Monday, January 20, 2014

Case Study of the Sherlock Season 3 Finale

Case History:

There was a two year wait post the Sherlock season two finale The Reichenbach Fall. Sherlock Holmes jumped off a building, but didn’t die, leaving only a frenzy of theories and questions. There was no way writers Steve Moffat and Mark Gatiss (who also plays Mycroft in the show) could live up to the fans’ expectations.

But they did. They not only lived up to the expectations but also smashed said expectations to smithereens. Season Three was the funniest, the most personal and the most bromantic segment of Sherlock and it ended gloriously with His Last Vow.

The ‘warm’ and ‘emotional’ side of Sherlock that we saw in the first two episodes disappeared without a trace in The Last Vow. The episode was scripted by Moffat and it was one of the coldest segments and probably the darkest of the series. It also had the much needed mystery-driven tone that was missing in the first two episodes. If you’re in the tiny section of people who still haven’t seen the Sherlock finale, turn away because spoilers follow.

The Facts:

Sherlock’s latest threat, the icy, terrifying Charles Augustus Magnussen (played by Lars Mikkelsen, the brother of Mads Mikkelson) was the first villain of the series to really make the hair at the back of your neck stand. Unlike the other villains in the series Magnussen literally touches his victims, with bodily fluids at that. He has an even more insane skill for deduction than Sherlock and his own gigantic mind palace that he uses to blackmail and exploit people. The reveal of Magnussen’s vaults, and the red herring of his 4G LTE glasses shook up Sherlock more than Moriarty ever did. This was a downright unsettling guy, and it was great to have a villain for the first time since Moriarty shot himself in the face. The all too obvious nod to Rupert Murdoch was a fun addition to his character.

The episode also turned out to be a waterfall of twists and turns, least of which was the one surrounding Watson’s wife.

The reveal had some heavy duty shock value due to the fact that Magnussen, a legitimately scary bloke was shown as being afraid of her. Watson’s propensity towards danger and psychopaths was suspected previously but is pretty much cemented here – his best friend is a high functioning sociopath and he fell in love with an international assassin. He loves peril, he misses the war, and he can’t handle the truth. The scene where Watson is made to face this fact plays out beautifully, and Martin Freeman brings so much depth to his character.

Cumberbatch himself is at the top of his game, especially in the terrific scene where he hurtles around his mind palace after being shot by Mary. It’s an incredible sequence and props to director Nick Hurran for bringing his own vision into it. Molly and Anderson appearing as the physical manifestations of Sherlock’s inner voice was a nice touch, as was Moriarty appearing as Death, trying to manipulate Sherlock into submitting to the dark side.

The Highlights:

 - Mrs Hudson’s Marijuana addiction and exotic dancing YouTube videos.     
 - Molly repeatedly slapping Sherlock.

- When Sherlock tells Watson that ‘Magnussen is quite simply the most dangerous man we’ve ever encountered and the odds are comprehensively stacked against us’, Watson says ‘But it’s Christmas’. To which Sherlock smiles and replies ‘I feel the same’, and is quickly dismayed that Watson is referring to it actually being Christmas.

 - Sherlock shooting Magnussen to death was all the more fulfilling after the deliciously menacing scene where Magnussen flicks Watson in the eye to display his power over him.

 - In Arthur Conan Doyle’s final mystery ‘The Last Bow’ Sherlock and Watson talk about ‘the East wind’ and part ways forever. That conversation takes place in this episode’s final moments, and you’re led to believe that it’s the end of Sherlock. Slyly, even the end credits drum beats kick in when Sherlock’s flight takes off, and suddenly stop to offer a jaw dropping final twist in the tale – Moriarty’s return. The man appears on every video screen in London and says ‘Miss me?’ Yes, we missed you, you weird evil fucker.

The Clues:

How the devil is Moriarty back? Right now a lot of people need to wear the T-shirt that Magnussen recommended Watson to get: with "I don’t understand" on the front and "I still don’t understand" on the back. Moriarty shot himself in his mouth. Everyone saw him die. Well, everyone saw Sherlock die too, but #SherlockLives trended on Twitter, and I’m pretty sure #MoriartyLives will trend in the Season 4 premiere. So let’s explore the options:

1) Earlier Sherlock said that he systematically dismantled Moriarty’s network over a period of two years. So Moriarty is not really alive, and someone simply used an old clip to broadcast it all over London as a threat. This could be Sebastian Moran, who in the books was described by Sherlock as the second most dangerous man in the world, the first being Moriarty. Moran was in cahoots with Moriarty in the books, and could well be the villain of Season 4.

2) Sherlock orchestrated the Moriarty broadcast. Remember, he was being sent to Eastern Europe on a certain suicide mission. So he could have planted the broadcast to make the cops call him back to London. He had hacked into phones in A Study in Pink so this broadcast wouldn’t be that hard for him to pull off.

    (a) He could’ve used help from Lady Smallwood as a return favour for eliminating Magnussen.

    (b) When Mycroft arrives in his chopper to see Sherlock pointing a gun at Magnussen, the sniper bellows ‘target is unarmed’, which means the target was always Magnussen. That way Mycroft was always in league with Lady Smallwood and Sherlock. Why else would he bring a top secret suitcase to his parents’ home for Sherlock to steal and give it to Magnussen?

3) The most plausible scenario is that Moriarty is actually back. The broadcast was a GIF image, but he actually shows up after the end credits, and it would be really silly of Moffat and Gatiss to tease Moriarty’s return for a year and then tell you ‘nope it’s someone else’.

Possible Theories:

1) Moriarty used a fake gun, although Sherlock spotted a fake gun in A Study in Pink. So Moriarty could’ve used blanks in a real gun. At that range even a blank could injure you, but certainly not kill you. We don’t see any blood spurt or brains getting blown out when he pulls the trigger, and Sherlock doesn’t really examine his body. The liquid coming from the back of his head could well have been apple juice.

2) Moriarty used a real gun and didn’t die because Fight Club.

3) Moriarty is Sherlock’s second brother. There is a scene where Mycroft tells someone about a third sibling and he hints that he did something unpleasant to him. As per the books’ mythology Sherrinford is the third brother and is more cunning and observant than both Sherlock and Mycroft.

The Suspects:

Steve Moffat and Mark Gatiss are the same guys who at a recent press conference shouted that Moriarty is dead and there was no chance he’d be back. They remain prime suspects in this case for being lying scumbags and awesome showmen.

(First published in Firstpost on Jan 20, 2013)

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