Friday, January 17, 2014

Sherlock: The Reichenbach Fall

PEOPLE. The things I find in the drafts folder of this half-forgotten musings on The Reichenbach Fall from TWO YEARS AGO.

This Sherlock post isn't going to be nearly as in-depth as past blog entries (i.e., The Hounds of Baskerville or A Scandal in Belgravia), but as Sherlock is finally returning to Masterpiece with Series III THIS SUNDAY, I feel compelled to post something about this installment of the show (and in case you're wondering, yes, I have managed to avoid spoilers as to how Sherlock survives that fall!).

This episode is positively riddled with wonderful character moments and nods to the canon, but at its heart is, of course, the relationship between Sherlock and John, and a showcase for the chemistry between Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. Before touching on a few of those moments, here are the paragraphs I wrote TWO FRIGGIN' YEARS AGO and then, apparently, promptly lost in my drafts folder:

I have a feeling the answer is hidden in plain sight, but because we have all been watching the characters and action unfold on-screen we're missing some subtle clue(s). I'm convinced Molly has something to do with helping Sherlock pull it off. I read an interesting theory that possibly John was drugged by the substance used in the Baskerville episode...which is fascinating to me because going on what we see, we see Sherlock with his head bashed in -- but that is from John's point of view...and shock/drugs/getting hit by that bike...all contributing factors to his rattled state.

I sort of feel like Sherlock's tears might have -- at least in part -- been a genuine emotional reaction to the moment. Because I think whatever he planned, however he pulled it off, he KNEW what it was going to do to his best friend, he KNEW he had no choice but to willingly crush him emotionally. Very interesting how Moffat and Gatiss are overseeing the growth of Sherlock's character. He is very much the Sherlock of the canon but there are moments of powerful growth that they insert in the series, that I think mean a great deal because we know Sherlock isn't "wired" to connect/be emotionally vulnerable. He's not becoming someone he isn't, or was never meant to be...they are just testing him in some really interesting ways. At least I think so. :)

I think it is possible Sherlock and Mycroft are in on the whole thing -- during the "dead" time between "Fall" and "Empty House," Mycroft financially supports Sherlock in hiding...will be interesting to see if that is brought into the next series! I love how this series explores this testy, emotionally frought relationship between the brothers...just because Mycroft is more "socially adept" than Sherlock doesn't mean he is any less messed up. :P There's a bigger game afoot, at least that's how I saw it.


Was that worth waiting two years to click "publish"? Nevermind, don't answer that. *wink*

The episode opens with John visiting his psychiatrist for the first time in over a year, heartbroken over his best friend's death. I KNEW that was coming, and still, after all this time, that opening gives me chills. Flashback three months, and we see Sherlock riding on high on a string of fabulously publicized successes, his crowning jewel the recovery of a J.M.W. Turner painting of Reichenbach Falls (I LOVED that, immediately reminded me of the atmosphere of the original stories as well as my beloved Jeremy Brett series).

Meanwhile Moriarty (Andrew Scott) pays a visit to the Tower of London, breaking into the case containing the Crown Jewels (after writing "Get Sherlock" on the glass), while simultaneously unleashing codes from his phone that open the vault at the Bank of England and unlock all of the cells at Pentonville Prison.. This is a brilliantly filmed sequence to the soundtrack of Rossini's "La gazza ladra" ("The Thieving Magpie"), a wonderfully appropriate metaphor for the Moriarty of this series, here highly suggestive to my mind of the manner in which he picks away at the threads of Sherlock's reputation in this installment.

Moriarty is arrested and Sherlock is called to testify, sure of the outcome, never dreaming, perhaps, that it was Moriarty's plan all along to participate in a highly publicized trial only to be acquitted. This highly public black mark against Sherlock in the public eye is but the first step in the madman's plan to see his rival utterly destroyed, to see the "angel" the public has embraced shredded, utterly destroyed.

The primary canon source for this episode is obviously Doyle's "The Final Problem." I've always thought it was rather interesting that Doyle scripted Sherlock's death here, tired of writing for his most famous creation, determined to have him exit in a spectacular fashion -- little counting on the public pressure that would insist on Holmes's resurrection ten years later in "The Adventure of the Empty House." Doyle's rather fraught relationship with the cult of celebrity that erupted around Sherlock is, I think, mirrored after a fashion in this episode -- public adoration made Sherlock here, and can just as easily destroy him as Moriarty so methodically intends to prove.

Through the ensuing storm of accusations and doubt, John (of course) remains faithful to his friend -- what breaks my heart here is seeing the impact of Sherlock's very public fall from grace on Lestrade (Rupert Graves). THAT killed me (just ONE of the times something came very near that in this episode) -- closely followed by the revelation that Mycroft (Mark Gatiss) was responsible for the leak of personal information regarding HIS BROTHER during earlier interrogations of Moriarty. That fatalistic acceptance of that -- well, is there any other word for it than betrayal, however unintentional? -- is brilliantly played. The Holmes brotherly relationship in this series is so fraught with tension, so utterly heartbreaking.

This series' crowning moment is Sherlock and Moriarty's final face-off on the roof of St. Bartholomew's Hospital, where Moriarty reveals the true depth of his obsession with destroying his rival -- he commits suicide, leaving Sherlock to pay the price of his friends' lives -- John, Mrs. Hudson, Lestrade -- with his own. Only with his death will they be spared an assassin's bullet. And so he makes a final call, determinedly attempting to destroy John's childlike faith in him by admitting that he's a fake, that everything they've experienced together, the entire basis of their friendship, is a lie.

But of course John knows his friend. And the final scene of this episode leaves me every bit as gutted as Martin Freeman is on-screen. The utter devastation with which he imbues John's final words over Sherlock's grave -- while Sherlock looks on from the shadows -- is gut-wrenching, an unforgettable image of loss and steadfast faith that has been the defining image of this incarnation of the classic friendship for far too long.

Sherlock returns this Sunday on Masterpiece. I am looking forward to seeing how he survived the fall, of course, but the mechanics are at this juncture just that -- mechanics. What I really can't wait to revel in is the return of Sherlock and Watson to my television screen and the unforgettable dynamic brought to their unorthodox friendship by Cumberbatch and Freeman's performances. Everything else is just icing on the cake. :)

*Image copyright BBC/Masterpiece. No copyright infringement intended.


Kristin said...

The Reichenbach Fall is definitely my favorite Sherlock episode so far. I can still remember the complete shock I felt when I saw it for the first time! It is just so good (and incredibly heartbreaking).

Goodness, I can't wait for Sunday night!! :) I need to know how he survived. Miraculously, I've managed to avoid spoilers for this season, too.

Unknown said...

@Kristin - Isn't it SO good? Sunday night is going to be intense...hopefully we'll get some Downton recover and then the sequel to THIS piece of brilliance. Can't wait!

Renee (BlacknGoldGirlsBookSpot) said...

I am weeeeaaak! I have read and researched as many spoilers as I could find. I've read theories, watched videos, visited Tumblr, and pinned over 150 pins from the upcoming season already. I can't wait to see the series on TV this week and share all of my secret pins. :-)

Unknown said...

@Renee - Okay...I should clarify, I've seen *some* spoilers (images, gifs, etc.)...but I've managed to avoid blow-by-blow I CAN'T WAIT FOR SUNDAY!!! ;)

Heather @ Simple Wives said...

My husband and I just started watching Sherlock. We have one episode left!

Jack said...

I had planned on rewatching series two before series three came out, but I got behind on editing and haven't had the time. And I am not going to put three off and risk them taking it offline before I can see it. I've avoided spoilers so far, but it is getting next to impossible since it aired in the States. And if I waited too long and it is taken off I'd have to leave the internet world all together until it came out on DVD if I didn't want to find out what happens.

I think you're right though, about Molly helping Sherlock, and the theory about Watson being drugged. That is a good one, I hadn't thought of that one before.

Unknown said...

@Mrs. Pedersen - Enjoy!! :)

@Jack - I hear that. Between the internet, and the delay in air dates between the UK and here...spoilers are SO hard to avoid.