‘Moriarty embarks upon what may be the crime of the century, but breaking into H.M.P. Pentonville, the Tower of London, and the Bank of England is only the start. Sherlock must discover what his greatest foe is up to and stop him, but his reputation, and even his life, come under threat.‘
The creators of Sherlock proved themselves to be masters of the art of the cliffhanger with Season 1’s The Great Game and they have reinforced that impression with this week’s The Reichenbach Fall. Based on Doyle’s story The Final Problem; famous for the first appearance of Holmes’ nemesis Moriarty and the apparent death of the great detective – The Reichenbach Fall is a tense battle of wits between two masterminds that felt very satisfying in its conclusion, despite the fact that we all knew where it was headed from the start.
One of the most interesting aspects of this episode was how it worked in modern cultural themes to become one of the major cornerstones of the plot. Previous episodes have been very successful because they feel true to the modern-day, but could easily be transposed into 19th century London. The Reichenbach Fall on the other hand looks at what would happen when the modern media picks up on the story of such a brilliant detective and the ramifications of being a celebrity. Coming in the wake of so many media scandals gives the episode an even greater connection with the audience and helps to sell the essence of Moriarty’s plan (don’t worry, no spoilers).
The Reichenbach Fall gives Moriarty (Andrew Scott) a much-needed chance to shine. Many fans were critical of the casting choice when the character first appeared, but I would imagine that most of those doubters are now silent. Andrew Scott’s performance is brilliantly menacing; there is more tension in quiet conversations between Holmes and Moriarty than can be found in entire episodes of other shows. Scott has managed to create a very unique vision of Moriarty, this is a man who could snap at any moment and it makes him even more scary.
The only man who can stop him is, of course, Sherlock Holmes. Benedict Cumberbatch continues to impress in this episode by showing us how unstable the great detective can be when driven to his breaking point. Holmes is at times cruel, self-centred and egotistical, but he always remains a sympathetic character and that is in large part due to Cumberbatch’s performance. Throughout the entirety of Season 2, we have been seeing the gradual humanisation of Sherlock (much to his disgust) and this episode is even more satisfying now that we see him actually acknowledge the great changes that he has been undergoing.
The changes have largely been due to his relationship with one man, John Watson. Martin Freeman’s performance in this episode is heartbreaking. Watson knows better than anyone how much of a flawed man Sherlock Holmes is, but he remains a loyal friend to the end. Steven Moffat has hinted that future seasons of the show will delve into some of the story elements that often get left out of adaptations, such as Watson getting married and living away from Holmes and I look forward to seeing how the relationship between the two main characters develops after the events of this episode.
Overall, The Reichenbach Fall is a fitting end to yet another brilliant season of Sherlock. While part of me always wants there to be more straight away, I think that Moffat and Gatiss have been extremely smart in knowing exactly how much to show us. The anticipation left with the inevitable cliffhanger will ensure that everybody is anxiously awaiting Season 3, let’s just hope we don’t have to wait as long as last time.
What I Liked – Fantastic performances all around. Great examination of how the modern-day culture of celebrity can be a double-edged sword.
What I Didn’t Like – Another long wait for the next season.
Rating – 5 out of 5 (Awesome)