- Spoilers involved *
Sher….hmmmm…my best friend Sherlock Holmes…he’s dead
The only water falling in this episode of Sherlock, the last in the second series, is falling silently at the beginning not the end. It is running down the glass window behind Dr Watson as he sits talking to his psychiatrist endeavouring for the first time to speak about, and come to terms with the tragedy and terror associated with the demise of his wonderful friend Sherlock Holmes.
Sherlock – The Reichenbach Fall is the last of three in the second series of the brilliant contemporary take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional detective. It is truly sophisticated entertainment. The episode starts with a series of flashbacks in which Sherlock is being thanked and rewarded for all the good deeds he’s now doing in helping the police to fight crime in modern day London.
One is just having returned one of two early nineteenth century paintings by the Romantic landscape Painter J.M.W. Turner to the people after it had been stolen. Yes, and you have guessed it, the painting is of the Reichenbach Falls, a spectacular series of waterfalls on the River Aar in central Switzerland where Holmes nineteenth century counterpart had plunged over holding onto Moriarty in Conan Doyle’s The Final Problem.
This episode was ‘wordily’ written by Steve Thompson, who as a guest writer of creators Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, also wrote the second in the first series, The Blind Banker. This story has so many twists and turns we have to keep alert and stay on target to keep up with all of them as Moriarty and Sherlock vie with each other and reveal a tale that is definitely very ‘Grimm’. The kidnapping of two children from their beds at boarding school with only a breadcrumb trail to follow to where they are being offered a death by chocolate, is a ghastly tale.
Andrew Scott as James Moriarty, Master Criminal and Holmes nemesis proves a brilliant adversary for Benedict Cumberbatch’s always erudite Sherlock. Scott is chilling in his ability to met morph into the different caricatures of the psychotic character he’s playing. This is the episode where he has had the most to say and do, while still endeavouring to stay alive to that terrific tune by the Bee Gee’s. He certainly proves he has talent to burn. A measure of his ‘star quality’ is in the fabulous few minutes where he pulls off bringing three major British institutions on their knees by pressing three icons, a royal insignia, a piggy bank’ and a portcullis all of which are apps on his iPhone. It is wonderfully contrived and presented by the creators.
Moriarty springing the security breach at Pentonville Prison, the Bank of England and The Tower of London all on the same day is beautifully resolved. He has his own ‘Silence of the Lambs’ triumphal moment in front of the huge glass case containing England’s Crown Jewels just before he blasts it open to the tune of the wonderful composition The Thieving Magpie by Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868). It ends with Moriarty sitting on the throne wearing the royal crown with the orb and sceptre in his hands waiting to be arrested.
Just what is he up to now?
The attention to detail throughout this series has been truly delightful. Moriarty is sporting his own trendy “London” cap, as a wonderful foil for Sherlock’s new Deerstalker, which he is forced to don on demand.
Sherlock is furious once again, when this is the only photo the press use of him. He thinks he looks far cooler with his collar turned up on his ‘Bellstaff’ Milford coat. To be sure the tradespeople involved in tourism will lap all the attention to headwear and both caps must be selling like hot cakes all over London.
Sherlock’s brother Mycroft, his friends Mrs Hudson, Molly Hooper from St Bart’s Hospital morgue, le Strade as well as his trusted right hand Dr John Weston are all helping him to reach a solution to The Final Problem. Sherlock’s side kick Dr Watson is superbly played by Martin Freeman. He is truly finding his own feet and momentum. Along with Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes, they must both give the writers a great deal of inspiration just by the sheer excellence of their performances. They are a dynamic duo par excellence.
After Holmes is called to give evidence at court Watson tells Sherlock “Don’t try to be clever. Intelligent is fine, but let’s give smart alec a wide berth.” Holmes responds “I’ll just be myself.” to which Watson retorts “Are you listening to me?”.
Watson is truly a great friend because he constantly tells Sherlock what it is he doesn’t want to hear. Love it though how the writers help him to pass blissfully over clues placed either right under his nose or in his hand and still he does not ‘get it’. One who does get it is Molly, Sherlock’s contact in the morgue at St Bart’s Hospital Molly, who would do anything to help her brilliant friend.
Mycroft, well he is in disgrace in this. Played with great subtlety by Mark Gattis, with Mycroft as a brother Sherlock is definitely handicapped. He has revealed much too much about his famous brother to Moriarty in exchange for information about criminal activities. Betraying one’s brother in such a despicable way surely must have him hanging his head in shame, especially when Sherlock seemingly does a swan dive off the roof of St Bart’s.
At the end to save his friends from certain death Sherlock must give his own life otherwise the assassins Moriarty has retained to kill them all will act if Sherlock doesn’t jump.
This is the show when the actors rise up and reveal all their strengths, delivering their scenes and words brilliantly. The interplay between Cumberbatch and Freeman has become seamless, and so superbly done.
This is a story about trust and doubt, about faith and hope and people’s perceptions. It reveals just how easily people can be manipulated by fear and particularly by a gutter tabloid press, as headlines have proved this year. It is also about the pedestals other people put us on and how we can put ourselves at risk, often without knowing it. It plugs into uncomplimentary aspects of our human behaviour, how we can admire someone for a while and then become bored by it all and seek to tear them down.
You told me once you that you weren’t a hero… says Watson at Sherlock’s graveside. You were the best man and the most human, human being that I have ever known and know one will ever convince me that you told me a lie ….I was so alone and I owe you so much ….
…hopefully there is one more thing Sherlock – one more miracle just for me, don’t be dead – just for me don’t be dead, stop it, stop this…
In Series 3, which was commissioned at the same time as Series 2 let’s hope the writers will give Dr Watson someone else to love, other than just the man with whom he always seems to have such a hell of a good time, that high functioning sociopath Mr. Sherlock Holmes. The final problem for us is just how long we will all have to wait for their return?
Preview: Sherlock – The Reichenbach Fall
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle 2012
*This post contains details of the plot of Sherlock – The Reichenbach Fall so if you don’t want your viewing pleasure spoiled, don’t read it until after the event.