‘Sherlock’ Recap (Series 2, Episode 3): Falling Slowly
Shelock Holmes faces the Final Problem.
For the first time in eighteen months, Watson revisits his therapist. But why now? He’s barely able to speak the words: Sherlock Holmes is dead. How? Cue flashback.
Holmes has become a tabloid darling after a string of high-profile cases, particularly his career-defining recovery of a stolen Turner painting, “The Falls Of Reichenbach.” Worried that the tabloids will soon turn against Sherlock, Watson advises him to lower his profile. That becomes impossible when Moriarty engineers simultaneous break-ins at the Tower of London, Bank of England, and Pentonville Prison, all from an application on his mobile phone.
Sherlock is called as an expert witness in Moriarty’s trial, while Watson coaches him to avoid showing off by playing the smartass. Before the trial, a female “fan” named Kitty Riley approaches Sherlock in the restroom, but Sherlock correctly guesses that Kitty is actually a journalist. She thinks she can help Holmes with his public image, but Holmes deduces facts about her from her appearance and criticizes her witheringly. After showing off his intellect in court, Holmes gets thrown in a cell for contempt. Watson bails him out, but he must remain at Baker Street while Watson attends the next day of court.
Moriarty offers no defense, but having successfully threatened every member of the jury he manages a “not guilty” verdict. Upon receiving the news from Watson, Holmes immediately prepares for a visit from Moriarty, who comes to gloat about how he has developed a few lines of computer code that demolish any security and privacy measures, making him the most powerful man in the underworld. He leaves Holmes with a riddle: what is the “Final Problem?” And he cryptically suggests, “I owe you a fall.”
Two months later, Mycroft advises Watson that Kitty Riley is doing an exposé on Sherlock for the Sun. Furthermore, he warns John that four top international assassins have moved into apartments on Baker street. When Watson arrives home, he finds Lestrade and Sergeant Donovan at Baker street, working with Holmes on a case. The son and daughter of the British ambassador to the US have been kidnapped. Following a trail of impossibly obscure clues, based on chemical traces of dust, plant matter, and chocolate found in the culprit’s footprints, Holmes manages to find the children in an abandoned chocolate factory, but when the girl sees Sherlock’s face she cannot stop screaming.
This leads Sergeant Donovan, who has long despised Sherlock, to suspect that he engineered the kidnapping himself. At the urging of the Chief Superintendent, who is furious that Lestrade came to rely on an amateur who is now a suspect, Lestrade has to arrest Sherlock. Sherlock comes quietly at first, but then escapes, using John as a hostage. Not only are they pursued by the police, but also by their neighborhood assassins. Sherlock manages to confront one of them, who says that Moriarty gave Sherlock the security-defeating computer code, which is why they need him alive.
Sherlock and John break into Kitty Riley’s house, where they find Kitty and Moriarty, who is going under the identity of “Richard Brook.” He claims that he is an actor hired by Holmes to portray Moriarty, a character invented by Holmes along with every case he’s ever done. With a seemingly legitimate resume and list of credits, Brook’s story almost leads Watson to doubt Sherlock. Sherlock leaves to visit Molly Hooper at the hospital, asking her for help, while John goes to visit Mycroft and accuses him of providing information about Sherlock to Moriarty. Mycroft admits that while interrogating Moriarty, the only way he was able to get any information out of him was to give him information out of Sherlock in return.
Later at the hospital, Sherlock arranges a meeting with Moriarty. Watson receives a call informing him that Mrs. Hudson has been shot, and rushes back to Baker Street, but Sherlock refuses to go to her, meeting with Moriarty on the rooftop instead. There, Moriarty reveals that there was no security-breaking code: he simply bribed people who worked in the bank, tower and prison. Moriarty gloats that Sherlock will now jump off the hospital roof and die in disgrace. If he does not, then assassins will kill Mrs. Hudson, John, and Lestrade. However, Sherlock realizes that Moriarty must have some way to call off the assassins, some recall code, and gloats in return that Moriarty will call the assassins off. After all, Sherlock reasons, Moriarty should realize that Sherlock will go to any lengths to get that code.
Moriarty realizes that as long as he is alive, Sherlock has a hope of saving his friends, and so he shoots himself in the head. With Moriarty dead and no access to the code, Sherlock calls John (who has just returned to the hospital after realizing that Mrs. Hudson has not in fact been shot) and tells him that everything Richard Brook said is true: the great detective is a fraud, and this call is his suicide note.
Watson watches from the street as Holmes throws himself off the hospital roof. Rushing to the scene of the fallen body, Watson is knocked over by a cyclist, injuring his head. Disoriented, he just barely manages to ascertain that, yes, the crumpled form on the ground is Sherlock, and yes, he is dead. As the paramedics take the unconscious Watson away, Moriarty’s assassins stand down. The next day, Mycroft reads in the Sun a story about the suicide of the fake genius Sherlock Holmes.
Flash forward to Watson in therapy. His therapist advises that he visit Sherlock’s grave, where he will have the opportunity to say all the things he never could. Watson reiterates to Holmes’s grave that, no matter what Holmes says and what the world believes, he will never believe that Sherlock was a fraud, and begs Sherlock to do one last thing for him: don’t be dead.
A dejected Watson leaves the cemetery, but he is watched by a mysterious figure with a dark collar, curly hair, and ridiculous cheekbones. Could it be? Yes! It is! Sherlock Holmes, alive? But how could this be?
We’ll have to wait until next series to find out, it seems. Back when this second series of Sherlock aired on BBC1, Moffat, Gatiss and company managed to be pretty sneaky about this finale, hinting that the second season may well be the last. But mere minutes after the end credits rolled on this episode, Moffatt revealed we’d all been had: not only had a third series been commissioned, but in fact it had always been commissioned, as part of the same deal that got us this second series.
But with the third series having been in doubt before, I had wondered whether maybe, just maybe, Moffat and Gatiss intended to do what Arthur Conan Doyle never could, and just leave the most famous detective in all of fiction dead. After all, with both Cumberbatch and Freeman about to become big movie stars in the next couple of years, they might just be too busy to continue with the series. But we needn’t have feared. Sherlock will be back.
But how? While the Conan Doyle story which inspired this one, “The Final Problem,” gave Holmes an incredibly easy way out with no body discovered and no witnesses to the demise of Holmes and Moriarty, Moffatt, Gatiss, and Steve Thompson have made things much more difficult for their hero. Still, there are a few clues which might lead to a way out: Watson’s momentary distraction and subsequent disorientation because of the cyclist, or Holmes’s asking Molly Hooper for assistance both suggest possible outs, and there’s one theory on the Internet that the squash ball we see Holmes idly bouncing in the hospital could be used to give the appearance of a stopped pulse.
Whatever the case, it’s a great puzzler of an ending, but let’s not let that distract from the other eighty-five minutes of the episode, which are equally accomplished. Andrew Scott’s Moriarty proves a fascinating nemesis for Sherlock, and while I was skeptical about his loopy portrayal in the first series, this one has brought me fully around to loving this version of the character. And the script by Stephen Thompson was quite a wonderful surprise–having not been impressed by his previous scripts for Doctor Who and Sherlock, I now think he just needed the chance to work on some material that’s a bit less thankless.
In my recap of “A Scandal in Belgravia,” I compared Moffat’s version of Sherlock to his version of the Doctor in Doctor Who. Moffatt sees each of these characters as the man at the center of everything, the hero of the epic story around whom everything revolves. It’s interesting to note that in both cases, he’s taken the hero’s legend so far that it’s backfired in his face, to the point where a faked death was necessary to escape under the crushing weight of the heroic destiny.
Will the hero’s apparent demise really solve the problems he’s created for himself? For Doctor Who, we’ll find out later this year, but for Sherlock, we’ll likely have to wait longer. The third series isn’t even going to begin production until 2013, at which point production will have finished on The Hobbit (starring Freeman) and the next “Star Trek” film (starring Cumberbatch). That’s kind of excruciating. It’s a long wait between series for just three episodes. But we had to endure a comparable break to see this series, and these three episodes proved to be well worth the wait. For a lesser series, fans might just forget, lose interest, and move on. But I know I’ll be champing at the bit for the next batch, the moment they’re available to me.
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