John: That was amazing.
Sherlock: That's not what people normally say.
John: What do they normally say?
Sherlock: "Piss off."
Forth and (probably) last post on Sherlock series 2. It wasn’t as good as series 1. The first series, excluding of course the awful second episode, was innovative, smart and most of all it delivered a really interesting portrait of Sherlock - a dangerously smart, dangerously bored, asexual, high-functioning dysfunctional with a former drug problem whose only friend until he meets one Dr John Watson is a skull. Yes, he is the show’s hero, but all the actual hero shots of him are mixed up with the more interesting shots of his absolute bewilderment at normal human emotions and social boundaries and his lonely isolation in a world where nobody wants to listen to what he has to say, except when they can catch a criminal by doing so.
Then he meets John and they change each others lives. As the writers of the show explains, underneath all the things you always think of when you think about Sherlock Holmes – deductions, Victorian London, etc - there is this extraordinary story of one of the deepest male friendships ever written. That’s what series 1 was about.
Series 2 lacks some of the interesting character studies that series 1 had. There is the theme of asexuality in A Scandal in Belgravia and of fear in The Hounds of Baskerville, but any actually interesting development of Sherlock’s character happens in Reichenbach Fall.
The cliffhanger in Reichenbach Fall is pretty much the whole episode. It’s basically what the whole episode revolves around, which makes it a bit slow compared to, say, The Great Game. At which point Sherlock actually becomes aware of what Moriarty’s plan for him is is unclear, but probably pretty early on. Moriarty sure gives Sherlock enough clues.
There is also the possibility that Sherlock knows at least some of it before the episode starts. As we’ve seen in the episode before, Mycroft has had Moriarty as his prisoner for some time, and it doesn’t seem too farfetched that he and Sherlock deduces part of what Moriarty’s plan is and together fed him the information about Sherlock’s life. Sherlock hates the fame and the press and the photo ops and the gossip (a social commentary on British tabloid press in general and the phone hacking scandal of 2011 in particular?) and he doesn’t care what people say or think about him – or understand why John does. In Sherlock’s mind, Moriarty was probably only doing him a favor by defaming him and turning the press against him.
How did Sherlock fake his death?
Well, theories abound on the Internet. Probably significant to how he did it are:
- Molly. She does post-mortems. She could be able to convincingly make someone appear dead when they aren’t.
- The homeless network. Moriarty sayings “looks like you’ll get an audience” as some people seem to gather on the street below seems significant. These people could be part of Sherlock’s homeless network. They are also the same people that surround Sherlock’s body afterwards, and stop John, the doctor, from taking Sherlock’s pulse.
- The cyclist. Also a part of Sherlock’s homeless network? He crashes into John at a very convenient moment. Could he also have injected him with something? John seems very dazed and out of it when he gets up, despite that he must be all adrenaline at that point.
- The kidnapped girl screams when she sees Sherlock. Does Moriarty know a way to fake Sherlock’s face? Does he have a mask of Sherlock? Or a dummy? Doyle uses a Sherlock-dummy in the book where Sherlock comes back. And if so, is Sherlock using it to fake his death?
- Sherlock directs John precisely where he must stand as he jumps. He also tells him to keep his eyes on him. It’s important that John thinks Sherlock is dead, because Sherlock has to make sure John’s life is not at risk after he disappears from it.
- Mycroft. Mycroft has played an important role in Moriarty’s plan to bring Sherlock down. It seems strange that Mycroft wouldn’t have figured out what Moriarty would do with the information about Sherlock that Mycroft fed him. Much more likely is that Mycroft and Sherlock figures out Moriarty’s plan and Sherlock, sick of the press and of being famous, recognizes that Moriarty is giving him the best possible opportunity to escape it all and to bring Moriarty’s organization down without putting the people in his life at risk. Mycroft telling John that he made a mistake by giving Moriarty information about Sherlock is just to keep John in the dark about what the brothers are planning.
Other questions that remain from the series 2 finale are:
Is Moriarty really dead? Probably. Being shot in the head is usually the movie equivalent of really-dead-dead. Also, Moriarty seems to have played out his role. Sherlock has beaten him. Their game seems to be over.
If he hadn't managed to figure out Moriarty's plan ahead, would Sherlock still have jumped in order to save John, Mrs Hudson and Lestrade? Well, that’s it, isn’t it? That's the question. Would he have?