Episode 23: The Woman
What Joan and Sherlock find inside that house, no-one could have prepared them for.
Sherlock’s reaction to her art — of course he’d recognise her work — and then to seeing her alive is so visceral, so raw, it’s heartrending. Without Joan there to — literally — support him, he’d have probably fainted on the spot, or worse. Let’s not pretend that I’m not writing this in retrospect after having watched the finale, and let’s not pretend that you don’t already know what’s been going on. Irene is Moriarty, and I’m going to come back to the absolute magnificence of that revelation later.
It’s so… perfidious, how he found her, now, in the same position and dress as when he met her for the very first time two years ago in London.
Irene: “Oh! You’re beautiful.”
What if…. what if Sherlock was on the hit list for his involvement in that art case up until they met, and what if Irene/Moriarty retracted the kill order only after seeing his beautiful, symmetric face and realising that they could have some… fun before killing him? Except, it’s even better than that: she decided, after that, to let him live because he wasn’t that much of a threat to her operation. That thing you’re seeing running away there, screaming, for the hills is Sherlock’s ego. Or, well. What’s left of it.
It’s definitely when Sherlock fell in love with her. But instead of reporting her, an apparently very gifted art thief, to the police, he asks her out on a date. Oh, Sherlock, you’re a bit ridiculous when you’re in love. Wooing your intended with underground tunnels beneath Camden Market…
For now, though, Irene is pretending to be mentally unstable as the result of an abduction. There’s a reference to a nefarious character from Baskerville: Dr Stapleton. With the complexity of Moriarty’s web, we are now approaching the elaborate nature of Holmes mysteries that the show so far has not had that much of.
How much Joan’s work is indeed being valued by both Sherlock and the NYPD is marked by how she’s consulting with Gregson and Bell on Irene’s case on her own, no questions asked. Sure, they’re surprised Sherlock isn’t with her, but they don’t question her work or her insights. In fact, Bell’s comment about having her around is just like having Holmes (except that she’s more polite) is genuine, so is the expression on Gregson’s face: see, Detective, we can learn something from that one, too.
And when Irene notes that Sherlock has changed, that’s down to Joan.
It’s also not just Irene noting that. It’s Moriarty mentally adjusting her plans to navigate the difficulties Joan could cause her.
But apparently, she thinks that by removing Holmes from New York, she could circumvent all of that — whereas Sherlock is confident that Joan can dismantle Moriarty’s organisation without him. He is trusting her to do this on her own.
But that’s when everything falls apart, when Sherlock notices the missing birthmark on Irene’s left shoulder. If she had enough autonomy to have it removed, then how dire was her situation as a captive, really?
Meanwhile, Mr Procter has decided that he’s not going to be following orders any longer, and Sherlock is due for a violent death. Well, not quite.
Irene: “Bet you wish you’d run away with me when you had the chance.”