You’ll snarl. Shriek. You’ll erupt in tears and other effluvia, and then you’ll hunt down all acquaintances to ask BUT HOW? Welcome to the Reichenbach Fall, the episode of episodes, and Sherlock Holmes’s Final Problem.
We begin with a boot to the solar plexus: Martin Freeman looks sad and it’s raining. Were I not working to time, budget, and without the benefit of huge fonts and flashing lights, I would now devote some space to writing Don’t Look Sad, Martin Freeman in a variety of compelling graphic forms. It is awful when Martin Freeman looks sad.
Weariness, depression, and slightly-creased slight rubbishness are all qualities that M. Freeman has honed to the skillful precision of an Olympic sport (and, actually, Britain would do much better if we scrapped the games and hosted just that: an Olympic of Feelings), and here he is doing, relentlessly, what he does best. Sadness. Rain.
To underscore the point, John’s back in front of That Therapist from 1×01 (who didn’t realise his limp was psychosomatic, but who did? who did, everybody?!), and refusing to voice exactly why he’s back, after eighteenth months. He can’t get through an explanation—”I’m here because—”, but whether it’s because he thinks he’ll vomit or cry is unclear.
Eventually, he manages to parody Ewan McInjuction, Allegedly, at the start of Moulin Rouge. “My best friend—Sherlock Holmes—is dead.”
….sod off, there’s just something in my eye I’m fine.
Three months earlier: a posh art gallery in London. Sherlock’s receiving formal congratulations for retrieving a stolen painting of the Reichenbach Falls, which is odd since he and John seem to be dressed for their civil partnership (thus explaining Cumberqueen’s equine twitchings and John’s unusually good suit). The curator gives him a little pressie—
Sherlock: Diamond cuff-links. All my cuffs have buttons.
—a sentence which obviously contains an unspoken “n00b.” John corrects Sherlock, makes him say thank you and then pose for a wedding picture equal marriage now.
Montage time: we land next on…well, apparently it’s the street Adler lived on— but w/e, BBC locations manager—where a banker thanks Sherlock for bringing him home from a hostage situation. This time John’s looking quizzical as a counterpoint to Shergarlock’s facial tics: I imagine Sherlock’s confused by proximity to family, and John’s confused as to why the banker and child both look like Sherlock. (Seriously. Anderson looks like the Holmes’s uglier, prematurely crumpled brother, and both the banker and his son seem to be cosplaying Cumberwank.)
This time, Twitcherbatch is ungrateful for a tie pin (so middle-class, dulling).
O HAY Lestrade. God, your unfeasibly pleasant face never fails to brighten my day. Sherlock’s caught Some Italian Mobster, and Lestrade (just TAKE my ovaries, Rupert Graves, and cease your dallying) rewards Prince Valliant, For It Is He, with a boxed deerstalker.
Such is the press clamour that Sherlock actually puts it on and smiles and shows his teeth. Sometimes Lestrade smiles and shows his teeth. This is not like those times.
And Sherlock’s not happy. Back at Baker Street, he flounces because he’s been called a “boffin”; John’s even less happy to be called “Bachelor John Watson”. Confirmed bachelor. Foreseeing a future Daily Telegraph obituary wherein he’s described as “long-term companion of Holmes” and which ends “He never married,” John has a sudden and discomfiting hissy fit, telling Sherlock that they need to be more careful.
Ostensibly, it’s because Sherlock’s becoming a celebrity rather than a private detective: the press will turn, and they’ll turn on Sherlock.
Sherlock: It really bothers you what they say about me? But why, why would it bother you?
It’s a prescient question—coupled with the “confirmed bachelor” schtick, we’re left to wonder whether Sherlock’s failing to understand John’s concern for him, or calling him on implicit homophobia; John’s not worried what they’re saying about Sherlock—or wasn’t until he found out what they were saying about him.
Tower of London, 11 a.m. Some Gay Beefeater (they all are) welcomes many a tourist. Including a little (really quite little) beauty with a cameraphone, a baseball cap, and the mad starey loony eyes of J. Moriarty.
Moriarty, you’ll remember, was last seen being beatific and crazy in Some Prison Cell, from which he was released by Mycroft’s hot but cruel-looking flunkie.
Back to Baker Street. John’s been having a shower (wash away all that pent-up tension?), while Sherlock fiddles with his test tubes. A dummy’s suspended from the ceiling (cue neat visual gag); Sherlock’s been disproving a suicide.
Moriarty’s now face-to-face with the crown jewels, having made it through security with only the briefest squeak of a metal detector.
On closed-circuit, we see him pop on his headphones as he stares at the shiny; slow, relaxing classical music fills the air as, continuing the Gay Messiah theme from last week, Moriarty appears to go into a semi-trancelike crucifix-cum-yoga routine. Inexplicably, neither his fellow-tourists nor the security staff seem troubled. In fact, one guard’s off for a cuppa!
We cut to the pleasant surroundings of the Bank of England, where somebody who’s not Julius Nicholson but might as well be is being pinstriped and holding a little gold pen. It’s grayscale and biros over at Pentonville, where the Governor’s wearily arguing over parole. A neat triptych of London life, in fact.
Moriarty’s iPod is apparently also a little computer—he scrolls over to a crown symbol, “unlocks” it, and Some Binary sequence unleashes hell on the computer security, which abruptly fails. The Tower vaults are evacuated, but Moriarty maces the guard and stays. The panic begins to break out.
Lestrade is busily redefining adorable via coffee and cake-nomming at his desk (it IS 11 o’clock, after all), but is swiftly summoned to the Tower—just as Moriarty pings the little piggybank icon and apparently opens a vault at the Bank of England. Tea spills (that’s the British English for “holy shit,” for those who need translation).
Lestrade’s Very Bad Morning immediately gets a very great deal worse.
Meanwhile, Moriarty’s going all Art Attack! on the jewels’ glass case; we can’t see what because he’s showing off his mirror-writing skillz AGAIN. And then he releases half the inmates of Pentonville Prison. I think Andrew Scott should always be backed by classical music. He’s at his best when most balletic.
The reckless, mad-eyed little gumdrop puts a diamond (good Actor Hands, there, Scott—anyone wishing for comparable Actor Feet should see Gary Oldman Walk Casually Across A Floor in Tinker Tailor) point-first into some chewing gum on the side of the case. Because he is a CAREFUL psychopath, Moriarty has kept the diamond in a Little Box. Then, he whips off his jacket and pretends to be Nuryev.
While big butch policemen with GUNS and BOOTS stampede up steps and through centuries-old doors, our white-shirted, sleek-headed hero-villain literally dances his way (with fire extinguisher) towards the glass case.
It smashes in dazzling slo-mo as armed squad, detectives, sirens, and silver BMW all collide and clatter their way into the Tower, where (and God save the Queen) Moriarty is enthroned, with sparkly crown and ermine and sceptre and bone structure. “No rush.”
He’s even sent Sherlock a text, retrieved by an adorable, still dressing-gown-clad (good serviceable terry-towelling, for the man that Man At C&A forgot) John. Moriarty exhorts Sherlock to Come and play. Tower Hill. and even signs off with a modish little kiss.
Meanwhile, Moriarty, looking groggily lol, is deprived of his diamonds and police carred.
Reviewing the security tapes, John, Sherlock, and Lestrade see the message Moriarty wrote on the glass before breaking it: GET SHERLOCK (remember the cell scribblings from last week?).
Sexy!Moriarty!Theme (“Sinnerman” by Nina Simone, in fact) strikes up as another press flurry takes us to Moriarty’s trial, with Sherlock as star witness. John and Sherlock get into yet more civil partnership!suiting and booting, while John asks sweetly, “Ready?” before they descend into the paparazzi uproar outside 221B.
Moriarty’s dressed as a catatonic pimp for his trial (awesome). HE wears a tie pin, which is how we know he’s an absolute sewer. John tries to coach Sherlock in the car, unfortunately including the fatal injunction not to “try to be clever.”
Sherlock: God forbid the star witness in the trial should come across as intelligent.
John: Intelligent, fine. Let’s give smartarse a wide berth.
Sherlock: I’ll just be myself.
John: Are you listening to me?
The three major stations all have news correspondents outside the Old Bailey. Moriarty’s unloaded into the dock, still handcuffed, and there’s a disgustingly sleazy moment where he gets a female police officer to slip her hand into his pocket and place gum on his tongue. All drooping eyes and slicked hair, Moriarty seems like he’s been drugged.
In the gents, there are more drooping-eyelids; a sugar-voiced (think Julia Indelicate on New Art For The People, four-and-a-half readers who’ll get my one obscure music reference), deerstalker-wearing “fangirl” who wants Sherlock to sign her shirt. Or breasts. Or something.
Sherlock: There are two types of fans. Catch me before I kill again, type A.
Sherlock: Your bedroom’s just a taxi ride away.
Fan: [smiling] Guess which one I am.
Sherlock takes the most incredibly fleeting glance down at her girlbits, and deduces she’s a journalist. She’s Kitty Reilly and she wants a scoop—mostly on John and Sherlock, whether it’s “just platonic”—which is when Sherlock really starts to look unsettled.
Kitty tells Sherlock soon he’s going to need someone on his side, someone to set the record straight. Quietly seething, Sherlock claims that if she’s as good an investigative journalist as she claims, she should be able to read him right away; she can’t.
But he can, and eviscerates her in the style of Hannibal Lecter—all sneering comment on her good bag and cheap shoes, concluding with three little words seethed into her dictaphone: “You repel me.”
We next see Sherlock under cross-examination, having a remarkably good time as he discusses Moriarty’s career as a “consulting criminal.” Even Moriarty’s having sex with him, sorry, smirking smugly across the court.
After some insolence, Sherlock veers sharply into a Deathly-Hallows-esque and unsubtly metaphorical ramble about how Moriarty is A Spider, A Sexy, Sexy Spider in a Web and he makes flies Dance and he is Not To Be Trusted!!!, during which Andrew Scott wears a Moriarty!smirk that says plainly, that’s right, bitch.
Sherlock: We met twice, five minutes in total. I pulled a gun, he tried to blow me up. I felt we had a special something.
Moriarty’s face makes all sorts of flirtatious lol.
When provoked, Sherlock also does one of his virtuoso feats of DETECTION at the jury, who are of course delighted to have their professions, marital status, sexual proclivities, and recent diets broadcast to the court. John despairs.
Threatening our Equine Hero with contempt of court, the judge asks Sherlock if he thinks he could survive five minutes without showing off.
Naturally, we cut to Sherlock being led into a cell. Moriarty’s next door. They stare at the walls a lot.
It’s like That Scene with Tennant and Rose, only with sociopathic overly-arrogant homoeroticism instead of tears and blondes (also, how many hours has Andrew Scott spent watching John Simm as The Master?).
Pocket John Watson is not impressed when he comes to post bail or sign forms or enjoy his conjugal rights or whatever the plot is, like, demanding here. Crucially, though, he proves Sherlock right: Moriarty’s lawyer (of whom more later) hasn’t mounted any defence all day. Our boys head home for some exposition:
John: [...] all we know is—
Sherlock: [significantly] He ended up in custody.
John: [beat] Don’t. Don’t do that.
He means The Look.
Sherlock: It’s just my face!
John: Yes, and it’s doing a Thing, a We-Both-Know-What’s-Really-Going-On-Here Thing.
Sherlock: [confused Persian kitten, possibly inclined to sneeze] But we do!
John: No. I don’t, which is why I find The Face so annoying.
Sherlock points out that Moriarty’s choosing to remain in prison, and so it must be part of his scheme…
And now for Fit Bit-Part Actor Of The Week: Mr Crayhill!
Long-time listeners (to my brain) will know that the dishy barrister with the big brown eyes and silver medal for unfeasible-yet-entirely-normative-attractiveness is Mark Gatiss’s husband, actor Ian Hallard. Hallard’s primarily a stage actor, but you can also check him out in the second part of Gatiss’s Crooked House trilogy, a charming 1920s tale all about ghostly brides and Ian Hallard’s legs (unbelievably accurate summary, I am serious). Imagine Bright Young Things, only with legs and Samuel Barnett. Hallard is here to Be Attractive (commendably achieved) and explain that Moriarty’s defence won’t be calling any witnesses. He’s entering a plea of Not Guilty, but no evidence.
The judge begins his summing-up; Sherlock, at home in his dressing gown is, for some reason, already word-perfect and muttering along (this will never be explained. Just go with it. You already have enough to worry about). The judge advises the jury to find him guilty, and the court reassembles after only six minutes.
John’s here to hear the verdict, which is—from a twitchy foreperson—not guilty. John’s astonished and furious when he calls Sherlock, but the detective’s eyes are gleaming. He hangs up, makes tea, and starts playing the violin as their lock is picked downstairs.
Pimp!Moriarty steals upstairs—Sherlock momentarily stops playing when the stair creaks—and steals one of Sherlock’s apples before sitting down (yes, apparently they have fruit). They talk about Bach, because I suppose that’s easier than just, you know, shagging or killing each other, and Moriarty gazes up at Sherlock all eyelashes and vulpine dentistry to remind him, gleeful, that every fairytale needs a good, old-fashioned villain.
This perturbs Sherlock. I think.
Moriarty even runs through some good, old-fashioned villain cliches: You Need Me, and the classic We’re Just Alike, given that exciting Semtex-flavoured twist of “except you’re boring.”
Moriarty: You’re on the side of the angels [and IF, dear reader, you think you're spotting a Miltonic-scented MOTIF, I should hate to disappoint you].
After explaining how he bribed the jury, Moriarty’s asked how he intends to burn Sherlock (his threat from the previous series). With all the joy of quoting canon, Moriarty explains that it’s the Final Problem (A Marginal Gloss, For Benefit Of Readers: this episode will get much funnier if, every time Andrew Scott repeats the phrase final problem, you intone it after him, accompanied by jazz hands, and then down a drink. That’s just… something I’ve heard). Sherlock doesn’t get it, and watches numbly while Moriarty drums his fingertips (this may be A Clue. It may just be Hand Porn. Given the writers’ casting choices and aesthetic obsessions? All of the above).
Moriarty also challenges Sherlock to prove he’s deduced the reason for all those break-ins without theft: and Sherlock’s got it. Nothing Moriarty could take from a castle, bank, or prison, could match the value of the key to open them. Moriarty’s delighted: he’s got “a few tiny lines of computer code” to unlock any door in the world.
Moriarty: In a world of locked doors, the man with the key is king, and honey, you should see me in a crown.
This is said in a tone that suggests Moriarty might have gone to Vegas to buy his pimp attire. Sherlock looks sort of involuntarily gleeful, and who could blame him? Moriarty’s thrilled his business is doing so well: “Suddenly, I’m Mister Sex.” Gosh. He also “just likes to watch [his clients] competing—Daddy loves me the best.” [WELCOME TO THE HOLMES FAMILY, JIM.]
Moriarty: Aren’t ordinary people adorable? Well, you’d know. I should get myself a live-in one.
And this is said in a tone that remembers what happened the LAST time he tried to keep a pet (they kept, er, dying? All over the furniture?). And then, oh hey, it’s Paradise Lost with the subtlety of a juggernaut: The Fall is going to start soon (blissfully, Moriarty does the same sound effect as The Thick of It’s mountain of shit). With a last, terrifying message carved into his apple, Moriarty leaves. There’s another press flurry, of course, but once Moriarty vanishes, the public starts to lose interest.
Two months later, life’s back to normal: John’s abducted from a cashpoint by his best friend’s big brother. He ends up at Mycroft’s club, the Diogenes, where talking is verboten and where startled old men blink agitatedly at him from wing-backed chairs (it’s a bit like being a woman). Gatisscroft, dressed in a nineteen-piece suit, gives him brandy. Mycroft’s warning John that Sherlock’s the subject of a vast expose in next Saturday’s Sun, authored by Kitty Reilly, and sourced by someone called “Brooke.”
Mycroft gives John a series of manila folders; four internationally-famous assassins with appropriately lolarious Foreign Names have just moved into Baker Street. Mycroft thinks it’s Moriarty; John thinks he should talk to Sherlock, and speculates on the brothers’ childhood—did they steal each other’s Smurfs? Break each other’s Action Men? Mycroft makes a face like an elderly cat with a hairball, and John laughs. One can only assume that’s a dissociating tactic to avoid the truth that the Holmes boys’ Smurfs were psychotropic drugs, and their Action Men proto-teams of surveillance officers parachuted into rogue Cold War states. Anyway, Mycroft can’t warn his brother because of Reasons, and John says he’s off.
Mycroft: We both know what’s coming, John. Moriarty’s obsessed—
—obsessed with Sherlock, Mycroft? With your brother? GOSH whatever would that feel like?
Mycroft: —he’s sworn to destroy his only rival.
John grudgingly, tacitly agrees to look out for Sherlock, and leaves Mycroft alone. On their Baker Street doorstep, he finds an envelope apparently filled with breadcrumbs, and sealed with red wax.
Upstairs, Lestrade and Donovan are briefing Sherlock on the sudden kidnapping of the US Ambassador’s children, from their Home Counties boarding school. Sherlock’s been personally requested as the “Reichenbach Hero.” Worryingly, as they follow Cumberswish out, we see we’re watching from a surveillance camera hidden in the flat.
At Some Boarding School, the police are swarming; Sherlock flies at the Housemistress and interrogates her; she breaks down and begs Sherlock to believe her innocence.
Sherlock: I do, I just wanted you to speak clearly. [to police officers] Miss Mackenzie will need to breathe into a paper bag now. [PowerSWISH!]
It’s all gone a bit Turn of the Screw up in the children’s bedrooms. Sherlock sweeps the girl’s dorm room and finds an envelope (sealed with red wax, like John’s) containing a copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales (sorry, was that not obvious enough? Grimm’s FAIRY TALES). In the brother’s dormitory, Sherlock tries to retrace the boy’s experience, deducing from his collection of spy books that he’d try to leave a clue in the seconds before kidnap.
Anderson (who, again, resembles the missing link between Sherlock and Mycroft) is brought in to seal the room and reveal the UV “Help Me” message the Ambassador’s son left in linseed oil (I will just say that it’s bloody typical of this show that the little boy left a message, while the little girl just got kidnapped); there are also footprints from which Sherlock can deduce the kidnapper’s height, shoe size, gait, and walking pace.
John’s unimpressed with the (albeit professional) delight Sherlock’s taking in the case, but goes with him to St Bart’s.
They trace the mix of substances on the kidnapper’s shoe (scraped from the linseed oil footprints) to a particular combination of molecules (via SCIENCE); Molly, however, is more interested in Sherlock, who’s been muttering Moriarty’s parting threat—I—owe—you. Nor will she accept Sherlock’s brush-off, and instead compares him to her terminally-ill father. Um…?
Molly: When he was dying, he was always cheerful, he was lovely, except when he thought no one could see. I saw him once—he looked sad. You look sad. When you think he can’t see you.
Cut to John.
Oh. Right, then.
Sherlock’s face looks like it might be making primitive attempts to accept and express emotion.
Molly: Are you okay? Don’t just say you are, because I know what that means, looking sad when no one can see you.
Sherlock: You can see me.
Molly: I don’t count.
…I will almost buy this. I will almost accept this as sufficient reason to reduce Molly to dreadful, unrequited Eponine. I can almost handle the fact that the sole science professional in the series has the dramatic function that’s entirely about being the bearer of emotional truth. Louise Brearley’s delivery is so clear and economical, and she plays everything as though the words are hers, not a writer’s.
She’s also able to draw down Cumberwank from the heights of melodramatic excess, which means that, as an actor, she has the enviable and essential quality of making her colleagues look good.
Molly: What I’m trying to say is, if there’s anything I can do, anything you need, you can have me. I—no, I just mean. I mean, if there’s anything you need, it’s fine.
Oh, I’m sorry, did I think we were getting somewhere with this series’s treatment of gender? MY MISTAKE.
Sherlock: What—what could I need from you?
Molly: Nothing. Dunno. You should probably say thank you, actually.
Sherlock: Thank you.
No it’s fine, show! I have got the message! You fail at gender and you make me stick knives in my soul and I’m sure it’s splendid acting but seriously, season 3, just give me a girl who’s not a whore or a doormat…
Molly leaves Sherlock looking as shattered as I feel, while John spots the envelope from the girl’s trunk and makes the connection. Fairy tale—breadcrumbs—Hansel and Gretel. Sherlock knows this kind of kidnapper—”the sort that likes to boast, the sort that thinks it’s all a game”: Moriarty.
And the glycerol molecule in the kidnapper’s shoes is used in making chocolate. Sherlock deduces that the children are being held in a disused chocolate factory, and his homeless network and MIND MAP (like Palace, only more Powerpoint) give him the address he needs.
Storming the factory, Donovan leads her troops to find the terrified children. En route, Sherlock finds sweet wrappers spiked with Mercury, enabling the kidnapper to eventually commit “murder-by-remote.”
Some hours later, John and Sherlock wait to question the little girl, but she screams in terror when she sees Sherlock, pointing and recoiling. Nor will she explain why.
Unusually, Sherlock’s unsettled by a negative reaction from someone—and even more unsettled when, staring out of the hospital window, he sees I O U spray-painted on the flickering windows of the building opposite. Lestrade shrugs it off, but Donovan clearly has her suspicions. As a rattled Sherlock dives into a taxi alone, Donovan voices them to her boss.
Crossing the Thames, Sherlock’s night goes from worse to dreadful when the black cab’s internal TV screen starts to show Moriarty, as a children’s TV presenter, telling the story of Sir Boast-A-Lot in an appalling video nasty.
The gist is basically that Sir Boast-A-Lot was so brave and clever that NOBODY believed his stories and then they hated him and then his brother wore a lot of waistcoats and he even lost his ambiguous relationship with his hypothetical flatmate and wasn’t that a lovely, if psychologically scarring story, children? Meanwhile, Donovan’s suggesting to Lestrade that Sherlock’s a kidnapper (if not some sort of paedophile). Good.
“King Arthur” (Lestrade, still the prettiest) is seen looking, you know, reasonable and symmetrical and distressed while his officers (Donovan and poor Anderson) harangue him; Cumberfeel’s face continues its efforts at emotional gestation, and the whole thing becomes a stirringly underscored montage of horror. Upshot: Moriarty’s winning, Sherlock’s horrified, and Moriarty’s the taxi cab driver.
Talking of shot: as Sherlock’s chasing after the taxi, now on foot, he’s almost run over; when he thanks the man who’s pulled him out of the road, a sniper fells his rescuer. Grand Theft Sherlock is standing over the body when John’s taxi arrives; John recognises him as the Albanian gangster Mycroft identified.
Sherlock realises that the assassins aren’t here to kill him; they’re watching each other and determined to keep him alive. Ergo, he has something they want.
Sherlock finds the surveillance camera behind a book, just as Lestrade—looking and feeling like the world’s most reluctant Judas—comes to take him to the station. Ever since the little girl’s scream, Sherlock’s been expecting it. He also touches Lestrade’s face unnecessarily (good).
Watching the police leave, John thinks Sherlock should have accompanied them. Another flash of temper.
John: I don’t want the world thinking that you’re—
Sherlock: That I am what?
Otterbatch looks anxious, strained. God knows what Sherlock’s expecting, but when John confesses he doesn’t want the world to think Sherlock a fraud, Sherlock thinks that means John also doubts him; that Moriarty’s even playing with John’s mind, now. John refutes this.
John: I know you’re for real.
John: Nobody could fake being such an annoying dick all the time.
And now, reader, an intermezzo. Back in the 1990s, the BBC dramatised a series of detective novels by the late lamented Reginald Hill. I recommend the Dalziel and Pascoe franchise to anyone interested in manpain, crime drama, historical flashbacks, comedy accents, and/or sex; which, I am reliably informed, encompasses a significant proportion of my readership here. Said novels have been out of production, if not print, for a good fifteen years, but this has not stopped the writers, bafflingly and inexplicably, inserting a strange, bastardised, cliff-headed monolithic sub-Dalziel into The Reichenbach Fall as the wholly unlikely figure of Lestrade’s Boss. He is a Comedy Northerner with rubbish glasses and a weight problem, and he’s furious with Lestrade for Sherlock’s ee bah gum involvement with the case. Ugly Brother and Donovan head back to arrest Sherlock, but not before Greg rings up a word of warning. John’s taking the call when Mrs Hudson brings in a third brown, red-sealed package—a burned gingerbread man.
The police barge in; Sherlock exquisitely knots his exquisite scarf and they do the full Garden of Gethesemane bit while John splutters protest. And then Northern Boss comes in and calls Sherlock a “bit of a weirdo.” So John breaks his nose.
God, Martin Freeman. I don’t usually find rubbish-jumper men turning violent all sexy, and I’m disturbed that I make an exception for you.
So then they get arrested together. So then Sherlock stages a daring escape and steals a gun and it’s amazing and then they RUN AWAY while HOLDING HANDS (Lestrade is seen to bury his face in his hands). “Now people will definitely talk.”
They do sex breathing while John clutches Sherlock’s sleeve. And Sherlock once again rubbishes consulting Mycroft, For Reasons Of Plot!!one. Another one of Sherlock’s hitmen-cum-guards is on their track—in a fairly amazing and utterly greenscreened sequence, Sherlock traps him by pretending to throw both himself and John in front of a bus. Some Foreign Hitman, held at gunpoint, explains that they’re pursuing Sherlock for Moriarty’s computer key code, which he apparently “left at the flat.” And then the sniper’s shot dead.
John and Sherlock hide in a doorway for some exposition, when John picks up a plot point, sorry, newspaper just reinforcing that there’s going to be that Kiss And Tell from one Rich Brook, any minute now. Which makes it no surprise that we cut to Kitty Reilly, arriving back at her house to find—yep, John and Sherlock on her sofa. To be joined, a few minutes later by their source—Moriarty (in a cardigan, the most unlikely knitwear since Malcolm Tucker’s fleece in Series 3 of The Thick of It) who, after a few seconds’ swooping musical standoff, backs off in terror and begs Kitty to protect him.
John: That’s your source, Moriarty? Richard Brook is Moriarty.
Kitty: Of course he’s Moriarty, there is no Moriarty. There never has been.
Richard Brook is an actor Sherlock Holmes hired to play Moriarty. Sherlock stands stupefied (and ferret-like) while the “actor” begs forgiveness of Watson, and Kitty shows her “proof”—Richard Brook’s acting CV. The moment her back’s turned, Moriarty grins through his hands at Sherlock—who looks sort of… weaselly and aroused, in fact. It’s appalling. Moriarty, still as “Richard,” bolts from the flat (which appears to be the mirror image of the one Laura Linney had in Love Actually huh!), and Kitty repeats Sherlock’s words back to him (you repel me) before he, too, storms out the door. Storms all the way to St. Bart’s, in fact: there’s something he needs to do. Alone. Well, not quite alone, actually. Hi Molly.
Sherlock: You’re wrong, you know. You do count. You’ve always counted and I’ve always trusted you.
Walk away, Renee, frankly: this is Mr Jar of Hearts personified, but what the hell, the show’s called Sherlock and otter conservation is a worthy cause.
Sherlock: But you were right. I’m not okay.
Molly: Tell me what’s wrong.
Sherlock: Molly, I think I’m going to die.
Molly: What do you need?
And, after some dilated-pupil-acting, Sherlock answers “You” and if this were a normal show they’d have a lot of sex and it’d be a blow (badoomTISH) to feminism but understandable, but who knows. Instead, we cut to John at the Diogenes, ambushing Mycroft.
John: Have you seen your brother’s address book lately? It’s got two names—yours, and mine, and Moriarty didn’t get this stuff from me.
John’s wondering about the nature of Mycroft’s relationship. Mycroft seems flustered and evasive and, well, are we meant to think that, like the Robots In Diguise, The Sex Has Made Him Stupid? Mygatiss says he’s been interrogating Moriarty (slapping him about) for weeks in pursuit of the keycode, and that Sherlock was the only topic that could persuade him to talk. Isn’t that a lovely image? A deranged psychopath and an over-tailored super-spy, sitting around in prison indulging in a little Service brutality and discussing their mutual obsession with Sherlock? Festive. I also love how the details of Sherlock’s life story are never made explicit. They’re probably horrific.
Mygatiss does have the grace to apologise, but John’s off.
Back at Bart’s, Sherlock’s repetitively bouncing a little rubber ball while he waits for John. Together, they try to work out where Moriarty might have left the code; John’s drumming fingers give Sherlock the clue. We see him text someone to “Come and play” on the hospital roof, but he doesn’t share his suspicions with John.
Still the stress ball. Hours later, John gets a call that appalls him—Mrs. Hudson (my stomach is twisting EVEN AS I TYPE THIS, guys) has been shot, probably by one of Sherlock’s sniper fanboys, and she’s dying. He’s even more appalled when Sherlock becomes the second Holmes brother to have a disgusting moral lapse in as many scenes: Cumbercold refuses to budge. He’s busy. Baffled and hurt, John storms out yet again, telling him to stay here alone.
Sherlock: Alone is what I have. Alone protects me.
John: No, Sherlock, friends protect people.
Sherlock holds himself still, exhaling slowly, until John’s out the door. Then his phone chirps (but where’s Molly?).
Sun’s up, folks! Moriarty’s on the roof, now dressed as Depressed 1960s Pimp, and listening to the Bee Gees. Excellent. I think if Cumberping sang he’d sound like a Bee Gee. Both of them look very shocked to be out in daylight. I really think Moriarty could benefit from regular medication.
Andrew Scott does his National Theatre party piece while Sherlock walks in circles and does the behind-back-hands of Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia. There’s a lot of framing cheekbones with lens flare and horizon-porn. My request for next season’s cinematography is an infusion of blondes and gingers. We have quite a bit of exposition to get through, and an unnecessary American accent (seriously, guys, if someone loaded up a syringe, we could fell Moriarty) before we learn that Moriarty’s “keycode” was signalled when he drummed his fingers during the tea-party scene at Baker Street. The rhythm was in binary code.
Except not. In the words of Moriarty, “DOOFUS”. The rhythm was meaningless; the digits are meaningless, does Sherlock actually think a few little lines of computer code could mess up every vault and password in the world (in case we’re not getting Sherlock’s stupidity, Andrew Scott does a little knuckle-dragging dumbcluck walk). Cumbertwitch looks perpendicular and itchy, probably because a) he’s being upstaged and b) he’s wearing a suit, army greatcoat and muffler on what looks to be quite a nice Spring day.
Moriarty managed the Tower/Bank/Pentonville breakins not with a code, but through his power of unlocking people’s minds. If you just vomited, forgive me. Sherlock immediately has his Hamlet moment; Moriarty wants him to kill himself, as the final evidence of his disgrace. We get a good look over the tall building (as Moriarty says, it was a nice touch).
Meanwhile, John’s back at Baker Street: Mrs Hudson’s alive. Obviously. Suddenly full of dread, John jumps back in his taxi (“Police! Sort of.”).
Arguing for his life doesn’t work particularly well, so Sherlock dangles Moriarty over the edge of St Bart’s instead (THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA, SHERLOCK. Why did you not).
Cumberseethe: [hissing] You’re insane.
Moriarty: You’re just getting that now?
Here comes Moriarty’s incentive: Sherlock’s friends—clarified as John, Mrs Hudson, and Lestrade—each have a bullet waiting for them if he doesn’t commit suicide, unless Moriarty’s people see him jump.
Sherlock asks for a moment of privacy which, astonishingly, Moriarty grants him. And then he starts to laugh. Moriarty’s not pleased. Sherlock’s so pleased he does a little hoppy jump back onto the roof. And then sings. Which is awful, unspeakably awful, but Sherlock does make the valid point that Moriarty’s explicit refusal to recall the gunmen does mean there is some way of doing so. And he alone can make Moriarty do it, because—
Sherlock: I am you. Prepared to do anything. Prepared to burn. Prepared to do what ordinary people won’t do. You want me to shake hands with you in Hell? I shall not disappoint you.
At this point, my English degrees interrupt me to point out it’s all getting JUST A BIT MILTONIC. With the helpful insight that he may be on the side of the angels, but don’t think for one second that he is one of them.
Moriarty understands. Sherlock is him, and as long as Moriarty’s alive, Sherlock can save his friends. Moriarty blesses him, wishes him good luck with that, then shoots himself in the mouth.
He does look really very dead after that.
Sherlock’s panicking. AS ARE WE ALL. We see, whether for real or in Sherlock’s head, the assassins approaching Sherlock’s friends—the sniper, the handiman, and the rogue police officer.
Only one way out. Beneath the hospital, John’s taxi pulls up; Sherlock rings him. He orders John to turn around and walk back towards where the taxi dropped him; begs him in fact. At a certain point, he makes John stop and look up at him.
Then he apologises and confirms the truth of the Sun article, including the invention of Moriarty. He’s a fake. The newspapers were right; John is to tell Lestrade, Mrs Hudson, and Molly, and anyone else who will listen. John tells him to shut up; he knew everything about John at first glance.
Sherlock, tears running down his face, says that he researched John, discovered everything he could to impress him. John tries to go towards the hospital, but Sherlock begs him to stay where he is, and keep his eyes fixed on Sherlock. This phone call is his suicide note, after all.
Sherlock hangs up, tosses his phone, stretches out his arms, and jumps.
We see him plummeting, and half-see/hear the impact.
John starts to run forwards. We see Sherlock’s shape—dark hair, coat, white face, lying on his side on the pavement, partially obscured by a truck (either rubbish or laundry). The sound has cut out.
John is hit on the right-hand side by a cyclist. He staggers forward and lands face-down. Having hit his head, his vision is blurry.
We see, from above, bystanders rushing towards the body on the pavement (which is bleeding copiously from the head). Medics, presumably from St Bart’s, hold them back.
John is still prone on the tarmac. When he moves, pain and disorientation delay him, as well as shock. He staggers towards the body, now entirely hidden by bystanders. He’s trying to say Sherlock’s name, and say that he’s a doctor, and that Sherlock’s his friend. A doctor’s trying to find a pulse in Sherlock’s neck. He is discouraged from holding John’s hand.
Medics roll Sherlock towards a stretcher—we see his face, briefly, the eyes open. Sherlock’s body is taken away on a stretcher. At this point John is left standing in the rain, staring after the stretcher.
The gunmen, one by one, pack up and withdraw from their victims.
We cut to Mycroft, reading the Sun in the Diogenes: Suicide of Fake Genius. He sits alone. John’s also alone, now; sitting in Baker Street, staring at Sherlock’s empty chair.
The episode’s come full circle; John sits opposite his therapist, who tells him he needs to say now the things he wishes he’d said to Sherlock, but never did. John smiles pleasantly in the manner of a man bleeding invisibly from every arterial junction, and declines. He can’t.
He and Mrs. Hudson go to the grave. John tells her he’s angry. Mrs. Hudson says that’s okay, John, it’s how Sherlock made everyone feel. Eventually, though, John’s left alone at the graveside, waiting for Mrs. Hudson to get out of earshot before he talks to his dead best friend/nemesis/lover/flatmate, and, oh, reader. If you have feelings, if you have mucus, if you have BAFTA votes and a bred-in-the-bone susceptibility to small tired Englishmen emoting Age-shall-not-wither-them in any kind of sacrificial context, prepare to smear all such effluvia all over your entire existence, now.
John talks to Sherlock.
You—you told me once that you weren’t a hero. There were times I didn’t even think you were human, but let me tell you this: you were the best man, the most human human being that I’ve ever known, and no one will ever convince me that you told me a lie. There, so, there.
I was so alone and I owe you so much.
Please, there’s just one more thing, mate, one more miracle for me, Sherlock. Don’t be dead. Would you do that, just for me, stop it, just stop this.
Reader, I know when I am being manipulated. I understand that the combination of music and tiny military men and squared shoulders and about-turns is intended to reduce me to a quivering, sub-Armistice-Day hormonal mess. I resist the nationalistic programming that insists I descend into a wobbly ooze because Martin Freeman puts his dear little hand on the gravestone of a Fallen Comrade. Equally, I know that that little pointy quick-turn and gallant exit-left are just THINGS which Martin Freeman has LEARNED (rather better than the rubbish limp of 1.1) and not INNATE QUALITIES of either goodness or duty. I am fully acquainted with how acting is not REAL. I am still crying.
We watch John getting smaller and smaller as he crosses the cemetery. The camera pans, and there’s Sherlock.
Flatter hair, same coat, same muffler, not dead. The utter fucking bastard. At which point, on first viewing, m’friend and I levitated and made clutching, screeching noises somewhere between the age-old w00t and the call of the peacock (APPROPRIATE). Cumbermarble’s stupid, not-dead face, in glorious off-wallpaper-paste grey. Resurrected, reconstituted, ever-ready Livingbatch, because they have commissioned Series 3!
From girl bits to Zomberbatch, it’s been one hell of a series. Did you like it? Was Reichengay your favourite episode? And, most importantly, what are the rules for Moftiss’s newly-patented game of Splat The ‘Batch (I would buy the hell out of that 2-4 player family fun, just sayin’).
How did they do it? Like Poirot only squittier (Christie, represent!), I invite you to consider a number of clues:
1. That which Sherlock needs from Molly. Molly’s arguably central to the plot to keep Sherlock alive. She presumably remains inside Bart’s from the time Sherlock arrives there. She has access to all kinds of medical equipment. Sherlock omits her from the list of “friends” he names to Moriarty on the rooftop, but includes her in the list of people to whom John should denounce him.
2. The very conveniently-placed truck, which drives off moments after a body plunges through its rear-view mirror, and despite bystanders flocking past it.
3. The very conveniently-timed cyclist, who doesn’t stop after knocking John down.
4. The surprising readiness of paramedics to move a man with (presumably) severe head/spinal injuries without brace or similar OR (if Sherlock’s already “dead”) to remove a body from a potential crime scene before forensic involvement occurs.
5. The fact that the little girl screamed hysterically at Sherlock.
6. The fact that Sherlock “thought he was going to die” so early in the episode, and voiced this to Molly.
7. The bouncy ball which, uncharacteristically, Sherlock bounces and plays with, in close-up, in Molly’s St. Bart’s lab.
8. Sherlock’s demand that John stay where he is and look fixedly at him during their final phone conversation.
I’m really puzzled, however, regarding the role of Mycroft. Was it just sloppy writing, or is there more to Mycroft’s role than meets the eye? Also, beyond the requirements of canon, why does Sherlock have to die? To protect his friends, obviously. But is the BBC’s Sherlock, unlike Conan Doyles, fated to die to learn a moral lesson? To keep from—as John, and the judge, both accuse him of doing—showing off? Is Moriarty’s unutterably terrifying Fairy Tale of Sir Boast-a-lot the episode’s moral message, and does it make sense that Sherlock’s mistaken for the children’s kidnapper, a figure he identifies specifically as “the sort that likes to boast, the sort that thinks it’s all a game”? Are we going to see Sherlock solve crime in anonymity, as the opening to Series 3?