I may be on the side of the angels, but don’t think for one second that I am one.
A fine, moving conclusion to the series that brings out the best in Sherlock, without laying a finger on his reputation for “being such an annoying dick all the time.” No mean feat. I’m assuming everyone reading this has either seen the episode or doesn’t mind spoilers. So I’m not going to attempt a detailed summary (even if I could do it proper justice), and focus instead on the elements that interest me.
In The Reichenbach Fall, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss’ take on The Final Problem, Sherlock is utterly humbled and destroyed in the eyes of the world. Three major cases, and the success of John’s blog, have propelled him to celebrity status. The deerstalker has come back to haunt him. At this apotheosis of Sherlock’s fame, Moriarty begins to cut the ground out from under his feet, by staging three audacious crimes at Pentonville Prison, the Bank of England, and the Tower of London. Without releasing a single prisoner, or stealing any gold or Crown Jewels. It’s all done by iPhone (there’s an app for each one) as he breaks into the glass case containing the Crown Jewels, and sits down to wait for the guards, crowned, orbed, and sceptred.
Sherlock’s a witness at Moriarty’s trial, managing to get himself banged up for contempt of court, a predictable outcome despite John urging him not to be himself. The real surprise (well, perhaps not) is that Moriarty is acquitted, after sending death threats to all the jurors through their hotel televisions. All of which he cheerfully admits to Sherlock, when visiting Baker Street for tea afterwards. So it’s game on to solve “the final problem,” as he proceeds to cast doubt on Sherlock’s genius, honesty, and even whether there is such a person as Jim Moriarty. As opposed to Richard Brook, an actor hired for the occasion to stand trial in place of this character who Sherlock has invented. In short, he has both committed and solved the crimes written up by John, using “Moriarty” as a scapegoat.
And it works. Everyone is convinced except for the only people Sherlock can call friends – John, Mrs Hudson, Lestrade, and Molly, who carries such a torch for him it could light up the sky at midnight. It would be nice to include Mycroft in this list of friends, but he is fatally compromised both by family history and a recent disclosure of Sherlock’s life story to Moriarty. Done with the best of intentions, to get information in return about the supposed computer key code Moriarty possesses, which can be used to break into any computer system. In so doing, Mycroft gives Moriarty all the genuine information he needs to buttress the Big Lie, and make it thoroughly convincing through Richard Brook’s tell-all story in (what else?) the scumbag Sun.
With Sherlock on the run from Scotland Yard, it comes down to a battle of will and intellect with Moriarty on the roof of St Bartholomew’s Hospital, where Molly works. Knowing he is marked for death, Sherlock has already asked Molly for help. “What do you want?” “You.” Not only is Sherlock in danger, so are John, Mrs Hudson, and Lestrade, targeted by assassins in case Sherlock will not enact the punchline to Moriarty’s fiction of a disgraced, fraudulent detective who commits suicide.
The final problem, it turns out, is staying alive when only intellectual challenge can make life worth living. Hence the endless need for distraction, which has turned Moriarty to crime and Sherlock to detection. They are two sides of the same coin. As Moriarty says, “You’re me,” in an epiphany that still allows him to blow his brains out rather than allow Sherlock to win by finding out the recall code for the assassins aiming at his friends.
So Sherlock has to decide whether to jump from the roof or allow them to die. He chooses to jump and, when John appears in the street below, chooses to own the story constructed by Moriarty, rather than endanger them. This is above and beyond Conan Doyle’s Holmes, who dies a hero and saviour of his country. Sherlock demonstrates extraordinary heroism in destroying his life’s work to protect his friends.
Of course he doesn’t die. Quite how, I don’t know. Obviously, John being knocked down by the bike was part of a plan to prevent him seeing the body with all his faculties intact. As a doctor, he might have spotted something wrong with the situation. We know Sherlock had arranged a contingency plan with Molly. Again, what it was we don’t know. Someone else certainly got buried in Sherlock’s place. But how would he survive the fall? No doubt we’ll find out in the next series.
We learned a lot about John and Sherlock in this episode. John’s affection for his friend is deep and heartfelt, as shown by the opening scene at the therapist’s office, and his inability to tell her at the end about “the stuff you wanted to say, but didn’t.” It does come out at the grave, when he gets a chance to talk to Sherlock alone. “I was so alone and I owe you so much…Don’t be dead.” That awkward pat of the gravestone, as if it were his friend’s shoulder, was incredibly moving. Then marching off, heartbroken.
As for Sherlock, he knows he has friends, and is prepared to sacrifice everything for their safety. Definitely a hero, as John called him earlier, as well as an annoying dick.
I’m really chuffed there’s going to a third series.