks about extending the boundaries of this great empire, it's not "empire" itself that is good or bad, it's Blackwood's attitude towards people in general, his designating the people "outside" as rabble (and that should understood as the people outside the boundaries of the empire, people who are not English).  Listening to Blackwood invokes images of Adolph Hitler and this is intentional: we can never think that such a threat has died, or won't come back to haunt us, and it could happen anywhere.
When Coward and the other members of the Order (which by now, we should know there is no order in the Temple of the Four Orders) they lock the doors and join arms to prohibit anyone escaping. Besides his own Divine Love, the greatest gift God has given us is free will: we can accept his love and salvation or deny his love and salvation, but we are free to choose. Blackwood forces everyone to accept him or death, thereby, in locking the doors, he not only brings death, but takes away the last gift God has given us: free will. The locked arms of the members of Blackwood's gang shows they have united themselves against everyone else and will not give anyone the right to choose.
The important part of Blackwood's machine is that: it's a machine. Whereas God sets the clock for each person because of his love for them, Blackwood employs a heartless, mindless machine that will kill whenever and wherever, taking the bonding of an individual to God in their death away (even Blackwood, hanging from the bridge will invoke God). Blackwood tells Parliament, "On the twelfth chime, I will summon the dark powers," and we might be tempted, seeing the remote control, "Yea, right," but he's actually telling the truth: the "dark powers" which Reordan created by employing his gifts of scientific understanding for evil instead of good will bring down the world and, that serves as a lesson for each of us, the harm we create when we do not use our gifts for God's glory rather, our own gain.
At the chiming of twelve, Holmes becomes a "sacrifice" as Christ did: his pipe, symbolic of his prodigious output of solutions, will be the vessel of the explosion to remove the poison (that the pipe is clay is actually a sign of Holmes' humility because we were formed from the clay of the earth and our bodies are clay vessels holding our immortal souls). The giant Dredger shows up again and it's because they have a "giant problem" before them. Watson telling Holmes to "Nut him!" means, "Put your brain power against the brain power of Blackwood," and by focusing on one part instead of the whole, Holmes is able to overcome his fear of Dredger's immense proportions and instead use his own power.
As I mentioned before, Holmes chasing Irene through the sewers shows what he thinks of her, this is how low she has sunk. The "new order" which Blackwood has spoken of does begin at noon, it begins with the awareness of how delicate the power of government is and how susceptible it is to being used "for nefarious purposes." There is also the element of Moriarty stealing the remote control device, and the "order" that he will use that for in A Game of Shadows. Most of my discussion on what takes place on London Bridge, which is important, can be found here in Sherlock Holmes & the Religion Of Evil.
Why does Irene nearly slip off the end of the uncompleted bridge?The bridge isn't completed because you can't move on with the new until the rotten is thrown out, i.e., Blackwood. Irene nearly "falls" off the bridge because she's getting that close to the edge, and when she does fall, it will be the temporary scaffolding which saves her, but importantly, that demonstrates that Holmes' feelings for Irene can be used against him.
When Irene wakes up in handcuffs, we should take that literally: she wakes up. Hopefully, she awakens to the life of sin and crime she has been living, and is illuminated to find what it is that has "bound her" in life and the tear she sheds is a sign of remorse, however, it's a selfish remorse that her enjoyable life may come to an end now and that's why she is doing what she is doing in A Game of Shadows. Just before he leaves her he acts like he will kiss her but takes the necklace instead; a kiss is the breath of life, and for someone like Irene who is dead in sin, she can't accept a kiss, it would be wasted on her and Holmes knows that; taking the necklace is an attempt to "lighten the load" of sins weighing her down so she can be freed, but she doesn't want that.
While Blackwood hangs on the end of the uncompleted bridge, let's talk about the Back Raven. Why is that an accurate symbol? Black, of course, refers to death, and the bird is a scavenger, the opposite of the dove which symbolizes the Holy Spirit (as it descended upon Christ at his baptism) so whereas the Holy Spirit gives us Life, the devil takes life. As noted above, the Black Raven doesn't fly off after the death of Ambassador Standish, so we may accurately deduce that his cry, "Save me!" when he was set on flames was heard and he was saved; Blackwood, on the other hand, tells Holmes, "For God's sake, cut me loose!" validating that he does not believe in all the ceremonies he performed yet, as Holmes says, "The devil's due a soul," and in the Black Raven, he's there to collect it. The mysterious moving of the steel beam, like a weight in the balance, is moved by the air, the wind, the Breath of God, knowing that Blackwood will refuse to be redeemed and God has chosen Blackwood's moment of judgment.
Mary is now wearing a hat, meaning that she has an understanding of how to treat Holmes and what to expect from him; she is also ascending the stairs, meaning that she has "risen" in Holmes' estimation of her. Mary also carries a muff, for her hands, so that, while Holmes gave Mary and Watson the elaborate ring to celebrate their commitment to each other (the finger being a part of the hand which symbolizes strength) Mary also, in the muff, realizes that she has to keep some things "hidden" and to herself regarding Holmes.
Why is it that Blackwood hangs on the edge of the bridge? It is a very literal description of his soul hanging in the balance. Because he has the anvil tied to his leg (his sins are represented by the anvil and the rope around his leg is his will because his will is represented by his legs) he can't be redeemed; but just saying the word, "God," is enough to cut loose the weight of sin; however, knowing that once he has been redeemed, he will immediately revert back to a sinful state, the moment Blackwood is ready to try and take Holmes' life, the great weight of the steel beam will crash down upon him, hanging him like Judas. That's why he is not hanged by a rope (although there are plenty of them lying around about the place) rather, by chains, because Blackwood was chained to his sins.
One final word: just as it was important for the Anthony Higgins' version of Moriarty to be exposed as a fraud in Young Sherlock Holmes, so that's what Holmes wants in Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes. This is imperative because it perfectly syncs evil with fraud, the pursuit of ultimate power and vice with the loss of one's true identity. In revealing the fraudulence of Blackwood, Holmes, in his pursuit of justice, has tried his own soul in the fire of purgation and emerged "enlightened."
In conclusion, Holmes drinking the wine from 1858 draws our attention to two major events at odds with each other: the publication of the theory of evolution and the appearances of the Virgin Mary. I am not going to say that evolution is a vehicle of evil, but it does significantly reduce not only how we view other people (a means of using them to get what we want because they are only glorified apes, the way Blackwood uses and disposes of Reordan, for example) but how we view ourselves and our purpose. The invoking of a year when the Virgin Mary appeared to a young peasant girl emphasizes that we are the children of God destined for heaven or hell. The last conversation of Holmes and Blackwood upon London Bridge--the symbol of modernity and national identity--challenges the foundations of our deepest beliefs and reminds us that there are Blackwoods in the world and it takes the kind of genius of a Sherlock Holmes to overcome them.
Here are links to other posts of possible interest to you: Irene Adler vs Mary Morstan: the Women Of Sherlock Holmes The Identity Of Shadows: Young Sherlock Holmes about the 1985 version. Sherlock Holmes: Watson's Gambling Habit, the Banking Crisis of 1890 & Londong Bridge