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We open on poor John. 18 months since he last saw a counsellor, to help him deal with his war experiences. And now he’s back, because the unthinkable has happened. Sherlock Holmes is dead and John is beside himself with grief.
It all started three months earlier, with a stolen painting: Falls of the Reichenbach by Turner. Or with a kidnapped banker. Or with Peter Ricoletti, Interpol’s most wanted. Sherlock’s been a busy man, solving case after case, and he’s all over the papers. Naturally for a man with an ego which is not so much healthy as steroidal, he seems to find this attention something of a bore. A fascinating bore, but a bore nonetheless.
Meanwhile John is afraid of the power of the press, and concerned about Sherlock’s high profile. Something Jim Moriarty (remember Jim?) is determined to do something about. He’s visiting the Tower of London, and has decided to break into the vault containing the crown jewels. Oh and while he’s at it, he’s gone into the Bank of England and Pentonville Prison to boot. And why? So that he could send a very public message to Sherlock. A gauntlet has been thrown down, a challenge issued: solve THIS, cleverclogs.
Rising to the challenge, Sherlock appears in court to testify against Jim, and while he’s waiting to go in, he encounters a fan. Or is she a fan? No. She’s an investigative journalist called Kitty Riley. Sherlock gives her a dressing down. That probably won’t rebound badly on him, will it?
In court, Sherlock puts on a similarly preening display, showing off by deducting his way across the jury and disrupting the prosecution’s line of questioning. He’s hauled off to the cells. But what is Jim up to? He’s not mounting a line of defence, which means the prosecution’s case rests on the CCTV footage, and Sherlock’s testimony. He must be found guilty, surely?
Nope. Time for Sherlock to put the tea on, he’s expecting a visitor. It’s Jim!
There follows a little bit of unseemly intellectual willy-waving, before the two men get down to business. Moriarty has a computer code that can open any lock. The trial was just a big advert for his services. But what’s he doing it all for? Ah, there’s going to be a fall.
Two months later, and John is off to visit Mycroft at the Diogenes Club, where no one is allowed to speak. Mycroft has information about the four assassins that have taken up residence around 221B Baker Street. He won’t warn Sherlock directly, of course, that’s up to John, who has taken up the role of the warm oil in their sharp-toothed, barely interlocking clockwork. Oh and someone has left him an envelope full of breadcrumbs, sealed with wax.
Still, there’s work to be done. The case of the missing ambassador’s children (hang on, was that CCTV footage of Sherlock’s house? No? OK, well let’s leave it for now). Sherlock’s investigating the bedroom from which the children were taken. The boy has left a trail of linseed oil, so Sherlock’s off to see Molly at St Bartholemew’s with a bag full of floor and a few barbs about her love life.
It turns out that Molly once went on a few dates with Jim Moriarty (remember Jim?).
Several hours and lots of science later, there’s a rogue molecule and Molly spots a hidden sadness in Sherlock. This does nothing to ease the awkwardness between them.
It turns out another wax-sealed envelope was found at the school, containing Grimm’s Fairy Tales. We’re on the hunt for Hansel and Gretel, and time is running out. Luckily Sherlock’s homeless network is on hand, and suddenly we’re off to Addlestone to look for a disused factory. And that’s what we find, complete with Mercury-poisoned kids. A miraculous discovery…almost too miraculous.
Sherlock goes in to interrogate the girl, but all she can do is scream and point at him, as if he was in some way involved in her recent trauma. This doesn’t look good. So he goes off in a cab on his own. Oh sorry, did I say he was on his own? He’s not. Moriarty has a bedtime story for him.
Then Sherlock is nearly run over, and the man who saves him is assassinated. It turns out he was one of the assassins Mycroft warned John about (hang on, they’ve found out about the CCTV camera in their living room). Oh and now Lestrade has come around to ask Sherlock to come in for questioning. He refuses, and has a bit of a bicker with John while the police officers who don’t like Sherlock (all of them, it seems), go over Lestrade’s head to get the authority to arrest him.
There’s a new sealed parcel, containing a gingerbread man. Oh and John has attacked the Chief Superintendant for bad-mouthing Sherlock. Things are getting tense. So Sherlock stages a daring escape, holding hands with Watson as they run off together, straight under a bus. It’s the end!
Except it isn’t! One of Jim’s assassins saves the pair, revealing that the computer key code (remember Jim’s key code?) has been left in Sherlock’s flat. But they can’t go there, so they go to see Kitty Riley, who has just published a version of Sherlock’s history, as told to her by one Richard Brook. But who is Richard Brook?
Oh it’s Moriarty. Except he’s just an actor called Rich Brook, hired by Sherlock Holmes to pretend to be a criminal mastermind. There’s proof and everything. There’s only one thing he needs to do to complete his game and…
…time for Sherlock to go and see Molly.
John, meanwhile, has gone to chat to Mycroft. Jim (who really is Jim, remember) had been interrogated about the key code, and refused to cooperate unless Mycroft slipped him some information about Sherlock. The very information he is now using in his diabolical plan. Mycroft is sorry.
So, what to do now? Well there’s a confrontation to arrange, on the roof of the hospital. Meanwhile Mrs Hudson has been shot, so John goes to see her, leaving Sherlock to face Jim alone. From here on in, it’s all exposition.
So, to recap for this recap: Rich Brook is the English translation of Reichenbach, the key code was tapped out in binary by Jim’s fingertips, except there’s no key code, his daring break-ins were all done by humans, and now Sherlock must die. And if he doesn’t, all of Sherlock’s friends (there are only three, but still) will die. Nothing can stop this, except Jim.
Dammit, now Jim’s dead! (In memoriam Jim)
Mrs Hudson is fine, of course. It’s all a ruse. But those assassins are still on the case and now nothing can stop them. John rushes back to St Barts, just in time to see Sherlock, ready to confess, ready to pretend Jim’s plan was true all along, ready to jump. John’s not having any of it, and rushes forward as the body hits the ground, only to be knocked over by a cyclist.
The next few moments are all trauma and confusion. A body is wheeled away, the snipers all stand down, and that is that.
Except it isn’t. After a heartbreaking speech at his graveside, John attempts to put Sherlock behind him, without realising that the real, alive, and very much not dead Sherlock actually IS behind him. I know! WHAT? But how? HOW?
Season 3 of Sherlock won’t be screened until 2013. Annoying, isn’t it?