Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Sherlock: The Reichenbach Fall

Moriarty: “Every fairytale needs a good old fashioned villain.”

After 'The Blind Banker' and 'The Curse of the Black Spot', I was less than optimistic about Steve Thompson's chances of scripting a gripping finale. Yet as soon as I saw Watson struggling to cope with his grief in that psychiatrist's chair, I knew that I was going to love this episode. Not only did Thompson create an intriguing and ultimately compelling season conclusion, he also managed to achieve the impossible—he made me love Moriarty. Which is some achievement considering the frosty reception I gave him last season.

This seems to have been something of a Marmite episode. A friend texted me ten minutes before the end to inform me that she’d lost interest, yet I found it utterly absorbing. I thought Andrew Scott was superb. His versatility was astounding. He switched from madman, to simpleton, to brooding genius, with perfect fluidity. The looks he kept throwing Sherlock when no one was looking were chilling. I’m not sure whose decision it was to tone down Scott's high-pitched histrionics, but it was the making of his character. Moriarty was easily the weakest link of 'The Great Game'. Tonight, he almost stole the show.

What a pity he had to die. By Moriarty's own admission, Holmes is nothing without him. That’s if he is dead. If a master detective can fall from a roof into a crowded street and survive, then a master criminal can shoot himself through the head and live. (Although Scott's recent interview on RTÉ seems to suggest he's done with the character.) Moriarty’s final action was a fascinating act of hatred and defiance. So overpowering was his need to win, so desperate his desire to transcend the mundane, that he was even willing to forfeit his life. Luckily, Sherlock was several steps ahead, but even the great detective himself couldn't have predicted the lengths Moriarty was prepared to go to best him.

How did Sherlock escape death? I think we can safely assume with Molly's help. Watson didn't actually see Holmes hit the ground. We did, though whether he hit the pavement directly, or first rolled off some kind of strategically placed safety net (possibly the conveniently parked wagon full of bulging refuse sacks), I'm not sure. And what part did the solitary cyclist play in the deception? (You see what I did?) Why were John's ears ringing and his speech slurred? Was it simply a side effect of being knocked down (presumably to buy time to stage the illusion), or did the cyclist somehow manage to administer some kind of mild toxin à la last week's Baskerville gas?

Sherlock's behavioural similarities with Molly's father probably explains why she feels so drawn to him. It's obviously nothing to do with his charm, tact, or his superior grasp of social etiquette. I found Sherlock's kind words to Molly utterly charming. He may not be able to give her what she wants, but he was finally able to give her what she deserves—his respect. Tonight, she was the key to Sherlock's survival, which I thought was a lovely pay-off. Moriarty thought he knew Sherlock’s weakness—his friends—but made the fatal mistake of underestimating Molly’s importance. Hardly surprising, considering the way Sherlock treats her.

Yet, Molly does count. Despite occasional bouts of social awkwardness, she can read Sherlock like a book. Her analysis of him in the lab was startlingly accurate. It even flummoxed Sherlock. Sherlock obviously felt the impending weight of having to first deceive and then be without Watson—his tears atop St. Bart's were proof of that. He certainly wasn’t mourning his own mortality, as he had absolutely no intention of dying. Clearly, Sherlock's not as detached from his feelings as he thinks. John's refusal to believe the worst of him seemed to provoke an unexpected emotional response.

How he managed to fake having no pulse, I’m not altogether sure. Molly's medical expertise? And let's not forget the little girl. Why did she scream when she saw Sherlock? Was Moriarty wearing some kind of Sherlock mask? It must have been awfully convincing close up. Could Sherlock have jumped to safety, substituted his own body with a cadaver (courtesy of Molly), and had Molly (or one of his homeless network) dress it in a Sherlock mask and coat? There would be a delightful symmetry in Sherlock defeating Moriarty using his own methods. It would also explain the lack of pulse. Sherlock could even have been the guy on the bicycle—both his face and hair were suspiciously out of focus.

Sherlock's inability to understand social interaction always makes me smile. He looked utterly baffled as to why gratitude would be the correct response to such useless gifts. (Not to be confused with useless gits.) And Martin Freeman was magnificent as the ever loyal Watson. Him struggling to maintain a stiff upper lip, whilst visibly crumbling inside, was worth a thousand tears. But Watson's already had his miracle. Sherlock lives! Thank you Steve Thompson for sparing us from what could have been another cruel cliffhanger. And thank you for confounding expectation. You did yourself proud.

Following the season finale, both Moffat and Gatiss Tweeted in unison that a third season has already been commissioned—so I guess we got our miracle, too. Let's hope we don't have to wait another 18 months to see it.

Other Thoughts:

—Mycroft reads The Sun? That's somehow more shocking than his betrayal of Holmes.

—I don't remember the storytellers on Jackanory being quite so mental.

—I liked how Watson, even after Sherlock's death, still wouldn't believe his story. Like Molly, Watson knows what kind of man he is.

—The hat’s back... or was. Holmes later took it home and tried to punch the shit out of it.

—It made sense that Moriarty/Sherlock's final confrontation would be a psychological tussle as opposed to a physical one.

—Holmes' fall from the top of St Bart's was reminiscent of the falling scene from Granada TV's adaptation of 'The Final Problem'.

—I loved those scenes of Moriarty in 221B Baker Street. Him poking fun at Holmes' violin playing, before choosing the chair he didn't offer, all contributed to the atmosphere of needle.


Watson: “My best friend, Sherlock Holmes, is dead.”

Holmes: “First mistake. James Moriarty isn’t a man at all. He’s a spider. A spider at the centre of a web. A criminal web with a thousand threads and he knows precisely how every single one of them dances.”

Moriarty: “You need me, or you’re nothing. Because we’re just alike, you and I. Except you’re boring. You’re on the side of the angels.”

Moriarty: “How hard to do you find it, having to say I don’t know?”
Sherlock: “I don’t know.”

Holmes: “Brilliant, Anderson.”
Anderson: “Really?”
Holmes: “Yes. Brilliant impression of an idiot.”

Molly: “Alkaline.”
Holmes: “Thank you, John.”
Molly: “Molly.”
Holmes: “Yes.”

Molly: "You’re a bit like my dad. He’s dead."

Watson: “I know you for real”
Holmes: “One hundred percent.”
Watson: “Nobody could fake being such an annoying dick all the time.”

Holmes: “You’re wrong, you know. You do count. You’ve always counted and I’ve always trusted you. But you were right. I’m not okay. Molly, I think I’m going to die."
Molly: "What do you need?"
Holmes: "I wasn’t everything that you think I am. Everything that I think I am. But you still want to help me."
Molly: "What do you need?"
Holmes: "You."

Holmes: "Alone is what I have. Alone protects me."
Watson: "No, friends protect people."

Moriarty: “All my life I’ve been searching for distractions. And you were the best distraction, and now I don’t even have you because I’ve beaten you. And you know what? In the end, it was easy. It was easy. Now I’ve got to go back to playing with the ordinary people, because it turns out you’re ordinary – just like them.”

Moriarty: "I love newspapers. Fairytales. And grim ones too."

Holmes: "I may be on the side of the angels; but don’t think for one second that I am one of them."

Holmes: "Nobody could be that clever."
Watson: "You could."

Holmes: "Goodbye, John."

Watson: "No one will ever convince me that you told me a lie. I was so alone, and I owe you so much."

Watson: "There’s just one more thing. One more thing. One more miracle, Sherlock – for me -- don’t be dead. Would you do..? Just for me? Just stop it... stop this!”

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