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

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