Sunday, February 24, 2013

Professor Moriarty: Out of the Shadows, part 1

In a previous post (*Jim* is not Moriarty) this blog made the point that the man who shot himself on the roof of Saint Bart's was not the Moriarty who set the killer cabbie on Sherlock in A Study in Pink This makes Andrew Scott's "Jim Moriarty,"  while a deliciously delightful villain, only a mask disguising the true Moriarty. 

As in the Conan Doyle stories, the man who died may well be the younger brother of Professor Moriarty, the true criminal mastermind and evil genius.  But James Moriarty is also insane,  rendering him ultimately unpredictable, prone to revealing too much, acting too impulsively.  Being not only a psychopath but also insane is a rather unusual situation as we see in this excerpt from Psychopaths, not Psychotics:
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the bible on these matters, does not include psychopathy as a disorder; and the vast majority of psychiatrists do not consider it a form of mental illness.

The pure and quite sane psychopath would be Professor Moriarty; and if there is a candidate for high-functioning sociopath on the angels' side, it is the Iceman:  Mycroft Holmes. Each man is the hidden mastermind of  his respective domain. Moriarty and Mycroft knew about one another long before Sherlock encountered Professor Moriarty through the killer cabbie in A Study in Pink.   But Mycroft didn't have a name, just the knowledge through his own prodigious reasoning ability, that there was a mastermind at work.

When Mycroft meets John Watson he says he worries about Sherlock "constantly."  Why?  Partly because he is afraid Sherlock will slip back into addiction, as discussed in Sherlock Backstory: Still the Addict.  But Mycroft knows that with Sherlock's vocation, he must cross paths with the master criminal he has perceived, become a target of  that criminal, sooner or later.  Mycroft also may know the archcriminal exists, but not yet know his identity, like the Sherlock of the Canon. He may be hoping to use Sherlock as his "sniffer dog," to identify "The power behind the malefactor," as Doyle's Sherlock puts it.

It was Mycroft who manipulated John Watson into Sherlock's path.  Of course, Sherlock would never allow Mycroft to find or even suggest a flatmate.  But Mycroft knew all about Watson, he knew when his appointments were, when he'd be making his way through the park from her office, when Mike Stamford should be sitting on a bench to intercept him.

Dr. Watson is a caretaker with a gun, an expert shot with nerves of steel who misses being in action.   Mycroft does the final vetting by trying to bribe John without revealing his own identity.  By being somewhat threatening and offering a bribe,  Mycroft tests Watson's courage and character.  He adds a bit of manipulation by making it seem as if Sherlock is under threat from him, the "archenemy" and in need of a protector. someone to be in his corner, for as Mycroft carefully drives home:  Sherlock is friendless. Watson, soldier, doctor, defender joins Sherlock, and just in time, as Moriarty already has him targeted.

Master Manipulators:  Moriarty and Mycroft

Moriarty didn't sic Irene Adler on Sherlock through little brother James only to obtain the translation of an email.  (A Scandal in Belgravia)  The target was Mycroft.  Moriarty knew how much animosity there was between the brothers and that Sherlock, in rebellion, would operate in isolation from Mycroft with Adler,  allowing him to design a script that would play out unhindered, something he learned during The Great Game, when Sherlock locates the missile plans while ignoring Mycroft as much as possible. 

Only Sherlock's willing emergence from self-imposed "sociopathy" allows him to utilize his ability to empathize without being subject to compassion.  And only that emergence allows him to regret, reconsider, and for the first time call Mycroft "brother."   Finally the Holmes boys are on the same side.   But this Moriarty doesn't know. 

What Moriarty has known is defeat at the hands of Sherlock Holmes three times, and then, the loss of a key operative in Irene Adler.  Moriarty now turns full attention to destroying Sherlock and arranging at the end for the name "Moriarty" to morph into something akin to "Bigfoot," an urban myth, the invention of  a disturbed, attention-seeking loner.  If any criminal in future offers up Moriarty in exchange for a deal, no one will believe him.   Moriarty will fade back into obscurity, the very existence of such a "master criminal" a  ludicrous suggestion.

The question is: If the criminal mastermind is not James Moriarty who died on the roof of Saint Bart's, who exactly is Moriarty?

Professor Moriarty: Out of the Shadows, part 2


  1. Fascinating. I have loved Sherlock Holmes, both films and books from the time I was a child.

    I am now studying Psychopathy and Ponerology. Came across this site surfing for info, as I concluded as you have that Moriarty represents the essential psychopath very well in fiction.

    Thanks, Willy Whitten