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Afterthoughts: “Don’t be alarmed. It’s got to do with Moriarty.”
If there is anything suspicious in the episode it is the one scene where Moriarty and Sherlock are put into custody in adjacent cells. Did they have a little chat without anyone listening, especially not John? To me it’s clear that Sherlock committed his Contempt on purpose. He wanted to be there. We know he can behave. He’s also the guy that refuses to ride in Lestrade’s police car when he is summoned to a case. When we combine his refusal with his answer to John’s question in ASiP “Do people usually assume you’re the murderer?” “Now and then, yes.” It becomes clear that this is a bad memory issue. So he would have bad memories of prison cells as well and would not risk to land there if not for some reason that is yet to be revealed.
Now something from the trailer:
Why did Sherlock run and leave London? For two reasons:
First if he didn’t and surfaced too early he’d have a killer in his living room every other day. Moriarty didn’t tell his customers that the “computer key code” was a hoax. They would still come and demand it. To convince them otherwise Sherlock might have recorded his talk with Moriarty. He could have placed a webcam and microphone or used the phone he left behind. After all it’s more likely that the flash memory might survive this small fall than a crash from a building. But I think it’s just a symbol that Sherlock leaves his old life behind and finally can’t be traced anymore. The writers will probably just let grass grow over this topic.
Second and more important: There should be the third man Sebastian Moran. He was Moriarty’s backup. I think, he had his gun trained on Sherlock during the confrontation and would have shot Sherlock if he’d started to torture Moriarty. (The main reason for him to be there would of course be the ten per cent possibility that Sherlock was prepared to lose his friends to really stop Moriarty. He already had John’s consent to sacrifice him if there is no other way out. But Moriarty would want to make sure that Sherlock would not kill him.) The fact that the killer was there would be another reason why Moriarty killed himself. If Sherlock was shot it would spoil his scheme. Moran lets Sherlock jump after Moriarty’s suicide to complete the game. But maybe Sherlock did something suspicious when he took his drug and the killer felt the need to make sure that Sherlock really was dead. He comes over to St. Barth’s and spoils Sherlock’s plan. Most likely Sherlock already got his antidote. Moran sees him and tries to kill him. Sherlock runs.
This mainly for canon reasons. St. Barth’s is a version of the ledge in the cliff of the Reichenbach Falls where Holmes hides until Watson and the police are finished examining the spot. I really hope Sherlock got the chance to inform Mycroft but I fear canon has it that he flees and only later texts his brother (equivalent to a telegram). Maybe Molly will tell Mycroft. She wouldn’t be able to deceive him anyway and also wants him to play along with Sherlock’s plan. It would be so much kinder to have a living person and friend of the family to tell him that Sherlock is okay, instead of Sherlock sending him a text like “I am not dead. S”.
Finally I come to the question what happened to Moriarty’s body. It’s too suspicious that “Richard Brook’s” body should lay on the roof from which Sherlock jumped. Nobody would believe that the “actor” committed suicide. Ironically everyone would believe that Sherlock made him do it. If Sherlock does not wish to end up with a charge for murder when he returns – he better have the corpse removed and the place cleaned. They can pass it off for Sherlock’s because we know “People don’t go to heaven, they’re taken to a special room and burnt.” Mycroft will enjoy this twist. “You wanted to burn my little brother? Ha! I will burn you!” Therefore “empty hearse” and not “empty grave”. Advantage: No exhumation possible. To me the grave looked too small for a coffin. But it could contain an urn with actual human ash. Sherlock would want a proper burial for his favourite enemy. It would give the sentence “I am you” a totally new meaning. After Sherlock returns they can easily exchange the headstone and it will be a proper grave for Moriarty. John will be so angry! Crying at Jim’s grave… But he really should have been warned. A headstone without dates is so handily reusable, isn’t it? And where is Sherlock’s family? Even as the black sheep, in his class he would rest near some relatives, I’d expect. This is a really bad joke. Let’s see if they dare.
Now I can finally go and watch spoilers. ;o)
"The best way of successfully acting a part is to be it”
Finally I’d like to lay out my views on the events of TRF and thereby proudly join the ranks of those that will be proven wrong just before it is too late. (When I say late… It’s not late for me. Looks like I have to wait for the DVD. I’m so envious.)
So this is what I think has happened:
Sherlock knew about a fall Moriarty promised him. It was obvious that Moriarty meant it very literally and not only metaphorically like in smearing his name. But I think for a long time Sherlock expected some henchmen of Moriarty would THROW him of a bridge or building. Only after reading the paper and meeting “Richard Brook” did he realize that he was expected to JUMP by himself. That’s the “Oh!” moment on the street in front of Kitty Riley’s house. Before that he knew he couldn’t do anything if Moriarty wanted him dead. That’s why he looked so depressed. But after that moment he knew he can actually DO something instead of waiting for the hammer to fall. He probably expected that Moriarty would let him choose the place like in TGG. So Sherlock could prepare and arrange for his survival. All he needed was some help. His mind would be racing and when he reached St. Barth’s he had a full-fledged plan. Molly would be needed for executing most of it. Sherlock couldn’t wander around the city because he was tailed by Moriarty’s people. Anything suspicious and his plan would fail. On the other hand he can’t do much inside of St. Barth’s after John returned or he would notice that there’s something going on.
So I think apart from the bikers that might be Raz’s friends (the sprayer Sherlock consulted in TBB) all the people on the “landing spot” are from St. Barth’s. Sherlock asked Molly not just to fake his death certificate and autopsy record but also because she can find reliable and secretive people. The hospital is Sherlock’s “home from home”. He’s there quite often and he’s not only hanging around in the labs. (He followed Molly to the canteen in TBB.) So many people should know him. They know he doesn’t care what people think of him and therefor couldn’t believe he faked crimes to make himself look good. As doctors or scientists they might even understand how he comes to his conclusions. But to be frank, they also know he’s a dick and they wouldn’t help him. But I think Molly is respected in the hospital because she is a nice person and a competent colleague. So they will help her. Apart from that there’s another reason why he needed Molly. Like it takes Sherlock to deceive Mycroft, it takes Molly to deceive John. She’s a proper doctor, see here: http://wellingtongoose.tumblr.com/post/70125757369/molly-is-a-doctor-and-there-is-finally-proof
Later on the roof Sherlock took in some drug to slow his pulse and breathing. Probably in the time when the camera was with John. He knew it would take some time for the drug to show symptoms so he talked his “note” with John. When he felt sick enough Sherlock jumped. He landed on something they didn’t show us but that changed the direction of his fall. He “convinced” John, then had himself carried inside the hospital. Molly provided him with an antidote to wake him up before Mycroft turns up. (Much less than 20 minutes later I expect.) Sherlock didn’t confide him in yet, because one: Sherlock hoped he could avoid the jump. And second: Mycroft’s network could be infiltrated by Moriarty’s people as well as Pentonville Prison, the Bank of England and the MET (The killer for Lestrade worked there for a while. He probably informed Moriarty when to turn on the light to show the last I. O. U. and also when to pick up Sherlock to present him with the Sir Boast-A-Lot video.), and third: Sherlock probably thought Mycroft deserved a little retaliation for selling his brother’s life story to Moriarty. But he is not cruel. He loves his brother despite their quarrels. Sherlock intents to tell him ASAP.
I expect the truck to be a part of the scheme, because it looks like they sent off two busses to place it on the spot. The reason is unknown but they probably had one. Sherlock didn’t land on it though. It is just too far away. Maybe it is a view shield or is needed for the fastening of the thing Sherlock actually landed on. If I had to wager I’d place my bet on a net as well. But not on one that needs people to hold it. That would be too visible and suspicious. But doesn’t this kind of truck, which transports bags or so, usually have net over the loading space? To keep the loading from flying because of inertia in a sudden stop? Maybe Sherlock just used that? Fastened somehow to the building it might be almost invisible from the side and from above. After it’s de-fastened the truck can easily carry it away. But this idea is a far shot.
If memory serves I’ve already mentioned that I believe in a short and simple solution. So basically everything is as it seems to be. There is no “Doppelganger” on the pavement but Sherlock knocked out by a drug. Yes, I still believe in the drug theory even though it seems a little out-fashioned at the moment. Here are my reasons:
I think the ball is a signifier and it points to a very clever way to make your fake death CSI-proof. To me it looks like a ball that is used for blood donations.
To me the blood on the pavement looks like it splattered against the corner of something that was removed later from inside the outline. But I have no idea what this could be. I don’t like to reason without data. So I won’t concern myself with this detail.
Regarding theories about body doubles / corpse replacements. I would be seriously disappointed if they held any truth. First, it would never occur to Sherlock. That man thinks he’s unique in the world. Second, it’s not easy to find a body that resembles someone specific within a few hours’ notice without drawing attention. (On a second thought I find Irene’s “death” rather weak. It could work for a normal person. But Sherlock with his superhuman vision and memory should notice a difference. I mean, every human body is unique with speckles and birth-marks, slight asymmetries and blood vessel patterns. It should be a bad idea to try and be recognized from “not your face” with Sherlock involved.) Third, changing places would be too complicated. Remember that Sherlock didn’t expect Moriarty to be dead but had to take into account that he would be watching from the roof. He might respect Sherlock’s “moment of privacy” before he jumps but he would surely have a look right after he did it.
This has become so long - again -, probably nobody read to this point. For anyone who comes along: Thank you for your patience. I hope my little paper was worth your while. It was sure fun to write it.
Sorry about that D: I got side tracked and forgot to link to the how to video. So while I dislike leaving posts two days in a row, I’ll just leave the link here so that anyone who’s curious can check it out.
How and why he’s alive
Ok, so I’ll admit that I haven’t seen the last episode. I’ve been very busy, But what I do know is that Moriarty is alive.
I’m going to start with the most obvious of the facts (one of which I’ve previously stated)
Jim didn’t really shoot himself. The reason why? It’s simple, Blood splatters. Well it’s more blood really. The spot where Jim “shot” himself would have caused much more damage to his face and more brain than blood to come out.
The only reason Sherlock didn’t notice this is because he was more focused on making sure John, Lestrade, and Mrs.Hudson didn’t get killed,and didn’t inspect the body as closely as he normally would.
Moriarty probably either used a fake gun (probably one that was set up to make realistic gunshot noises (it’s a thing, I’ll put a link to a video on it at the bottom) or a gun loaded with blanks (probably the first, as blanks are chancy, or he could have done it artemis fowl style and loaded a packet containing fake (or even real) blood) , when he stuck it in his mouth he ruptured a packet containing fake blood (or real blood, depending on how realistic he wanted it to be) which splattered forwards, and when he fell, he ruptured another packet that was probably hidden underneath his collar, for added effect.
Moriarty would then lie very very still, or (depending on how close he assumed sherlock would be looking) be in a death like state due to the puffer fish toxin he took before hand. After sherlock jumped and the sniper had left, Moriarty would dust himself off, clean up or disguise the fake blood, and change clothes, then leave.
Ummm Ok But… Why?
Now that’s a bit more complicated I as far as I can tell, there are two reasons he would have done it.
1. Moriarty had lost a lot of money due to sherlock, and some of the higher ups in his organization took notice and were staging a coup. Moriarty took this oppertunity to rid himself of Sherlock, AND fake his death, Over the course of the two years they both were missing, he personally killed the members involved in the planned takeover, before taking back his place at the head of the organization.
2. it was never Moriarty’s intent to kill sherlock, because he knew about all the possible plans Sherlock and his brother had come up with (including Lazarus) and knew that any attempts on Sherlock’s life would end in failure. So, he set up the whole affair (which would appear to be him using all his resources to get sherlock) to force sherlock into faking his death so he’d be out of the picture for awhile, whilst also faking his own death so that he could operate without their interference for awhile
When the Sherlock first came onto the roof, he put his hands together behind his back, an easy opportunity to put an elastic band in place to stop his pulse.
Let’s not forget Moriarty shot himself, there was a pool of blood. Sherlock could have taken some of that blood before he jumped, before he called John.
Then of course there was the rubbish truck. Whilst John was down after being hit by the cyclist Sherlock could have landed on the truck, and then jumped from the truck to the ground. He still might have hurt himself, but it would not have been fatal, and during his moments in the truck he would have placed the blood on him.
Later on, Molly, who would probably have been previously organised by Sherlock, to have access to the bodies, switched Sherlock for another body to be buried.
This is the most important point. Agreed your idea would make a surprising plot twist. I’d give it two points for originality. But I think it would be out of character too much if Sherlock came up on top with such a plot of murder. The tea scene and the roof-top scene are such superb scripting. I don’t think the writers would ruin it by any additions. The writers also said the solution would be simple. Your solution is not simple. It’d need a lot of explaining. I fear you expect something complicated when in fact everything is as obvious as it seems.
The idea that the whole episode is one big plot of Sherlock and Mycroft is ridiculous and disappointing. The emotional drive lies in the fact that Moriarty looms big in the background and Sherlock is helplessly waiting for him to strike. Adding the layer of your plot would seriously diminish that drive and ruin everything that is special about the episode. Don’t you see that your solution would deplete the episode of all dramatic and emotional impact and meaning?
For example Mycroft’s greatest fear come true. That one day he had to place his duty over his little brother. At first he didn’t even realize this was the day. Thinking he was serving his country and causing only minor to no damage to Sherlock when he’s telling Moriarty a few details from his brother’s life. (After all what can he do? Tease him with his nickname from school?) He only understands later what he has done. His pain when he realized that he helped destroy his little brother whose protection was the prime purpose of his life. I don’t know about you but I like to see regret and a moving family reunion. Much more than dialogue lines like “So our plan worked, little brother, what do we do now?” (Besides I am very much convinced that Moriarty did let himself get caught so he could question Mycroft about Sherlock. It would be below him if others really could get to him.)
Or Sherlock cornered so badly that he is driven to threaten Moriarty with terrible torture to save his only friends. Only moving if it’s real. Or Moriarty killing himself out of the sheer will to triumph over Sherlock. His action would be much less shocking if he was convinced that he was dying anyway. Everything would be much less dramatic if all was part of a plan and Sherlock was just acting.
Besides a smooth running plan with him always on top would be deadly boring for Sherlock. From his earlier experiences with Jim and Irene we can see that he likes rough games that even involve pain and temporary defeat. It’s interesting for him if he learns something about himself and there are ups and downs and strong emotions. He would rather prefer to be beaten and then turn the table in the very last moment.
Of course you want to see Sherlock concerting the whole episode. Who wouldn’t want to see him clever and all? But the main problem is that the episode is about how Sherlock deals with defeat and failure and death. (Defeat: couldn’t get Moriarty convicted despite acting as prime witness. Failure: to realise that the computer code was not real, Death: well dying or not) It’s a tragedy. The hero has to die, well, or fake his death. Sherlock has to burn to ashes to rise like a phoenix in series tree.
It’s just more dramatic that Moriarty is always on top during the episode and Sherlock comes up with a plan to survive only in the very last hours. From a dramatic angle a narrow escape from an evil plotter is always more interesting than watching an evil plotter succeed. (And your idea is an evil plot no matter what you think.) So it’s necessary that he completes Moriarty’s scheme. Sherlock has to do what he tells him. His only act of opposition is that he jumps but refuses to die in the act. The one possibility that Moriarty has not taken into account when he played Sherlock like a puppet. If all was part of Sherlock’s plan it would discard his noble action and his cleverness.
Besides if Sherlock planned it all and didn’t tell John right afterwards that he’s alive, it would by far be more cruel than faking suicide when being forced and in the aftermath seizing an opportunity to vanish that presented itself.
Your tea solution would also equal character assassination for Sherlock and Moriarty.
Becoming a “good man” and acting out your plan is a contradiction. I’m surprised that your idea of a good man includes poison murderers or people that drive other people to suicide by making them believe they were poisoned. Because my definition would strictly exclude that. The fact that Moriarty kills himself is not important. It would still be murder by deception. For example by this definition:
In Maine, a person is guilty of murder if he or she intentionally or knowingly causes the death of another human being, engages in conduct that manifests a depraved indifference to the value of human life and causes death, or intentionally or knowingly causes another human being to commit suicide by the use of force, duress, or deception (Me. Stat. tit. 17-A § 201 )
Granted it’s not English law. But English law as I understand it is case law. That means murder by deception could become law at any time should a case as such present itself and a judge create a precedent. Besides it’s still morally wrong. Every life is sacrosanct even if it’s the life of a bad guy like Moriarty. You can’t measure life against life. Otherwise you open the can of worms called utilitarianism.
In my view poisoning or pretending to and driving people to suicide is evil and an extreme opposite to the very idea of a hero. It would ruin Sherlock’s image. TRF is about Sherlock becoming a hero. So your solution can’t be correct.
BTW does Sherlock look like a grand schemer waiting for his big plot to finish? No, he certainly looks depressed like he knows he’s going to die in the end. Don’t tell me he’s faking it all through the episode. That’s unlikely. On the other hand it’s according to Conan Doyle’s canon that Holmes should accept his death as a possible outcome. He bugs Watson repeatedly with speeches like how satisfied he is with his career and his only wish is that he could take Moriarty with him. Before you come up with a “Told you so!” Hold your horses. He wouldn’t attack. He’s not looking for Moriarty but running away until he’s tricked into a dead end. Holmes didn’t kill Moriarty on purpose he just defended himself and Moriarty falls. You see the writers keep the spirit of that story. But your plot would seriously violate it.
Now for Moriarty:
I think it is owing to the popularity of Andrew Scott’s Moriarty that the writers let him go all by himself, not demystified and undefeated at the highest peak of his triumph over Sherlock. It’s a brilliant plot idea. Usually Moriarty is utterly defeated at that point and kills himself in his ferocious attempt for revenge. Attacking a much younger man without a weapon on the brink of a cliff. (Conan Doyle’s version) (One can easily understand it as suicide in a mad fit. Therefor: “You’re insane!”) Other versions are: He kills himself accidentally in his attempt to escape the police that caught him. (“The Woman in Green”) Holmes throws him during a fight. (Jeremy Brett series: off a cliff, Rathbone movie “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”: off a roof) It seems the writers wanted to respect the dignity of the character. Your plot would spoil that beautiful scripting of the roof-top scene.
Your plot would also be history repeating. What’s the novelty in showing us that Sherlock would be prepared to die to stop Moriarty? We have already seen that in the pool scene in TGG. When Sherlock aims at the explosive he makes his point very clear in a very heroically way. I don’t see why the feat should be repeated and what’s more in such a treacherous way? In the pool scene it is quite clear that Sherlock would only resort to killing Moriarty and himself if there is no other way out. He could have shot Moriarty regardless of what happened to himself. The result would be the same. But he didn’t do it. Because aiming at the explosive was meant as a “If I am going to die then I am going to take you with me.” Not as a “I am going to kill myself to kill you.”
A few words about some minor topics you mentioned:
You understand “burn” in a very literal way.
“Burn” clearly is used in a metaphorical meaning. Like in “burn in hell”. Sherlock used that metaphor to give Moriarty an idea what terrible things he’s about to do to him. He also uses this metaphor because Moriarty constantly threatened to “burn the heart out of” him. He’s basically saying: Okay, I will burn my heart out myself by hurting you. He’s referring to the fact that he has feelings for Moriarty as an equal but his friends mean more to him. He will hurt Jim because he has no other chance. He refuses to feel sorry about it because Jim is the one who forces him. I’m not sure if it means it will make him sick to torture. He was quite resolved with the Cabbie. Sherlock can be ruthless when he wants something. But Moriarty does not know that. Nobody has seen what Sherlock did to the Cabbie. So Moriarty probably mistook Sherlock for a brainy weakling (Just like himself?) and that’s why he is so surprised about Sherlock’s resolve to do bad things to him.
You put too much weight to the blinding light during the confrontation in the roof-top scene.
I think it just a cinematographic means to break the spell. After all two guys starring at each other threateningly can easily become involuntarily funny and stereotypic. So even when Benedict Cumberbatch and Andrew Scott are extremely good actors, it’s better to add something that makes the setting different. I don’t like the solution. I find the light annoying and awkward. The actors too, I presume, because Andrew’s irises looked small like a needle pin, it must have hurt to stare into the light. But it certainly stays in memory and so it served its purpose. Another explanation would be that it’s their “moment of privacy”. The audience is blocked out because it’s something between them. We are not supposed to know what Moriarty actually saw as a means to keep the character mysterious.
Let me start with a transcript of the dialogue from the tea scene:
S: So how are you going to do it? – Burn me?
M: Oh, that’s the problem. The Final Problem.
M: Have you worked out what it is yet? What’s the final problem?
M: I did tell you. But did you listen?
(Moriarty types the code on his knee.)
M: How hard do you find it having to say “I don’t know”?
S: I don’t know.
M: Oh, that’s clever. That’s very clever.
[snip a lot of Moriarty’s boasting]
S: Why are you doing all of this? You don’t want money or power, not really. What is it all for?
M: I want to solve the problem. Our problem. The final problem.
[yada, yada, threat with fall]
S: (Getting up after being offended.) I never liked riddles. [riddles, not puzzles, very different!]
M: Learn to. Because I owe you a fall, Sherlock. I owe you.
From this dialogue alone we can clearly see that there are two facts you conceive in the wrong way.
1. Moriarty wants to stop playing, not Sherlock.
Ironically if any of them wanted to stop playing it would be Moriarty not Sherlock. Sherlock clearly enjoys Moriarty’s puzzles. The problem is, that was not Moriarty’s intention. Certainly the Cabbie was a test for Sherlock. To see if he might be worth a distraction for Moriarty. Sherlock solved it and Moriarty was probably pleased. But then Sherlock messed up Moriarty’s Chinese smuggling connections at least temporarily. That was a serious inconvenience. So I think, TGG was not meant to open the game but to finish it. Moriarty was showing off. But his intention was not to show what interesting puzzles he was able to provide for Sherlock. He wanted to scare Sherlock off. “Look. I’m mighty powerful. Don’t mess with me!” But Sherlock didn’t get the clue. Even if Moriarty explained it clearly in the pool scene. Afterward Sherlock would be prying even worse than before. Sherlock stumbled accidentally over Moriarty’s business in TBB but after TGG you can expect him to look for cases that bear Moriarty’s signature. Because Moriarty inadvertently made himself interesting for Sherlock by presenting himself as his equal, well, superior actually.
Moriarty threatens Sherlock with the fall. For no apparent reason it seems to Sherlock and the audience. But in fact Sherlock owes him a fall metaphorically. Sherlock threatens his reputation among his people. For Sherlock it’s all fun and puzzles while for Moriarty there is grave danger that he loses the respect of his henchmen and customers. He doesn’t like them but he likes to watch them dance. He needs their admiration for his self-esteem and he needs to be the one on top of the food chain. By interfering with his business Sherlock is ruining his name as a criminal mastermind. So Moriarty retaliates by ruining Sherlock’s name as a crime solving mastermind.
In TRF you can clearly observe that Moriarty wants to stop playing. It’s in the way he counters Sherlock’s solved cases.
In a game Moriarty would top Sherlock with bigger crimes. But what does Moriarty do? Commits the largest possible crimes at the same time and gets away with it.
The “Crime of the Century” which Sherlock will never be able to top. Thereby humiliating him when Sherlock can’t get him jailed because Moriarty manipulated the jury. Afterwards Moriarty declares himself the most powerful man of the world because of the computer code. That’s not the action of someone willing to play but to quit. Finally Sherlock gets the hint. But still he would be willing to play and hopes for Moriarty to be “changeable” again and call off the fall.
2. Your understanding of The Final Problem is wrong.
In Sherlock The Final Problem is simply “How will Moriarty destroy Sherlock?” According to the Conan Doyle canon it is a little different. But still you got it the wrong way around. The question is not if you have to become evil to beat evil. The Final Problem is the same old question: Who will prevail? Good or evil? Angels or demons? The genius detective or the criminal mastermind? It’s Sherlock’s original solution that he refuses the constraints placed on an agent of good. He never said he’d left the side of the angels, he said he isn’t one of them. He just thinks that good can prevail with an evil agent, in this case him after torturing Moriarty until he spits out the word to stop the killers or to his death. Sure this is an illusion. It’s clearly a border you should not cross. Ironically Moriarty saved Sherlock from actually crossing it when he killed himself for other reasons. Sherlock would have turned evil if he had to torture Moriarty to death. Sherlock was really lucky that Moriarty was satisfied with what he saw. This way Sherlock could stay a good guy and turn himself into a hero when he risked his life to save his friends this time and not to prove he’s clever. Clearly your solution would spoil that. Sherlock would turn evil if he killed Moriarty by deception.
So far I have only discussed Sherlock’s motivation and ability to convince Moriarty. This time I’ll split up my arguments into three postings to make it more readable. They will deal with the tea scene and the roof-top scene. I’ll mention possible sources the writers used, delve into the dramatic aspects, talk a bit about Conan Doyle’s Holmes canon and some more. All in the hope the postings will be interesting whether one cares about the tea solution or not.
Before I start again let me ask you a question. This is a British TV show with a decidedly British setting. Do you really think drinking tea could be a hint? Did I miss something? Isn’t drinking tea the core of Britishness? For my part I expect 90 per cent of all fluids to be tea in this series. Ok, just kidding. But really: Of course you can expect tea to be spilled during the “crime of the century”. Moriarty aims for the very heart of the British Empire. Spilling liquids is quite often used in TV shows or movies as a visual sign or cinematic code that a person is emotionally affected by a situation. Combined with the stereotype of British “stiff upper lips” you can’t expect them to show much emotion. So in this situation the British characters spill (British) tea. No surprise to me. I fear you see hints were there are none.
Ok, let’s roll.
In your view Sherlock drinking tea with his arch enemy Moriarty is an out of character moment for Sherlock.
The writers said the solution would be something out of character for Sherlock. Insofar you’re on the right track. But it is difficult to decide which out-of-character moment the writers refer to, when Sherlock is out of character almost all the time during the episode. I might write a posting dealing with all those moments if I find the time. The list should consist of around six or seven things. But drinking tea with Moriarty would never be on it.
You stated correctly that Sherlock doesn’t eat during cases. But this isn’t applicable here. First, his meeting with Moriarty isn’t a “The game is on!” situation. Sherlock has no case, no leads and he is not excited. Perfect moment to have a cuppa. Second, whereas Sherlock doesn’t eat during a case, he does drink. He said to Irene he had tea at the Buckingham Palace in ASiB, though admittedly I didn’t see him drink it. In THotB he drinks coffee. That’s why he later could attribute his experience of fear to the sugar. In TRF the writers have them drink tea together to define Sherlock’s character and his relationship with Moriarty.
It signifies the Britishness of the two characters and the stakes at hand. The outline of the UK on the tea set points to the fact that if both came to an agreement they could “share” the British Empire. Agreement? Yes, quite simple. Moriarty could deliver puzzles and in return Sherlock keeps out of the real business. Not very likely but possible.
It also beautifully contrasts the fact that they are deadly enemies. The writers wanted to show that Sherlock keeps calm and shows his manners in the face of an enemy. (Yes, he has them. He just decided not to use them most of the time.) After all he’s an old-school character placed in a modern setting. That he offers tea is polite when having a guest. The writers stress the fact that all the aggression comes from Moriarty’s side. Sherlock has no grudge against him. He is in fact honouring him. Remember he refused clothing for the Buckingham Palace. But he changed into a suit for Moriarty. He also honours him by using his best tea set. (They have the light shine through the cup to make clear that this china is very fine and therefore probably expensive.) He gives him a kudos. He acknowledges his success. Despite the fact that Moriarty just came to boast about his latest victory and savour Sherlock’s repeated defeat. Moriarty on the other hand violates guest right very gravely.
Maybe I should mention what guest right means. It’s a conventional agreement that you should not harm or threaten to harm people you share food or drink with. Sharing food or drink is traditionally a sign of peace or at least armistice. So it shapes Moriarty as the bad guy when he drinks Sherlock’s tea and eats his apple and then afterward threatens Sherlock with the fall.
Oh, you probably think the tea is important because the camera stayed on the cup for a while. But you forgot that afterward focus changed to Moriarty “typing” his “code” on his knee. So the camera just follows Sherlock’s attention. The knee is the important angle. Moriarty deliberately set down his cup on his one knee to guide Sherlock’s attention to his other knee and by that to his hand.
And ta da! Here is where the tea scene probably really comes from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hGcqvn2grx4
In this video the writers are fanboying about how a part of this scene is “stolen” from “The Woman in Green”, a Basil Rathbone movie they like very much. The symbolic meaning is rather simple. In my view the writers took the essence of it and very beautifully expanded on the idea that Sherlock displays absolute coolness toward Moriarty, despite being afraid of him as we learnt in THotB. Let’s go back to Moriarty entering Baker Street. First, the moment when Moriarty pauses on the steps to the flat and Sherlock stops playing the violin, only to resume a few seconds later. (That’s why the violin is there. He just put it aside. It is no sign of “playing Moriarty”.) Second, he’s sitting with his back turned to the door where Jim must enter. It’s John’s place. We can assume, he placed himself there on purpose. (Moriarty chose the other seat out of stubbornness. But he also didn’t want the warmed seat, I guess. So it was very futile of Sherlock to offer him the one he sat in. Just kidding again.) Third, he deliberately had closed the door to the flat that seems always open, just to be able to greet Moriarty with a cool sentence (“Most people knock.”) Fourth, he prepared tea like a polite host. By which he is showing that he expected Moriarty, that he knew he would get himself freed from all charges and that Moriarty would not come to harm Sherlock at this point.
The whole scene is like this:
MORIARTY: Hi Sherlock, I’m here to scare you.
SHERLOCK: And I’m totally not impressed.
MORIARTY: Oh yes, you are.
SHERLOCK: Ok, I am.
Brilliant scripting! No need to spoil it with your scheme. They just do what they seem to do. They drink tea.
Besides it is canon they should meet in Baker Street. But the cup of tea is the original addition of the writers. To me it seems a nice idea and I was curious if there was a precedent. Couldn’t find one until now. Usually Holmes and Moriarty are displayed as going for each other’s throats if there wasn’t something that stopped them. Either a revolver that Holmes has (Conan Doyle’s or the Jeremy Brett series’ “The Final Problem”) or the fact that Moriarty had a killer planted on Watson (“The Woman in Green” – They really mined that movie!). The Robert Downey jr. movie “A Game of Shadows” comes near. Moriarty offers coffee or tea or “something stronger” but they meet in his study not in Baker Street. The writers of Sherlock nicely combined the meeting in Baker Street with a seemingly peaceful cab drive both had in the Rathbone movie “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”. Then they added the tea to turn it into a very remarkable and memorable scene.
Or it might all just be a pretext to show the nice tea set with the outlines of the UK. We always forget Sue Vertue. I don’t know where I read or heard or watched it but she was quite fond of the tea set. Considering that she’s the producer and married to one of the writers it could be her idea that they should drink a cup together. In this case we should be very grateful.