SPOILERY SPOILERS THAT WILL SPOIL EVERYTHING.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Since I could go on and on about Sherlock at this point, I’ve decided the best way to handle the newly-attained crushing obsession I have is to limit this discussion to season two as a whole, and when it airs in North America in the summer, I’ll recap each episode so we can hash over every tiny detail and electrically hug one another to get through what could be a very long wait for season 3. In the meantime, though, we have plenty to talk about. For instance, this:
Mycroft is such an asshole
In the lore of Sherlock Holmes, older brother Mycroft is even more brilliant than Sherlock but he doesn’t like “legwork” (which he acknowledged in “The Great Game” with the line, “It involves legwork”). Arthur Conan Doyle never goes in depth about the Holmes boys’ childhood and through the various iterations of Sherlock Holmes over the years, Mycroft, like Lestrade, is often re-imagined since his original character is merely sketched in. Personally, the television Mycroft is my favorite. Played by series co-creator Mark Gatiss, he’s dapper and posh and a huge snob and the most condescending bastard you’ll meet this side of Sherlock himself. I also like that they’ve made him a grey eminence in the British government—of course Mycroft would be a behind-the-scenes king maker. When he was first introduced, I thought yes, this is PRECISELY what a modern-day Mycroft would be doing.
But god, do we hate Mycroft! I’ve seen some people bitching about his shocking error in telling Moriarty Sherlock’s actual history, saying it was out of character, but if you think about it, it actually makes sense. Mycroft is kinda sorta likeable at times, such as when he conspires with Watson to take care of Sherlock after Irene Adler’s “death”, but on the whole, I don’t like him. Further, I don’t think we’re supposed to like him all that much. Sherlock is a grown man—in his THIRTIES—who is capable of taking care of himself (despite constantly making Watson and Mrs. Hudson do minor tasks for him—that’s just laziness). Yet Mycroft consistently talks down to Sherlock, condescends to him, belittles his efforts solving crimes, many of which are police cases, and tries to manage Sherlock’s life in a way that suggests Mycroft doesn’t think much of his brother’s decisions.
We get two prime examples of just how poorly Mycroft rates Sherlock in the season two opener, “A Scandal in Belgravia”. Yes, he and his palace flunkies call Sherlock to help with Irene Adler, but I got the feeling that Mycroft only did that because he didn’t want to involve any official personnel in the delicate matter of a royal family member caught in a sex scandal (who do you suppose they were alluding to?), or call the police for the same reason. Mycroft wanted to keep the Adler Situation in house, so to speak, but couldn’t actually use anyone from his house. So he calls Sherlock. But as the situation spirals out of control, he ends up apologizing to Sherlock for putting him in the way of Adler, having underestimated the effect a sexy dominatrix would have on his asexual brother.
And that’s the second point when we see Mycroft’s disparaging treatment of Sherlock. At the beginning of the episode Sherlock says, “Sex doesn’t intimidate me,” and Mycroft responds, “How would you know?” Next time you watch this episode, pause on Sherlock’s face. He isn’t mad at Mycroft for saying that, he’s HURT. It’s a split-second reaction from Benedict Cumberbatch (who, it cannot be said enough, is not only one of the best actors out there, but is PHENOMENAL as Sherlock) and it’s clearly a look of deep hurt and mortification, that Mycroft would make such a casual, mean-spirited remark about something so private to Sherlock. Although, it did solve the mystery of Sherlock’s sexuality. He’s a virgin! Which is kind of funny, admit it. The way Cumberbatch plays Sherlock, it easily could have gone the other way and he’d be a closet sex freak. But the virgin route allows for Sherlock to be a bit vulnerable. He can say it doesn’t intimidate him, but obviously something about sex scares him or he wouldn’t have blocked it out of his life entirely (readers of the ACD books probably have an inkling as to why Sherlock would choose not to have sex). Also, it gave us this:
Since Mycroft has already underestimated Sherlock and the kind of people that are drawn to him once with the Adler Situation, should it really be such a surprise that he’d underestimate Moriarty, too? Mycroft doesn’t take Sherlock seriously, so why should he take the obvious nutter who’s fixated on him seriously? He doesn’t, not really, which is why he spills his guts about Sherlock, giving Moriarty all the ammunition he’ll need to take him down. Watson’s disbelief at this betrayal is palpable (and beautifully acted by Martin Freeman) but there’s also an edge of frustrated anger, a subtext of, why don’t you understand how serious this all is. One thing I’m really looking forward to in season 3 is how Mycroft and Sherlock’s relationship changes in the wake of Mycroft’s staggering stupidity.
Moriarty’s plan is totally full of holes
“Unhinged” is not how Moriarty is usually described. But as written for the 21st century and as played by Andrew Scott, Moriarty is the Joker to Sherlock’s Batman. He’s the kind of person who just wants to watch the world burn. Color me shocked that there are people—and not an insignificant number of them—who don’t like the Moriarty in Sherlock. At first, I admit, I didn’t really understand the need for such a fey, loony take on Moriarty. But as “The Reichenbach Fall” played out, it became clear that Moriarty had to be nuts. Crazy like a fox, certainly, but also willing to blow his brains out in order to best Sherlock. He has to be willing to go to those lengths and only a crazy person could go there. Therefore, Moriarty + Batshit Insane = Perfectly Acceptable.
Obviously once the shock wore off from the ending of the final episode, “The Reichenbach Fall”, I began to think over how Sherlock’s life unraveled at the hands of Moriarty and I quickly realized that Moriarty’s entire plot was full of huge, gaping holes. I’m sure you did, too. There are big logic gaps, not the least of which is: If Richard Brook was a television presenter, why didn’t anyone recognize him at his trial? Further, since Sherlock’s motives are now in question, at some point Scotland Yard will have to review all the cases he worked on and as they clear the cases, surely someone would say, “Hey, maybe Sherlock wasn’t full of shit after all.” And let’s not forget about Moriarty’s body on the same rooftop from which Sherlock jumped. Eventually someone’s going to find it and wonder what the hell happened. In fact, the more you think over Moriarty’s plan, the more you realize it’s a house of cards. It doesn’t hold up at all.
But then, it doesn’t have to. Moriarty’s goal wasn’t just the destruction of Sherlock’s reputation; it was to get Sherlock to jump off that rooftop. By destroying his reputation, he makes the fact of Sherlock’s suicide believable. Character assassination was the means, not the end. But that’s what made Moriarty’s plan so brilliant. It didn’t have to hold together, it only had to work. And it did work, because Sherlock’s besetting sin is vanity and essentially Moriarty got to him by turning his vanity against him. It works really well in the short term but with even a minimal-effort second look it falls apart quickly. I’ve seen some people dismiss this as poor plotting but I think they’re missing the elegance of Moriarty’s thinking. How much worse will those who turned against Sherlock feel when they realize they fell for a really stupid story? Moriarty didn’t just succeed in getting rid of Sherlock—he left those who knew him with a nasty mix of guilt and grief as a bonus. And yes, I think Moriarty is dead for realsies. He dies in the ACD stories and Moffat and Gatiss are pretty loyal to that framework. Also, if you look, you can see a bit of brain matter in the blood pool. Gross, but effective.
How did he DO that
So who else was a crying mess at the end of “The Reichenbach Fall”? Having read the ACD stories, when I saw the title of the episode I knew something like that was coming, but I still wasn’t ready for the phone call between Sherlock and Watson, or Watson’s speech at Sherlock’s grave. And then that final shot of Sherlock—I literally gasped and said “what the fuck” out loud. And then I promptly began trawling the internets for theories and speculation on just how Sherlock faked his death. Theories range from the simple—he landed in the laundry truck—to the complex—there’s a clone! I’m afraid to speculate fully because we’ve been left with the challenge of trying to out-guess Sherlock Holmes and I mean, COME ON.
I do think that the solution to Sherlock’s riddle is both simpler and more complex than any theory I’ve heard so far. I definitely think that truck was involved, and the guy who knocked down Watson clearly did that on purpose, to delay him. Sherlock was adamant that Watson stay in a particular place to watch him jump, that’s going to matter. I don’t think Mycroft was in on it, though. No real reason, except he’s a giant asshole who sold out his brother. I think Molly is the only person who knows the truth about what Sherlock did. And no, I don’t think there was ever any kind of body switch. Sherlock jumped, Sherlock fell, Sherlock landed, Sherlock was on the stretcher. The only question is how did he not die?
The thing I can’t get over is why he told Watson he’d been faking all along on the phone at the end. What point did that serve? And he made sure to toss the phone on the roof before he jumped. To preserve it? THIS IS THE CLIFFHANGER FROM HELL. And what did Molly do? (OMG Molly. How much do we love her?! I wanted to punch Sherlock in the face in “Scandal” when he humiliated Molly at the Christmas party, but he made up for that and every other slight he’s dealt her when he turned to her for help.) The obvious answer is that she faked a death certificate for him and helped him out of the hospital, but she’s the only person he trusted to know what he was doing before he went to the roof to meet Moriarty. The secrets Molly must be keeping…
We never see Molly after that, which I put down to it being too revealing of Sherlock’s plan, but we also never saw Lestrade, except for a brief glimpse from the assassin’s point of view. His faith in Sherlock was badly shaken but ultimately, even though he had to turn him in, Lestrade still believed in Sherlock. And it was kind of sweet, in a backwards way, that Moriarty identified Lestrade as a friend of Sherlock’s. Their relationship definitely warmed up throughout season two, and Lestrade got one of the best lines in the series: “That fits with his…Asperger’s?” Makes me wonder how much Lestrade will have to do with restoring Sherlock’s reputation. Also makes me wonder if the phone wasn’t left more for Lestrade than for Watson. I can’t let the phone go—he threw it so deliberately. And WHY did he lie to Watson at the end? That bugs me more than thinking about how he survived the fall.
And now we wait
Ugh. Season three is at least a year away, the emphasis on “at least”. Cumberbatch and Freeman are both extremely busy and shooting season two was difficult enough, sandwiched in between filming periods for The Hobbit. They did film some scenes while working on “Reichenbach”, though, which was probably done for continuity’s sake (Sherlock’s reveal, perhaps?). So I suspect season three will open as two did, by picking immediately where we left off then skipping ahead in time. But the wait. Dear lord, THE WAIT. Nothing to do but stand around, speculating. And waiting.