Thursday, May 24, 2012

“The Reichenbach Fall”

“Sherlock” has been most intriguing as a study or exercise in story-telling. (For sure it has been entertaining—even some of the best TV has to offer—for other reasons as well: acting, style and creative, original ideas among them.) In the case of this season (2) all three episodes have had distinct approaches to adapting a well known plot.

The first episode got the basic plot points from the original out of the way in the first act and then let loose with new ideas and adventures. The second took what is probably the most detailed and exhaustive plots of any Holmes adventure, but instead of working on that story’s strengths: atmosphere and mood, it tried too hard to distinguish itself and offer a wholly different take. It suffered as a result.

This last episode, based on “The Final Problem” had one of the hardest tasks one could imagine. Basically it is an otherwise weaker mystery that is only known as the story where Holmes (didn’t) fall to his death fighting his arch-enemy. So, an informed audience knows the non-outcome of this episode from the get go. We are all waiting for Holmes to die but not really die. What happens along the way is almost secondary, but that is where it needs to be great to make this a great episode.

What we get is good, but perhaps not great. Then again, maybe one is too distracted watching for the climax. There are great ideas and real tensions here. The beginning all seems rather pointless, but Holmes points that fact out as well. Then Moriarty springs his trap and we have a truly great 21st Century conundrum: in a culture consumed with fame and celebrity, how much of our reality is purely a fabrication of the media? Can we trust what we think we know?

The resolution of this conundrum is a bit rushed and not even Holmes seems capable of keeping all the necessary gaming strategy straight. In the end, for reasons Holmes has apparently deduced quite a bit earlier, he has to appear to die. His sacrifice is not for his own reputation, but for those he loves. This is the moment where this Holmes goes from being cocky but noble sociopath to being a truly heroic human.

(And for the record, my suspicions are: he had John stand precisely where he did so that he would not see the landing pad pulled from the bus(?) on the street and when John is momentarily incapacitated by Holmes’ accomplice cyclist the pad is pulled in the vehicle and driven off, Holmes has rolled off and applied fake blood. John provides an unwitting doctor’s witness to nail the point home, something Sherlock has used him for before, and Holmes is carted away by more accomplices. Or something like that.)

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