After nearly two years of badgering from a friend whose opinion I trust, I finally took her advice and watched the BBC television series Sherlock. I didn’t have a particularly good reason for waiting so long to watch this show; it mostly had to do with the fact that each episode is 90 minutes long, and I never seemed to have enough time to devote to a show that is the equivalent of six full length movies. Nevertheless, once I finally did make the time, I now understand why my friend’s pestering had been so persistent. Much has already been written about this show, and I can only say that the multitude of rave reviews Sherlock has received are well deserved. Creators Steven Moffatt and Mark Gatiss have been praised for taking two of literature’s most famous characters out of their time period and placing them in present day, and yet the show has somehow managed to create stories that feel timeless. The list of Sherlock‘s achievements is long, but my personal favourite can be found at the very end, in the final moments of the last episode. Spoiler alert for those who have not seen all episodes.
“The Reichenbach Fall” is the third and last episode of series two, and is loosely based on the short story “The Final Problem”, in which Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty engage in their final conflict. Similarly, “The Reichenbach Fall” is centred on Moriarty’s systematic destruction of Sherlock, culminating in a brilliant showdown between the two of them on the roof of St. Bartholomew’s Hospital. The episode is amazing, and in my opinion the best of the series, because watching two extraordinarily talented actors, Benedict Cumberbatch and Andrew Scott as Sherlock and Moriarty respectively, go head to head makes for riveting viewing. However, as brilliant as those two are in their roles, it was the last two minutes of the episode, with Martin Freeman as John Watson alone at Sherlock’s grave, that elevated this episode to a classic work of television.
Sherlock Holmes and John Watson have always been giants in the world of fiction, spawning countless movie, television, and literature adaptations over the decades, but what Sherlock does so beautifully is that it brings these characters back down to earth. They still may be much smarter than the majority of us, but this show has a way of grounding them and making them accessible and relatable. This was never more apparent than in those last few moments, listening to John desperately trying to express his grief over the loss of his friend. As he says to Sherlock’s tombstone, John had been a troubled, solitary person who found a kindred spirit in the unlikeliest of places, and losing that connection was shattering. I’ve been a fan of Martin Freeman for years, but never have his talents been more on display than at this moment, when in a mere two minutes he is able to convey an extraordinary range of emotions. Furthermore, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better depiction of grief, nor one so subtlety done. The halting speech, the loss for words, and the quiet struggle for composure were devastating, and drove home just how deep the level of friendship goes between these two characters.
Series three is slated to air at the end of this year, and I for one can’t wait to see Sherlock’s reappearance, because somehow I don’t think his deception is going to go over well with this interpretation of John Watson. I imagine he’ll have some choice words for his not so dearly departed friend, and it’s their reunion that I’m most looking forward to watching. That and the answer to how Sherlock faked his death, because there are days when a trick like that could come in handy.