Sherlock: The Reichenbach Fall

I am finally back from my brief respite (during which I celebrated my niece’s first birthday!), and have at last been able to catch up on my telly–and indulge my Sherlock Holmes obsession with the latest (and last) episode of series 2 of BBC’s hit television show Sherlock.

This week’s episode, written by Steve Thompson and entitled The Reichenbach Fall, saw London’s only consulting detective take on “The Final Problem” in this snazzy retelling of the Doyle original.


James Moriarty possesses the greatest criminal mind that the world has ever seen. Sherlock and John knew he wouldn’t stay hidden for long. But even they never guessed the sheer scale and audacity of the crime that would propel Moriarty back into the headlines. The crime of the century. The Tower of London, the Bank of England and Pentonville prison – all sprung open on the same day, as if by magic! But Moriarty’s plans don’t stop there…

Sherlock and John lock horns with their old enemy in one final problem that tests loyalty and courage to their very limits. Sherlock must fight for his reputation, his sanity and his life. But is he all he claims to be?

If I have on complaint about some of the older adaptions of the Holmes canon, it is that Moriarty never felt particularly menacing. Granted, he appears in only two stories penned by Doyle, but to the popular imagination he is one of the, if not the, greatest criminal mastermind of all time. He should feel imposing. Threatening. But, sadly, most of the time he is not.

I have no such complaint with Andrew Scott’s portrayal of ‘Jim’ Moriarty. He is CREEPY. Ever since his first appearance in series 1 (The Great Game), he has loomed over Sherlock and the audience as this mentally deranged spider, twitching the strings because he likes to watch his dinner dance. The way he manipulates the emotions of his prey while appearing to be a perfectly stable human being is simply chilling. He is indeed a nemesis worthy of Sherlock Holmes.

And it makes Sherlock’s unraveling all the more believable. The dissolution of the world he built around himself–his reputation, his brilliance, his adopted family in Watson, Mrs Hudson, Molly Hooper, and even DI Lestrade–is wonderfully plotted. The audience is strung along with Sherlock as rushes about trying to untangle Moriarty’s intricate web, only to realize, too late, that the wool has been pulled over our eyes the entire time.

Again, I loved the nuanced performance of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Sherlock Holmes and the faithful John Watson. Freeman, in particular, was exquisite. He brought tears (of both laughter and sadness) to my eyes on multiple occasions. He also reminded us all, yet again, why he won a BAFTA.

Other things I enjoyed: synchronized robbery, dear Molly Hooper and her curious role in Sherlock’s ‘death,’ and the ridiculous amount of metaphor. I love storytelling at its finest.

Lucky for us, this isn’t the end of Sherlock. Steven Moffat has confirmed that the third season has already been picked up (it was actually decided a long while ago, though the news was only recently released). Now we just have to wait.


For other opinions on the show, I highly recommend checking out the Baker Street Babes Podcast. You can also find out when Sherlock series 2 is airing in your country by consulting Sherlockology on tumblr.

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About LibriCritic

Librarian by day, bookseller by night, I read, write, and critically appraise all things to do with the written word. Special interests: mysteries, sci-fi, YA lit Obsessions: Sherlock Holmes (and his many incarnations) and things with buttons!

60 responses to “Sherlock: The Reichenbach Fall”

  1. bibliopirate says :

    Sometimes I really wish I had cable tv. I can’t wait to see the new series of Holmes.

  2. LibriCritic says :

    I’m sad that it’s over already :( I wish they put out more than three episodes at a time, even if they are like mini-movies.

  3. Douglas says :

    It was a fantastic series. I can’t wait for the next one to hear Sherlock explain how he’s still alive.

    • LibriCritic says :

      Me too! I’m sure Molly’s involved, but I want to know how. And Moffat took to twitter the other day to say everyone’s missed a big clue in their theorizing. What could it be?!?

      • Douglas says :

        Someone actually found the supposed clue on Tumblr. It has to do with a chemical and its effects on someone. There is also a clue in the newspaper that includes a website, that includes an email, and you can email Brooks and get a reply. I can share more details with you when I find that specific post again.

      • Claire Helen Webster says :

        i think its to do with the woman in the beginning of season 2 and molly

      • sherlockismylife says :

        maybe its somthing to do with that little girl screaming when she saw sherlock. moriarty might have disguised himself as sherlock and sherlock used the same “technique” to disguise a allready dead corpse. but that wouldnt explain how we saw him jump of the roof.

    • David says :

      I agree. I think it is a really clever series. Anybody who is familiar with the unabridged original can see the parallels but there are so many differences that it really is intriguing. I want to buy the series so I can watch them all in one sitting… The pace is great. Love the use of technology in a flippant manner with tons of connections and implied hacking. You can just see Miarity playing the evil game for all it worth. I like the series vs the Hollywood stuff that crams too much in 90 minutes.

  4. Ken Preston says :

    Although I enjoyed the episode I must admit to not being a fan of Andrew Scott’s portrayal of Moriarty. That’s not entirely his fault as I just feel he is too young looking for the part.
    Martin Freeman though, I have to agree, is superb. I was moved by his graveside scene at the end, as he begged Sherlock for just one more ‘miracle.’

  5. LibriCritic says :

    A lot of people have that sentiment about Moriarty, Ken. We are so used to the Moriarty-s of the past being sophisticated-looking bad guys that Andrew Scott rocking it out in a baseball cap and jeans feels a bit incongruous. However, since the show aged-down Holmes, the writers probably felt they had to age-down Moriarty as well. And you have to admit, Scott plays crazy very well.

    • kephiso says :

      Just discovered your blog and felt I had to reply to this particular comment.
      Do you really think they aged-down Holmes? I’ve always thought the other adaptations aged Sherlock up.

      Hasn’t he just finished university when he and Watson meet at the beginning of “A Study In Scarlet?”

  6. Abbat says :

    Самый неожиданный вариант Шерлока….
    Игра актеров непревзойденная, наполненая тонким не навязчивым не чепорным юмором, достаточно злободневным….
    Просмотр доставил огромное удовольствие.
    Первая серия просмотра – из ожтдания низкопробного фильма – принесла ожидание просмотра следующей серии – и УВЫ одно плохое – разочарование – всего 3 серии в сезоне….
    Горько сознавать что нового сюжета не скоро прийдется ждать…
    Хотелось бы обратиться к создателям – ПОЖАЛУЙСТА побыстрее снимайте следующие серии.
    И еще – после этого холмса – не хочу американского…

  7. Robert Rixon says :

    I didn’t think I was going to like this 21st century Holmes, yet not only do I like it, I am blown away!! Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle would probably have written it just like this if he had been alive in this century.

    The casting and just about every facet is quite awesome. I NEVER buy dvd sets of tv series, but I am going to break the rule with this!!!

    • Karolina Absolonova says :

      I completely agree! I have already broken this rule and bought both series on DVD. The first one in the Heathrow Airport during my waiting for the aircraft, and the second one here in the Czech Republic :-)

  8. patty says :

    Can anyone tell me what the part song is, that is in the final brill “Sherlock” It’s driving me mad I know it but cannot place the song because I don’t recognise the singer either.Thanks.

    • LibriCritic says :

      hmm…are you talking about Sinnerman by Nina Simone?

      • homa sapiens says :

        HI)) I’m very interested in this matter too. Have spent 2 days already to find who’s singing it. The voice is like Nina Simone’s, but it sounds like reggae version… Where can i get the right list of musical entries (all existing are dull)?

      • Richard Welch says :

        “Sinnerman” appears in an original version (10:21 time) on several Nina Simone’s collections as well as on “Verve Remixed 2 (Dig)” (4:35) and there is yet another version on “Miami Vice” soundtrack (4:36-Nina Simone / Felix Da Housecat mix). I ordered all 3 used off Amazon for $6.87 to see if I can obtain the version used in the film.

  9. sellocello says :

    Am I the only who noticed the 58 registration truck carrying air cushions? Dr Watson was running so fast towards the truck, a guy on a bicycle slowed him down so he would not see the truck. Once Sherlock’s impact was softened with the air cushions, he must have rolled over to payment with some artificial blood on his face and one of the known chemicals to stop the heart temporarily. Or alternatively they put a corpse who liked like Sherlock on the pavement.

    • LibriCritic says :

      Yes thats a big theory going around right now. Im guessing the crowd of people not letting Watson near were part of the homeless network. And Molly must have something to do with it! Providing the corpse perhaps? Good thought about the chemicals though. Maybe it’s like the first Guy Ritchie movie when Blackwood used a chemical to slow his heartbeat…

    • LMC2012 says :

      thats interesting. i personally thought that sherlock had somehow escaped the fall and placed himself on the pavement. i also believe he got molly to make sure watson was drugged so that he would see what he feared the most very much like that chemical in episode 2. i then think he stopped the circulation to his arm so that his pulse would be dead.

    • Drew says :

      Okay, so what you know:

      1. Molly is part of the answer.
      2. Sherlock chose the roof.
      3. The body hits the ground before Watson gets knocked over, so it has to be FAST. But Watson gets knocked over, likely on purpose (homeless network?) so there is time for something…
      4. The hospital was likely undergoing renovations, the newspaper in Belgravia is displayed several times (when the phone first makes the rude sound)

      What I think:

      5. Sherlock probably jumped, he has Watson watch him closely for a reason, and he wanted to be seen leaving the roof, but not straight through to the ground.
      6. It was Sherlock on the ground, we saw his eyes when he gets rolled over.
      7. Something he did out of character. He could well have been crying because he thinks he is breaking off his friendship with Watson, and intends to disappear, but that was a bit out of sorts. So was asking for privacy and asking for an explanation by Moriarty.
      8. Sherlock isn’t surprised by Mrs. Hudson getting shot (“What, how?” he reacted violently before, as Watson notes at the time) So Sherlock needed to clear Watson out ‘alone protects me’ also speaks to him killing himself for Watson.

      9. The child freaked when she saw Sherlock… Mask? hmmm. (But the eyes! Not Moriarty’s…)
      10. The HOUND gas… Boring and a bit over the top, I’d prefer something cleverer, that could be done with materials on hand at Bart’s. But Watson’s view does get all wobbly like when he’s drugged.
      11. The garbage truck… I’d be less convinced except that it pulls away so conspicuously, right after a guy supposedly splatted on the sidewalk. I’d okay its involvement.
      12. We don’t really know how The Woman faked her death, some people have thrown around double, but I don’t remember that being indicated. Sherlock thought it was her body…
      13. He had something in his hands. They were behind him a lot, sometimes empty, but google image search, and at least at one point he has something dark and rectangular. Is Lestrade on the other end? Does that ruin the faked death? Why keep Watson in the dark if Lestrade is in?

      • Florian says :

        Holmes knew about it the whole time. He even deduced that Moriarty wants to kill him by proxy to win the game.

        It´s all plotted around the „inception“ theme, planting an idea in someone else´s mind. Moriarty likes Sherlock as intelligent enemy. So Sherlock plants the idea in M´s mind that he is NOT intelligent and NOT his enemy. S pretends not to be intelligent by pretending to believe in the „magic code“. Moriarty gets angry – the desired effect. Then S pretends not to be an “angel”, so not to be M´s enemy, but rather on the dark side, and not to be willing to save his friends. He implants the idea in M´s mind by saying “don´t believe e a second I am one of them”. So M concludes S never was interesting at all. No opponent there. The third disappointment for M is that if S does not kill himself, M cannot finish his story for the newspapers about S as fake hero who commits suicide.

        S never believes in a fail-safe but as M probably actually could stop the killing M has one reason more to respond and kill himself, just to make sure that S´s friends actually die.

        Other things I have found:

        – S confirms that Molly is not in danger by having M confirm the names and the number of his friends whom M is planning to kill (“3 bullets”).

        – What is the “missed clue”? It might be the rectangle on the pavement next to the truck. Either S jumps into the truck (with some soft pillows in it), as suggested by others, or there are “firemen”/homeless network in the truck who come out and save S with a jumping sheet and go back to the truck after the job (S and the crew would have practiced before, with the rectangle indicating the position of the sheet). Molly then adds the blood.

        – As others have pointed out, there might be drugs involved. Watson might be under influence of the HOUND drug (possibly given to him by the taxi driver; S knew that W would come back by taxi) to believe more readily that S is dead. In this case there would be no need for S taking the pulse slowing drug (which is the other option). Possibly even M was sprayed with the HOUND drug in the staircase by Molly to be more ready to believe S´s inception.

        – Why is S laughing in his privacy moment? Because he uses it to think more and possibly just then has the idea of how to put M down more with the “I am no angel” trick. S did not know that M would kill himself, so the fake suicide needed to work without that.

        – There is a funny BBC “internal affair” (authors like to please and tease their stations) woven into the story. IOC = “Interdependent Occupational Units” is the currency of the BBC story of the micronation “Kingdom of Lovely” and M might resemble King Danny I. The currency is worth attention, and M is longing for attention from S so much.

      • Florian says :

        PS: I forgot to mention the obvious: the IOU apple is alluding to APPLE´s ecosystem owning you….

  10. Alex Williamson says :

    There are drugs which make you look like you are dead (no pulse, no breathing etc), but you are actually alive. You can be out for quite a time, and then are resuscitated successfully. The fall could have been real and Molly could have provided the drug and since she wasn’t too far away, gone and found him and administered the antidote.

  11. Doily says :

    Surely Sherlock also had to convince the watching sniper of his demise, the whereabouts of whom he may not of known. With this being the case, he would need to survive the fall, as opposed to fake his death.

  12. LMC2012 says :

    what was out of character for him was that he asked for help. he never asks for help that has to be the key as to how he fooled moriarity

    • LibriCritic says :

      yes. as much as sherlock compares himself to moriarty (and moriarty compares himself to sherlock) they really aren’t the same. the big difference is that sherlock has friends he can ask for help, whereas moriarty only has henchmen and people who fear him. i definitely think the fact that sherlock has people to rely on, like molly, is a major factor in faking his death.

  13. LMC2012 says :

    squash ball

  14. Francisco says :

    First of all, sorry about my english (I am from Spain), but I just want to say one thing: AMAZING, REALLY AMAZING. This series is really incredible. Please, keep on…..

  15. bluefrog says :

    something must have happened to john when the bike ran into him. but why would it make sense to have john hallucinate? it was really the gunmen who needed to be convinced that sherlock was dying. if it needed to be applied in such a direct manner, then how was it done with them?

  16. Imp says :

    Did the little girl scream because it was SH or did she scream because she thought her kidnapper had walked in? Anderson hates SH, is roughly the same height & build & buying a similar coat & scarf shouldn’t be too difficult. Cover the face & voila. Did anyone see the look on Andersons face when SH mentioned Police corruption? It had been mentioned Moriarty could get to anyone. Just saying.

  17. Joan Harris says :

    The character development – humanizing – of Sherlock from an Aspergish loner, through attraction to “the woman”, fear – even if induced by chemicals, his affection for John – to one who “no greater love hath a man than that he give up his life for his friends” makes me think of the great archetypal stories which move us – whether Christ, Parsifal, Gilgamesh, etc. “Pride goeth before a fall” (Sherlock’s pride sacrificed for his friends). Satan tempting Christ to throw himself off a pinnacle – and there Sherlock stretches his arms out in a cross before stepping off – but he knew there was at least one “angel” (perhaps Molly) willing to help him. Not knowing the original Holmes stories, I am utterly FASCINATED by all this – and why it has struck so deeply into me and 8 million others! The last of the 2nd series is not overtly religious (thank goodness!) but it nevertheless makes a point of what can be the best in humans when faced with evil and a temptation to self-interest. I think that is a brilliant contribution Steve Thompson has put into our subconscious wrapped in a grippingly well written script! Hooray for the efforts of all involved. I have become a “Sherlock” addict!

    • David says :

      If I were to make a prediction, Sherlock will return, in a modern version of the original. It will be clever to be sure.

  18. Debbie says :

    The really clever thing is the false smile Sherlock gives at the beginning of this episode. When the reporters are photographing him, John Watson keeps having to say “just smile.” I work with Autistic children and they have to be told to smile too – absolutely brilliant – very well observed.

  19. LilyButton says :

    Check out the jury.

    Moriarty’s double! The one who “ate the wafer”.

    He also mirrors the smirk that Moriarty gives when he offers no defence.

    Surely no coincidence.

    Sherlock must have seen him because he faces the jury and makes a comment about the juror who ate the wafer.

    The camera appears to teeze the audience because there are at least three partial shots of this man.

    Am I imagining this? Which was the real Moriarty? Will he return! Or have I finally gone bonkers!

  20. Arlene says :

    Absolutely brilliant!! I was on the edge of my seat from start to finish! And sometimes i forget to breathe :) Normally, I’d be thinking there should be more episodes to a season. But after watching this season-ender, I felt so emotionally drained that, like Sherlock, i’m willing to wait… This one’s going to simmer until the next episode shows, and I can’t wait to see how they’ll start the next series… I just have to add that Martin Freeman is awesome! He had me from the first scene and made me completely lose it in the last… :’)

    • Debbie says :

      I totally agree with everything you said in your comment. I watched the first series of Sherlock and found it entertaining and interesting but this second series was something else. Martin Freeman is good but Cumberbatch is brilliant. The interaction between the two characters is a joy to watch – I love it when they laugh together.

  21. Cynthia Astle says :

    I’ve watched The Reichenbach Fall four times now, and I still can’t figured out how Sherlock faked his own death. I’m going bonkers trying to figure it out, even with Steven Moffat’s note that there’s a ‘clue’ on the rooftop we’ve all overlooked. And now we’ll have to wait a year to find out how Sherlock did it.

    As for Watson, I would have his baby. Much more cuddly and brilliant in his own adorable way.

  22. jack says :

    He jumped onto the laundry truck.

  23. adarsh konkodi says :

    The whole season was awesome.although the second episode was bit weaker compared to first and third.
    according to my analysis of THE REICHENBATCH FALL
    say Holmes falls from roof top facing towards x direction but when we see him on ground HIS BODY IS IN PERPENDICULAR DIRECTION of x (i.e. exactly opposite side of that laundryvan went ) AND TILL LAST MINUTE OF HIS FALL his body is in same direction x.
    I think he FIRST SAFELY FELL INTO LAUNDRYVAN And did exactly same things as said by many others here (heart beat stopping chemical etc)… and later did exactly what I said whatsay??

  24. Nicholas Langan says :

    Just wondering, and a bit confused:
    Why did Moriarity shoot himself? What’s his motive?
    Did he know Sherlock would jump to save his friends, and then Moriarity would be left to live in a world without anyone to match wits with?
    Did M. have nothing to live for when Sherlock equated himself with him?
    Did M. killing himself, take away the option of his personally calling off the hits?
    Thus again, force S. to jump?
    Could M. have faked his death? Shoot a blank gun in his mouth, have an exploding packet of blood out the back of his collar? It’s not like we saw Sherlock check.
    If M. had been alive, he would have been able to look over the edge of the building and gotten a good look at Sherlock’s “solution” to the Fall.
    Yes, suspect blocked view on Watson’s part and a fall into air mattress.
    Like the Christ/devil comparisons above.

  25. Amanda:) says :

    Where can i see the last episode the reinbach fall? i can’t find it anywhere.

    • Polly K says :

      Are you in the states? I found it on putlocker. I’m in Central America, but I imagine it won’t make a difference.

  26. Gloria says :

    We only got to see it last night so I am still reeling! This is the first time I can say I have been totally “taken” by a program. The whole series has been cast extremely well and the script is AMAZING in all senses of the word!
    Thanks for all the ideas on how SH managed to survive the fall! It definitely leaves you wondering!
    The questions about M. are fair comment too! We can’t have our “good” without our “evil”!!! Did he fake his death too?
    The choice of music in the first part was interesting… Can’t remember what it was but it didn’t fit. However, when it comes to this show I like to expect the unexpected! Stimulating programming! FINALLY! (and now it is over!)

  27. Julie Ingall says :

    The shots change when sherlock hits the ground. The first shot shows him lying in close proximity to a white van, bike racks & a bus stop but no truck. When Watson comes around the corner, you can see part of Sherlock and the back of the truck. The next scene when Watson gets hit, you can see Sherlock on the ground with a group of people but no truck. The next scene shows the truck driving away. Whats going on?? Is this just bad continuity and mistakes or ‘clues’. The two sequences at the beginning when Sherlock jumps don’t match up either. The first part has him falling past 2 or 3 sets of windows and the next view has him up much higher as though he just jumped. Two Sherlocks on different parts of the building? Hard to believe Moffat would make mistakes like that.

  28. Carol Manning says :

    On the roof, Sherlock had something concealed from Moriarity’s view, tucked in his sleeve, later in his hand. Perhaps a small phone, on and ready to coordinate Sherlock’s plan with Molly or others. Didn’t look like an injection device, but perhaps something Molly had access to….

    “Staying Alive” was rather a broad hint, what? :-) Since Moriarity chose the song, perhaps that was HIS plan, too!

    I couldn’t wait to see the second series, so I had a Blu-ray set sent to me from Ireland (I’m in Washington, DC). SHERLOCK is such a brilliant and mind-engaging show–such a deep pleasure to watch!

  29. Zinie says :

    I’m french and i’m agree with you. I love the detective stories and Sherlock is the greatest i never seen before, except Remington Steele. I’m sad bacause i just can’t wait one year for the season 3… To be continued… see you soon ! xoxoxo

  30. peter says :

    Wo have ever read connan’s book?

  31. peter says :


    • sherlockismylife says :

      its king of obvious why he still alive. why would he WANT to die? plus he knows how upset john, mrs hudson, and lestrade will be if he acually dies. (as we all saw because wartson was crying at his grave stone!)

  32. peter says :


  33. Katherine says :

    I think that something that Sherlock did while on the roof, that was really out of character, was that he sang to Moriarty this line “If I’ve got you”. This must have been from some song, I don’t think he just randomly sang those lines. Maybe Cheryl Cole’s Parachute? “I don’t need a parachute, baby, If I’ve got you, you’re gonna catch me if I fall”. Lyrics fit the scene too well. Is this some kind of clue, that we have missed?

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