SYNOPSIS: "Contemporary crime drama. Moriarty is back, with the most audacious crime of the century. But is Sherlock Holmes all he claims to be?" (bbc.co.uk)
It is perhaps unfortunate that the recent film sequel 'Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows' and the finale to the second series of this fantastic television show both opted for the same source material - 'The Final Problem'. Yet both the film and this episode have turned out rather well. For more on the latter, read below - there will be spoilers on the series as a whole but these will be heavily marked.
The episode opens in a solemn fashion as we find our old buddy Dr John Watson (Martin Freeman) attempting to come to terms with the death of Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) before we flashback to months previously to the man in his pomp. Solving cases like no amateur has done before, "boffin" Sherlock Holmes has become the media's darling, with "confirmed bachelor"-cum-PR-assistant Watson also thrust into the limelight.
All is looking well until the return of one Jim Moriarty (Andrew Scott), generally regarded as "the greatest criminal mind the world has ever known". An ominous, if not catchy, slogan. Moriarty has played a rather subdued role in this series considering the manner in which he exploded into Sherlock's world in the previous series finale. But he has clearly been biding his time.
Breaking into The Tower Of London, Bank Of England and Pentonville Prison simultaneously via what appears to be a mobile phone app - there's an app for everything these days - but is apparently a few lines of computer code which can open any door, anywhere. "I can blow up NATO in alphabetical order". Moriarty rather gloriously decorates himself in the crown jewels while awaiting his capture - his object of desire being Sherlock, and not money.
Moriarty finds himself on trial, entering a "not guilty" plea, while presenting no defence. We're already aware that this is a man who is quite possibly batshit insane yet we also know that he is extremely intelligent. This is a man with a plan. A plan to destroy Sherlock. And that plan is already well under way...which is about as much as I'd like to say in terms of plot without entering the realm of spoilers.
'The Reichenbach Fall' was truly excellent, one of the finest pieces of television (British or otherwise) from the past decade. The writing, acting and direction all superb with perhaps the only sour note being the final shot, which was too revelatory for my liking. As well as a slightly dubious assassins sub-plot. Nonetheless, I salute all involved, particularly the terrific writing of Steve Thompson and direction from Toby Haynes. A shame we'll have to wait a long, long time till the third series.
*****SPOILERS FROM HERE ON*****
So before the intermission for spoilers, I was talking about Moriarty being on trial. Obviously he got out of that in a typically malevolent fashion. Which surely brings up an interesting discussion about why good guys (almost) always win when they're so restricted by the "rules"? But that's for another time.
A brew with Moriarty later and we're onto kidnapped children. In similar fashion to 'The Great Game', Sherlock managed to solve the case in spite of severe time pressure but ultimately, this counts against him. When the young girl immediately screams upon meeting Sherlock, Sergeant Donovan grasped upon her long standing grudge against the detective and pinned him as prime suspect. Bloody women.
The dramatic montage (from a taxi, of all places) that followed was unexpectedly brilliant, both cementing Moriarty's status as a maniac and a genius. Of course, having had a run in with one cab driver already - you'd have to ask why Sherlock doesn't at least take a glance at who he's joining inside a moving vehicle. Bloody cabbies.
Two arrests later and Sherlock and Watson made their "imminent and daring escape" from the police - which seemed like something of a plothole for the rest of the episode, it must be said. But that kind of thing is easily overlooked when the twists start coming - first, Moriarty posing as an actor who Sherlock had hired to perpetrate his "fake" crimes. Then, the computer code that never was - even the great Sherlock was dumbfounded that something could have been done so easily.
The biggest twists of course were the final deaths. Moriarty's, in particular. Just as I was warming to Andrew Scott as well. Having so skilfully defeated Sherlock, it was something of a surprise that he would sacrifice his own life simply to ensure a greater probability that Sherlock's friends would die. Especially as they ended up surviving. But really it's all about Sherlock's end. Or rather, his un-end.
***(WILD SPECULATION ON) THE ENDING***
He clearly jumped off the roof. Was it his bloodied body lying on the pavement? We've seen a similar bait-and-switch in the first episode of this series - speaking of which, it was a shame not to see a returning Irene Adler - whether that has any reflection on the eventual explanation, I'm not sure.
There's a few key elements - Sherlock insisting that John stand in a certain location, followed by the cyclist knocking John over as Sherlock jumps. With difficulty, he stumbles over to see what he believes is Sherlock's body and checks for any pulse - finding none. In his discombobulated state though, what he perceived might not have been true.
Molly (Louise Brealey) seems to be the missing piece of this jigsaw. Her character has been nurtured magnificently over the course of the six episodes and she could well have played her finest hand yet here. Significantly, Sherlock asks for her help in a sincere rather than commanding manner and she appears willing.
It seems most likely that Sherlock jumped onto an adjacent garbage truck, then as Watson was hit by the cyclist, faked substantial injuries with or without the help of a) Molly and/or b) Mycroft and his pals c) Irene Adler d) Lestrade e) Dangermouse etc. Molly would then conduct the resulting autopsy and cover-up the issue. It'd be good for Molly to be the hero, for once.
If the garbage truck had nothing to do with the situation, it pulled away surprisingly quickly considering someone had just committed suicide about 5 yards away. But I suppose Londoners are known for their ability to continue their daily lives in the face of adversity. And the makers can always claim it was an intentional red herring and it was their plan all along. I will stage a small protest/my own fake suicide if they try though.
Other theories are certainly available, and the traumatised child who screamed at the sight of Sherlock could be key - perhaps there was some sort of mask/disguise which could have been placed on another corpse or even more juicy, a (now deceased) Sherlock double. Some people even think Moriarty might have a double, although I would like to think not purely as it would be of tremendous detriment to this episode.
As it stands, 'The Reichenbach Fall' was not a fall but a triumph. Whether the final reveal of an alive Sherlock was needed, I'm not sure - I thought it actually took away some of the emotion of Watson's empassioned plea for him to return. Perhaps simply showing a shadowy figure walking away or some such would have been preferable.
To sum up the series, we found ourselves in a similar pattern to last year - a strong start followed by a middling...middle, which was then topped off with a thriller. Holmes and Watson have stepped up a notch both in acting and in character, while the likes of Lestrade, Mrs Hudson and Molly are pleasingly seeing more game time. Let's keep this up for series three, guys.
PREVIOUS EPISODE (SPOILER-FREE) REVIEWS:
'The Hounds Of Baskerville' (2012)
'A Scandal In Belgravia' (2012)
'The Great Game' (2010)
'The Blind Banker' (2010)
'A Study In Pink' (2010)
Watch 'The Reichenbach Fall' on BBC iPlayer till 21.29, 28 Jan '12. Feel free to leave any comments on this episode, the "death" of Sherlock, and/or the series as a whole below.