Monday, May 21, 2012

The Televangelist: 'Sherlock,' Season 2, Ep 3

Posted By on Mon, May 21, 2012 at 10:14 AM

In a building of locked rooms the man with the key is King. And baby, you should see me in a crown
  • BBC1
  • "In a building of locked rooms the man with the key is King. And baby, you should see me in a crown"

By the time I finish crying, do you think Season Three will have started yet?

The finale of Season Two certainly began -and ended- darkly. Within moments of "The Reichenbach Fall" being on air, John Watson says "Sherlock Holmes, my best friend, is dead." Surely not!

... Right?

For the next 90 minutes, we poor, feeble-minded mortals were subjected to a rollercoaster of emotions (I was in a glass cage of emotion, honestly). Everything that "The Hounds of Baskerville" lacked, "Reichenbach" had in spades. All major characters present and accounted for, exceptional use of Moriarty, maximum John and Sherlock "feels," and a traveller's guide to London. Although there were still a few missteps, "Reichenbach" never slowed for a moment to let us really consider them. By the time the shrapnel from one bomb had settled, another was set off.

Andrew Scott as Jim Moriarty has remained the most controversial element of this new "Sherlock" adaptation, and his peculiar take on the master villain was on full peacock-esque display last night. From his strange mannerisms and oddly disassociated voice to his criminal brilliance and completely unhinged mind, this polarizing Moriarty likely drove viewers who had already made up their minds about him further into whichever pole they initially settled on. In my first review of this season, I mentioned that I was fine with Moriarty as cast. For one, his youth fit in with a younger Sherlock. Also, as this version of Sherlock is shown to be supremely cold and logical about all things, it would make sense that his nemesis would be his utter opposite, someone whose motivations could not be easily understood, or understood at all, because they have no basis in the rational. "Every fairy tale needs a villain," Moriarty says, and it's true that there are many things the two share with other villain/hero pairs from Batman and the Joker to Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort. And as a prophesy reads in the Harry Potter series, "neither can live while the other survives." Eventually the villain must have his downfall, and occasionally, the hero goes with him.

Though this adaptation of "The Final Problem" bears little resemblance to the short story on which its based, its outcome is essentially the same. Arthur Conan Doyle wrote the story to truly be the end of Sherlock Holmes, allowing him to go out in a blaze of glory by sacrificing himself for the greater good (a tale as old as time!) But Doyle was begrudgingly pressured by fans to bring back his popular character, and Sherlock was reborn. Thankfully, as we saw in the finale of "Reichenbach," Sherlock does indeed live. The "how" is a question I'll deal with in a moment, but in the meantime, what of Sherlock's nemesis? If Sherlock and Irene could fake their deaths so convincingly, why not Moriarty?

Series creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss have been clear that Moriarty will not be back, which makes it curious how Season Three might unfold (when Season Three unfolds, that is). His swan dance as he broke into the Bank of England, the Tower of London and Pentonville Prison simultaneously was magnificent. And apparently, there's an app for that. It's called bribery. There was no secret code, it was all a game with the ultimate stakes - unless Sherlock's friends thought him dead, they themselves would die. Beginning with his reputation and ending with that, Moriarty would have successfully taken from Sherlock everything worth living for, Count of Monte Cristo style.

But what of those left behind? Was there a single dry eye when Watson, his psychosomatic limp returning, spoke to Sherlock's grave? The moment I lost it, on both viewings, was when he said "I was so alone ... and I owe you so much." The turn of phrase (IOU) harkens back to the man who "killed" Sherlock, though this version comes sincerely from, in Moriarty's terms, "the side of the angels." In the preceding minutes we had seen some of the best Sherlock and Watson interplay yet, with Watson acting in turns as a partner, a personal assistant, and an accomplice. It seemed that Watson had finally settled into his role as, well, who knows what to call it exactly. Sherlock's side-kick. Or "confirmed bachelor" as the tabloids tagged him. In any case, order had at last been established, only to have been blown apart spectacularly with Moriarty's final trick.

The real unsung hero of the story is, of course, the forever unsung hero - Molly. Her lovely interaction with Sherlock where she shows him that she still cares for him and supports him and sees him, even though he does not feel the same way about her, was the moment Sherlock realized he'd found his secret weapon. Just as he had always appeared to discount Molly, so had everyone else. Most importantly, Moriarty. Internet geeks have been exploring the possible ways Sherlock so convincingly faked his death since this episode aired in England in the winter, and while I'll leave the Googling of specifics to the theorists, here's the basic idea: the "gathering crowd" below the hospital may have been part of Sherlock's coordinated homeless network. The biker who knocks Watson over does so, on replay, deliberately. Did he also aerosol him with the fear drug from "Baskerville?" That may be a stretch, but the revelation that the dead man covered in blood on the sidewalk in in fact Sherlock is seen entirely from Watson's dazed perspective. Apparently Watson taking his pulse and finding nothing there could have been the result of Sherlock having his rubber pressed under his arm, which apparently is a parlor trick that gives you no discernible pulse in that arm for a moment. But how did Sherlock actually survive the fall? That we probably cannot know for sure until the next season, if at all. And in the meantime, does it really matter? He lives! And it's all because of Molly. Over/under on whether Watson hugs him or punches him in the face when he finds out? Both?

The missteps I mentioned weren't really problematic so much as extraneous. Unlike the issues with "Baskerville," "Reichenbach" seemed nearly too ambitious with its plots. Though there is never a plotline wasted in "Sherlock," and Moriarty was attacking Sherlock from all sides, the assassins plot and even the lengthy nature of the kidnapping felt almost out of place, as did Moriarty's final insane rant. And let's not even start on Kitty Riley and the whole Rich Brook episode. Has she never heard of Photoshop? I could probably mock up an entirely new identity for myself pretty easily as well if all you are requiring to see as proof is something printed off at home (of course Kitty Riley is meant exactly to make fun of those unfortunate souls who write for such unfortunate rags as "The Sun").

Ultimately, it was a fantastic and emotional ending to another fantastic season of this fantastic luminous show. Don't be dead, "Sherlock." Is it time for Season Three yet?

Musings and Miscellanea:

— We know from the beginning of the episode that it's been 18 months since Sherlock died. How long will be allow Watson to suffer??

— The Sherlock jokes were so great in this episode, from him guessing his gifts and being entirely ungrateful to his treatment of the woman who "allowed" the children to be kidnapped. "Go easy on her," Lestrade says. Sherlock bellows at her, "are you a drunk, an idiot or a criminal?!?" (rips off her blanket). "Thank you, I just needed you to speak quickly. She's going to need to breathe into a bag now."

— "Thank you Anderson, that was brilliant. A brilliant impersonation of an idiot." - Sherlock. I've always disliked Donnovan and Anderson, but Donnovan was particularly insufferable in this episode.

— "Slip your hand into my pocket ..." why is everything Moriarty does kind of weirdly sexual?

— Sherlock running the courtroom and dominating the judges and lawyers was hilarious, as was that moment when he took a deep breath to start talking again as soon as the judge said "if you continue to show off I'll put you in jail." Clink!

— "I pulled a gun and he tried to blow me up. I felt we had a special ... something." - Sherlock. Moriarty's nod of assent after that statement was great.

— I'll admit, the first time I watched this episode I was so disoriented I was willing to believe Moriarty was just an actor for a minute. Lawd help!

— Sherlock: "Hold my hand!" Watson: "Now people will definitely talk."

— Molly: "[Moriarty and I] only went on three dates. I ended it." Sherlock: "Yes, and then he broke into the Bank of England, freed Pentonville Prison and stole the Crown Jewels. For the sake of law and order I suggest you give up on all future relationships." Did the writers read my diary to create Molly?

— "You do count. I've always trusted you." - Sherlock to Molly.

— Til next time!

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