Review/Discussion: SHERLOCK–The Reichenbach Fall

WARNING: Spoilers ahead!!!

And so it ends…only it doesn’t. Just waits for awhile. (Thank you, BBC Gods!) The third and final episode in the second series of SHERLOCK has aired.  Now that we’ve managed to dry our eyes and pry our hearts out of our throats, it’s time to sit down and review. I’m joined once again by T.D. McKinney, BFF, co-author, and avid Sherlockian. Kettle’s boiled, love – have a seat.

TDM:  You know, I’ve never forgiven Arthur Conan Doyle for The Final Problem, but it does make for good television in the hands of Steve Thompson.  I liked his The Reichenbach Fall much better than The Blind Banker.  Much!  Of course, I’m sure Moftiss [popular nickname of the creative team at the helm of SHERLOCK, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss] had their hands heavily in this particular pie.

TW: Oh, no doubt. FALL did feel more…cohesive? It certainly didn’t lack for intricate details and heavy-duty emotion across the spectrum.

TDM:  Emotional investment by the audience.  Needless to say, nothing BANK brought up in those of us watching could compare to FALL.  Of course, I’ve been weeping over the mention of Reichenbach since I was ten, damn Doyle.  It’s pre-programmed, childhood trauma for me.

TW: I know the week leading up to it was an exercise in torture for you. So, let’s jump right in. Moriarty’s back, and he’s not playing simple games anymore. Lots of screen time for Andrew Scott. Very impressive screen time, I thought. You?

TDM:  Brilliant portrayal of a madman.  Mr. Scott has astounding talent. I look forward to seeing his future roles.  I also like his natural speaking voice–the not-freaky one.  It’s very rich.  He’s not canon Moriarty, but then he’s not written as such.  The bit on the roof where Moriarty is obviously heartbroken that Holmes is “ordinary” is particularly good.  It’s far more subtle than the scene at the pool and showcases Mr. Scott’s talent all the more because of it.  The discussion about Sherlock being like Moriarty and being on the side of the angels but not one of them is likewise.  Very nicely done, multi-layered pieces of art.

TW: Multi-layered is a good way to describe the plot as a whole. Not particularly flattering images of either the tabloid press or Scotland Yard. A lot of old grudges seeping back in, most notably Sergeant Donovan’s…dare I say, bitchy attitude coming to a head. Moriarty seemed to know exactly the proper strings to pull.

TDM: “Shthpidah!”  Sorry – Benedict Cumberbatch says “spider” and I hear the lisp.  Every single time.  Because it is just glorious.  But that is what Moriarty is.  A spider at the center of the web.  Doyle describes him as such–and wasn’t it lovely to hear Sherlock use that at the trial?–so of course he knows just which thread of his web to tickle.  Sally Donovan is wrapped in his silk, just another little fly he’s devoured.  She is on my last nerve, btw.  And let me just add, she wears shoes utterly unsuited to a police officer.  She’ll never chase anyone down in those things.

TW: Yes, I noticed that. Was it just me, or was everything Sherlock did at that crime scene basic forensics? I mean, the oil sample of the footprint and the analysis, then determining what location contained all of them.  “Our boys couldn’t have done it.” Sounded to me like she had a theory she liked…

TDM:  I hate to defend Anderson and Donovan.  The very thought gives me a migraine.  Yes, it is basic crime scene analysis, and it would have been done in the lab.  Sadly, without Sherlock likely the footprints wouldn’t have been found.  That was the Sherlock effect–finding the footprints to begin with.  Which Anderson should have!  In a kidnapping, that room should have been checked and double checked for something like those prints.

Of course, you and I are both true crime buffs and have experience with both solved and unsolved cases.  Sometimes, the locals aren’t experienced in murders or kidnappings because they just don’t happen in small communities.  But this is Scotland Yard.  I’d imagine there to be a unit devoted to crimes against children, including kidnappings.  And for something as diplomatically sensitive as this?  That was poorly done on the writers’ part, I’m afraid.

I forgave them and didn’t rant at the TV too much because a) we all know Anderson is an idiot, and b) it’s Sherlock and the rest was so good.  But yes, it was a very glaring police procedural blunder.  And I hope Lestrade uses it to fry Anderson.

Added all up, Donovan’s theory does not hold.  Any decent detective could have figured this out.  As fast as Sherlock?  Maybe not, since they would have to wait on the lab, but in a kidnapping you can push things through.  Finding the warehouse would have been the crucial part.  That’s where being Sherlock really paid off.  Not the footprint, but being able to ID the place the children were being held let him save them before it was too late.  You didn’t need to be a criminal profiler for this one, just moderately intelligent.

TW: I do find myself wishing the Superintendent hadn’t walked in just as John was about to skewer Donovan, but we couldn’t have him punching a woman. That was a fun bit with the handcuffs, though. Some wonderful moments between the lead characters. And an interesting tension.

TDM:  There’s always interesting tension between those two.  But even more interesting is how perfectly they move together.  Aside from a bit of getting used to it, they’re smooth.  Of course, John never once protests being the “hostage.”  Never offers to separate and turn himself in.  As ever, where Sherlock’s concerned, he’s completely invested.  Once evidence of Sherlock’s supposed duplicity begins coming to light, he never wavers.  You never see an instance of true doubt in John.  Confusion about what’s happening, but never belief that Sherlock is a fraud, not even when Sherlock says so himself.

TW: A couple of lovely scenes, before we get to our two leading men: in the lab, Sherlock with Molly Hooper. A brilliant and touching performance by Loo Brealey. And a little peek into Sherlock’s soul.

TDM:  Yes.  Molly’s shining moment.  Proof she’s not dull and ordinary.  She more than sees, she observes.  She actually impresses Sherlock.  She also shocks him and leaves him off-kilter and reeling.  That’s rather good for him.  Then when he needs a fourth friend, she’s there.  Sweet Molly.  Jim overlooked her and shouldn’t have.  I love irony.  Lovely performance by Ms. Brealey.  Some of the most touching of the whole series.

TW: I’m going to ask you about your choice for most powerful and/or favorite scene(s), because I know they’ll lead right into a discussion of “the boys,” Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. From the chats we’ve had earlier, I suspect our choices match.

TDM:  You might be surprised.  This was a powerful episode, full of emotion and pathos, of course.  Meant to be.  The canon story it was based on is one of my favorites.  Hmm, most powerful…  I know you think it’s the rooftop with Moriarty, but so much of that is possibly faked by Jim or Sherlock or both.  They’ve both anticipated it.  It’s hard to tell which emotions are real and what are made up just to jack with the other.  They do love jacking with each other.  To the point of dying to do so!  That was an admittedly powerful moment, and acted brilliantly by both men.  I particularly loved Benedict’s reactions as Sherlock to Moriarty’s suicide.  Just brilliant.  But no, can’t say it’s the most powerful for me.  

John Watson at Sherlock’s grave is also wonderful.  Martin Freeman is beyond brilliant.  I didn’t cry until his voice breaks and squeaks.  I have to admit, the Jeremy Brett version of The Final Problem affects me far more emotionally.  I pretty much weep through that whole thing.  I’m having a ball through this one.  I feel for John as he’s watching his best friend on that rooftop.  But I’m fine until he nearly cries at the grave.  Martin Freeman is one of the finest actors of his generation.  But that’s not it, either.  

I have to say the most powerful IS the scene with Molly when Sherlock goes to her for help.  He’s almost on the edge of tears when he begins to speak.  His voice is choked and remains so, his eyes bright with incipient tears.  This time the admission of weakness is the truth.  “I’m not okay.”  The great Sherlock Holmes asking for help.  It’s beautiful and touching.  And very powerful.

TW: I actually do agree with you that it is the most powerful. Lots of great moments to choose from. So, your favorite scene? Then I’ll tell you mine.

TDM:  God, so many to choose from.  John telling off Mycroft…you have to feel for Mycroft.  He has screwed this up so badly.  Lestrade doing damage control to try and help Sherlock…Am I the only one who noticed that it looked like Donovan and Anderson went over Lestrade’s head to the superintendent about Sherlock?  John and Lestrade protecting Sherlock.  I love that little “he is not resisting” to make sure no one roughs up Sherlock.  

Okay, I have to admit, my favorite is John punching out the Chief Superintendent.  Just wish they’d shown more.  LOVE the look on his face just before he swings.  You see that shoulder drop and that look and you know what’s coming.

TW: Oh yeah. I do like that one. But my favorite centers around what literature has called for ages “the greatest friendship ever,” and not in the way you’d expect.

The scene is just after Sherlock has refused to go down to Scotland Yard with Lestrade. There’s a moment when Sherlock’s sure Moriarty has gotten into John’s head as well, that John’s worried he’s been taken in. And it hurts. Sherlock’s last defense, more or less, doubting him.

And the reply: “No, I know you for real.” John turns, and you see he thinks Sherlock is doubting him. And it hurts. And then comes a moment of absolute, pure honesty. “No one could fake being such an annoying dick all the time.” There’s a flash of understanding and affection between them that just lights the flat.

That’s my favorite. And of course the “No one could be that clever,” “You could,” moment toward the end.

TDM:  Yes.  They may fuss and fight, but they never really doubt each other.  Not really.  

TW: I think we’ve touched at least briefly on everyone. I do think Benedict Cumberbatch deserves a last thought, though. The sheer range of emotion and talent he’s demonstrated this series is incredible.

TDM:  Oh, undoubtedly he deserves all the hyperbole Hollywood has been tossing about for the last fortnight.  For once, they aren’t lying.  I look forward to seeing what he does with the roles he’ll be offered.  

I do have one other performance to mention.  Mark Gatiss Mycroft is so very touching.  There is pain there, guilt and grief.  Confusion from one who is never less than on top of everything.  It’s perfect.  The Iceman thaws.  

Maybe that’s the secret – so much perfection.  Makes it easy to forgive the very few flaws.

TW: Got your theory yet as to HOW Sherlock survived? It seems to be the topic of conversation lately. Or shall we pull a pint next week for a series summary and a discussion of theories?

TDM:  I have several.  Moftiss keeps saying they’re wrong.  Let’s do a decent dissection of the crime scene and see what we come up with.  I mean, we don’t have all those friends with FBI and forensics such for nothing.  We’re not Anderson; we know how to do it right.

TW: LOL, yeah – I’ll have those Google Earth photos for you shortly, labeled with sight-lines, distances, and the various vehicle-shuffling they pulled on us. Think you can profile Moftiss in a week’s time?

TDM:  Tough.  Moftiss thinking like Sherlock.  Evil.  Climbing about in the brains of serial killers is easier, you know.  Well, they do like torturing us, so maybe there isn’t that much difference.  I’ll give it my best shot.

TW: Next week, then. Thanks for stopping by. You know…there’s plenty of room in this blog for both of us, and the rent’s cheaper if we share. Could be very nice…very nice indeed? There’s another bedroom upstairs.

TDM:  Mrs. Hudson!  I’ll take the room!

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And so, this blog will shortly become the residence of Terry Wylis and T.D. McKinney. We hope you’ll all continue to stop by.

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2 thoughts on “Review/Discussion: SHERLOCK–The Reichenbach Fall

  1. I have to watch the episode again, and pour over it when I get the DVD, but I think I’ve figured out the clue everyone’s missed. I’m not sure yet how it fits in with HOW Sherlock was able to survive, but I think I hit upon the clue everyone’s missed.

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