And so, after A Scandal in Belgravia and The Hounds of Baskerville, the final episode of series two of Sherlock draws to a close… and how on earth do I review that without spoiling it for the uninitiated? I can’t even mention the opening scene!
Obviously The Reichenbach Fall is based on the short story The Final Problem, the first and last meeting (on paper) between Holmes and Moriarty. (He also appears in the written-later-but-set-earlier The Valley of Fear, but he doesn’t meet Holmes). I figure that story is reasonably fair play to spoil, so if you haven’t even read that, look away now.
Still here? Good.
OK, as we all know, in The Final Problem, Holmes has succeeded in arranging for the capture of Professor James Moriarty’s gang and goes on a quick hideaway to Switzerland. Moriarty follows him and, after luring Watson away, has a bit of a fight with Holmes and they go over the edge of the cliff at the top of the Reichenbach Falls. All this while wearing a top hat and opera cloak, if you’ve seen the Jeremy Brett version. I’ve reviewed the short story here, so you can read my issues with it if you like.
If you’ve watched Sherlock so far, you know that Jim Moriarty, criminal mastermind extraordinaire, has been lurking in the background for a while. Well, he explodes into the foreground by breaking into the Tower of London, the Bank of England and Pentonville Prison simultaneously. It seems he has a key that can open any door… but what is the nature of that key exactly? Moriarty is arrested and on trial in the Old Bailey, but his defence refuses to give any case at all. Surely this is the end of everyone’s favourite nutjob of a criminal? Meanwhile, Sherlock is becoming more and more famous – he is now famed for recovering a painting by Turner of The Reichenbach Falls. But when you’re on a pedestal, it’s very easy to fall off…
Right, that’s about five minutes out of the ninety summarised, and if you want more, go and find a more spoilery review. This does follow at times the structure of The Final Problem – there are similarities and differences but even if you think you know where it is going, there are still surprises in store.
- Moriarty’s arrest
- Holmes and Molly
- John and Mycroft
- The updated version of the Holmes and Moriarty conversation in Baker Street
- Moriarty’s bedtime story
- Kitty Reilly’s source
- Molly again
- The rooftop
- The updated version of the note
- The reason for the Fall – in more ways than one
And so much more…
But… I’m going to be careful how I word this. When a magician performs a trick, you don’t expect an explanation. When a detective solves a crime, you expect one. By the nature of the conclusion, that explanation will be at least a year in arriving and will belong in a different story. Not the obvious “How” explanation, that’s a part of the equivalent of The Empty House, but the “How Did He Know?” part. It looks for a while at the end that Jim has completely bamboozled Sherlock, but from the final section, we know he didn’t. It would have been nice to see how much Sherlock had worked out. I have absolutely no idea how that would have fitted in without completely derailing the narrative, but I do hope that is included in the future somehow.
But that’s the minor gripe out of the way. The cast were, as ever, outstanding, not just Cumberbatch and Freeman, but also Rupert Graves as Lestrade, Louise Brearly as Molly and the wonderful Una Stubbs as Mrs Hudson. The writing was first rate – a big step up for Steve Thompson from The Blind Barber in series one. I do hope that we don’t have to wait too long for the next series – and there is one, in case you didn’t know. That sneaky Moffat and Gatiss have known since series two was commissioned that there would be a series three – they just didn’t mention it.
So, the best thing on television for ages? Without a shadow of a doubt… Just a shame that a certain character won’t be in the next series…