Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Final Problem/The Reichenbach Fall - The End of Sherlock Season 2

And then what had happened? Who was to tell us what had happened then?
~ Watson ("The Final Problem")

If ever a show raised such poignant questions, it's Sherlock. The end of Season 2 was perhaps not a surprise to those aware of the original Sherlock stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, but that doesn't make it any less shocking or exasperating or painful. 

I know I'm not the one to answer those questions about what really happened, so I'm not going to try to do so. If you'd like to read others' theories, I recommend reading the comments on "Sherlock After the Fall" or reading other reviews. Suffice it to say that the ending lends itself to all sorts of discussions and speculations - talk about powerful!

This post will take a look at some quotes from Doyle's short story "The Final Problem" and connect them to "The Reichenbach Fall" (and the Sherlock series as a whole). [Spoilers to follow.] (My thoughts are italicized and in purple.)

  • "He [Moriarty] sits motionless, like a spider in the centre of its web; but that web has a thousand radiations, and he knows well every quiver of each of them." Sherlock makes a similar statement in "The Reichenbach Fall" in the courtroom. Moriarty is not a villain to be trifled with, and he is well aware of anything that touches his carefully crafted web.
  • Moriarty: "All that I have to say has already crossed your mind." Sherlock: "Then possibly my answer has crossed yours." These words between Moriarty and Sherlock were quoted earlier in the show, at another showdown between Moriarty and Sherlock - during the setup of another cliffhanger ending (at the end of "The Great Game"). The question at the end of "The Reichenbach Fall" is...has everything that Moriarty planned already crossed Sherlock's mind? And has Sherlock made the proper preparations to outsmart such a clever, crazy villain?
  • "I have my plans laid, and all will be well." Sherlock reassures Watson that he has set everything up to go according to his plan, at least in as far as making sure the proper arrests are made. All does not seem to be well at the end of "The Final Problem" - far from it. The same can be said for the end of "The Reichenbach Fall." Supposedly, from what I've heard, that's how Doyle wanted it - to be done with Sherlock's character. But he ended up bringing Sherlock back. And from what I've been hearing/reading, it seems that modern-day Sherlock will be back for Season 3 - so will all be well, after all?
  • "It was evident to me that he thought he might bring trouble to the roof he was under, and that that was the motive which impelled him to go." In "The Final Problem," Sherlock was aware of the danger he was in and the danger his presence might bring to Watson. In "The Reichenbach Fall," Sherlock seemed to become more and more aware of the danger he was in and the danger he might bring to those he cared about - like Watson and Mrs. Hudson. But was his supposed suicide a sacrificial act - or was it staged so far in advance that his motives stemmed more from self-preservation and ridding the world of Moriarty? I'd like to think, from the character development throughout the show, that Sherlock has grown in his capacity to care for others and to truly seek their welfare above his own, no matter what led up to the ending of this Season.
  • "It was a lovely trip, the dainty green of the spring below, the virgin white of the winter above; but it was clear to me that never for one instant did Holmes forget the shadow which lay across him." The shadow... There's a scene in "The Reichenbach Fall" (also shown in the intro to the Season 2 episodes) where Moriarty's shadow extends across the floor. His evil certainly cast a long, dark figurative shadow over Sherlock and others!
  • "In over a thousand cases I am not aware that I have ever used my powers upon the wrong side." Is that true? One of the most intriguing parts of "The Reichenbach Fall" is when Moriarty and Sherlock are up on the roof, and Sherlock declares himself on the side of the angels - but clarifies that he is not an angel himself. I think there is a danger in putting Sherlock up on too high of a pedestal. He is a fictional character, obviously, but also a human character at that. Sherlock himself warned Watson not to put him on a pedestal and not to see him as a hero. And yet at the end of "The Reichenbach Fall" Watson claims him to be a hero and the best man and human he had ever known. So who exactly is Sherlock? I hope that, in this version of the Sherlock stories anyway, Sherlock is a flawed (albeit ridiculously smart) character and a "high-functioning sociopath" (to quote him in "A Study in Pink") who chooses to use his talents for good, and who (despite his many blunders and faults and lack of tact) has a profound impact on the lives of those whom he cares about and who care about him. He's not a god or an angel. He's a flawed man who has found friendship and given friendship in return.  

  • So what are my final thoughts on this short story and this episode? "The Final Problem" is an intriguing short story for Sherlock fans, although it doesn't offer much for those who are just jumping into all things Sherlock. It assumes an already-existent affinity for Sherlock and Watson, and thus an interest in their fate. It also assumes a knowledge of Sherlock's character and his quirks. As for "The Reichenbach Fall," I think a similar thing can be said. For Sherlock fans, this episode is intriguing as it messes with your mind and throws everything on its head, shocking as it presents an apparently tragic ending that is rather gruesome and violent, and heart-breaking as it shows the repercussions of that "ending" on Watson - a man who has come a long way from the lost, lonely, and broken place in which Sherlock first found him. 
    Now comes the wait for Season 3. In the meantime, viewers will keep asking, along with Watson from "The Final Problem" - 
And then what had happened? Who was to tell us what had happened then?


Kaity-Jane said...

We went through both of the seasons of Sherlock last month. It quickly became my all-time favorite show. It was SO good! I can't wait for the next season to release -- the wait is killing me!

Faye said...

Goodness, it will be awesome when it comes out :)

Amber S. said...


It doesn't take long to get hooked! ;) I'm glad you've enjoyed the series so far, as well, and I hear you on having a hard time waiting!


Amber S. said...


I think so, too! :)