So, Elementary fandom has talked about gaslighting before, and how it is used in abusive relationships. We’ve seen Irene/Moriarty do this to Sherlock in Elementary, and the same pattern appears in the newly-aired Sherlock with Sherlock and John. This article defines how gaslighting takes several distinct forms most of which can been seen paralleled with Elementary and BBC Sherlock. (Also, if anyone with psychiatric background could weigh in on this, that’d be great.)
1-4: Compartmentalising: Irene fakes her own death, then makes a sudden reappearance a year later, after Sherlock has moved on and formed healthy relationships with other people (Elementary).
Sherlock fakes his own death, makes a sudden reappearance two years later after John has moved on and formed healthy relationships with people (BBC)
5&6 - Denial, Blaming/Deflection, Chronic Invalidation: Sherlock deduces that Irene is working for Moriarty (or at least, not held captive by him as she stated) and thinks she’s lying to him - he gets angry. Irene placates him, saying it’s because he is “seeing things that aren’t there”. (Elementary)
John’s angry at Sherlock for not contacting him for the last two years; Sherlock doesn’t apologise and dismisses John’s anger, explaining that it was because Sherlock didn’t trust him. (BBC)
7&8 Domination: Irene tries to make Sherlock take back his words - when he doesn’t, she replies with “You lied before! You don’t want to come with me, so you’re inventing an excuse not to!”. Then she walks out of Sherlock’s life and makes him think he’s cause of it because in her eyes, he is the just as bad as Moriarty. (Elementary)
John’s angry that Sherlock acts irresponsibly and the bomb is about to go off. Sherlock defuses the bomb in the tube train, but lets John believe that they’re both going to die. Sherlock fakes vulnerability, apologises to John and uses the now-or-never-scenario to make John accept his apology. (BBC)
9&10 Minimalisation: Irene waltzes back into Sherlock’s life, reveals her true identity, and calls Sherlock’s trauma at her death a game. “You’re a game I’ll win every time.” (Elementary)
Sherlock reveals that the bomb had an off switch, and laughs at John’s trauma and fear when he thinks he’s about to die. “Your face, your face! Totally had you!” (BBC)
The most important thing about this, though, is that Elementary portrays it as an abusive relationship and recognises that Moriarty/Sherlock is not in any way a healthy relationship. Meanwhile BBC Sherlock does the complete opposite, which is all kinds of fucked up.