I finally screwed up my courage and watched Reichenbach for the second time. I was a little Sherlock’d out (I also rewatched Baskerville earlier tonight) so the emotional impact, while very real, wasn’t quite as stab-me-in-the-heart-why-don’t-you as I was expecting. I’ll definitely watch it again for that in a day or two. But in the meantime, as my brain isn’t shortcircuited by the emotion, I thought I’d share some things I jotted down that struck me about the episode.
(1) The Diogenes Club: Mycroft’s social club appears three separate times in this episode. Doyle said of it in “The Adventure of the Greek Adventure”:
There are many men in London, you know, who, some from shyness, some from misanthropy, have no wish for the company of their fellows. Yet they are not averse to comfortable chairs and the latest periodicals. It is for the convenience of these that the Diogenes Club was started, and it now contains the most unsociable and unclubable men in town. No member is permitted to take the least notice of any other one. Save in the Stranger’s Room, no talking is, under any circumstances, allowed, and three offences, if brought to the notice of the committee, render the talker liable to expulsion. My brother was one of the founders, and I have myself found it a very soothing atmosphere.” (qtd. Bakerstreet.wikia.com)
But in “The Reichenbach Fall,” Mycroft suggests a different reason why talking isn’t allowed. “Three quarters of the diplomatic service and half the government front bench all sharing one tea trolley, its for the best, believe me.” This suggests that in the BBC ‘verse, the Diogenes Club is a gathering place for high-ranking government officials rather than “the most unsociable and unclubable men” Doyle refers to. It’s rare enough that we see exactly where scenes are set that it seems significant, the way the show focuses for such a long time on the Diogenes Club nameplate. We are meant to know that these conversations occur in a place of silence. One connected to the government, no less. It’s here that Mycroft reveals the information he gave Moriarty, and it’s here that he reacts to news of Sherlock’s “death.” I can easily see this being the show’s way of hinting that there are secrets, possibly governmental in nature, involved in this whole affair.
(2) Mycroft’s and Holmes’s relationship. On a related note, there’s something not-quite-right about the way Mycroft’s and Sherlock’s relationship plays out in “Reichenbach.” In both “The Great Game” and “Belgravia,” Mycroft involves Sherlock in cases and even reveals privileged information to him. And in “Baskerville,” Sherlock convinces Mycroft to give him access to the facility to he can run that cruel little experiment on John. On personal matters the two also have a functional relationship: Mycroft, not John, takes Sherlock to the morgue, and he’s the one who gets John to break his date and watch over Sherlock on a danger night. So now Mycroft tells John to apologize on his behalf when he ruins his baby brother’s life, and Sherlock won’t turn to Mycroft to clear his name? It makes absolutely no sense at all. The more I think about it, the more it seems like a strategy: that Mycroft knows John is about to be hurt and is really apologizing to him; and that Sherlock doesn’t want his name cleared because he needs to become a fugitive to tease Moriarty out.
On a related note: there’s simply no way that Mycroft is as inept as this episode makes him seem. He’s very high-ranking in the cloak-and-dagger part of the British secret service. He’s also only marginally interested in Moriarty as recently as the end of “Belgravia,” but now he’s willing to trade his brother’s life story for a wedge with Moriarty? A beat cop in the Law & Order verse, or any other cop procedural I’ve watched for that matter, would know that’s not how you do policework. You make up a story, you lie to get an advantage. I’m not buying Mycroft is so thick he’d actually tell Moriarty the truth, or even a lie that couldn’t be easily disproved. Or at the least, that he wouldn’t give his brother a heads-up about what had happened. This makes me think that, for some reason, Sherlock and Mycroft want Moriarty to believe he has the goods on Sherlock.
(3) In their last conversation before the Roof scene, John receives a phone call from paramedics that Mrs. Hudson has been shot, leading him – a doctor, no less – to think she’s about to die. But is this really what paramedics would do with a critically injured person? Of course, it turns out Mrs. Hudson is fine, but if she’d been genuinely injured, would they really have taken the time to call one of her two tenants, of all people? Something about the way this is handled suggests that either someone is impersonating paramedics or that actual paramedics (perhaps recruited by Molly?) are lying to John here.
Then, after the Fall when Watson takes Sherlock’s pulse and thinks he’s dead, paramedics quickly rush him into the hospital. I’m no medical expert, but if you fall from a great height like that, you have to be worried about a broken back or neck or something. Either he’s clearly dead, in which case there’s no great hurry to move him, or else there’s a chance he can still be saved, in which case the paramedics are moving awfully carelessly. They roll him over and then lift him up without any kind of bracing, even using their hands to support his neck and back. Yet they’re awfully insistent on moving him into the hospital. This really only makes sense if the real goal is to get Sherlock away from Watson before the doctor notices something isn’t quite right.
(4) On the roof, when Moriarty shoots himself Sherlock almost throws himself back. One answer is that he’s in shock, but that doesn’t seem quite Sherlock’s style. He’s not squeamish, at all. And if you know your survival and those of the people closest to you depends on Moriarty not dying, you don’t leap back; you try to knock the gun away or something. A better explanation, I think, is that Sherlock actually wants Moriarty to die. That seems to be the whole point of the rooftop scene, indeed the most likely explanation for the off-kilter Sherlock/Mycroft relationships and Mycroft’s being careless with details of Sherlock’s life: they are trying to “burn” Moriarty. And Sherlock doesn’t want to get any gunshot residue or Moriarty’s blood on him, he doesn’t want there to be any possible suspicion that he called Richard Brook/Moriarty.
My suspicion: Sherlock goes up to the roof knowing he’s going to have to fake his death. He maybe wants to frame Moriarty for trying to kill him, maybe suspects he’ll have to actually jump off the building to manipulate Moriarty into killing himself. I don’t think he’s worked out that Moriarty will threaten those around him as well, and I suspect he arranged the fake attempt on Mrs. Hudson’s life so John wouldn’t have to see what was going on. My gut is that he expected he would have to fake some kind of attempted suicide or accident but wouldn’t have to put John through the actual grief he’ends up having to go through – that Sherlock has to step things up and actually “die” to save his friends, and that he didn’t anticipate how far he’d have to go. But when Moriarty shot himself, my gut is also that (i) that was part of Sherlock’s goal, and (ii) he was expecting to live even at that point and didn’t want people thinking he’s a murderer.
(5) After the thing with Mrs. Hudson, when John is trying to get back to Sherlock, he basically commandeers a cab saying he’s the police. This is the first time to my knowledge that John’s actually done that. He’s always said sort of the police. I’m not sure what exactly to make of that, but it does seem significant.
(6) At the very end, the graveyard scene where John finally says goodbye to Sherlock, there’s a very prominent angel statue that seems to be overlooking the grave. Seeing that, I was reminded of Sherlock’s statement to Moriarty (which may not be meant at face value) that while he is on the side of the angels, he isn’t one of them. That angel statue has a nice sanctifying quality to it. Again, I’m not entirely sure what to make of it – whether it’s just a piece of a graveyard, or whether it’s a subtle cue that Sherlock was more one of the angels (or at least has angels looking out for him) than he seems to believe.
(7) Because so much of this episode occurs at St. Bart’s, I thought I’d look him up. St. Bartholomew is one of the apostles and was executed (in some versions) by having his skin flayed off of him. He was often depicted carrying a tanner’s knife, which is specially suited to removing the skin from an animal carcass, and carrying around his own skin like a coat draped over his arm. Gruesome stuff, I know. But somehow that seems to fit Sherlock in series two. He carries around his skin, his outer appearance, like a cloak, but underneath, he’s growing into a much more well-developed human being with actual friends Moriarty can hurt. If I’m right, that Sherlock willingly set up the rooftop encounter not because he was desperate to show he wasn’t a fraud but because he wants to urn him forever, there’s something oddly appropriate by setting the whole thing up on the roof of a hospital dedicated to a tanner. If he’s going to come back from this, he’s going to have to shed his old skin to do it.
All of which leaves me wondering about a statement Sherlock made in Baskerville. After the experiment where he put John through hell in order to figure out how the poison worked, he promised he’d never do that again. I know I’ve raised this question before, but still I find myself wondering: was he just promising he’d never be wrong again? (Not what John would care about; and not the kind of mistake he’d make, as he’s upfront even in the pilot that he’s always wrong about some details.) Or is it that he’ll never cause John pain for the sake of the case? If so, Reichenbach is a pretty colossal mistake on that score.
Anyway, these details jumped outto me as I was watching Reichenbach, and they seemed worth discussing.
On a completely different topic, I a meme over at Tumblr, about the sex appeal of dragons and hobbits and poking fun at the idea of John/Sherlock slash. Less than twelve hours later it has 310 notes, or people who either liked or shared this picture (or did the same on someone else who shared it from me). One of these days I should write out some of my thoughts on Johnlock. I don’t believe they are romantically involved, personally, but I do think they have what you might call an emotionally exclusive relaitonship that keeps them from getting serious with anyone else. I do quite enjoy Johnlock fan fiction, though, because these stories seem to get the true depth of that relationship better than most others. Mainly, though, I’m amazed by how popular pretty much anything I share on this topic is.