Sherlock, Series 2: ‘The Reichenbach Fall’

It’s a stormy day in London and John Watson is meeting his therapist in a darkened room. He hasn’t seen her for 18 months, so why now, she wonders. “What happened, John?” she asks.

“My best friend, Sherlock, is dead,” he reveals.

Fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes will know by the name of the episode that the death, real or imagined, of Sherlock Holmes is the theme of this episode.

In this case, three months earlier Sherlock Holmes was instrumental in the return of the 1804 painting “The Reinchenback Fall” by J.M.W. Turner. A montage shows us that Sherlock has become increasingly famous and there’s that association with the hat. Watson is shown as the “etiquette advisor” at presentations for Sherlock and Watson becomes increasingly annoyed with his portrayal in newspaper accounts as a “confirmed bachelor” (a euphemism for gay companion one guesses). Watson warns that the press will turn on them.

Does it bother anyone that Andrew Scott as Jim Moriarty resembles Mark Gatiss as Mycroft Holmes? We know from last week’s episode that Mycroft and Moriarty have some link. Just what is it?

With Moriarty on the lose, we know he’s after Sherlock and he engineers a simultaneous break in security to the Bank of England, the Pentonville Prison and the Crown Jewels using his cell phone. You thought England had problems with telephone hacking.

Moriarty is at the Tower of London, the place where the jewels are kept. “Get Sherlock” he scrawls on the glass case before he breaks it, dancing to the music of Gioachino Rossini’s “La gazza ladra” (The Thieving Magpie). . He’s not eager to escape. He waits for the police to appear, sitting on the throne with the crown on his head and the sceptor in his hand. “No hurry,” he says as the police arrive.

Does anyone think this is a trap?  Sherlock is asked to appear as a character witness for Moriarty. In the restroom, he meets an eager female journalist who tries first to appear as a fan, then to seduce and tells him, “I’m smart and you can trust me.”

“You repel me,” he tells her. She’s not smart. She’s waiting for her first big story, she’s hungry and she’s not trustworthy.

In court, while Moriarty chews on something, Sherlock is questioned about Moriarty. Sherlock has only met Moriarty for five minutes, and yet is considered an expert. When asked how this is possible, Sherlock can’t resist showing off and that lands him in  jail for contempt of court. Moriarty doesn’t bother to mount a defense and yet he’s found not guilty after the jury deliberates for six minutes.

Watson is there and reports to Sherlock who is at the Baker Street apartment. Sherlock immediately makes preparations for a guest. He plays the violin while waiting.

“Every fairy tale needs a good old-fashioned villain,” Moriarty tells Sherlock, “I own secrecy.” Moriarty has the key to break into any place anywhere because he has a few lines of code that can open the doors. Moriarty wants to “solve our problem, our final problem.” He warns Sherlock that it’s going to start soon, the fall. “Falling’s just like flying except it has a more permanent destination” and Moriarty owes Sherlock a fall. “I owe you,” he tells Sherlock and this becomes his mocking retort throughout.

Two months later, Watson attempts to use the ATM and there’s a problem with his card. He goes to The Diogenes Club to find Mycroft, at Mycroft’s request. The tabloid The Sun is advertising an expose on Sherlock for Saturday. Mycroft notes that four top international assassins are moving into the Baker Street neighborhood and Mycroft, due to their personal history, can’t speak directly to Sherlock about this. Is this for real? Didn’t he just drag Sherlock out of Baker Street naked except for a white sheet earlier this season?

When Watson returns, he first finds a letter filled with bread crumbs and sealed with red wax and then he finds DI Greg Lestrade (Rupert Graves) is already with Sherlock. The ambassador’s children have been kidnapped and the ambassador has specifically requested Sherlock. In a short clip, we realize that Sherlock’s place is under surveillance. At the boarding school, Sherlock makes a few discoveries that the police miss. The children have received a copy of “Grimm’s Fairy Tales” and the envelope has the same red wax and seal–a magpie, as the letter filled with bread crumbs.

 After inspecting the scene of the crime, Sherlock and Watson return to the lab and with the help of Molly, make a chemical analysis of some of the evidence. “You look sad when he (John) can’t see you,” Molly notes. Her father, when he was dying, was the same way. Molly offers to help.

“What could I need from you?” Sherlock asks.

Sherlock finds the children, who are being poisoned slowly. The boy is unconscious, but the girl sees Sherlock and screams. Sherlock sees a sign from Moriarty: “IOU.” Lestrade’s assistant, Sgt. Sally Donovan (Vinette Robinson) becomes suspicious. From just a footprint, Donovan goes from “really amazing” to “unbelievable.”

Sherlock takes a cab, but haven’t we been troubled by cab drivers in the past? Remember the first episode, “A Study in Pink”? Moriarty appears in a video with a tale about “Sir Boast-a-lot.”  Moriarty gives a strong argument for being more modest.

Guess who is in the cab with Sherlock. In his shock, Sherlock is almost killed by an on-coming car, but he’s saved by an assassin, When Sherlock shakes the man’s hand, the man, is killed. Sherlock finds the camera that’s been transmitting his actions in Baker Street. Lestrade shows up and Sherlock knows that Donovan is pushing to have Sherlock arrested. Lestrade’s superior and Donovan push for Sherlock’s arrest and due to a misstep on the part of Mycroft, The Sun will publish an expose on how Sherlock is a fraud. The story is part truth and part lie.

And this disgrace is the fall and Reichenbach is Richard Brook.

“I love newspapers,” Moriarty declares, “fairy tales and pretty grim ones, too.”

Moriarty has one more ace up his sleeve, which I won’t reveal, but he criticizes Sherlock as being ordinary because he’s on the side of the angels. Yet Sherlock knows something about himself and Moriarty.

“You want me to shake your hand in hell? I will not disappoint you,” Sherlock says defiantly.

Someone definitely dies and Sherlock is assumed dead by Watson and Mrs. Hudson. Watson witnesses Sherlock’s suicide. Don’t fret. If you already know that a series 3 has already been contracted, then you know somehow Sherlock has survived and the question is not “if” but how. The episode makes this plain.

The writers didn’t want to leave the audience hanging as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did, which I think is unfortunate. But at least we’ll have an explanation to the how’s and why’s of everything and just what vital role Molly played during the next series.

What we do know:

  1. Molly has an important role in Sherlock’s survival.
  2. It was important for Watson to watch the suicide and that he was knocked unconscious by a cyclist is a clue.
  3. There was a truck that obscured Sherlock’s body after the fall but it was gone when Watson woke up and staggered toward the body.
  4. Sherlock must have ingested something affect his pulse.
  5. Mycroft betrayed Sherlock by revealing too much information, but isn’t Mycroft smarter than Sherlock?
  6. Moriarty pretended to be an actor named Richard Brook.
  7. Mycroft and the government made no move to show this was false.
  8. Moriarty had contracted with three assassins to kill three of Sherlock’s friends.
  9. Yet it’s hard to get guns into Great Britain.
  10. If Sherlock was willing to dupe Watson, what about Mycroft?

The problem with this episode as anyone who has worked with computers can tell you is that the computer key cannot be a few lines of code. It would be nice to believe that and Sherlock shouldn’t believe that either. Also, although the story is told as a flashback of sorts by Watson as he’s with his therapist, there are things revealed that Watson could not have known such as the video in the cab, the text messages from Moriarty and the assassins waiting for Moriarty’s signal or…more importantly, about Molly and Sherlock.

References: “The Final Problem.”

Moriarty only appears in two out of the  sixty stories Conan Doyle wrote about Sherlock: “The Final Problem” and “The Valley of Fear.” Moriarty is mentioned in “The Adventure of the Empty House,” “The Norwood Builder, “The Missing Three-Quarter,” “The Illustrious Client” and “His Last Bow.” Let’s hope that Moriarty doesn’t return or that Watson doesn’t wake up and this has all been a long dream.

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