Season 2, Episode 3: “The Reichenbach Fall”
Written by Steve Thompson
Directed by Toby Haynes
Aired Sunday January 15th, 2012 at 9pm GMT on BBC 1
We knew that this day would come. We’ve been looking forward to it for long enough. So how do you end a brilliant second season of our favourite consulting detective? With ninety minutes of enthralling drama.
The Reichenbach Fall sees Sherlock Holmes and his nemesis Jim Moriarty face off for the final time. After Moriarty gets away with breaking open three of the most secure places in London (Pentonville Prison, the Bank of England and The Tower of London) using a simple smartphone app, Sherlock finds himself as a suspect to a kidnapping plot. Soon our hero and sidekick John Watson find themselves in a plot more twisted than they thought possible, with Sherlock set up for a fall.
The whole episode forms a twisted tale that is reminiscent of old film noir, similar to The Usual Suspects; it’s very easy to lose any concept of what is real and what is make believe. The idea of fairy tales and suggested doubt weave throughout the episode as faith in Sherlock is shaken to the core, thanks to the machinations of cunning genius Moriarty. The concept highlights the relationships between Holmes and the other characters, who are quick to deduce and side with the easiest solution – that he is a criminal mastermind – yet seem to easily forget everything that has happened during these two short yet compelling seasons.
The combined acting genius of Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman and Andrew Scott is beyond words. Cumberbatch emotionally taps into Sherlock – between the numerous scenes with Moriarty and his final ‘note’ to Watson, we eventually see him unable to outwit and deduce the situation to anything more than what it is. With that, we see Sherlock become someone we never thought possible – an utterly defeated man, and Cumberbatch plays the part incredibly.
Scott has ten times more screentime to play his role as Moriarty to an infinitely stunning effect. We knew from the first season finale, ‘The Great Game’, that this man was smart as hell and can affectively creep you out within a matter of moments.
In The Reichenbach Fall, he evolves into something more. From his introduction at the Tower of London, which is reminiscent to Gary Oldman in Leon, to the final confrontation with Sherlock, we see someone utterly brilliant and out of his mind. Yet he has a smugness that only masks what we already know – he is just as smart as Sherlock. Scott plays a worthy adversary and deserves praise of turning Moriarty into a three-dimensional villain.
From the first moments of the episode, Freeman grasps our attention with Watson’s repressed grief of losing his best friend. He beautifully plays the role with almost confusion – being around someone so smart for 18 months (since the one and only time we saw him with a therapist, which was when he still had a crutch!), it’s like he has lost his way. Plus he was a soldier – you have to remember that he was confronted with death on a daily basis – but when you see Watson standing in the graveyard in the final moments, it’s heartwrenching to say the least.
Watson’s devotion to Sherlock is unwavering and when he assaults someone who calls his mate a ‘weirdo,’ you want to give him a high-five.
The appearances of Lestrade, interfering reporter Kitty Riley (played by The IT Crowd‘s Katherine Parkinson) and even mortuary assistant Molly Hooper are welcome inclusions as their supporting roles become pivotal at the crucial moment.
The emotional drama of the episode grips you from beginning to end, affecting you as a proper drama should. Enthralling and heartbreaking, you can think about the subplots and that cliffhanger if you want – but at the end of the day, this is all about Sherlock.
2013 couldn’t come fast enough.
– Katie Wong