Sherlock 2x03: The Reichenbach Fall

Warning! Danger, Will Robinson!
Here be SPOILERS for Sherlock series 2 episode 3!



It was always going to come. Steve Thompson gives us a reworking of a cult classic. ‘The Final Problem’, the short story in which we are told, by Watson, that his friend Sherlock Holmes is dead, was always going to be a milestone in the updated series. Like the story of the Titanic, everyone knows the facts of the case. Hounded by Moriarty, Holmes will arrange for Watson to be drawn away so that he can face Moriarty alone. Later, when Watson discovers he has been duped, he’ll run back and find what he thinks is evidence of Holmes’ death. The question is, would the update follow the well-known chain of events, or would it be more of a mystery? After all, we’d just had ‘The Hounds of Baskerville’, which was more a nod to the original than a retelling. What were we going to get this time?

The episode wastes no time at all - within the first thirty seconds we get Martin Freeman being terribly British (English?) and refusing to cry in front of his psychotherapist as he tells her that Sherlock Holmes is dead. She simply asks what happened. And then we get the whole tale.

Sherlock’s huge successes have caught the media in the last eighteen months since ‘A Study in Pink', his last big case being the recovery of a certain painting by Turner depicting ‘the falls of Reichenbach'. Cheeky and in-keeping with the spirit so far. To keep the light-hearted mood going, we have the pair back at 221B going through the newspaper, talking about ‘death frisbee’s (his deerstalker) and the press’ nicknames for them both - Sherlock the boffin, and John the ‘confirmed bachelor’. While Sherlock seems oblivious to the newspaper’s attention, it’s John who foreshadows the story by telling him that the press will one day turn on Sherlock - because they always do. Here we have But We’re Friends, Damn You! Moment #1:

Sherlock: It really bothers you?
John: What?
Sherlock: What people say - about me?
John: Yes.
Sherlock: I don’t understand - why would it upset YOU?
John: [pulls face of ‘you have no concept of feelings or in fact normal humanness’]

Jim the fish Moriarty shows up and commits ‘daylight robbery’, striking three places at once. He tells the world to set Sherlock on him, and successfully gets ‘the Reichenbach hero’ to testify against him. (Lovely use of Nina Simone’s ‘Sinnerman’ here.) John, again, is trying to be helpful in But We’re Friends, Damn You! Moment #2 as he tells Sherlock before the trial not to get up anyone’s nose:

Sherlock: You mean [I shouldn’t appear] intelligent?
John: Intelligent is fine - let’s give smartarse a wide berth.
Sherlock: I’ll be myself.
John: Are you listening to me?

There’s a nice shot of Moriarty asking for gum from the court bailiff as he’s in the dock - the look her gives her tells me that he looks at everyone the same way; like they’re test subjects. The next thing we know, Sherlock is being jumped in the toilets by a wannabe investigative reporter. The scene is especially interesting as the audience worries Sherlock’s missing something. He challenges her to read him, to see and observe, but she seems unable. Here Benedict Cumberbatch is dangerously charming on a Jeremy Brett level - not in the way he acts, but the way in which he waits for her to read him makes me think ‘tiger with eyes on a meal’. Back in the courtroom, Moriarty knows Sherlock knows him so very well. It’s much later, once the fun and games of the first day are over, that the pair retire to 221B and we get But We’re Friends, Damn You! Moment #3:

John: Don’t do that.
Sherlock: Do what?
John: The look. You’re doing the look again.
Sherlock: What look?
John: The look.
Sherlock: Well I can’t see it, can I? [John nods to mirror.] It’s my face…?
John: Yes and it’s doing a thing. You’re doing the ‘we both know what's really going on here’ face.
Sherlock: Well we do.
John: No - I don’t. Which is why I find the face so annoying.

Sherlock’s got wind of what he thinks is Moriarty’s scam - but he can’t be sure. When the ‘master criminal’ is acquitted, John calls Sherlock to warn him that he’s free. What does Sherlock do? Make tea and wait. When Moriarty comes calling it’s all so terribly polite and so very well filmed - the expressions, the silences, the well-chosen words. (I notice that Moriarty’s left-handed. Diabolical swine!) He warns Sherlock that ‘every fairy tale needs a good old-fashioned villain’, and to expect The Final Problem - of what to do about Moriarty and Sherlock. Coming clean about how he managed to get off when he had no evidence to prove himself innocent, he reveals he intimidated the jury (Are jurers allowed to watch TV during a case, then? I thought they weren’t allowed news or outside world goings-on whilst deliberating.), because all of his minions were so happy to please him:

Moriarty: Aren’t ordinary people adorable? Well you know - you’ve got John. I should get myself a live-in one. It’d be so funny.

Later he seems to do just that - but first things first. He warns Sherlock that he ‘owes’ the consultant detective. He owes him a fall. He makes a big thing about this - ‘I owe you’. Indeed, throughout the episode we see this written in the background, graffitied on walls or on show posters - it’s quite Harold Saxon of him.

Meanwhile, John is over at the Diogenes Club, and via Douglas Wilmer, who used to be Holmes in the 1960s, he finds Mycroft. It seems Sherlock’s big brother has been reading The Sun newspaper, which is threatening to expose Sherlock as some kind of fraud. On top of this, Mycroft shows John and Sherlock’s flat is surrounded by top international assassins, and that he should try to protect Sherlock for him. John’s attitude - that the two Holmes might be smart but they’re petty and childish when it comes to each other - is well-earned. On his way home, John encounters an envelope full of breadcrumbs, but is distracted by the news that Lestrade et al want Sherlock on a kidnapping case. During the course of their recovery, Sherlock finds a book of fairy tales and the audience shouts ‘Hansel and Gretel’. Sherlock’s own snippy comments are, as usual, excellent: ‘Brilliant, Anderson. Brilliant impression of an idiot’. John comes in with But We’re Friends, Damn You! Moment #4 as he warns Sherlock - with good reason - not to be so happy about a complex kidnapping case.

Enter Molly. While the three of them are working away in St. Bart’s lab and Sherlock refers to her as ‘John’ whilst distracted, she proves she’s smarter than every single person in the world; she can see Sherlock for what he is, because she actually looks. Sherlock appears genuinely shocked by her ability, or perhaps that he’s missed it all this time. He is visibly shaken, but you just know he’s filing it all away for future reference.

Through some predictably clever sleuthing on Sherlock’s part, the children are found and all seems well. (The girl, as it turns out, is the actress used to portray young, run-away River Song. Which means Moriarty kidnapped River Song! His talents know no bounds.) Sherlock seems to understand what John’s been saying to him about not being his usual self. However, when he tries to talk to the young girl, her screaming gives the impression that Sherlock is to be feared as if he is a kidnapper, making people wonder… Exactly as Moriarty wanted?

Sherlock gets a taxi alone because he says he doesn’t want John to talk - but is it because he, as Molly has rightly pointed out, doesn’t want John to observe him deal with his worry over this predicament? We see that Lestrade trusts Sherlock, correctly calling him CSI: Baker Street and defending the record of arrests he’s helped them with. It’s Sergeant Donovan who bangs on about Sherlock being too good - has she missed all of his amazing cases over the last eighteen months? Dozy tart. Or has Moriarty somehow got to her? Left something in her flat, left Derren Brown notes on her desk to plant the idea in her head? Or worse - is she working for him?

Things take a turn for the worse when Sherlock gets Moriarty reading him a nighttime story about how he’ll soon be destroyed. When he’s nearly run down, one of the international assassins Mycroft warned John about actually lunges in to save Sherlock. This leads him to believe that they’re all there to protect him, to keep something he has safe. However, John must confront Sherlock about what’s going on - the police turning on him, in But We’re Friends, Damn You! Moment #5:

Sherlock: I don’t care what people think.
John: You’d care if people thought you were stupid. Or wrong.
Sherlock: No. That would just make THEM stupid or wrong.
John: Sherlock, I don’t want the world believing you’re--
Sherlock: That I’m what?
John: A fraud.
Sherlock: You’re worried they’re right.
John: What?
Sherlock: You’re worried they’re right about me.
John: No.
Sherlock: That’s why you’re so upset. You can’t even entertain the possibility that they might be right. You’re afraid that you’ve been taken in as well.
John: No I’m not.
Sherlock: Moriarty is playing with your mind too. Can’t you SEE WHAT’S GOING ON?
John: No. I know you’re for real.
Sherlock: 100%?
John: No-one could fake being such an annoying dick all the time.

Lestrade, still believing in Sherlock despite being told by the Chief Superintendent to arrest him - calls John to warn him they’re coming. Now there’s another envelope containing a gingerbread man, burnt to a crisp, and the audience is singing ‘Run, run, as fast as you can! You can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man! I’m the gingerbread man and I’m out of the pan!’ Sherlock takes this as a hint as to what he should do next, what Moriarty wants from him - the next stage of the Final Problem.

Sergeant Donovan unwisely chooses to gloat in front of Watson: ‘What kind of man kidnaps those kids just so he can impress us by finding them?’ If she actually knew Sherlock, if she had idea one in the useless head of hers, she would know the answer to her own question. You ignorant, brainless wonder, Donovan. Do you really think for one minute that Sherlock would waste time and resources making up cases just to solve them? Boring! What’s the stimulus for Sherlock if he already knows the end? Perhaps Lestrade has some inkling of this - John obviously understands. His reaction to the copper in charge being an insensitive twat is brilliant - and again Martin Freeman delivers lines like a BAFTA winner: ‘Apparently it’s against the law to chin the Chief Superintendent,’, an act which successfully gets John arrested along with Sherlock. Whilst on the run - as Sherlock believes Moriarty wants him to be - they discover the assassins knocking about Baker Street all want a computer code that Moriarty has apparently secreted somewhere in Sherlock’s flat. He’s killed for spilling this information, of course.

Knowing the net is closing in, Sherlock and John head for the investigative reporter’s place, only to find that Moriarty is her source on her Sherlock exposé. Except he’s calling himself ‘Richard Brook’ and appears to have a long history in telling children’s stories. Superb. There’s one problem though:





Why would a ‘just the facts mam’ investigative reporter have that on her wall? And Moriarty is standing right underneath it! In the same room as his live-in ordinary person, desperate to show she can help him. It’s a brilliant scene, as Moriarty strives to convince everyone of his clever lie.

However, the characters’ faces give it all away. We can see in their expressions how Moriarty is enjoying his latest role - we can certainly see Sherlock’s face, when he tumbles to the fake name, go from shock and horror to admiration and sly understanding.
They both know - they know - that if you give people an inch of truth they will swallow the big lie wrapped around it. Now Sherlock knows the last thing Moriarty needs to do to complete this Final Problem - his friends. He knows he’s on his own. So he goes to see Molly.

Sherlock: 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 ok.
Molly: Tell me what’s wrong.
Sherlock: Molly, I think I’m going to die.
Molly: What do you need?
Sherlock: I wasn’t everything that you think I am, everything that I think I am. But you still want to help me. [Thinks: ‘Ordinary people are so attached to this ‘friends’ thing’?]
Molly: What do you need?
Sherlock: You.

What he neglected to add while the camera was watching was: ‘A bag of blood - about two pints should do and make sure it matches mine, a couple of paramedics you trust and a cadaver that could pass as me if you identify it for the records’.


Meanwhile, John goes to Mycroft to tear strips off him: ‘Your own brother and you blabbed about his entire life to this maniac [Moriarty]. This is what you were trying to tell me - ‘watch his back because I’ve made a mistake’. Moriarty wanted Sherlock destroyed. And you have given him the perfect ammunition.’ It’s fair to say that John’s gone from sidekick to BAMF extraordinaire - who else gets to stroll - I’m sorry, strut - into the private men’s club and tell the core of the British Government that he’s destroyed everything with his over-reaching ideas of serving the Greater Good. (As an aside: Mark Gatiss shouldn’t be a writer/co-creator and Mycroft - Mycroft should be smarter than Sherlock, but he doesn’t seem it in this update, perhaps because a writer can’t make himself cleverer than the lead. I’m reminded again how Stephen Fry should have been Mycroft in this adaptation, not the other one.)

Sherlock is stumped by this code thing. It’s John who taps his fingers whilst thinking - Sherlock observes and realises. And now Sherlock puts his master plan into action. He texts Moriarty to summon him to St. Bart’s rooftop. He organises the phone call that says Mrs Hudson’s been shot, successfully drawing John away. Although he accuses Sherlock of being heartless, he already knows that doesn’t compute for his friend:

John: Fine. Sit there, alone.
Sherlock: Alone is all I have; alone is what protects me. (He did not add for camera: ‘I know Moriarty is after my friends because people like John and Molly will never believe Sherlock is a fraud, and they’ll make others believe, and that would ruin Moriarty’s plan, so he has to kill them’).
John: But We’re Friends, Damn You! Moment #6: Friends protect people.
Sherlock doesn’t say ‘Which is what I’m doing, numptie, by sending you away.’ He doesn’t need to.

And so to the big finale, the big ending everyone has been getting so worked up about:
Moriarty against Sherlock.
Jim the fish versus Mr Deerstalker.



Top entertainment, brilliant editing and camerawork, wonderful, wonderful performances. Moriarty is critical of Sherlock; he makes him out to be dull, boring, conceited and arrogant in his dismissal of the tiny facts: ‘You always want everything to be clever.’ He quite rightly says that newspapers are the new fairy tales. But Sherlock is not done yet - a bit of reverse psychology on Moriarty produces answers he needs. It seems Moriarty has only identified three of Sherlock’s friends - John, Mrs Hudson, Lestrade - as ‘all of them’. He failed to specify Molly. Sherlock knows that Moriarty has overlooked her - which is why Sherlock used her and her unique placement to help him with his plan B. As Sherlock’s plan A to get Moriarty arrested seems more and more unlikely, he knows he’ll have to switch to plan B after all. Not a problem for the consulting detective - he tells Moriarty as such. He’s willing to do anything - anything - to ruin Moriarty, including hurting the people that call him ‘friend’ to do so. Moriarty makes him look over edge of the rooftop: ‘Look - you’ve got an audience now’. So he has - wait, is that Molly in the coat by the bench? But ah, here we go: ‘You’re not ordinary - you’re me. Thank you, Sherlock Holmes. Bless you.’ Is that what Moriarty wanted? Validation? Someone to tell him he’s not ordinary? Someone to make him feel that all this running around and planning has been worth it? Is Sherlock’s seal of approval that important to him?

Moriarty allegedly commits suicide - he’s left-handed, he had a good grip on Sherlock’s in a gentleman’s handshake and still managed to shoot himself. Clever. This leaves Sherlock with plan B - make the assassins believe he’s dead, so that his three friends aren’t shot in retaliation. Here’s where it gets sticky - quite literally.

We’ve seen Sherlock fake tears a few times in the cause of a case, and he’s not above play-acting or getting John to smack him in the face to get what he wants. He tells John to tell the world that he really is a genuine fake - he lies through his teeth, sells it all with a Single Perfect Tear, and says: ‘Tell Lestrade, TELL MOLLY. Stay where you are John, keep your eyes fixed on me.’ He doesn’t say: ‘So you won’t notice other people on the pavement below me, won’t have a chance to believe I could have survived the fall I’m about to make. I need you to believe what you see, so that you tell the world with your best stiff-upper-lip face that I am a fraud, Moriarty was never real, and I’m dead as Queen Victoria. Because destroying Moriarty’s legacy is more important than me - and my friends’ feelings’.) He falls, from the rooftop to the pavement, right in front of John’s disbelieving eyes. It’s Sherlock who’s arranged for the cyclist to daze John so that he can’t get there before other people get in his way. All he can do is test for a pulse - and see the ‘dead’ body up close. Then he is gently moved away, muttering and looking like he’s about to heave up his breakfast, dazed, confused, blind-sided. A magic stretcher turns up before anyone’s called for it. And as Sherlock is taken away, it starts to rain - rain that continues right through to the end of the episode. A beautifully shot scene, without question - and skilfully edited.

Throughout the sad piano music and mournful colours we see Mycroft reading about it in The Sun. Was he in on it? Perhaps - Sherlock was very careful to keep up the idea that he would not ask Mycroft for help, and Mycroft, in turn, made it known he would not step in to help his own brother. Making sure their alibis were straight? Setting the scene well? Time will tell.

Purr wee John is back at the flat - and there must be hell of a gale coming down that chimney, the way the poker's swinging. He could well be turning it over and over in his mind, or just not wanting to think about how he’s lost his ‘best friend’. He sees his shrink and she urges him to get words out that he wanted to say - that he doesn’t believe Sherlock to be fraud? He can’t say that in public; it was Sherlock’s dying wish that he tell the world he was a fraud. He can’t tell anyone his real feelings - not yet. At the funeral he states he can’t go back to the flat ‘at the moment’; he’s angry. Mrs Hudson complaining about Sherlock’s habits is priceless, as is John saying he’s not actually that angry. Once she’s gone, he’s afforded the opportunity to put a few things straight: ‘No-one will ever convince me that you told me a lie. There.’ He does not add: ‘I said it’. He doesn’t need to. What he does add, in his final But We’re Friends, Damn You! Moment, is: ‘I was so alone and I owe you so much.’

There’s a lot of speculation surrounding that final scene; he loses it for a moment over Sherlock’s grave, then composes himself and leaves in a very military fashion. I don’t see someone who knows Sherlock is actually alive and is angry with him for pretending; I see a man broken by the loss and unwilling to accept it. I see desperation in those final words that John says to the grave, not belief.

I also see a whopping great beating on the cards for Sherlock when, in series three, he makes his re-appearance. How it will happen is anyone’s guess - rounding up the last of Moriarty’s gang? Solving a case and proving he’s innocent, that Moriarty was real? Who knows with this writing team - but when John finds out he’s alive, there’s going to be bloody hell to pay. Unfortunately, Sherlock has the right of it; John needs to believe he’s dead, or he’ll give it away somehow. He needs John to labour under the assertion until such time as the charade has served its purpose - and only Sherlock knows what that purpose is, right now. Hopefully, with series three starting possibly in 2013, we’ll know too.

So, in summation? My only gripe is that we see Sherlock at the end. Simply having a camera peer through the bushes to watch John from an unknown person’s perspective would have been affective - a shiny black shoe behind a tree would have been enough. After all, Sherlock was propping his feet up on every table available during the episode, so it’s not like no-one would recognise his shoes. I felt that showing us his face was unnecessary - except for the marked lack of an expression. That was interesting. As for the rest? Bloody good entertainment, and the best of British to boot. Don’t get me started on CBS’ plans to make an updated Sherlock Holmes series - that’s a lambast for another day. Suffice to say, where else in the world do you get ninety minutes of such high quality entertainment, where the dumbing-down is kept to a minimum and everyone’s capable of paying attention for an hour and a half without the need for adverts or breaks to let people catch their breath? If this isn’t the best BBC offering since Life on Mars, then I’ve missed out on some quality television and I demand to know why. I can’t wait for series three to start, but I understand Martin Freeman has to do some Hobbiting first, and Benedict Cumberbatch will be busy doing some villainous cackling in the new Star Trek film. I approve. Andrew Scott has given us the most immeasurably fun - and lunatic - Moriarty I’ve ever seen and I adore what he’s done with the character. Yes, I said ‘adore’. I don’t use the word ‘adore’ very often - but it’s warranted just this once.

And that, finally, is all the news that’s fit to print. I need to go get some fresh tea and hope that Moriartea doesn’t appear to spill it for me.

Peach and lube, people. Peach and frelling lube.

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1 'aye's:

Anonymous said...

Great summary! Another thing that I noticed was the giant truck which was parked at the sidewalk where Sherlock fell. It would have obstructed John's view from where he was standing so he would not be able to see the moment when Sherlock hit the ground. I'm thinking the pulse could have been stopped very easily with the rubber ball Sherlock was playing with before in the lab. If placed corrected under the arm, it could give the appearance of a stopped pulse. The thing that does bug me is how Sherlock survived the physical fall itself. It's not a particularly tall building he jumped off of but it is tall enough such that if someone fell off, there would be some sort of serious injury. Either he really did fall, sustain injury and was able to fully recover, or there was some sort of cushion to protect him. When we see him at the end I did see some sort of scar on his neck which was visible which suggests the prior.