Back when Moriarty first met Holmes in the season 1 finale he threatened to ‘burn the heart’ out of the great detective. While we all knew he wasn’t lying, nobody could have predicted the ingenious way in which he would go about doing it.
The season 2 finale of Sherlock was a fantastic culmination of plot threads and character growth that had been brewing from the pilot episode. It successfully built upon everything that had been introduced on the show since day one. Throughout the show Sherlock has been caught between his head and his heart. He has slowly been warming up to those close to him but it’s his superior intellect which is biggest handicap when it comes to making and keeping friends. He will gladly humiliate those close to him for an opportunity to display and boast about his deductive skills. The beauty of this episode was that Moriarty’s plan was not only displayed insanely creative twists and turns but also served as great instrument of character development for Holmes. He was forced to choose between his friends and his reputation. It was a major wake up call for him in seeing that there are people out there who care for him and are willing to do their utmost to protect him. It was wonderful seeing such a conflicted Holmes battling with emotion, he has come an awful long way over the course of just six episodes.
Back in the pilot episode Donovan warned Watson that Holmes is dangerous and one day he could easily make the switch from hero to villain. It was a very interesting and valid point and I was thrilled to see that the writers expanded on it by making it part of Moriarty’s revenge plan. It was nice to see the Chief Superintendent flip out upon hearing how Lestrade let an amateur detective help out with so many cases. Throughout the years of Holmes lore nobody ever dealt with the reality of Sherlock being granted inside information on cases through his unofficial involvement with the police force. It was very clever for the writers to explore that grey area. Having Lestrade do his best to defend Holmes and not buy into the doubt that plagued the rest of the force over Holmes’ alleged criminal activity was a wonderful touch that helped add a lot of weight to his character and his relationship with the Baker Street boys.
Moriarty’s scheme was insanely clever. Every time you thought you knew where he was going with it a sudden twist in the tale would present itself. Blackmailing the jury into setting him free, fabricating the skeleton key, setting assassins after Holmes, it was all wonderfully written by Steve Thompson. The most devious part of his plan was his idea to clear his own name. Setting himself up as Richard Brook, an actor for children’s television was a marvellous plot twist. The writers really knew how to play with a character as clever as Moriarty. Normally the villain is wasted in many on screen Sherlock incarnations, see the recent ‘Game of Shadows’ as an example. This show however really knew what the character is capable of and got the most out of him. When first introduced on the show I thought Andrew Scott’s portrayal of Jim Moriarty was a bit hammy and over top, luckily in this episode he felt far more in control of his character and was completely engaging throughout the 90 minutes. He really upped his performance for this episode and along with the fantastic script he received made this the most memorable Moriarty ever to appear on screen.
Speaking of actors making a role their own, Martin Freeman demonstrated once again that all future Watson’s will be measured solely against his performance on this show. It Is hard to pick out a key scene for Freeman’s performance in this episode. He was on the top of his game throughout the entire show. His reaction to seeing Holmes lying dead on the pavement, hearing that Mrs. Hudson has been shot, smacking the superintendent, his heartbreaking scenes in therapy and his wonderful eulogy at the graveyard. It was a real tour de force, and one that goes to show just why it is that Peter Jackson chose him out of millions to play the lead in the upcoming Hobbit movies. We all knew that Sherlock must have survived the jump but that didn’t stop us from getting teary eyed at Watson’s plea at the grave -“Don’t be dead“. Freeman turned in the best performance of the series with this episode. I can’t wait to see how he’ll play Watson’s reaction to Holmes’ return in season 3.
Benedict Cumberbatch gave us what has been perhaps the most nuanced and emotionally complex version of Holmes to appear on screen. My favourite scene of his was when Molly revealed that she knew how he had been putting on a brave face when Watson was around. When she later admitted that she knows that she doesn’t count to Holmes, Cumberbatch’s reaction said it all. He displayed confusion and sympathy without using any words. You could see that she cut through Sherlock’s icy armour with that admission. His scene on the phone with Watson was fantastic. His apology to John, his suicide note and Watson’s refusal to believe his confession of being a fraud. It was a perfect culmination of the growth between the two characters and a true test of their friendship.
There were of course plenty of great nods to original story ’The Final Problem’ and other Sherlock media incarnations. Along with the return of the deer stalker hat there was the notion of Moriarty being a figment of Sherlock’s imagination, an idea lifted from the movie ‘The Seven Percent Solution’ where Sherlock meets Freud for therapy sessions. Also, the plot of Sherlock ensuring the successful return of a painting was a nice nod to the Jeremy Brett version of the Final Problem where they padded out the story by having Holmes safely return the Mona Lisa to the Louvre.
Overall this was an amazing gripping episode of one of the smartest shows on television. It is an episode that will stay with you long after watching it. It was completely unpredictable and packed with marvellous actors confidently redefining some of literatures most beloved characters. Already the internet is alight with theories as to how Sherlock survived his jump, hopefully we won’t have to wait another 18 months to discover the answer.