RECAP & REVIEW: Sherlock; The Reichenbach Fall
[Note: This review grew into a small monster and is insanely long. I’m sure it’s enjoyable if you’ve been obsessing over Sherlock like I have for the past few weeks. Still, when will I learn to stop typing? Anyway, enjoy.]
What a way to wrap up one phenomenal season. I mean, wow guys. I tip my hat to the folks behind “The Reichenbach Fall" for making it one hell of a televised event. Were you to check the Sherlock tag on Tumblr you’d see such an incredible outpouring of emotion over this episode. And it is emotional, there’s no doubting that. Based on Arthur Conan Doyle’s story, “The Final Problem”, this episode written by Steve Thompson tackles the epic showdown between Sherlock and Moriarty and the death of the famous sleuth.
Sorry. I don’t really consider his death a spoiler. The story has only been available for like, 100 years. Spoiler warnings must lapse eventually.
Anyway, Sherlock dies. End of series, right? Nope, Steven Moffat and the BBC have a already confirmed Sherlock will get a third season. Soo - how does that work? Let’s continue.
"The Reichenbach Fall" beautifully handles the final problem between Sherlock and Moriarty. The query is, how can these two mad geniuses possibly coexist? The answer is they can’t, and Moriarty unleashes a brilliant plan to break Sherlock down, piece by piece, until there’s nothing left. I still think I’m confused by it at times for all its unexpected twist and turns.
This plot is masterful misdirection. To begin, Moriarty breaks into three, highly secure British institutions within minutes. He’s quite easily apprehended and reveals he achieved the phenomenal break in with a bit a computer code. The subsequent trial, and in particular Sherlock’s testimonial, are used to advertise the magic computer code to every criminal and terrorist worldwide. Moriarty’s acquitted because he threatened and bribed the jury, and once free he goes to 221 B Baker Street to pay Sherlock a visit. Sherlock makes tea.
While there, Moriarty leaves the super computer key code in the safest place there is, Sherlock’s mind. He leaves it through a rhythm he taps out with his fingers on an armrest, it can then be translated to binary code. Sherlock doesn’t even realize he has the code until much later. But he’s being hunted by international killers anyway, all of whom are trying to steal the key code.
That was step one to Sherlock’s destruction, step two is to frame him for kidnapping and attempted murder of an ambassador’s children without any evidence. It’s impressive, but Moriarty expertly plays off the London police’s already widely held suspicion of there being something more sinister to the world’s only consulting detective. Sherlock does most of the work for him by expertly deducing where the children are before the police have any clue. Then, when Sherlock’s about to question the little girl, she screams at the sight of him. Lestrade (Rupert Graves) concludes something about Sherlock must remind her of the kidnapper, everyone else sees it as conclusive evidence Sherlock should be a suspect. It goes so far as Sherlock getting arrested. John too, after he punches the Chief Superintendent in the face for calling Sherlock a “weirdo.” What a brave fool.
But, of course, Sherlock isn’t going to be arrested. He’s going to escape while taking John with him at gunpoint.
In fact, he’s goes sort of action hero-y with the guns in this episode. It’s sort of badass.
So we’ve got Sherlock and John on the run from international killers hunting them for Moriarty’s magical computer key code and the police searching to arrest them for possible involvement in a kidnapping case. That was step two, this is step three.
A journalist, Kitty Riley (Katherine Parkinson), is about to release an expose on Sherlock claiming he’s a fraud and providing plenty of facts from his past to make it sound believable. Sherlock and John pay her a visit, she reveals her source to be Richard Brooks, he’s then revealed to be Moriarty. Or rather, his story is Moriarty is a character Sherlock hired him, actor Richard Brook, to play. Sherlock’s a fake and so is Moriarty. Of course we don’t believe him, but Andrew Scott is so damn incredible that just for a moment you’ll wonder if Moriarty could be a lie. This is the story the papers are about the print, it’s the third step in Moriarty’s brilliant plan to destroy Sherlock.
But it’s also in this third step Moriarty makes a mistake that allows Sherlock to start piecing everything together. The alias, Richard Brook or rich brook, in German means reichenbach. The recovery of the painting, The Reichenbach Falls is how Sherlock received his nickname from the tabloids. The Reichenbach Falls is where Sherlock Holmes and James Moriarty have their final showdon in Doyle’s story, “The Final Problem.” In this episode, “The Reichenbach Fall,” Sherlock and Moriarty solve their final problem.
Gosh. The cleverness of this shows astounds me at times.
Anyway, Sherlock’s put it together that the fall Moriarty owes him is a death, a suicide. The final downfall of Sherlock Holmes. He seeks out the one person who can help him, Molly (Louise Brealey), the poor girl he’s always either ignoring or belittling who works at the morgue. Earlier when he and John were at the lab in St. Bartholomew’s working on the kidnapping case Molly called Sherlock out on looking sad whenever John isn’t looking. The harsh accusation completely catches Sherlock off guard, obviously due to the truth of it, and it forces him to consider Molly in a new light. It’s a humbling moment for Sherlock when he literally has no reply for her. He’s speechless. Which, really, for Sherlock? That’s rare.
I’m sure it’s because of this he seeks out Molly when he needs help in arranging his miracle. He needs her help to cheat death.
But while they’re working on his master scheme, John is using his detective skills to find out who was Moriarty’s source for all the vital information about Sherlock’s past to make his accusation stick. It’s was Mycroft. When they held Moriarty in prison and were trying to extract the code from him the only person who could get him to talk was Mycroft, but he’d only discuss Sherlock. Now, why the hell they ended up releasing Moriarty, I have no clue. They obviously never got the key from him, but whatever. The fact is Mycroft gave Moriarty the means to destroy his younger brother. What a dick. Sorry, I mean, I love ya Mark Gatiss, you’re fab and all, but seriously, dick move.
By now Sherlock has everything in place and awaits his confrontation with Moriarty. He texts him to meet him atop St. Bartholomew’s. In order to get John to leave his side, Sherlock arranged for someone, I’m guessing a paramedic Molly knows, to call John and tell him Mrs. Hudson’s been shot. It’s another clever allusion to “The Final Problem,” in where it’s Moriarty who arranges for Watson to be called away in order for him and Holmes to meet in private. John leaves to see to their land lady while Sherlock stays because’s he’s busy and want’s to be left alone, telling John, “Alone is what I have. Alone protects me.”
To which John responds, “No, friends protect people.”
And Sherlock looks so heartbreakingly sad at the door as John exits. Really, people should be throwing awards at Benedict Cumberbatch's feet for how much loss and sadness he's able to express with that look.
But for this episode, the king at making your heart break into a million tiny pieces is Martin Freeman. His fierce loyalty towards Sherlock through this entire episode, all the way through to the end, it’s never wavering and it’s endearing beyond words.
And I’ll get back to this real soon, but how does Moriarty complete he masterpiece?
On the roof of St. Bartholomew’s Sherlock and Moriarty have their final confrontation. And here’s where the true brilliance of his plan shines through. There is no key code. There’s nothing. Moriarty managed those break ins by finding willing accomplices who worked in the right places. It was all for nothing, the entire setup served only one purpose, to misdirect Sherlock long enough for Moriarty to place the pieces required to frame Sherlock as fraud and a criminal. It all played out so beautifully because of Sherlock’s one weakness, he always wants things to be clever. He saw a code in Moriarty’s tapping that was never there and deduced it must the key.
I thought it was a remarkable setup and it speaks to how well those behind this show understand their characters and the kinds of situations they can create. Again, I tip my hat to you.
And how does this lead to Sherlock’s death? Well, Moriarty has arranged for trained assassin’s to kill each of Sherlock’s friends, John, Mrs. Hudson, and Lestrade, if Moriaty’s clients don’t see Sherlock jump. Sherlock, always the clever devil, turns the tables on Moriarty saying there’s obviously a way to call of the hits since Moriarty say’s he’ll do so if Sherlock jumps. He decides to make Moriarty do it first, pointing out that while he may be on the side of the angels he isn’t one of them and will find a way to force Moriarty into calling off the assassins.
At this point the story takes a twist even I didn’t see. Moriarty shoots himself. I know, it should have been obvious seeing Moriarty dies in “The Final Problem.” But at this point you’re thinking, “Well, fuck. What can Sherlock possibly do now?”
Then John shows up. Watch belowthe intensely-emotional goodbye between Sherlock and John (unfortunately in three, 30 second clips because Youtube wants to play like that).
It’s a suicide note and it’s heartwrenching. And also wonderfully acted. Just give ALL THE AWARDS to Cumberbatch and Freeman.
It also highlights how Sherlock and John are a perfect example of a passionate homosocial relationship between two men. They have an intense friendship, one that is as important a part of their lives as a romantic relationship is commonly represented. They are partners, they might even be soul mates. Now, this isn’t to say that either of them are incapable of having a romantic, and therefor sexual relationship with someone of the other sex. What was Irene Adler all about, huh? And I’m not trying to say they’re gay as almost everyone assumes them to be, I really don’t think that’s the show’s intention at all. Even if it could be a little kinky and fun.
But these guys are close. Closer than brothers, and thinking of the sacrifice Sherlock makes and the hurt and grief it brings to John. Ugh, it frickin’ breaks my heart! My heart which Martin Freeman then crushes even more with this eulogy John gives at Sherlock’s “grave.”
Honestly. Martin Freeman for every award ever.
Oh, and look, Sherlock’s not dead! How he’d do it!?! Well, don’t forget he had to get help from his new BFF, Molly. Which we never actually saw. Hmm…
I could go on and on, but holy crap, I’ve already written so much more than I anticipated. I’ll leave the explanation of Sherlock’s Houdini-like escape to another. They make a better case of it than I could.
Now that I’ve prattle on for what feels like ages, what did you think of it? Were you moved to tears? I got a little choked up during the scenes I mentioned, the phone call and at the grave (damn those incredible actors), but I wasn’t in mourning for days like some folks. For one thing, he’s not dead, so we have this joyous reunion to look forward to. But there’s some real grieving going on in that Sherlock tag, I’m telling ya.
All in all, this episode was spectacular. I am simply suffering at the thought of how long we’ll have to wait before series three.
19 Notes/ Hide
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