The Reichenbach Fallis bold, fun, sinister and mind-boggling.
The latter comes, of course, from that ending; a dramatic final sequence that sent the media alight. You know how successful a show is when even The Daily Mail devotes an entire page to the question of how Sherlock survived.
Everybody knows what happened at Reichenbach in The Final Problem, and writer, Steve Thompson quickly got this out of the way in a scene which harked back to the very first episode of Sherlock.
Watson is, essentially, back where he started. Lost without his best friend, he has little purpose any more. He’s suffering, and thanks to Martin Freeman’s unerringly brilliant portrayal, we are too, even though we know what’s coming.
But the episode doesn’t belong to Freeman, nor his co-star, Benedict Cumberbatch, both of whom have been magnificent in every single episode of the two series. Surely Andrew Scott as the wicked Jim Moriarty then? Or Una Stubbs’ Mrs. Hudson? Lestrade? Molly?
No, this episode belongs to them all. Their performances were spectacular. The Reichenbach Fall is a tale of relationships, identity and – above all – humanity.
Series Two has seen Sherlock’s growing humanity under the microscope, aided by his friends. The episode shows that the Consulting Detective was wrong when he said he only has one friend. Watson is certainly his one constant, but Reichenbach reinforces the warm atmosphere at 221B Baker Street – then tears it away.
Moriarty’s scheme takes its toll on the Reichenbach hero – and wasn’t that worked in so cleverly? – leading to one place: the roof of St. Bartholemew’s.
Andrew Scott is incredible in every scene, and provides a constant sinister undercurrent, aided by allusions to death and three simple letters: I O U. The standoffs he has with the lead are beautifully realised; Scott manages to be creepy and imposing even when he’s just talking. Now that’s the sign of a true villain.
The death of Moriarty is genius, also riffing off the original Conan Doyle tale, but infuriating, too. I was immediately awestruck by the desperation of the situation and just how far he would go to defeat his enemy. However, this also means we won’t be getting anymore from Andrew Scott… unless, of course, it’s a trick.
Visually, the episode is stunning – all credit to Toby Haynes, who continued the eerie, complex but lavish style of the previous five episodes. The scene where Sherlock matches photos to a map of England (in his head, naturally) is wonderfully reminiscent of the ‘Mind Palace.’
And perhaps this is why The Reichenbach Fall is so successful. It feeds off all the episodes before it. I’m not saying this to discredit Steve Thompson – in fact, quite the opposite.
The final episode’s premise is set up in A Study in Pink, with everybody but his best friends considering that Sherlock is a fraud. Added to this, Donovan and Anderson are back to agitate the Reichenbach Hero and Lestrade, clearly showing how much the Detective Inspector really thinks of Holmes.
The graffiti that lurks in the background is a neat reminder of The Blind Banker, especially when Sherlock watches the lights in the opposite building flicker to reveal those ominous letters. Alongside the return of Moriarty, obviously, The Reichenbach Fall also welcomes back the Baker Street Irregulars – albeit fleetingly – last seen in The Great Game. Once more, Mycroft is there to revel in underhand dealings, while Moriarty gets at Sherlock by threatening his friends, reflecting the danger Mrs. Hudson was in at the beginning of this series. Another allusion to A Scandal in Belgravia comes in the form of the ‘final problem,’ because, to paraphrase the Consulting Criminal, he did tell us what his main trouble is – but were we listening?
The shadowy scares of The Hounds of Baskerville were continued here, laced with a macabre fairytale twist, as was the possibility that Sherlock is starting to doubt himself.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg – and these reminders of past glories make the ‘fall’ even more affecting.
How did he survive? The internet is alive with theories. Was the dummy seen hanging in 221B a hint? What about that squash ball? And was Molly involved? Well, that’s the final problem.
Molly (Louise Brealey) really showed herself to be amazing this series; smarter and more observant than Sherlock has ever given her credit for. She’s loyal and caring but can also read people, just like Mr. Holmes. She does count, after all. It’s also interesting to look at the scene where Sherlock says he needs her in a new light. Forgetting about her possibly helping with his ‘death,’ what else could this mean…?
I won’t hazard a guess at how Sherlock survived, because it seems futile. But I have every faith in the crew that it’s going to be mind-blowing – because that’s what Sherlock does best.