Sherlock: Season 2 concluded with a more somber episode, “The Reichenbach Fall,” but one that was nevertheless suspenseful and fun. Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) faced his deadliest foe yet – a popularity contest. This is a classic arc for heroes – the fall from grace/public favor, and the subsequent race to catch the real criminal while clearing his own name. Our favorite consulting detective fell repeatedly over the course of this final problem, sometimes metaphorically, sometimes literally, but never completely – how could he?
Boffin Sherlock began the episode pretty well, having just solved the Reichenbach case which sets him on the verge of being super duper famous. We then see him squirm his way through a series of photo ops for the other high-profile cases he’s been solving, and of course neither he nor Watson (Martin Freeman) really enjoys this attention. Oh, the agony of receiving thanks, publicity, and gifts he doesn’t need (the present from Scotland Yard of his very own deerstalker hat was my favorite). As Sherlock rips into the lameness of the “ear hat” and is generally annoyed by all of these distractions, Watson becomes more concerned with the inevitable backlash his best friend will soon experience. He doesn’t much trust the press, and not just because they refer to him as the bachelor.
Of course Moriarty (Andrew Scott) appears to cut Sherlock down to size. He pulls off a triple heist involving the Crown Jewels, a prison and a bank, all for the purpose of ultimately sullying his rival’s good(ish) name. During the trial we get a glimpse of how off-putting Sherlock can be to people who aren’t Watson, Mrs. Hudson (Una Stubbs), Lestrade (Rupert Graves), Molly Hooper (Louise Brealey), or his brother. Was anyone really surprised to see him end up jailed for contempt? He even crossed an intrepid reporter who pretended to be a member of the Sherlock Fan Club, and this proved to come back to haunt him when she totally went on a smear campaign against him. Did she think that would repel him less? But being unlikable to “ordinary” people was only the start of his problems.
The real trouble started with The Gingerbread Case. Two kids were kidnapped, and Sherlock easily solved this not-boring case with just footprints – though the kids weren’t exactly grateful since the girl screamed her little head off once she saw him for the first time. And then the awful people at Scotland Yard, who have been jealous of him all this time, started to wonder whether Sherlock had actually committed the crimes in order to impress everyone by solving them. You can imagine how this seed grew once it was planted, especially since those jealous types were just waiting for the opportunity to take him down. Even Lestrade couldn’t prevent him from getting arrested (though he tried – how sweet), but Sherlock was very capable himself in that respect, taking Watson as a “hostage” and running away. They reminded me of grown up versions of Hansel and Gretel, handcuffed and hand in hand (ok).
While on the lam, they looked up that reporter again, and discovered that her source was none other than Moriarty, who had transformed himself into an actor – oh, the lengths to which he will go in his villainy. And to add to the craziness, there was a whole host of international assassins surrounding Sherlock – very Order of Taraka of Moriarty, I think. Feeling cornered, Sherlock seeks unexpected assistance from Molly, who proved more than able to meet this challenge (was it the lunch of chips that he treated her to?). They reach an understanding offstage, and then we come to the final showdown between Sherlock and Moriarty, on the rooftop of the hospital.
The arch-villain forces him to commit suicide – otherwise he will kill his friends, all three of them. Watson is a gimme, but Mrs. Hudson and Lestrade would be pleased to know that they had been upgraded from landlady and handler, respectively. And so, after saying farewell to Watson, Sherlock plunges to his death. Not. Who is that man watching Watson fall to pieces over Sherlock’s grave? Of course it’s Sherlock – it’s obvious how he cheated death. Or it’s supposed to be. The producer has said that he put all the clues in there, so maybe someone will figure it out before the third season arrives. And so ends the second season of Sherlock. Sherlock is dead – long live Sherlock!
I think this already good series could have been even greater if the villain had been at least half as interesting as Sherlock (though I guess that’s a tall order). Honestly, he wasn’t even as compelling to watch as King Lestrade (though I may be biased here). And like Sherlock, I’m disappointed that Moriarty’s “clever” plans mostly just involve blackmailing people – how ordinary. I think Sherlock should have been insulted when the reporter accused him of creating Moriarty – I know Sherlock could have come up with a way better nemesis if he had been so inclined. I also got the strange impression that Moriarty would have liked to replace Watson – maybe he just wants to be Sherlock’s only bestie. And Moriarty comes up with the worst nicknames – Sir Boast-a-lot? Really? The only funny thing he did was to muse about whether he should get his own live-in Watson – I would love to see that.
Molly was surprisingly interesting this episode, even more interesting than Irene Adler, I think. She has been the only person to always see Sherlock as very human and vulnerable, and he has only ever really let his guard down around her, and I don’t think it’s just because she doesn’t matter to him at all. I was intrigued by what she said about Sherlock being like her father (in that they both look sad only when they think no one is looking). This could mean that her father was just the stoic type, or else he was a borderline sociopathic genius like Sherlock and Moriarty – that would explain why she is drawn to those two men and cadavers. But I don’t like the idea of Sherlock needing someone else besides Watson – why can’t he let his guard down with him? I think it’s telling that Moriarty left her off the list of Sherlock’s friends – the bad guy always underestimates people like Molly. Her increased importance in the Sherlock-Watson team was really contrasted with Mycroft’s fall from grace. How could he betray Sherlock like that? Worst older brother ever. And his club sucks.
I usually hate these kinds of arcs which have our hero or heroine suffer extreme disgrace. I guess it was inevitable for someone as polarizing as Sherlock, and as far as these things go it wasn’t so bad. It helped that our hero probably cared a lot less than anyone else. What was probably the hardest to watch was how Watson handled all of this – he has always been looking out for his friend, but this was probably the first time he saw the great Sherlock Holmes so vulnerable, and this scared him. I think this is because he cares a lot, and maybe he likes his heroes infallible too. It was painful to see Sherlock think that he was falling in his best friend’s estimation. Don’t worry, he still thinks you’re the best thing ever!
I can’t wait for the third season of this super fun series, though I’ll probably have to wait until next year. Somehow I doubt that the new CBS retooling starring Jonny Lee Miller as the amateur sleuth and Lucy Liu as his Watson will quite fill the void. Side note: Miller and Cumberbatch were recently in the acclaimed Frankenstein, in which they alternated playing Frankenstein and his monster – what weird, karmic connection do these two actors have to be playing almost the same role so often? Anyways, if I want to see the real Sherlock and Watson reunited, I guess I could go see the new Hobbit movie, but maybe not – the whole Motion Capture Cumberbatch kind of weirds me out. But if Cumberbatch makes a good villain in the new Star Trek movie, he should totally take on dual roles in the next season – wouldn’t it make sense for Moriarty to undergo extreme plastic surgery to look like his rival? Maybe then Moriarty will start being interesting, and not boring, which, let’s face it, he kind of is. How will I wait for the next season? I might have to do something extreme and read the actual stories over again.