Thursday, 1 March 2012

Verdict: Sherlock - The Reichenbach Fall

"I may be on the side of angels, but don't for one second think I am one of them"

This review contains spoilers

Completing a trilogy of ninety-minute episodes, The Reichenbach Fall began with a ominous flash-forward to an emotional Watson (Martin Freeman) recovering with the fallout of past events. Before rewinding to three months previous, he manages to choke out the words "My friend, Sherlock Holmes, is dead".

This scene pretty much sets the scene for what is to come; a gripping and emotional-laden mystery punctuated with some genuinely shocking twists and tear-jerking moments. Based upon Conan Doyle's book "The Final Problem", this season finale sees Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch), squaring up against his nemesis Jim Moriarty (Andrew Scott) for the second time.

Initially introduced in the final episode of last season, the intense rivalry between the two has now already been establised and this allows for writers Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat to launch straight into proceedings. In the opening half an hour, Moriarty launches a series of high-profile robberies the include the Tower of London and the Bank of England. I felt this first part took a while to get going, but once Moriarty's 'final problem' begins to unfold, it really kicks up a gear or six. 

The way in which those around Sherlock (such as Inspector LeStrade) are turned against him and made to doubt him is done brilliantly, in such a way that even the audience begins to question the Detective. Is he solving these crimes or orchestrating them? As always, there are enough red-herrings to keep the audience guessing and participate in, but never enough to give it away or ruin the surprise.Whilst those familar with Conan Doyle folklore will be more astute to the cliffhanger than other's, the ending is still genuinely gripping stuff. Both brutal and touching, the episode's final ten minutes are brilliantly acted by both Cumberbatch and Freeman. It's a genuinely tear-jerking moment and in my experience that's a rare thing for television shows to achieve.

Andrew Scott also is seriously affecting as Moriarty, as he seemingly channels Heath Ledger's Joker and becomes the man "who just wants to watch the world burn". The way in which Moriarty brings about Sherlock's fall from grace through the tabloids is not just cleverly executed but also appropriate given the current spotlight on the British newspapers and media in the Leveson inquiry. In addition to this, the final third of the episode where Sherlock and Moriarty try to out manoeuvre one another through lies and deceit is brilliantly written. And then just when you think Sherlock has the upper-hand on his nemesis comes that cliffhanger...

Overall, this second season of Sherlock certainty didn't disappoint and has really set the bar even higher. It's now up to the duo of Gatiss and Moffat to better it for the already confirmed third series (most likely to arrive next year, with the Cumberbatch and Freeman off appearing in major Hollywood films such as The Hobbit and Star Trek affecting shoot schedules). The wait and withdrawal symptoms won't bother me however. I'm sure it'll be worth it!

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