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Sherlock: The Reichenbach Fall

Moriarty: “Every fairytale needs a good old fashioned villain.”

After 'The Blind Banker' and 'The Curse of the Black Spot', I was less than optimistic about Steve Thompson's chances of scripting a gripping finale. Yet as soon as I saw Watson struggling to cope with his grief in that psychiatrist's chair, I knew that I was going to love this episode. Not only did Thompson create an intriguing and ultimately compelling season conclusion, he also managed to achieve the impossible -- he made me love Moriarty. Which is some achievement considering the frosty reception I gave him last season.

This seems to have been something of a Marmite episode. A friend texted me ten minutes before the end to inform me that she’d lost interest, yet I found it utterly absorbing. I thought Andrew Scott was superb. His versatility was astounding. He switched from madman, to simpleton, to brooding genius, with perfect fluidity. The looks he kept throwing Sherlock when no one was looking were chilling. I’m not sure whose decision it was to tone down Scott's high-pitched histrionics, but it was the making of his character. Moriarty was easily the weakest link of 'The Great Game'. Tonight, he almost stole the show.

What a pity he had to die. By Moriarty's own admission, Holmes is nothing without him. That’s if he is dead. If a master detective can fall from a roof into a crowded street and survive, then a master criminal can shoot himself through the head and live. (Although Scott's recent interview on RTÉ seems to suggest he's done with the character.) Moriarty’s final action was a fascinating act of hatred and defiance. So overpowering was his need to win, so desperate his desire to transcend the mundane, that he was even willing to forfeit his life. Luckily, Sherlock was several steps ahead -- but, even the great detective himself couldn't have predicted the lengths Moriarty was prepared to go to best him.

How did Sherlock escape death? I think we can safely assume with Molly's help. Watson didn't actually see Holmes hit the ground. We did, though whether he hit the pavement directly, or first rolled off some kind of strategically placed safety net (possibly the conveniently parked wagon full of bulging refuse sacks), I'm not sure. And what part did the solitary cyclist play in the deception? (You see what I did?) Why were John's ears ringing and his speech slurred? Was it simply a side effect of being knocked down (presumably to buy time to stage the illusion), or did the cyclist somehow manage to administer some kind of mild toxin à la last week's Baskerville gas?

Sherlock's behavioural similarities with Molly's father probably explains why she feels so drawn to him. It's obviously nothing to do with his charm, tact, or his superior grasp of social etiquette. I found Sherlock's kind words to Molly utterly charming. He may not be able to give her what she wants, but he was finally able to give her what she deserves -- his respect. Tonight, she was the key to Sherlock's survival, which I thought was a lovely pay-off. Moriarty thought he knew Sherlock’s weakness -- his friends -- but made the fatal mistake of underestimating Molly’s importance. Hardly surprising, considering the way Sherlock treats her.

Yet, Molly does count. Despite occasional bouts of social awkwardness, she can read Sherlock like a book. Her analysis of him in the lab was startlingly accurate. It even flummoxed Sherlock. Sherlock obviously felt the impending weight of having to first deceive and then be without Watson -- his tears atop St. Bart's were proof of that. He certainly wasn’t mourning his own mortality, as he had absolutely no intention of dying. Clearly, Sherlock's not as detached from his feelings as he thinks. John's refusal to believe the worst of him seemed to provoke an unexpected emotional response.

How he managed to fake having no pulse, I’m not altogether sure. Molly's medical expertise? And let's not forget the little girl. Why did she scream when she saw Sherlock? Was Moriarty wearing some kind of Sherlock mask? It must have been awfully convincing close up. Could Sherlock have jumped to safety, substituted his own body with a cadaver (courtesy of Molly), and had Molly (or one of his homeless network) dress it in a Sherlock mask and coat? There would be a delightful symmetry in Sherlock defeating Moriarty using his own methods. It would also explain the lack of pulse. Sherlock could even have been the guy on the bicycle -- both his face and hair were suspiciously out of focus.

Sherlock's inability to understand social interaction always makes me smile. He looked utterly baffled as to why gratitude would be the correct response to such useless gifts. (Not to be confused with useless gits.) And Martin Freeman was magnificent as the ever loyal Watson. Him struggling to maintain a stiff upper lip, whilst visibly crumbling inside, was worth a thousand tears. But Watson's already had his miracle. Sherlock lives! Thank you Steve Thompson for sparing us from what could have been another cruel cliffhanger. And thank you for confounding expectation. You did yourself proud.

Following the season finale, both Moffat and Gatiss Tweeted in unison that a third season has already been commissioned -- so I guess we got our miracle, too. Let's hope we don't have to wait another 18 months to see it.

Bits and Pieces:

-- Mycroft reads The Sun? That's somehow more shocking than his betrayal of Holmes.

-- I don't remember the storytellers on Jackanory being quite so mental.

-- I liked how Watson, even after Sherlock's death, still wouldn't believe his story. Like Molly, Watson knows what kind of man he is.

-- The hat’s back -- or was. Holmes later took it home and tried to punch the shit out of it.

-- It made sense that Moriarty/Sherlock's final confrontation would be a psychological tussle as opposed to a physical one.

-- Holmes' fall from the top of St Bart's was reminiscent of the falling scene from Granada TV's adaptation of 'The Final Problem'.

-- I loved those scenes of Moriarty in 221B Baker Street. Him poking fun at Holmes' violin playing, before choosing the chair he didn't offer, all contributed to the atmosphere of needle.


Watson: “My best friend, Sherlock Holmes, is dead.”

Holmes: “First mistake. James Moriarty isn’t a man at all. He’s a spider. A spider at the centre of a web. A criminal web with a thousand threads and he knows precisely how every single one of them dances.”

Moriarty: “You need me, or you’re nothing. Because we’re just alike, you and I. Except you’re boring. You’re on the side of the angels.”

Moriarty: “How hard to do you find it, having to say I don’t know?”
Sherlock: “I don’t know.”

Holmes: “Brilliant, Anderson.”
Anderson: “Really?”
Holmes: “Yes. Brilliant impression of an idiot.”

Molly: “Alkaline.”
Holmes: “Thank you, John.”
Molly: “Molly.”
Holmes: “Yes.”

Molly: "You’re a bit like my dad. He’s dead."

Watson: “I know you for real”
Holmes: “One hundred percent.”
Watson: “Nobody could fake being such an annoying dick all the time.”

Holmes: “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 okay. Molly, I think I’m going to die."
Molly: "What do you need?"
Holmes: "I wasn’t everything that you think I am. Everything that I think I am. But you still want to help me."
Molly: "What do you need?"
Holmes: "You."

Holmes: "Alone is what I have. Alone protects me."
Watson: "No, friends protect people."

Moriarty: “All my life I’ve been searching for distractions. And you were the best distraction, and now I don’t even have you because I’ve beaten you. And you know what? In the end, it was easy. It was easy. Now I’ve got to go back to playing with the ordinary people, because it turns out you’re ordinary – just like them.”

Moriarty: "I love newspapers. Fairytales. And grim ones too."

Holmes: "I may be on the side of the angels; but don’t think for one second that I am one of them."

Holmes: "Nobody could be that clever."
Watson: "You could."

Holmes: "Goodbye, John."

Watson: "No one will ever convince me that you told me a lie. I was so alone, and I owe you so much."

Watson: "There’s just one more thing. One more thing. One more miracle, Sherlock – for me -- don’t be dead. Would you do..? Just for me? Just stop it... stop this!”
Also posted at The Time Meddler.


  1. The wait will be excruciating... and now Doctor Who to fill the void until the fall.

  2. I totally agree about Moriarty. He's gone from zero to hero in just three episodes. And now he's dead? Shit!!!

  3. Good finale but if I hear one more poster on twitter act like this is the best show in the world, I'll scream. I like the show a lot but there are better.

  4. Like what, Shawn? Brothers and Sisters? The Sarah Jane Adventures? I think not. Let people enjoy themselves and stop being such a grouch. It was a great finale. Let's celebrate that.

  5. Is it not possible that Sherlock threw Moriarty's heavily disguised body off the roof? That would explain him not having a pulse. Like the idea of Sherlock escaping on a bike, tho. I just rewatched this episode and his face was oddly blurred

  6. Great finale. I agree that Moriarty was miles better this series, but at the same time, I'll be glad if he really is gone - he's dominated so much of the show, it'll be nice to see some stories that don't revolve around him!

    (Interesting how both recent adaps did this story, but in one, Watson was married, so he's sad but he'll be OK, whereas in this one, he's totally alone and broken)

  7. Every once in a while something comes along that conventional 'words' are just not good enough for. So you have to make up all new ones. This is one of those occasions and I've decided to go with Fabtasmigorical!

  8. in regards to the lack of pulse, i think that can be explained by a simple magic trick. putting a ball under your left armpit and squeezing it in place with your arm can stop the feeling of a pulse in your wrist. try it, it quite fun! sherlock was playing with a ball earlier in the lab when watson came in.

    i'm fairly certain that it's him on the ground, so i'm still puzzled about how he staged it. can't wait for series 3!

  9. Am I the only one to remember a mannequin hanging from Sherlock's ceiling?

  10. Funny you should mention that, migmit, I was reading an interview with SteeMo this morning and he commented that people keep missing the obvious clue. Grace's rubber ball theory could be it, as could your mannequin observation. Would you care to elaborate. Don't just tease us and then run for the hills ;o)

  11. Paul, I'd love to elaborate in some way, but I'm not sure how. I'm just assuming they follow Anton Chekhov's advice: "One must not put a loaded rifle on the stage if no one is thinking of firing it". I have virtually no idea of how and when was this mannequin substituted for real Sherlock and when was it disguised as Sherlock. The only thing I'm certain is that all this conversation with Moriarty was staged by Sherlock.

  12. A horrible thought: what if Sherlock is really dead and the man we saw on the cemetery is a double used by Moriarty to scare the kids?

  13. "We love comments!"

    Yes, apparently as long s they agree with yours and are not critical in any way.... (Being the longtime fan that I am, I'm really shocked and disappointed my post has been deleted!).

    Was it the fact I linked to another (more insightful) review? Or that i dared to point out you needed a spell-checker? This is just unbelievable.

  14. Hi Dijon,

    We do love comments. But we don't like meanness. We welcome disagreement, but we ask that it's phrased as disagreement rather than invective, insults, and spamming other people's reviews.

    In the future, if you would like to disagree, please do so. Simply asserting that insight is to be found elsewhere, and implying that this review has numerous spelling errors without pointing them out, isn't the best way to keep the site the way we like it: a positive place to discuss our different points of view on these shows.

  15. Dijon, it wasn't so much the link to another site -- which doesn't make me happy, by the way -- but the general spirit of meanness of your post and the comment about massive amounts of spelling errors. (One word was misspelled. One.) If you are indeed a fan of this site, you would probably be aware that comments like yours are indeed usually deleted, and I won't apologize for it.

  16. Finally got to watch this a few days ago. And I'll just say my usual WOW and BRILLIANT. Scott, Cumberbatch, and Freeman were all just spot-on. Watson's grief at the end at the grave...he had me in tears.
    I have since read a lot of theories on the ending and how Sherlock did it...looking forward to the reveal next season!

  17. "Is it not possible that Sherlock threw Moriarty's heavily disguised body off the roof?"

    Given that Moriarty had snipers watching, Anonymous, you are absolutely correct that it was not possible.

  18. Thank you for a fantastic website Billie and thank you to Paul Kelly for reviewing such a fun and enjoyable series!! My husband and I have only just caught up with it and eagerly waiting for series 3.

    Here are our brief thoughts for what happened after Sherlock's fall: we think he fell on that small lorry carrying what appeared to be soft bin bags (either driven by Molly or someone else) and he then "staged" his corpse on the ground (Molly providing the blood perhaps?). Whether the bike driver was also in it or not, we're not sure: his purpuse could have been to slow Watson so that he'd arrive after the paramedics and wouldn't have a chance to "inspect" Sherlock's body...

    Grace's comments about the ball being used to "fake" the lack of pulse is probably spot on!

    Not sure if the mannequin at the start of the episode played a role in all of this. We'll have to wiat until series 3 to have "the" explanation!

    Thanks again for all those reviews without which our viewing experience wouldn't be complete!

  19. Just now watching the series. Was dry-eyed as Sherlock fell, since clearly he wasn't actually dying. Was sobbing by the end, as Freeman did such a wonderful job portraying Watson's grief. Good times. The advantage to joining the series late is that I get to go watch the next season now!


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