Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Reichenbach Fall 5

It's time.

Once John, who while "never the most luminous of people, but as a conductor of light is unbeatable," triggers Sherlock to connect Moriarty's rhythmic finger-tapping in the flat with the code, Sherlock is ready for the final confrontation.  He knows what he wants and knows how to get it.  He plans to survive and is aware he may not.  He hopes he will not have to take the fall, in any sense of the word.

Sherlock wants a confession, a recorded confession from Moriarty.  He wants James to believe he is the victor, knows he'll want to brag, want "... appreciation, applause, at long last a spotlight..."  The frailty of genius is, it needs an audience.  When Moriarty succeeds, he'll have no one even close to his intellect who can appreciate his genius. It's not a challenge to get him to explain.

No lack of electronics on the roof.
It's also not a challenge to have the roof bugged or even filmed.   Sherlock had time after he enlisted Molly's help for Mycroft's people to do whatever was necessary at Bart's once Sherlock knew Moriarty was planning his "suicide" and Sherlock chose the perfect spot to do it publicly.   The best outcome is to get Moriarty's confession, to figure out if and whom he has as hostage and manage to get them to safety.  Mirroring the situation in the Canon where Sherlock Holmes explains to Dr. Watson in "The Final Problem,"
"I have woven my net round him until now it is all ready to close ... and the professor, with all the principal members of his gang, will be in the hands of the police..."
.. Sherlock needs to make sure all of Moriarty's henchman are identified and neutralized. Doyle's Sherlock had to disappear for a while until all was ready.  Our Sherlock is hoping he won't have to disappear, to make the dangerous leap and play out a cruel game against his friends. But he won't know until he's on the roof.

Sherlock gets the confession easily.  James explains how he committed the crimes, that he sent people after Sherlock, that the computer code doesn't exist, that "the point of this" is to have Sherlock die in disgrace. Now Sherlock is done.  Except for finding out exactly how James is going to make him jump.  Then Moriarty confesses to attempted murder, he has set it up so that three people will die if Sherlock doesn't and he isn't going to call off the order.  This time, there will be no acquittal.

The Most Dangerous Moment

Sherlock mounts the wall, shaking. Adrenaline?  Surely, but plenty of fear.  The "changeable" Moriarty could simply give him a shove and send him to his death.  Sherlock has to get James away from the wall so he doesn't see the preparations, doesn't watch Sherlock leap and survive or John, Mrs. Hudson and Lestrade will die.  Sherlock begs for a moment of privacy.  Moriarty gives it to him, surely less out of generosity than the desire to draw out his agony.   But Sherlock is waiting for a cue; and also, as always, working on the problem.

Moriarty only has him in check, and Sherlock finds an escape square.  "I don't have to die, as long as I've got you."  Once Moriarty is convinced that Sherlock will go to any lengths to get the information that will abort the assassins' mission, his path is clear: James finally gets to die.  He wanted to die before, to take Sherlock with him, he wanted to die by the pool.  But he owes Sherlock, he has a debt to repay before he can leave his tedious existence.  His only distraction will be gone, dead by his own hand.  Life unbearable again.  So he dies, confident that Sherlock's must, ineluctably, plunge to his death. 

Freaking out or giving signal?
Sherlock leaps away from Moriarty as he pulls the trigger and then has what seems to be a Sherlockian anxiety attack in the face of James' death.

Certainly Sherlock thought Moriarty would voluntarily call off the killers rather than be tortured and do it, anyway.  Moriarty would be arrested, Sherlock's friends saved, his reputation restored and he wouldn't have to risk his life falling from the roof of Saint Bart's.

Leaping away from Moriarty can be less horror at his act, than making sure there is a clear view for all that James pulled the trigger himself. Part of Sherlock's anxiety reaction afterwards could be theater for anyone watching the roof who is not Mycroft, but include his natural reaction to the situation: Now he has to jump. And his response  disguises the cue he needs to give to Mycroft's observers, that all is in place and the leap is imminent.

Sherlock is out of choices and out of time.  John will be back at any moment and he has to witness Sherlock's death.  Sherlock's final task, before what may be his last act on earth in the deathly fall with a cobbled-together survival plan that can easily fail, is to stand on the edge and convince the stalwart John Watson he is and has always been a fraud. Then he must fall, and prove to John he is a coward. 

"Love is a much more vicious motivator."

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Reichenbach Fall 4

Seeking some space to think.
"Time  ...  Time to think."
Stephen Hawking to Jane Wilde
 in Hawking. (BBC 2004)

Sherlock, who needs to think to stay ahead of Moriarty, cannot go to his mind palace, he can't withdraw with a violin in his lap, and cannot sit and stare for a few hours while processing all the data. Now in full attack mode, Moriarty deprives Sherlock of time, driving him relentlessly with an overload of stimulation, unanticipated events and Moriarty's pernicious presence wherever Sherlock turns.

Moriarty is a master of timing.  He coordinated his penetration of the defenses of the bank, tower and prison using the music through his headphones,1 and now uses the regularity of police investigative procedure to be sure the rescued girl screams right on cue.   Moriarty tortures Sherlock in the cab, showing him exactly what is happening and just how powerless he is to stop it.  Next, Moriarty  needs the police to come for Sherlock just as the "Rich Brook" story breaks.  He wants Sherlock on the run with no haven, no friends, no time to think.  The only open path leads to Moriarty - whom Sherlock must seek out and face completely unprepared, beaten, alone, impotent.  Or so Moriarty thinks.

No Real Surprises

Sherlock is following his own agenda, however, and has several tasks at this point: setting himself up so  John will believe he is the liar he knows Moriarty will make him out to be.  Figuring out everything Moriarty has done, as well as how to protect everyone and get Moriarty at the same time. And Sherlock has to do it all while no one but Mycroft knows what he is doing. 

It was Mycroft and Sherlock who hatched the plan to have Moriarty burn Sherlock by trashing his reputation.  It's Sherlock who's known from the start that he will probably have to disappear, have to convince John he is a fraud for John's safety, and his own.  It isn't news to Sherlock Holmes that sometimes people assume he is the culprit.  He said that in the very first episode to John when he pulled out the pink case, back when he found the idea amusing.
Mug-shot worthy.
Now, Sherlock Holmes purposely tries to cast suspicion on himself.  He refuses to go with Lestrade, yet, he carefully points out that once an idea is planted in your brain, it's there permanently.  Then he accuses John of believing it, of suspecting him.  He plants the idea of doubt in John's mind.  There is no reason for Sherlock to not go with Lestrade considering he knows that  "standard procedure" is for the police to decide whether or not to arrest him, anyway, if he refuses.

Yet, he doesn't leave, doesn't fade away into the dark before anyone can consider him a fugitive.  Even though John gets a warning call from Lestrade, Sherlock waits until the police come back, calmly puts his scarf and coat on. He told Lestrade he wouldn't play Moriarty's game of seeing him photographed while taken for questioning, but now he seems content to be led away in handcuffs. It's hard to become a fugitive until you've been arrested.

No one has greater love than this, 
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 
 John 15:13

It's one thing to throw yourself on a grenade, over in a second, lives saved, die as a hero.  It's a very different thing to lay down your entire life: reputation, relationships,  the only work that gives your life meaning, to be trampled into garbage for the sake of friends or even strangers who will be the very ones to vilify you.  It's a different thing to risk sacrificing your future, even if you survive, and also risk a death which deprives you of any chance to redeem yourself.

As soon as Sherlock sees the paper with the "Rich Brook" name, he knows his time is almost up. But he still doesn't have all the information. If Moriarty did leave something in his visit to the flat, Sherlock has to know exactly what it is. He also has to know how Moriarty plans to kill him, once the paper comes out. He needs to devise a way to win and survive. So, he keeps playing Moriarty's game, setting himself up to look guilty, making James think he has total control.

Outside Kitty Riley's flat, Sherlock finally he understands how he must die.  It's textbook Moriarty: murder by apparent suicide.  Sherlock escaped death the first time because John intervened and shot the killer cabbie. The difference between that time and this time is, now Sherlock will make sure he is alone with Moriarty and his snipers. The other difference is: Sherlock wants to live.

The Reichenbach Fall 5

1 from the overture to La Gazza Ladra ("The Thieving Magpie.") by Rossini - here on You Tube starting about 4:23

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Reichenbach Fall 3

Giving John time to see the Sun.
Irene Adler in a rhinestone thong couldn't look more out of place inside the Diogenes Club than a copy of The Sun on a polished end table next to Mycroft's chair under a lamp.  He couldn't have done more to get John to notice it without a blinking neon arrow.   Mycroft's disclaimer a minute later "But that's not why I asked you here," is obfuscation, it was exactly why he asked John there, in part.

Sherlock will immediately notice international professional assassins who move into the neighborhood "twenty feet from the front door."  It's quite likely Sherlock told Mycroft about them, perhaps needing his help to identify them, or at least get more information than he has. There is also the possibility, with mobile phone communications being so easily monitored, that Sherlock and Mycroft are keeping any direct contact between themselves to a minimum, and really do have to send messages through John Watson, who can't be told he is serving as the telegraph line. 

In any case, Mycroft confirms that John doesn't make the "rich brook/reichenbach" connection, but does know about the killers.  Sherlock can't be the one to tell John or he blows his carefully cultivated for James Moriarty's benefit ordinary person facade.  Like an actor who is always "on," Sherlock is spending 24 hours a day in character in order to convince the almost preternaturally intuitive Moriarty that he is still relatively clueless and believes the master criminal was only advertising his wares at the trial.
Sherlock: sickle-shaped.

"He who wants to be a sickle must bend himself betimes."
from The Youth Who went Forth to Learn What Fear Was - Grimms' Fairytales

We know Sherlock finds a surveillance camera at the top of the built-in bookshelf behind him.  We don't know who is watching or when it was placed there.  We don't know how many there are.  When James shows up at 221B, Sherlock doesn't engage in any witty repartee as he did by the pool, apparently moments from death.  Here, in the relative safety of his flat, Sherlock gives away little and gathers in as much as possible.  He asks the critical question, "What is it all for?"  And Moriarty answers him truthfully, "I want to solve the problem. Our problem. The final problem."

James was wrong when he said he and Sherlock are "just alike."  He doesn't know they no longer share the Final Problem of life's unbearable tedium.  Sherlock changed.  Sherlock has friends he cares for, who care for him. He has a future to look forward to, a brother reconciled with.   And James isn't the only one with revenge on his mind. Sherlock has Carl Powers, an old blind woman and 11 other people who deserve justice.  But James doesn't know about the change.   And James, himself, cannot be released, solve his problem of staying alive until he pays Sherlock what he thinks he owes him,  until Sherlock is obliterated.

The Reichenbach Fall 4

The Reichenbach Fall 2

Waiting for an invitation.
Why isn't this man screaming?

It might seem to a casual observer that Sherlock has no case at the moment which is why he's analyzing a 260+ year-old  reported suicide.1  But in fact, he is working on the biggest case of his life: finally resolving the James Moriarty issue.  As outlined previously, Mycroft and Sherlock baited the hook, now they wait for Moriarty to take it, beginning what Sherlock knows to be the most dangerous adventure of his career.

From the Canon, Watson on Holmes, "The Hound of the Baskervilles:"
"Sherlock Holmes had, in a very remarkable degree, the power of detaching his mind at will.  For two hours the strange business in which we had been involved appeared to be forgotten, and he was entirely absorbed in the pictures of the modern Belgian masters."

Once upon a time...
Our 21st Century Sherlock has done what is possible for the moment, given Moriarty the perfect weapon with which to "burn him," and now waits for him to make a move. Sherlock may very much wish to answer the text signal his phone keeps sending, but he is waiting for John.  He is working, he is "being Sherlock" for Watson, whom he knows can't resist picking up the phone when it signals again, and for anyone who might be surveilling the flat.

Moriarty must believe that his actions are unanticipated by Sherlock.  It's John who makes the announcement to a Sherlock who seems too absorbed in his researches to brook trivial distractions.

"He's back," John tells Sherlock, handing him his mobile.  

Working the press.
Sherlock Shoots Himself in the Foot

Sherlock has never been less himself than in "The Reichenbach Fall."  His lack of affect even in private, his careful and constant control, walking into a gaggle of reporters head up on the way to a police car to go to court, alienating a reporter as personally and contemptuously as possible, offending the judge in the most important trial at which he has ever given testimony so egregiously that he is thrown out of court.  It seems as if he is bent on giving Moriarty every advantage.

Sherlock predicts there will be no defense and  expects Moriarty to be acquitted.  The question is: does he want him to be?  Sherlock is waiting for the verdict, even repeating the judge's jury instruction, obviously hugely invested in the outcome.
Fates entwined.

If Moriarty is locked up for some time, life can go back to what passes for normal at 221B Baker Street.  The Most Dangerous Game can  be scrapped, or so it seems.  But criminal bosses run their empires from behind prison walls, have many at their disposal to carry out their instructions. More than one version of the  killer cabbie exists in the world and all of them can be set after Sherlock Holmes.    Moriarty's  criminal enterprises will not abate;  his incarceration  serves no purpose.

Sherlock doesn't  know why Moriarty had himself arrested, what his greater plan is.  But Sherlock has always known, since he and Mycroft began planning to take James down once and for all,  that sooner or later it will come down to the two of them in a battle of wits from which only one will walk away.   So, while a guilty verdict would be ultimately worthless, it would at least spare Sherlock the dangerous task he has set himself, for a while.  This may cause him to be ambivalent about what he hopes will happen.

The Sherlock assault.
Nevertheless, when John calls with the verdict, Sherlock acts quickly and decisively: he makes tea.  Moriarty has had his turn, now it's Sherlock's move.  Time for him to listen, question, observe and discern what he can about Moriarty's game.  Once he has data, he and Mycroft can try to anticipate James' next move and figure out his ultimate plan to kill Sherlock.  Like Harry and Voldemort, neither can live while the other survives.  

How dumb do we think the Holmes boys are?

It's difficult, what with the writers making John Watson too dumb to be a doctor, to presume they will consistently write the characters as they have created them.  But Mycroft and Sherlock are possessed of extraordinary intellectual abilities and, as viewers knowing the end, how much do we think Sherlock believed of Moriarty's fairy tale? How much do we think Mycroft believed of it, having access to classified information?

On the roof, James calls Sherlock a "doofus" for believing there could be a simple computer code that would "unlock any door," break into any system.  James may have convinced his "clients" it existed and that Sherlock had it, but if there can be no such code, if only an ordinary doofus would believe it, do we really buy that Sherlock Holmes did?  Or Mycroft could have with all those government resources at his disposal?  Even for a second?

Is it possible Sherlock Homes didn't recognize Partita No. 1 for violin2 from Moriarty beating out the rhythm.  (Incidentally, one has to address the problem that there are not enough rests in the piece to be able to mistake it for binary code. There may be something like two full and one half rest in the entire score.)  Be that bit of disturbing reality as it may, the fact is, Sherlock's job here is to figure out not only what  James was doing with his fingers, but why he did it.  Moriarty is far too dangerous and clever to leave anything unknown or to chance before the ineluctable final showdown.   

The Reichenbach Fall 3

1 See Bow Street Runners  
2 It's possible James Moriarty was referring to BWV825, Partita No.1 in B-flat Major for keyboard from what's known as the "German Suites."  But that wouldn't lend itself to binary code, either, except perhaps on the lower staff in a few sections, but this raises the issue of expressing a half-rest in binary code

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Reichenbach Fall 1

Mycroft knows what he is about to release into the world: Sherlock Holmes' destruction.  He has purposefully sent the evil that would obliterate  Sherlock, the brother he has protected for most of his life, in order to stop more deaths  of innocents. Mycroft must trust Sherlock to stay one step ahead in understanding, while appearing three steps behind to Moriarty.  Mycroft has to be ready to act instantly at Sherlock's call, without knowing what he'll be called on to do and not act until Sherlock tells him.  Moriarty cannot know that the Holmes boys work together. 

As James Moriarty said, "I am so changeable!" Whatever plan Sherlock puts into place may have to be changed at the very last moment. Sherlock walked away from the pool by sheer luck of a phone call and defeated Irene Adler at the last moment because Moriarty made a mistake of ego and she made one of sentiment.

In "A Study in Pink," when Sherlock assumes Harry is a man, he errs.  "It's always something," he admits, frustrated.  In "The Hounds of Baskerville" Sherlock was wrong, he made a mistake.  He promised John it wouldn't happen again.    This time, there can't be "something." There is no room for error.

At the Abyss

Sherlock, alone at the abyss.
In "The Final Problem," Sir Arthur Conan Doyle killed Sherlock Holmes by shoving him off a cliff at the end of a path that ended in a sheer wall.  There was nowhere else to go but back the way he came, or into the abyss of the Reichenbach Falls, as classically illustrated by Sidney Paget in Strand Magazine.   In the December 1893 story, Sherlock Holmes falls and takes Moriarty with him, the ultimate act of self-sacrifice to defeat evil for the sake of others.

In the 21st century SHERLOCK, the journey to the Falls has already happened in the first five episodes.   Our Sherlock Holmes, when the story begins in "The Reichenbach Fall," has already arrived.

Paget's Moriarty in 1893.
In the Canon, Sherlock Holmes spends three months trying to get evidence to convict Professor Moriarty in a court of law. In that reality, when the story begins, all of his criminal associates have been identified and Moriarty finally can be arrested, but not for a few days.  And so, Sherlock must hide out because Moriarty has discovered that Sherlock Holmes knows about him.  Moriarty is trying to have him killed, or kill Sherlock, himself.  In Doyle's time, the authorities  need the testimony of Sherlock Homes to convict Professor Moriarty.

In our century, the game is afoot and Sherlock is stalking.

Or luring.

Moriarty must believe he is making all the moves and Sherlock must manipulate things to his advantage as much and as subtly as possible.  So Sherlock, who always shunned personal publicity, turns himself into a tabloid media star. He accepts accolades and gifts, submits himself  to publicity photos and video cameras.

What can be more out of character for Sherlock Holmes than seeking publicity and accepting gestures of gratitude?  But he does it, not once but over and over, Sherlock Holmes ends up in front of the cameras, with John Watson coaching him through it.  He not only manages a smile when he is given his own "Sherlock hat," he actually dons it for the cameras, and poses, still smiling. 

He is planting the seeds of his own destruction.  Mycroft plans; Sherlock acts. Instead of having to deal with some plan of Moriarty's they cannot anticipate, Mycroft provides James Moriarty a prop gun to shoot Sherlock Holmes with.  

This could be why Sherlock said he "negotiated" the 24-hour full access to Baskerville: He traded his permission for Mycroft to tell James Moriarty about Sherlock's personal life as preparation for putting this plan into place when Moriarty has to be released.1   In return,  Sherlock got one last Moriarty-free puzzle to solve, a huge modern multi-floor laboratory full of toys to play with, a distraction from what he knows he'll be facing.

Mycroft wants Moriarty going after Sherlock's reputation, wants time for the game to play out so he can locate all of his operatives. Otherwise, Moriarty, who has "vanished" according to the newspapers, will start another game with Sherlock, one in which they won't know the rules, or even be sure Moriarty is behind it until it's very late in the game.  He needs to be lured out of hiding again, into a game of Mycroft's devising and Sherlock's execution. 

Whether the press is being manipulated by Mycroft or jumped on the stories on their own, it's certainly working: Sherlock is being used secretly by Scotland Yard, has become the nation's sweetheart, and planted evidence as part of a grand master plan.

But all of this wasn't built from scratch.  Planting the idea in Moriarty's mind to destroy Sherlock this way has it's roots in newspaper stories about Holmes and Watson generated by John's blog and the iconic "Hat-man" picture in "A Scandal in Belgravia" taken outside the theater after "The Navel Treatment" case:

 So, the police "fear" Sherlock, won't "confirm the veracity" of John's blog and the duo have a "salacious" homelife.  And that was six months before Sherlock turned himself into a publicity-seeking prat of a Reichenbach hero.  Now all he has to do is wait.

The Reichenbach Fall 2

1 See The Most Dangerous Game for more on Baskerville

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Most Dangerous Game

Why is this man screaming? 

Sherlock has been without a case before.  He sulks, he does research, he fires happy faces into walls with bullets from a semi-automatic pistol.  He whines and complains.  But this time he seems out-of-control.1 

Sherlock describes his mind

"... like an engine racing out of control, a rocket, tearing itself to pieces, trapped on the launchpad ..." 

Trapped on the launchpad? 

Mycroft and Sherlock secretly planned to take down James Moriarty, and with him, his web of  operatives.  But at this point, Sherlock must  wait.  Mycroft has Moriarty in custody, he is being "questioned."  Only the two of them know they are working together, Moriarty obviously has agents inside the MOD as well as Scotland Yard. The flat is under surveillance.2 Sherlock has to act his part every minute of the day.

For now, it's Mycroft's turn, he is trying to extract information from James Moriarty.  IF Moriarty breaks, they will have him and his gang.  If not, Sherlock will go to work, undertaking his most dangerous assignment.  Dangerous because Moriarty must believe he is the one controlling the action.  He must be given free rein and, somehow, Sherlock will have to figure out step-by-step, moment-to-moment how to defeat him, when Moriarty's no. 1 priority is Sherlock's destruction.

Sharing a smoke with Henry.
He will be facing his most dangerous enemy in the most dangerous way, and at this moment Sherlock has no idea when it will begin or even if it will.  Until Mycroft is finished and gives him the word, Sherlock must wait, unable to even tell John, who has no idea what's going on, why Sherlock is so desperate for distraction.  And with Moriarty locked up, crime interesting enough to distract him has ground to a halt. No wonder Sherlock wants to smoke.

Luckily, Henry Knight shows up to rescue Sherlock with a cigarette and a case, repeating one of the most famous lines in entire Canon, "Mr. Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound!" 

The devil according to Sherlock Holmes.
Sherlock takes on Knight's case and ends up solving the mystery in Dewar's Hollow, "murder weapon and scene of the crime all at once," where Sherlock exults, "Oh, this case, Henry!  Thank you.  It's been brilliant!"  Sherlock's gratitude is heartfelt.  He has been completely distracted, fully engaged in an entire adventure in which no one named Moriarty has played any part - except in his drugged imagination, where he saw James Moriarty's face beneath the mask of the Baskerville killer.

If there is no Moriarty, is there anything in the episode besides the ending to give us clues to what's really going on?

Out of Character

Startling Watson: "Hello, brother, dear... "
A veritable plethora of observant fans on forums wonder why Sherlock is doing something so far out of character as calling  Mycroft for help.  But even before he gets to Dartmoor,  there may be clues dropped into the narrative.  Sherlock is watched.  He is watched by Mycroft as we know from the end of "A Study in Pink."   John sees a graffiti eye painted across from the flat at the end of "The Blind Banker."  How is he being watched so closely?  Moriarty's knowledge of his movements suggests physically close surveillance.

Watching Mrs. "Full Metal" Hudson terrorize Chattergee.  
Sherlock tells Mrs. Hudson that Mr. Chattergee, who seems to be employed in Speedy's Cafe as seen later when she confronts him, has a wife in Doncaster "that nobody knows about."  As Sherlock and John are about to enter a cab when they leave for Dartmoor, they see Mrs.  Hudson giving hell to Chattergee. Sherlock tells John, "Wait until she finds out about the one in Islamabad."  It's a comedic moment, easily overlooked. 

Yet, in the previous episode, "A Scandal in Belgravia," we see Sherlock in the last scene saving Irene Adler's life in Karachi.  One  wonders at this point if the writer has a vacation home in Pakistan. In The Holmes Boys Stalking Moriarty, it's proposed that Mycroft met with John Watson in the cafe (also quite out-of-character) in order to plant false information for anyone who may be listening to the conversation.  Is it significant?  All we can say at this point is: nothing said in the flat or the cafe by Sherlock or Mycroft can be taken by the viewer as factual. Nor can we count on what Sherlock says privately to John who is also being kept in the dark about Sherlock's new partnership with his brother.

Greg gets some fresh air.
But it's possible Lestrade knows.  "I'm not your handler; I don't just do what your brother tells me," Lestrade informs Sherlock when he arrives in Dartmoor and Sherlock objects to what he perceives as Lestrade as nanny  sent by Mycroft.   If Lestrade doesn't just do what Mycroft tells him, then he also does do what Mycroft tells him, at times.

From  "A Study in Pink," where Mycroft showed up at the scene of the killer cabbie's death, it can be assumed that Mycroft has someone inside Scotland Yard,  keeping Sherlock busy and reporting on his whereabouts.  It's Lestrade that uses Sherlock the most, and most likely it's Lestrade who is inside man.

If Lestrade is telling the truth that he is not there to handle Sherlock at Mycroft's orders, why is he there?  Because John Watson sent for him or Sherlock did.  Lestrade, himself, never says. Watson didn't tell Sherlock about the receipt he lifted shortly after they arrived, and is happy to see Lestrade who can use his "scary Inspector from Scotland Yard" persona to get to the bottom of the matter.  Perhaps after John's "domestic" with Sherlock the night before, he felt impelled to strike out on his own and make some significant progress.

Can Sherlock have sent for him?  Yes, if Lestrade is in on the Mycroft/Sherlock partnership to bring down Moriarty and his web, Sherlock's anger and objections at his arrival make sense.  It's all an act for John's benefit, just as Mycroft and Sherlock put on a bit of a play at the end of "A Scandal in Bohemia."  But why would Sherlock have sent for him?  John's a better man with a gun, what does Lestrade bring to the table?  Possibly information too complex to text and not safe for a phone conversation. Mycroft is going to have to let Moriarty go, and he would want Sherlock to know just how dangerous a state of mind he is in.

When Sherlock hallucinates Moriarty's face in Dewar's Hollow, he is able to shake it off, partly because he knows as fact that James Moriarty is "Not you - not here." The audio is unclear at this point and Sherlock may be saying "Not you - not yet."  In any case, his words are another indication of his knowledge of what Mycroft is up to:  Sherlock knows Moriarty is not there, Mycroft has him.  Lestrade's statement that he doesn't "just do" what Mycroft says could mean he volunteered,  insisted on warning Sherlock and accompanying him back to London.  He isn't there to handle him, but to keep him alive.  At this point, as viewers learn in "The Reichenbach Fall," all hopes for stopping Moriarty by coercing information or confession from him have failed. Now, everything rests on Sherlock Holmes and his extraordinary abilities. 

The Reichenbach Fall 1

1 See opening of S02E02 "The Hounds of Baskerville." 
2 See The Holmes Boys Stalking Moriarty

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Holmes Boys Stalking Moriarty

You don't want to piss off the Holmes boys. Seriously.

A casual viewer of SHERLOCK might not know about these two from the Canon, but Cumberbatch's modern Sherlock is quite as brilliant as his Conan Doyle counterpart.  From the Canon, we know Mycroft is even more brilliant.  Sherlock said so:

 "...Mycroft has better powers of observation than I. ... If the art of the detective began and ended in reasoning from an arm-chair, my brother would be the greatest criminal agent that ever lived." (from: "The Greek Interpreter.")

No dinner for Adler.
In SHERLOCK, the brothers have been estranged for years until Moriarty through Irene Adler plays them off against one another.1 At the end, Sherlock calls Mycroft brother for the first time and offers his acknowledgement of his own mistake.  Mycroft had already done so.  Sherlock walks out and leaves The Woman for Mycroft to deal with.

Imagine two such formidable intellects joining forces to obliterate Moriarty and his band of agents.  The real journey to Reichenbach starts in the next scene, the brothers having quietly formed a plan.

Their first move: to deceive John Watson as well as any surveillance gadgets that may be secreted in Speedy's Cafe or listening devices trained on the flat at 221B.  Just as TV writers give characters someone to talk to in order to convey information to viewers, so Watson will become the way Sherlock and Mycroft feed their scenario to Moriarty.

The first evidence the viewer gets for the existence of this arrangement between Sherlock and Mycroft appears when John Watson finds Mycroft smoking in the rain in front of Speedy's. "You don't smoke," Watson says.  "I also don't frequent cafes," Mycroft replies.  Mycroft is doing something quite out of character.  And "out-of-character" is the thread carrying right through the rest of this episode, "Baskerville" and into "The Reichenbach Fall."

Journey to Reichenbach, Scene 1.
Mycroft leads John into the cafe to convince him  Adler is dead.  Whether John tells Sherlock she died or that she is alive and well in America,  "Adler's dead" is the message Mycroft and Sherlock want John and Moriarty to believe.
Why not bring Watson inside? Because John Watson, stalwart, courageous, crack marksman and possessor of nerves of steel, is a lousy liar.  Just as Doyle's Sherlock deceives Watson to apprehend a killer in "The Case of the Dying Detective," (later Holmes asks: "You won't be offended, Watson?   You will realise that among your many talents dissimulation finds no place ...") bringing in John would be dangerous to the plan and to him.
Sherlock says "please."
After John decides to only tell Sherlock Adler is in America, Sherlock asks for her camera-phone to keep.  John certainly remembers what Sherlock said on their first adventure together: "If she'd left him, he would have kept the phone.  People do: sentiment."  Logically then, John will assume Sherlock wants the phone because she has "left him" and he cared for her.

For his part, Sherlock was content to let John walk away with the file and camera-phone until it seemed as if John changed his mind and would tell Sherlock the "truth."  Sherlock forestalls John by asking for the phone, which John finally hands over.  As he leaves, John asks if Adler ever texted Sherlock  again.  Sherlock replies,  "Once, a few months ago."  What did she say? "Goodbye, Mr. Holmes."

Now John is convinced that it would be very unkind to admit Adler is actually dead because Sherlock believes the witness protection story and obviously had feelings for her.  After all, when John refused initially to give him the phone, Sherlock said "Please."  Please?  Sherlock always demands from John what he wants, he would have gotten up, come around and taken the phone.  Sherlock is far out of character, here, and John is struck by it.  As are the viewers.

Cutting it close.
But the writers want us to know Adler is alive, we see Sherlock remember saving her from beheading in Karachi.  So why would he need her camera-phone?  If Sherlock has, indeed,  fooled Mycroft into believing she is dead, why would he need to convince John by asking for the phone? 

This is Sherlock and Mycroft working together and the most obvious questions are not asked:
  • Why wasn't Irene Adler in prison for trying to blackmail the British Government?  
  • Why is she someplace in Pakistan and how does Sherlock know enough to be there and rescue her?  
  • Is it possible Adler has "come over" to the side of the angels and is working for the government? 
Possibly, she is in a "witness protection scheme," only not in America.  At this point, Irene Adler is the only living witness who can testify that James Moriarty was manipulating the action when she tried to blackmail the British Government.  Her personal mobile phone has pictures of Sherlock leaving his flat in a sheet, pictures Moriarty sent her.  In Pakistan, her death becomes more convincing to everyone and she is easier to hide amongst millions of other women in abaya and niqab.

Mycroft is the careful planner, Sherlock the more impulsive actor.  Mycroft hates "legwork;"  Sherlock bounds over rooftops to intercept a moving cab.  Mycroft is "the most dangerous man you'll ever meet." Sherlock will torture a dying man for information. What might one be planning the other is willing to carry out?

Next: The Most Dangerous Game

1 See Journey to Reichenbach Five: Reconciliation

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Journey to Reichenbach Five: Reconciliation

In this scene from "A Scandal in Belgravia," Sherlock Holmes completes his evolution into "the most human human being" that John Watson has ever known.  We see Sherlock suffering, as Adler executes Moriarty's plan to neutralize "the Holmes boys," as she calls them, knowing he put Mycroft in this position. It is perhaps occurring to him, as My croft pointed out in the first episode of SHERLOCK: they belong on the same aide.

Moriarty didn't sic Irene Adler on Sherlock only to obtain the translation of an email.  Moriarty targeted the Holmes brothers specifically.  Knowing how much animosity there was between the brothers, Moriarty can assume Sherlock, will operate in isolation from Mycroft with Adler,  allowing him to design a script that will play out unhindered, something Moriarty learns during  The Great Game, when Sherlock locates the missile plans while ignoring Mycroft as much as possible.  

Using Adler,  Moriarty defeats both Sherlock and Mycroft.  The  counter-terrorist plan is neutralized, Mycroft forced to submit to demands financially burdensome to the government, his own career ruined when he must "pop off and talk to people" and explain why they are helpless against a woman generally regarded only as a notorious prostitute.   Thus Moriarty arranges the neutralization of  both brothers as effective opponents.   Mycroft would be demoted and replaced at the very least and Sherlock, the pawn who leaked top secret information to the enemy, would never be used by the government again, including Scotland Yard. 

Sherlock checking Adler's pupillary light reflex.
But there was something Moriarty nor Mycroft took into account:  sentiment.  Sherlock has the mind of a scientist, a constant researcher.  He is a man so exceptional even a gay dominatrix finds him irresistible, a circumstance neither Moriarty nor Mycroft are capable of predicting.   Sherlock Holmes, beyond the callowness, self-centered narcissism and juvenile antics, is at his core a man of character and self-discipline, who, when he is working, is working and has the presence of mind to take her pulse, note her physiological responses, even while playing the role of naive seducee.

Sherlock Homes prevails prevails precisely because he is not a sociopath.

That is the essential fact driving Sherlock ineluctably to the the ledge: he is not a sociopath.  He can empathize.   He compartmentalizes his feelings in order to ignore suffering and inflict pain for the sake of larger and suitably worthy goals.  But he is not without feeling or the ability to understand feelings in others.   Journey to Reichenbach Four: The Savage Dance,  explores Sherlock Holmes experiencing Molly Hooper's pain, which he caused after attacking her on Christmas Eve, which provokes from him an act of compassion.  But she is not the enemy.

No mercy.
The great poker player Barry Greenstein once wrote that to be successful, a player needs both empathy and a total lack of compassion at the table.  The player must know  others' feelings in order to bluff, wheedle, intimidate and manipulate the opponent's chips into his stack and take every last chip from every player he can, even if he knows their baby needs milk and their wife a cancer treatment.  As another poker legend Mike Caro says, you can lend them money away from the table, but during the game, there is no such thing as mercy. 

Sherlock takes everything from Adler.

"Everything I said, it's not real. I was just playing the game," she tells him, hoping if she reveals her true feelings for him, he might spare her.

"I know.  And this is just losing," he responds, handing her destruction to Mycroft.  For the first time, as he offers the unlocked camera-phone,  we hear Sherlock address Mycroft with filial respect as: brother.  Sherlock offers his apologies, as well, "I hope the contents make up for any inconvenience I may have caused you tonight."

"A Scandal in Belgravia" is a film in itself, a story that can stand on it's own.  But it actually  ends when Sherlock leaves Adler with Mycroft after she had begged for mercy, acknowledging she won't last six months without the protection of her camera-phone's contents.  Sherlock exits, coldly remarking to, "Sorry about dinner."

That's the end.  The next thing the viewer sees, is not a continuation of  S02E01, it is the start of "The Reichenbach Fall."

The real opening scene of The Reichenbach Fall.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Journey to Reichenbach Four: The Savage Dance

At the pool, Sherlock learned that solitary pursuit of his quarry with reckless disregard for his life resulted in mortal danger to someone else, John Watson. He also discovered how it felt to be valued by another enough for that person to offer to die in attempt to save him. This is part of what must change before "The Reichenbach Fall" begins.  From  Journey to Reichenbach Two: The Curtain Rises,
  • Estrangement from Mycroft that continues to exist by his own choice.
  • Working alone as much as possible, wanting no help from another. 
  • Motivated primarily by selfish needs with little regard for the needs of others.
  • In need of an audience and validation of his genius and worth.
  • Unable to anticipate how his actions affect others or care when he observes they do. 
  • Does not place a high value on his continued existence: reckless with his life.
These six things must change and do, by the end of "A Scandal in Belgravia."  But while wholesale changes in personality often begin in momentous events, character only changes in enduring ways when those events are integrated into daily experience.  We've seen Sherlock begin integrating them in the early parts of  "Scandal," but on Christmas Eve, emotional stress causes Sherlock to revert.  He insults John's girlfriend, informs Lestrade his wife is having an affair, tells John his sister is still drinking.

This isn't an idle reversion to casually selfish, thoughtlessly cruel behavior.  As noted in Psyching Sherlock: the Impossible Sociopath, he uses intellect  as a weapon of punishment or revenge (i.e. Sally Donovan S01:E01).  Something threatened him.  Why has Sherlock taken to attacking his friends?  What's triggered this old behavior?  And what does it have to do with "The Reichenbach Fall?"

Everything. What happens in these few minutes on Christmas Eve bring Sherlock to a critical point in development.  Without these events, he will  never get to the ledge of the roof of St. Bart's and survive.  What happens here saves not only his life, but the lives of three of his friends, and nameless other future victims of Moriarty.
Borderline personality disorder (BPD)   ... marked by a pattern of emotional instability, impulsive behavior, a distorted self-image, and unstable relationships.

Some characteristics are:
  • Efforts to avoid abandonment, even when no real threat exists
  • Unstable and intense relationships with alternating extremes of love and hate
  • Impulsive, self-destructive behavior
  • Frequent, intense mood swings or emotional over-reactions
  • Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger
  • Chronic feelings of emptiness
  • Temporary episodes of paranoia or loss of contact with reality

The most savage scherzo is the one we dance with ourselves.

From the beginning we've seen several pivotal moments for him: in the cab where John doesn't tell him to "piss off," but instead appreciates his gift.  In the parking lot where he realized John killed the cabbie, by the pool where John offers to die so he can live.  On his phone, hearing the shot and the silence, knowing the old woman is dead. 

Now we come to Christmas Eve. Molly Hooper arrived. When she took off her coat, Sherlock saw she was intentionally overdressed for an evening of drinks with friends.  He misinterprets this, thinks she has someplace else to go, somewhere she'd rather be with someone else more interesting to her. Molly greets and speaks to everyone but Sherlock. Through her exchanges with the others, we learn that Sherlock will be left alone on Christmas.  John and Lestrade have family to be with, they have relationships that are healing.    

Then Molly reveals to everyone something personal Sherlock shared with her, exposing feelings he guards so obsessively from others:

John, I hear you're off to your sister's, is that right? 
... Sherlock was complaining...

Sherlock shoots her the briefest possible glance, but she is so attuned to him she notes it and immediately tries to correct herself:


Too late.  Added to everything else he has misunderstood, Sherlock's feeling of betrayal and abandonment well up suddenly and in the throws of  his most disordered thinking, plunged into the love-hate  self-destructive compulsion to lash-out, Sherlock Holmes reverts to his most basic defense mechanism: he mounts a vicious assault on Molly Hooper.

"I see you've got a new boyfriend, Molly, and you're serious about him ... in fact you're seeing him this very night and giving him a gift.  (John and Lestrade try and stop him)  Oh, come on, surely you've all seen the present at the top of the bag, perfectly wrapped with a bow, all the others are slapdash at best, someone special, then.

Shade of red echoes her lipstick, either an unconscious association or one she is deliberately  trying to encourage.  Either way, Miss Hooper has love on her mind.  The fact that she's serious about him is clear from the fact she's giving him a gift at all, that all suggests long-term hopes, however forlorn, and that she's seeing him tonight is evident from her make-up and what she's wearing, or else she's trying to compensate for the size of her mouth and breasts..."

... at which point Sherlock opens the card on the box  revealing  that everything he said was correct, except that the object of her love as well as her forlorn hopes is him. Being Sherlock, he understands in an instant why she was shy about speaking to him, recalls how much she has done for him in his work, how little she has asked in return, how many times he treated her with smug contempt.  Sherlock feels shame.

Molly voices her pain, tearfully saying simply what is true about him and her:

"You always say such horrible things... every time... always... always."

He looks away from her.  Sherlock Holmes looks away because he cannot stand her pain, not just the pain he has caused tonight, but all he has put her through during the time they have known one another.   He turns even further, takes a step to  escape, but there really is nowhere to go.  He cannot escape himself.

As important as it is that he has felt this pain, someone else's pain and the pain of his own guilt,  impossible for a sociopath, it is in the next moment that Sherlock Holmes finally grows up: 

He quickly pivots back to her, though not quite yet able to look at her, saying for all to hear,  "I am sorry.  Forgive me." 

John Watson is completely startled by how out of character this is for Sherlock Holmes. Unprecedented.  Molly, too, is surprised and silent, perhaps waiting for the joke. Sherlock then gives Molly as much as he possibly can at this point, he wishes her a sincere Merry Christmas, and gently kisses her cheek.

Lestrade once said Sherlock Holmes was a great man and if there they were very very lucky, someday he might even be a good one. After Sherlock's  apology and demonstration of affection for Molly, Lestrade and Watson are both watching Sherlock, perhaps seeing him as more truly himself in this, his least "Sherlock" moment.  The good man begins to emerge.

Changing Partners:

At this moment Sherlock's text alert for Adler sounds, he withdraws into himself, resuming his more usual persona.    The action swings midway through the most perfect of the six 90 minute films that comprise the first two series of SHERLOCK, and he is set firmly on the course that leads to the death of James Moriarty.

Journey to Reichenbach Five: Reconciliation.