Sherlock – The Reichenbach Fall: full review

The series ends with a climactic struggle and a last-minute shock. But was our reviewer David Brown impressed?

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In all the years that I’ve been reading and watching the cases of Sherlock Holmes, I’ve never been convinced that Moriarty – that most well known of adversaries – is worthy of his title as the “Napoleon of Crime”.

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In The Final Problem, he’s described as being “the organiser of half that is evil and of nearly all that is undetected in this great city”. But we, as readers, never see any real evidence of this lawlessness.

To me, he always appears to be someone introduced by an author who wants to kill off a main character of whom he’s grown thoroughly sick. In short, Moriarty is conjured into existence solely to bring about Holmes’s demise at Reichenbach.

And then from out of the blue comes Andrew Scott, a snarling, slippery presence and the first actor to truly make up for Arthur Conan Doyle’s oversights. In tonight’s opening minutes, we saw Moriarty audaciously bypassing security at Pentonville prison, the Tower of London and the Bank of England. Now that’s a criminal mastermind in action.

The fact that robbery wasn’t even his main objective made his machinations even more palpable. His focus was, as had been clear for some time, Sherlock’s downfall, but this was to be achieved in a far more cunning way than through a quick grapple at a Swiss waterfall.

We were in classic archenemy territory here – two intellectual equals at opposite ends of the moral spectrum. “We’re just alike, you and I,” remarked Moriarty, reinforcing the notion that he is what Sherlock could have been had the sleuth used his talents for ill.

The fact that Moriarty was making it personal meant that the end point was fated to be the obliteration of either one or both of them. In the end, Jim Moriarty turned a gun on himself and a discredited Sherlock, a tear dropping onto his scarf, made a suicide call to John before plummeting from a high ledge.

This whole sequence was both vertiginously thrilling and tender, the only problem being that we were denied the opportunity to properly mourn.

Back when Conan Doyle originally sent Holmes to meet his maker, there were no plans to bring him back and fans showed their disaffection by putting mourning crepe in their silk hats. Here in The Reichenbach Fall, we’d only just processed John’s emotive words at the graveside – “I was so alone and I owe you so much” – when who should be spied standing out of his sightline but Sherlock himself.

“Don’t be dead,” John whispered at the end of his affecting tribute, yet it’s a shame his prayers were answered so quickly. Why the need for such instant gratification? Even Jesus took three days before his miraculous resurrection.

It’s the same problem that afflicted the recent big-screen Game of Shadows, where Robert Downey Jr’s Holmes revealed his hand mere minutes after his demise. It’s almost as if viewers can’t be trusted with their grief for fear it will kill the franchise.

Yet there are still questions in need of answers. With Sherlock back in the land of the living, the focus now shifts from “why did he have to die?” to “how did he cheat death?”

Various theories are currently flying around the Radio Times office, most of them springing from minds more inventive than mine: was some sleight of hand performed in the seconds that John lay floored by a passing cyclist? Were the concerned citizens really Sherlock’s capable lieutenants?

Maybe lovelorn mortician Molly Hooper (someone with a ready supply of corpses) was enlisted to help? The fact that she wasn’t a target of the assassins meant that she could have been at work behind the scenes…

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But what are your theories on how Sherlock survived? It’s going to be a while before we hear mention of any series three, so in the meantime, share your deductions below…