“It is with a heavy heart,” Doctor John Watson wrote in 1893, “that I take up my pen to write these the last words in which I shall ever record the singular gifts by which my friend Mr. Sherlock Holmes was distinguished.”
The rain outside the window. Eighteen months since John’s last appointment with his therapist. “You know why I’m here. I’m here because – ” He handwaves the end of the word off in a puff of unspeaking pain. “Sher – my best friend – Sherlock Holmes – is dead.”
Making Moriarty a convincing character is so difficult that Arthur Conan Doyle didn’t try.
“You have probably never heard of Professor Moriarty?” said he.
“Ay, there’s the genius and the wonder of the thing!” he cried. “The man pervades London, and no one has heard of him. That’s what puts him on a pinnacle in the records of crime.”
Moriarty and Sherlock over tea together: Falling’s just like flying except there’s a more permanent destination.
I assumed with the build-up of Sherlock as tabloid hero, and John’s warning that Sherlock had stopped being a private detective and become a tabloid star, with all the consequent potential for disaster, that the Fall of the 2012 Reichenbach was to be one that Leveson might visit in his inquiry – and wouldn’t that be a spectacle, John Watson and Sherlock Holmes giving evidence before Leveson?
Two absurd things about this episode: that there were so many empty flats immediately available in Baker Street (Great location, as John says: Jubilee line’s handy) for top assassins to rent at short notice. The other, that Mycroft was foolish enough to let out so much personal information about Sherlock to Jim Moriarty. As someone noted on Twitter when I tweeted that #Mycroftisamoron, it’s so foolish that you think Mycroft must have had some Chekov’s Gun motivation, much like UMQRA, smoking for the third season.
The reappearance of the policewoman in the first episode, at first seeming only a continuity nod, turns out to be a true Chekov’s Gun – she was suspicious of Sherlock then, and she’s suspicious of Sherlock now, and this time she thinks she’s right – and all the evidence comes together.
“Are Sir Boastalot’s stories even true?”
“You know what my point is: you just don’t want to think about it.”
And there, I thought when I first watched it, there’s the Fall of this Reichenbach. But, as Moriarty himself says when Sherlock makes the mistake of getting the second cab (“Neither the first nor the second which may present itself”, as the wiser 19th century Holmes warned Watson) this is not the final problem.
Three bullets. Three gunmen. Three victims. There’s no stopping them now. Unless my people see you jump.
If that was not enough, the narrative inevitability of Sherlock’s brief exchange with Molly Hooper, exactly at the point in the story where Spock would stop and place his palm against McCoy’s face and murmur Remember, and thus set us up for four more Trek movies, leads us to know: Sherlock survived. Molly helped – the one friend that Moriarty did not know about and did not include on his list to kill.
Or did he? Mycroft identifies four top international killers. Moriarty tells Sherlock that there are three gunmen. So what task has the fourth been set?
So, the theories: How did Sherlock survive the fall? (The BBC, perhaps feeling they could do without the kind of outraged British fannishness that Arthur Conan Doyle got when he killed Holmes off in a blaze of glory, let us all know for sure that indeed Sherlock is alive and well.)
The first and most obvious answer is the classic one: Sherlock survived the fall because he never fell. The body was Moriarty’s, wrapped in Sherlock’s wonderful flapping overcoat, and the limbs that seemed to flail as the body fell were merely flapping in the wind.
Molly Hooper could perhaps have provided a dead body. (Or thrown Moriarty’s off the roof.) If someone were to pronounce the dead body Sherlock, she would have both the authority and – since Sherlock asked her – the inclination.
If Steven Moffat follows Doyle, there’ll be no real explanation for John – only the reappearance and the instant departure for a new adventure.
Doctor Watson wrote of Holmes “whom I shall ever regard as the best and the wisest man whom I have ever known.”
“You were the best man, the most human human being that I’ve ever known, and no one will ever convince me that you told me a lie. I was so alone. And I owe you so much.”
Doyle does not dwell on the cruelty of the Holmes brothers allowing Doctor Watson to believe Holmes dead for three years, merely because his grief would make the charade more convincing.
I suggested Sunday night that Sherlock gave Molly his katra, and the next trilogy of episodes will be The Search for Sherlock, the Voyage Holmes, and the Final Frontier. After all, fans who’ve read the stories know he’s coming back. But watching that last scene again, even seeing that yes, Sherlock did it wanting to save John, and Mycroft, and Mrs Hudson, from three killers – It’s still cruel.
“Don’t be dead.”