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.