“I Was So Alone, and I Owe You So Much”—Sherlock: The Reichenbach Fall.

Previously on Sherlock: The Hounds of Baskerville.

This is amazing television. This is an emotional rollercoaster like I’ve never been on one. I cried, then I giggled, then I cursed, and then I cried again. A lot. This is writing (I may have been disappointed with Steve Thompson’s Blind Banker last series, but this… this is perfection, and I bow to his script), directing, and acting genius on a silver platter, and if this series of Sherlock does not win just about every award there is to win, then I don’t know what’s wrong with the world.

This is the Final Problem.

John and Sherlock are becoming a bigger media phenomenon each day, and with the Reichenbach case, recovering stolen paintings depicting the famous waterfall in Switzerland, Sherlock is officially on the map. Big case after big case, with Sherlock getting more and more media attention and ridiculous presents (another bloody deerstalker, which Sherlock promptly punches, as well as you can punch a hat, anyway), and John is getting anxious. He knows what happens to media phenomena after a while—the press turns. Sherlock has reached the height of his success with Reichenbach, officially being called a hero… and it’s all downhill from there. It is, literally, what is going to make him trip—and fall.

As with everything that “ordinary humans” don’t understand, there lies fear. There lies doubt. Doubt that one man can really be this brilliant, fear that he might be nothing but a fraud. (There are four people who do not share that fear: John, Mrs Hudson, Lestrade, and Molly. It is the mark of Molly’s underappreciation that Moriarty completely forgets her in his little assassination game. Sherlock, however, hasn’t forgotten her.) Using people’s readiness to believe the worst, to get Sherlock off his pedestal they’ve placed him on half out of admiration, half out of fear of his abilities, Moriarty spins a delicate web that even Sherlock can’t escape. Sally and Anderson (it does not sit right with me that those two would turn on Sherlock with such a vengeance). Rich Brook—indeed German for ‘reicher Bach’ (if you squint a little at the nominative and accusative case endings)—is a stroke of genius. The key code that doesn’t exist is pure, unadulterated genius, placing Mycroft in an impossible situation: his country, or his brother? As long as Mycroft is to believe the key code is still in place, he won’t be able to clear his brother’s name—not until it is too late and no-one will listen anyway. Moriarty owes Sherlock a fall, and the solution to the Final Problem. The Final Problem being that Sherlock cannot live to tell the tale.

Andrew Scott is the best Moriarty I’ve ever seen. Evil genius, playful psychopath, frightened actor who was just doing a job. His voice is marvellous, the things he can do with it, with his accent, give me chills. It oscillates in every scene, every octave, every nuance revealing another layer of his character. In the entire series so far, he has about 15 minutes of screen time, and he is… overwhelming. Such a powerful presence, just lurking there, waiting to come out and scare Sherlock to death. The pure joy of watching him dance, smashing the glass and wearing the sodding Crown Jewels, is leaving me gobsmacked. The scene with Sherlock on the roof is chilling to the bone, completely insane, and shocking. He would actually do anything to see Sherlock fall, including killing himself as a signal for the snipers to aim. Proper bonkers psychopath. It is a conversation full of surprises up on that roof, and even though Moriarty may have fooled them all with the key code—Sherlock wins. How about that?

Andrew Scott’s isn’t the only performance that left me reeling tonight, of course. Everyone in this episode gave their all, first and foremost Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch. Martin had me in tears before the bloody title sequence, and Benedict, in his scenes with Molly, on the roof, during the phone call to John… there are no words. Take your faces and your beautiful breaking voices, and get out. I cannot imagine what it was like for them to shoot these scenes.

In the very beginning, it’s there again: in his therapist’s office, when John still cannot get the words out, cannot, will not accept that Sherlock, his best friend, is dead, there’s the music. The music I mentioned after last week’s episode as well, when John is helpless in front of the drug-induced hallucination of the hound, the music from before John met Sherlock, from when his life was empty, devoid of meaning. He’s back there now. It’s in the music, it’s in his limp as he walks away from the grave. There is nothing left of John Watson. Only loneliness, and the steadfast belief in the best man he’s ever known, and the ridiculous hope that maybe, maybe, there can be a miracle, because without that, he wouldn’t even know how to go on living. His speech, saying goodbye to Sherlock, touching the headstone, shattered me. I’ll let it speak for itself.

You told me once that you weren’t a hero… um.. there were times I didn’t even think you were human, but, let me tell you this: you were the best man and human… human being I’ve ever known, and no-one will ever convince me that you told me a lie, that’s… uh. There.

I was so alone, and I owe you so much.

Look, please, there’s just one more thing, one more thing, one more miracle, Sherlock, for me. Don’t. Be. Dead. Would you do that, just for me, just… stop it. Stop this!

John Watson is fearless. He doesn’t believe any slander that is thrown at him, he punches the Chief Superintendent for calling Sherlock a weirdo, and he holds hands with him around the handcuffs. But without Sherlock, he cannot stop the tears, because he is so, so afraid. He can’t go back to Baker St, where there’s nothing waiting for him but silence, an empty armchair across from his, which he stares at with empty eyes, as if waiting for Sherlock to burst through the door any minute, yelling, “I’m not dead, let’s have dinner!”

And without John, Sherlock’s life would be meaningless. Sherlock knows that he’s going to have to “die” at the end of this, it’s as clear to him as anything has ever been. He is sure to weasel his way out of it, that’s not what’s bothering him. It’s John. The fact that he will have to hurt John like this, that he will have to leave him for an indefinite amount of time is killing him. Molly is the only one who sees it, sees that Sherlock is letting his guard down, is getting sad whenever he thinks John isn’t looking, and Sherlock realizes that he has made a colossal mistake in letting her think she was invisible. He’s always trusted her, she wasn’t just the easiest choice for a go-to-girl in the morgue because she has a crush on him—she’s smart, and she’s trustworthy, otherwise he wouldn’t have sought her out. And, like John, like Mrs Hudson, like Lestrade: no matter what shit they’re throwing at Sherlock, she believes in him, answering his request for help with a simple, “What do you need?” Molly is amazing, and Louise Brealey gives her a quiet strength underneath her shyness that’s compelling.

From the moment on that Sherlock knows what’s going to happen on the roof of St. Bart’s, all he’s trying to do is to protect John. The classic Reichenbach diversion—before John runs off, thinking Mrs Hudson had been shot, and Sherlock reacts nonchalantly, John snarls at him that “friends protect people”—it’s exactly what Sherlock’s doing; has been doing the entire time by taking John hostage instead of making him his accomplice, making sure John’s name wouldn’t get tarnished along with his (and also taking pressure off Lestrade by not forcing him to try and clear his name while clearly being ordered to investigate against him). Calling John on the phone to leave his “suicide note,” to hear John’s voice, to see him one last time before he as to leave—and, if it does go wrong, to hear John one last time before he dies—, telling him that he really is a fraud… Sherlock is putting everything his own ego means to him aside, and putting John’s needs first, trying to make it easier for him. To make John hate him so he won’t mourn him, trying to make him believe he’d just been a big fat liar, trying not to destroy John by what he’s going to do. And when John refuses to believe him, there is so much emotion on cold, cold Sherlock’s face. The laugh he gives after he tells John that “no-one could be that clever,” and John’s only answer is, “You could.” It’s joy at having found someone so brave, so honest, and so loyal—and the impossible sadness at having to do this to him, right in front of him. When John tries to get closer and Sherlock demands he stay back, their hands reach out for one another across the distance, and the depth of their relationship has never been more obvious.

Sherlock is crying. Let me repeat that, Sherlock is crying. And he’s not crying for himself, or his reputation, but for John. For John, who will have to go through the insurmountable grief of losing the man who saved him. They’re not saying it, but their faces are doing a marvellous job at yelling, ‘I love you.’  (Also alluded to by John’s therapist, when she prompts him to say the stuff that he couldn’t say before. What else could it be implying than finally giving in to the sentiment, the fact that they were as good as a couple, emotionally, transcending the idea of sexuality.) When Moriarty tells him that, unless he jumps, his friends are going to die, the first name on his lips is, “John.” Watching John say goodbye to him in the cemetery, echoing the original scene in which Holmes cowers underneath a rock above the Fall, watching Watson read his note and look for him, in vain: just imagine the pain he must be feeling. So near, and yet so far.

My heart is broken.

Now, how did Sherlock survive? I won’t go on too much about this, only a few bulletpoints:

  • the girl recognized Sherlock: there must have been a mask to make her abductor look just like him. That mask might have been put on another body wearing a second set of Sherlock’s clothes, a body that…
  • Molly procured and prepared at Sherlock’s request
  • Did you see that garbage van that stood there just as Sherlock landed, blocking John’s view—which is why he wasn’t allowed to move from where he was—and then drove off as John came back up again, having been…
  • hit by a cyclist whom I’m sure Sherlock paid off to do just that, to hinder John from getting to his body too quickly, giving Sherlock ample time to…
  • in fact, land on the garbage truck, on which Molly had put the body before or just before Sherlock jumped, push the corpse that looked like him out of the van, which Molly might even have been driving, quickly buggering off when he gave the sign, rushing off before anyone arrived at the scene
  • Molly could then also do the postmortem, if necessary, and no-one would ever know.

Next: The Empty Hearse.


35 thoughts on ““I Was So Alone, and I Owe You So Much”—Sherlock: The Reichenbach Fall.

  1. A lovely review, as ever.

    Outstanding. I too was disappointed by The Blind Banker, but The Reichenbach Fall walks perfectly. There are a couple of nods to the original story, but this is a fine standalone tale in its own right.

    The prologue and coda with John were magnificent. Martin Freeman’s portrayal of John’s quiet grief was positively tear-jerking.

    Most of all, I loved the way Moriarty is able to so easily present Sherlock – the one constant truth in the entire story – as a fake with a few well-placed suggestions. All the while, everything he does himself is fake: he allows his own capture so he can bleed Mycroft for info, his trial is a sham, he adopts a fake identity, and even his big triple crime is a fake – it’s not a whizzy code, it’s just plain manipulation of pawns.

    I love the way this series has hammered home how the pair are flip sides of the same coin: “You’re me”, the final handshake and then the shocking, visceral ending. Bravo.

    Come back soon, Sherlock. It cannot be soon enough.



  2. Great review. I just want to add all the subtle (and not so subtle) references to the first episode ever, “A Study in Pink”, and the nice sense of unity that provides. First there’s the obvious stuff: the creepy cabbie, the detestable Donovan-Anderson duo believing that Sherlock is responsible for committing the crimes, the “suicide” (when Sherlock made a mention of the suicide note to John my mind immediately snapped back to “Four suicides and not a note. Ah it’s Christmas!”). Sherlock’s confrontation up on the roof with Moriarty is also like confronting the cabbie all over again, with two poisoned pills in front of him, killing himself to save John (death), or letting John be killed (still death). The crazy cabbie, again, gets a bullet in him somewhere.

    What I really like though is how the choice he had to make between the two pills was a purely intellectual one, deducing which one is more likely to be poisoned. No emotion involved. Pure mathematics, probability, and the science of deduction. By the 6th episode though, we’ve seen how far Sherlock has come. It’s not about preventing boredom or proving one’s clever. It’s a choice about life and love, between the natural urge to “stay alive” and the love for others, something Donovan-Anderson thinks Sherlock cannot understand but oh how wrong they are. Sherlock can’t possibly think John will believe a word he says about his being a fraud. “Remember the first time we met?” How my fangirl’s heart melted like brown sugar… I don’t know how I’d be able to take a married John Watson in Season 3. To me, it’s simply perfect for them to be the perpetual “bachelors”, living in, in a perpetual utterly asexual relationship that is ooooooooooooo so wonderful.


  3. So, I didn’t actually cry during the episode (I think I was in shock), but your review made me tear up. I love your description of Sherlock and John’s relationship, and those last scenes, because it’s so true. You write so so well, and I love reading your reviews because you always find ways to express everything that is great about Sherlock and Doctor Who.

    Just thought I’d let you know. Keep it up. 🙂


      1. Not trying to sound like a total and hopeless fan, you did it all right, as in everything was right. When watching the ending I was bawling as if my life depended on it, and now reading your review made tear up again.

        In my opinion, the show is one the best out there, and the part that I enjoy the most is – it only gets better.

        I couldn’t escape noticing how The Blind Banker is getting bad reviews, and although I do agree that it was somewhat weaker, for me it was all good beacause of the performances, because of all the small subtleties, of the interaction between the two heroes (I’m quite a sucker for these, I have discovered), so I can’t really agree with those reviewers.

        And I’m getting giddy wishing to learn, and sooner rather than later, how Sherlock managed to survive, and what was it that Molly did for him. And however much I want, we’re not going to know sooner than the next year. Sigh


      2. First of all, thank you! (I was crying my eyes out all through the last ten minutes, and a while after that, so no need to feel weird about that… ;))

        Secondly, I do love The Blind Banker, too, in parts–the interaction between the two, just as you mentioned–it just didn’t feel quite as good as the other two from Series 1. Something about the plot and the story just… it didn’t feel quite right. It was still good, just not as good; and I guess with such a show, it’s alright to expect excellency in all departments, and sometimes the acting doesn’t make up for everything, especially after an opener such as A Study in Pink.

        Nope, we’ll have to wait, though hopefully not the full 18 months again… Argh.


      3. I also thought the Blind Banker was interesting. I saw in 3 cases the hurt look on Sherlock. when the banker friend told him all his classmates hated him for his ability to tell what they were up to with just a glance and when the dectective responded to Sherlock’s outstretched hand to shake his with “yeah I know who you are”. I am sure that Donnavan and Anderson put that bug in his ear. There was one other time when Sherlock introduced Watson as his friend and Watson said colleauge because he was worried the man would think he and Holmes were more than friends. It helped me to understand why Holmes had this hard exterior. Holmes was protecting himself. He was such a genius. In the first episode, A Study in Pink, he told Watson the skull on the mantle piece was his friend. Holmes even had a painting on the wall of the skull as though it was an family member. People fear somone with that type of genius, but thank goodness for John.even from episonde one and everyone telling him to stay away from Sherlock, John understood what it was to be alone and was drwan to sherlocks’ genius and his companionship. his BBc Sherlock is the greatest and I am a Holmes fan. i have every DVD and have seen all of them. his one by far is my favorite. Loved your review.


  4. Thank You for another splendid review! I must only disagree with Your final suggestions. For sure it is Molly who helped Sherlock to mock his death, but John Watson – Doctor – has taken his pulse. Sherlock’s body must have been still warm just after the fall, the only bodies Molly could provide would be stone cold. John cannot possibly have made such a mistake. Believe me I am a doctor.


      1. Sherlock, before the fall had been playing with a ball.
        Basically, there is this urban myth that If you put a ball in between your armpits, your pulse will begone.

        Hope I helped.


  5. Ney, It definetely was Sherlock. He did hit the pavement. John is a soldier and a very good doctor – no way he gets it wrong.
    There is a building, a one storey building, between were John stands and the pathology building, when John wants to come from behind it Sherlock orders him to go back – better view up, but is it all? Why has he asked John to keep eyes fixed on him?
    What has John found out when he took Sherlock’s pulse? Note there is a resident checking Sherlock’s carotid and not ALSing. The paramedics are pushing the trolley a bit to fast for a corpse. Was he dead they should have left the body for the police. So maybe Sherlock was still alive – “died” later and with Molly’s help escaped his funeral. But why remains a question.


    1. Sorry, but there’s one thing you got wrong. If you watch closely, you’ll see that we’re missing abt 3 seconds of the fall, right before the crash in the end. We see Sherlock jump, we see him fall – and then the camera goes back to John’s reaction for a moment, probably the exact amount of time during which John can’t see Sherlock anymore because of a wall blocking his view, and then we see a body hitting the ground. There’s no way for the audience to tell if it really is Sherlock’s body, it’s actually a rather cheap trick in unreliable filmic narration (most unreliable films work more or less like this) And let’s be honest – smashed faces all look rather similar, so John wouldn’t necessarily recognize him at once, esp. as he will in any case believe that the body has to be Sherlock’s (he’s seen him jump, so what other explanation could there be?).


      1. Sorry about the mess-up–it didn’t show up in the comment alert which comment yours was in reply to, so I didn’t know who you meant 😀 I edited it so it now shows up properly at my end; and, again, sorry. 🙂


  6. Hello! First time on your blog, I enjoyed your review of this episode 🙂
    Just watched halfway through the last episode again, and realised that “I o u” is emphasised many times throughout. I’ve read hundreds of theories re Sherlock’s death, and yours is now the most common one, I guess, but I think the dead body must be Moriarty’s.
    Moriarty owes Sherlock a fall. Literally. I can see Sherlock turning the words around and using that to his advantage.
    I’m already suffering from serious withdrawl symptoms, it should almost not be allowed to make such a compelling TV series – glad they did it though 😀


  7. God, this was beautiful. Thank you for writing this. I have not actually seen the episode yet (I’m waiting for a time when I will have plenty of alone time to cry without anybody there) but I learn more and more about it each day, and everytime I do…I know my heart is going to break that much more. Some of the fan videos that have been made are so beautiful. And the only thing I didn’t like about this review was that you said “indefinitely.” Sherlock will not stay away from John. I think John will try to off himself and Sherlock will save him. It would be very…like their relationship.
    But that speech, John’s voice betrays him on the most important words. His voice cracks when he says “My best friend, Sherlock Holmes. Is dead,” but only when he says Sherlock’s name. Which I find beautiful. I envy their relationship. They drive each other insane in a lot of ways but they really are soul mates, they fill the holes in each other’s hearts. They bring out the best in one another.
    Thank you for writing this.


    1. Thank you so much for your comment! You’re right, their relationship is beautiful, and I think it’s only what the fans make of it–like the videos, the graphics, the stories–that will tide us over until Sherlock comes back to us by the end of the year.
      (Small point there, though: I said “for an indefinite amount of time”–indefinite can mean forever, but also, and that’s the one I meant, unknown, as in ‘as yet undefinable.’ He doesn’t know how long he will have to stay away for, that’s the trick. *Vocabulary saleswoman mode off*)


      1. Thank you for making their friendship a beautiful thing. I wish I lived in London. I have always had a affinity for England.I live in the US, but I am a big BBC fan. cannot wait fot episode 3.


  8. SH never calls, he texts.(Moffat said that’s something really out of SH character).
    In the episode the Woman SH hides himself behind a news paper which titles is ” the hospital to be refited”, which could imply some material on the walls of St Barts.
    During the scene on the roof with Moriarty, at the angel’s quote moment there is a strange noise (or is this the music ? I’m not sure but it sounds like a metallic thing something being installed on the ground maybe)
    And why’s is Moriartys phone ringing on the roof when SH shows? Who is calling him ?
    The fingers and nails of the wounded SH are blue, just like for someone who has been dead for a moment.
    There is also the IOU tag with the wings (when SH and JW espcaped), SH has a friend who does graffitis.

    Well I don’t know what to do with all that 🙂
    Oh! And they’re definitively not gays, that’s just a really strong male friendship, and as it often happens with people like SH he simply does not know how he should behave with a friend as he never had one.
    (Please excuse my english, I’m just french)


    1. Moriarty’s phone isn’t ringing when Sherlock shows, it’s a smartphone, so it’s mp3-enabled. He’s playing Bee Gees just ’cause he can, the bastard.

      I never said they’re gay, did I? It’s not about labelling them as such, it’s about acknowledging the subtext and, actually, refusing to label them as anything. As I keep saying, sexual orientation or markers thereof are irrelevant with these two. How far one intends to take the shipping is entirely up to oneself.


    2. Just a small point, from the commentaries on the scandal in belgravia episode the ‘hospital to be refitted’ headline came from a previous idea with scaffolding that was abandoned. Unfortunately not relevant anymore.


  9. One item.. I don’t think anybody mentioned it. When the bicyclist knocked john down, he looked back to make sure he was properly down. John’s face was thrust into the wet cobblestone. Wet pavement. Wet with what? How about a psychotropic drug, such as in the “Hounds” episode? Could not Sherlock have had Molly’s accomplices (and there were many — an acting troupe?) spread a substance she’s prepared onto the street? Next thing that happens is that Watson sees Sherlock’s face on the corpse. Now that he is loopy from the drug and shock, he finds Sherlock to be believably dead–he sees what he most fears.

    And just before the gunshot, Sherlock comes close to Moriarty and strokes his lapel… Could there be some of the same released at that moment? Next thing that happens is Jim M. looking up at Sherlock and seeing an angel — a god in the shape of Sherlock. Seeing what he most fears. He is utterly destroyed by what he sees, reacting much as Sherlock had reacted when he saw the hound.

    Notice the faces and attire of the attendants to the dead one. There are people in blue… No ambulance could arrive that fast, and what siren? Some of them seem to be even smiling, as if they know they’re acting out a scene, and it all seems like good fun to them. Of course they don’t know who anybody is, what has just happened, and how terrible this scene is for Watson. And he is too drugged up to notice anything. He believes what his fears tell him to believe.


  10. This… Is an incredible article. You knew how to put the good words on what I felt watching the episode (quite lately, in France we just finished the second season). Congrats’ and thank you for this review !


  11. Thank you for writing this blog. We (wife, son, and I) were late to Sherlock … actually just finished watching the second set. Your analysis is insightful and inspiring.


  12. I have had to go back and read over this review several times, and each time it gets more marvelous. The way you break down all the psychological elements at play in this series is just remarkable. I am addicted, and reviewers who get paid to do this should be ashamed of how their reviews pale in comparison. Bravo Andria!


  13. I cried on and off from the point John stormed out on Sherlock (“YOU MACHINE!”) to the end, but from the point where Sherlock called John to give him his last farewell, his suicide note, I was shaking. I could actually feel my heart break when I saw the look on Sherlock’s face, and at the end, oh man, when John talked to Sherlock’s grave, I completely lost it.

    I must say, I cried a while after that, and now, when I read your review, I started bawling again, because you wrote down exactly what was going on “between the lines”, so to say. Marvelous job, I applaud you.


  14. So, I came here because I was looking for the speech that John gives at the grave. Your blog is the first link after the Youtube clip – I’m so lucky it was. This was a perfect post and I now want to go and read everything else that you have written in various fandoms that I like. You just summed up everything so perfectly and I have to say thank you. Thank you very much for having this so I could find another wonderful blog to read.


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