Mark Watches ‘Sherlock’: S02E03 – The Reichenbach Fall

In the third and final episode of the second series of Sherlock, Sherlock faces off against Moriarty. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Sherlock.

After starting and stopping so many times, allow me to start off with the easy stuff:

This might possibly be the finest episode of television that I’ve ever experienced in my entire life. I just sat with my cursor blinking after that sentence for at least five full minutes before I started typing again. I feel that so wonderfully sums up how I felt about “The Reichenbach Fall” and the emotional journey that Steve Thompson took us on. (How on earth did this same writer create “The Blind Banker”? THIS IS WEIRD TO ME.)

I am at a point with this show where I have simply allowed myself to fall so deeply in love with the characters that I honestly could watch John and Sherlock sit around staring at one another for ninety minutes and I’d demand it get an Oscar, even if that isn’t a thing that’s legal or something. The true brilliance, though, comes from the fact that Thompson relies so heavily on the past five episodes of the show to bring about Moriarty’s destruction of Sherlock. (Fair warning, I’m going to jump around a lot in this review because I cannot be bothered to be coherent at this point.) If you think about it, Moriarty’s entire plan involved two things: knowing Sherlock’s life in minute detail, and knowing that Sherlock was lying about not having friends. In one aspect, it’s terrifying just how much Moriarty was able to pick up so many of the smaller details of Sherlock’s relationship with the people around him. He knew that Sally Donovan and Anderson despised the way they were treated by the private investigator (and for good fucking reason and PS if you hate these two for not tolerating an asshole GO AWAY); he knew that turning the people in his life against him would break the man; he knew that there really was a way to burn the heart out of Sherlock.

It’s why that moment where Moriarty shows up in Kitty Reilly’s apartment, disguised as an actor, is just so gut-wrenching to watch. That’s what makes the last third of “The Reichenbach Fall” so unbearable, too. We are watching one man beat Sherlock over and over again. The writers have spent episode after episode assuring us that Sherlock would have the last laugh, and here, that concept is just so utterly destroyed.

It should go without saying that Andrew Scott gives a life-ruining performance in this episode. He’s a life-ruiner. How am I ever supposed to enjoy another villain after him? His combination of flamboyance, extravagance, and violence is like nothing I have ever seen. He scares us, and then he makes us laugh. His actions are brazen, and without the slightest hint of fear. That is impressive to me. Not once does he give us a sign that he thinks he is losing, and it is a way to strike fear into our hearts. The man orchestrated the destruction of Sherlock’s persona in a calculating, exact manner. It’s why we come to accept that Sherlock simply lost at the end.

There truly are so many nice, emotional moments scattered about the episode. This was Molly’s time to shine in a way we’ve never seen before, and I was so happy that she had a chance to take the way she’s been treated by Sherlock and shove it right back at him. We see how she’s able to read Sherlock in a way that he not only did not expect, but one that’s beautifully accurate. For a character like Molly, who is so socially awkward, it’s a gigantic development for her story to have her tell Sherlock to his face that he’s lying. It’s been clear to me that this version of Sherlock feels that others need to “earn” a spot for him to care about them, and there’s a subtext to Molly’s behavior that feels like a giant middle finger to him. She cares, whether he accepts her or not, and she knows what he is feeling. (Of course, I think is directly tied to the ending. He specifically comes to her to admit that he does need help, a very un-Sherlock thing to do, and I think she helps arrange that – oh, well, we’ll get there.

Series two has also helped me enjoy DI Lestrade a whole lot more, since he takes a more trusting role to Sherlock than in the past. In his case, though, Rupert Graves is able to portray the frustrated heartbreak at the idea that Sherlock has been lying to him, involving him in some sort of complicated set of murders and crimes just to satisfy Sherlock’s own ego. I’m interested to see if series three (IT HAS TO HAPPEN, RIGHT?) will take into account any possible guilt Lestrade might feel over sending Sherlock to his death.

I’m sure Mycroft is feeling his own sense of guilt, though I wonder if, like in the original stories, he is one of the few people to know that Sherlock is still alive. I adore Mark Gatiss as Mycroft because he’s played the character with such a wide spectrum of emotions. While he may have been mostly distant and frustrated over the course of series one, series two explores the dynamic of his relationship with his brother in a lot more detail. Bless John for figuring out that Mycroft was mostly acting out of guilt in this story. But does that mean he truly cares about Sherlock, then? He and his brother are both reluctant to share their emotions with others, choosing to hide them in words, dense sentences, and furtive glances. He can’t tell his own brother that he’s sorry for inadvertently sticking assassins around his place, so he asks John to do it for him.

ugh my heart

I’ve saved the best for last, and the best is Martin Freeman. This is his episode, and this is his story. This is clearly the reason why Peter Jackson rearranged the production schedule on The Hobbit. This is the reason I watch this show, and this is the reason I just love this man’s face. For me, John Watson’s story in this episode is one of loyalty and love. He demonstrates time and time again that there is no one he trusts more in the world than Sherlock Holmes. Even when Moriarty provides concrete evidence that he was an actor hired by Sherlock, John refuses to believe a second of it. It’s why it’s so especially hard for Sherlock to pull off his final plan in the end: he knows that his friend just believes.

And that leads us to the moment that just fucking broke me. “The Reichenbach Fall” started in media res with John choking up about Sherlock’s death, but it was one of those things I believed was a joke, a trick, or some manipulation of reality. When Sherlock tearfully calls John to tell him goodbye, so he could be the last person he sees before death, I was upset. When Sherlock leapt from the building, I was terrified, but I fully expected some sort of mattress or trick or anything to stop his fall.

But when the blood started pooling and John was stumbling towards the body, I simply could not believe that this was happening. You can’t do this. He’s the titular character. He can’t die. But he was dead. There was too much blood and there was no way to fake it. He hit that sidewalk and John, devastated by what he’s just witnessed, must watch the lifeless body of his best friend be carried away.

I think most of us will look upon that scene in the cemetery with watery eyes and a lump in our threats. It’s heartbreaking on a level that’s hard to describe, and that’s because Martin Freeman makes it feel so very real. What we see before us is a man who refuses to give up, who refuses to accept something he knows to be true, because he loves Sherlock Holmes.

stop it what are you doing to my heart

Of course, when the camera panned to a very-living Sherlock, I think my brain just snapped in half and I don’t even know how I’m writing this. The sheer brilliance of having this story follow “The Final Problem” is so clever it hurts. He faked his death. GOD, OBVIOUSLY HE WOULD DO THAT! That’s how “The Final Problem” was addressed when Doyle had to bring the character back. I definitely want to know the logistics of this, and I’m pretty sure John is going to immediately murder Sherlock upon discovering he is still alive, but GOOD GOD. WHAT AN ENDING.

Seriously, I have seen it twice now. I will probably watch it a few more times before the week ends. YOU CANNOT STOP ME.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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