On Sunday night, a nation of viewers sat gripped as Sherlock grappled with his final problem and those events that led to his inevitable fall. The final episode of Sherlock season two ‘The Reichenbach Fall’ seemingly chronicled the last few months of the titular hero’s life, as told by a tearful Watson, as he related a terrible plot by arch-nemesis Moriarty to turn Sherlock’s reputation against him and drive him to the brink of despair.
To say that the impressive twists and turns of the episodes plot is not even the most impressive aspect of Steve Thompson’s script, a clever adaptation of Conan Doyle’s original story ‘The Final Problem’ is actually a compliment, given the context of an episode which is the perfect culmination of the groundwork laid over the last two series.
Beginning with a brief montage which highlight’s Sherlock’s growing fame and Watson’s growing discomfort as his friend simply ignores the increasingly intensity of the press scrutiny, the groundwork is already being laid for a tense finale. We then cut to Moriarty who artfully carries out multiple raids on some of London’s most secure sites, for motives which remain a mystery.
Stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman seem so comfortable in the roles by this point that they no longer simply seem like the latest pair in a long line of actors to portray Conan Doyle’s famous sleuths, but in fact have made these roles their own. The emotional beats and character scenes, which are many and intense in this week’s episode, are heartbreakingly sincere and manage to elicit intense feelings without being overplayed, such is the rapport the pair have built up over the preceding two series. That isn’t to say that Holmes and Watson don’t still get to have some fun, and there are still one or two moments that bring the pair’s physical comedy and easy chemistry to the fore.
Credit also goes to director Toby Haynes who manages to fuse some of the series key visual and musical cues seamlessly into a satisfying whole. A scene in which Sherlock surveys a mental map of London is saved from being routine, as the following events remind the audience, rather shockingly that in Holmes’s world, not everybody takes his genius for granted. The music too, has finally worked its way sufficiently into one’s unconscious that at points you might even find yourself humming along the series trademark theme, proof that composers David Arnold and Michael Price have done their job well. It wouldn’t be surprising to find this theme placed alongside the likes of Doctor Who and The Avengers in nostalgic looks back at British cult television.
Many of the series supporting characters turn in equally charged and suitably weighty performances for this eventful episode, but sadly, Andrew Scott’s Moriarty still remains a frustrating enigma. True to form, the viewer can never quite see what lies behind the camp veneer of Scott’s performance, which is either genius or madness, but never wholly satisfying.
Luckily, this final episode is so thrillingly good that any shortfalls can be easily overlooked. And finally, it may come as no surprise that showrunners Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss have revealed that season three is in the works. It will however, take a true genius to explain Holmes’s inevitable return.
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