I am you. Prepared to do anything. Prepared to burn. Prepared to do what ordinary people won't do. You want me to shake hands with you in hell? I shall not disappoint you.—Sherlock Holmes
John Watson has returned to his therapist's office for the first time in eighteen months. Why? Because his best friend, Sherlock Holmes, is dead.
Only three months earlier, Sherlock had been catapulted to even greater heights of fame thanks to his recovery of a famous painting of the Reichenbach Falls, amongst other big-note cases. How did the Reichenbach Hero fall so far? The answer is wrapped up in the simultaneous break-ins at the Tower of London, the Bank of England and Pentonville Prison, along with a budding journalist, a high-profile trial, international assassins, fairy tales, the mysterious Richard Brook, and the "final problem" of Jim Moriarty...
This episode provides examples of the following tropes:
- Actor Allusion: John shows up in one scene in a dressing gown, with a towel thrown over his shoulder.
- As You Know: Lampshaded and justified during Sherlock's confrontation with Moriarty after the trial, when they both know what Moriarty's up to but somebody needs to explain it for the audience.
Moriarty: You understand.
Moriarty: Off you go, then.
Sherlock: You want me to tell you what you already know?
Moriary: No, I want you to prove that you know it.
- Ate His Gun: Moriarty
- Ax Crazy: Guess who?
- The Bad Guy Wins: ...except for one tiny hiccup.
- Badass Boast: Sherlock tells Moriarty in no uncertain terms that if he harms his friends, Sherlock will burn him right back.
Moriarty: Sherlock, your big brother and all the King's horses couldn't make me do a thing I didn't want to.
Sherlock: Yes. But I'm not my brother, remember? I am you. Prepared to do anything. Prepared to burn. Prepared to do what ordinary people won't do. You want me to shake hands with you in hell, I shall not disappoint you.
Moriarty: Nah. You talk big. Nah. You're ordinary. You're ordinary. You're on the side of the angels.
Sherlock: Oh, I may be on the side of the angels. But don't think for one second that I am one of them.
- Big Bad Friend: It's revealed that Moriarty got his information about Sherlock from Mycroft.
- Break His Heart to Save Him: Right before jumping off St. Bart's, Sherlock tells John that Moriarty's version of the story is true, so that John, Lestrade and Mrs. Hudson won't get offed by snipers.
- Sherlock's earlier attempt to do this was, sadly, a lot more successful. John receives a phone-call telling him that Mrs. Hudson has been shot. Sherlock refuses to go with him to see her and acts as if he doesn't care about her when previous events have clearly shown otherwise. Throughout the episode, people have been slowly turning against Sherlock, all except John who has been fighting his corner all the way until this moment which causes him to snap and call Sherlock a 'machine' before abandoning him as well. It turns out Mrs Hudson was fine all along and the whole thing was a ruse set-up by Sherlock to get John to leave him so he could face Moriarty alone.
- Bullying a Dragon: All Sherlock's put-downs of Anderson and Donovan finally come back to bite him.
John: They are all coming over here now. Queuing up to slap up on the handcuffs. Every officer you made to feel a tit, which is a lot of people.
- Call Back: While handcuffed and and forced to hold hands with Sherlock, John mutters "Now people will definitely talk", referencing his line in " The Great Game"
- Sherlock learned back in "A Study in Pink" that cabbies can hide in plain sight because no one pays attention to them. Hoo boy, did that come back around.
- Casting Gag: The incensed old man in the Diogenes Club was played by Douglas Wilmer, who played Sherlock Holmes on TV in the 1960s.
- Chained Heat: Sherlock and John.
- Common Nonsense Jury: Moriarty was caught red handed stealing the Crown Jewels. There are plenty of witnesses and good quality security camera footage. At trial he offers no defense and the judge tells the jury that they have no choice but to convict. They return a verdict of 'not guilty'. Moriarty threatened to kill the jurors' families unless they acquitted him.
- Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Neatly exploited by Moriarty. As Sherlock points out, nothing he could steal from any bank in the world is ever going to be worth more than a computer program that will let him break into any bank in the world.
- Deconstruction: Holmes is an incredible, unbelievable detective. So Moriarty arranges matters so he's less credible, and to make people stop believing in him. In fact, people start to think he actually set up the crimes he solved.
- Did You Actually Believe?: There's no magic formula that can open any door. Moriarty just bribed a few people, and is actually disappointed that even Sherlock bought it.
- Also, at the end when Sherlock is standing on the roof of Bart's and telling John "no one could be that clever" in regards to him faking his genius. Averted by the fact that Sherlock was lying about being a fake in order to save John, Lestrade, and Mrs. Hudson.
- Diegetic Switch:
- Jim Moriarty's iPod music became the BGM to his jewel heists in "The Reichenbach Fall". Appropriately enough, the song is Rossini’s "Thieving Magpie".
- Later, when Moriarty is waiting on the rooftop, "Stayin' Alive" plays as BGM, then becomes the diegetic music from his iPod as Sherlock arrives.
- Driven to Suicide: Sherlock. But not really.
- Jim, just so he can "win".
- Extreme Doormat: Oh, Molly.
- Faking the Dead
- Famed in Story: Continuing the trend of series 2, Sherlock is becoming an internationally-renowned detective.
- Faux Affably Evil: Moriarty.
- Foregone Conclusion: Well, if you know the original stories, you knew that Holmes would die in the Reichenbach episode. You also knew that he was never really dead after all.
- Flat What: John is a master of these. In particular, this is his reaction when Sherlock, who he is handcuffed to, announces that they are about to jump in front of a bus.
- Gilligan Cut:
- At a trial, the judge threatens to throw Sherlock into a cell for contempt of court, and asks "Do you think you could survive for just a few minutes without showing off?!?". Sherlock thinks for an instant, and opens his mouth. Cut to Sherlock being thrown in a cell.
- And again when Sherlock is arrested Watson is seen looking like he's going to punch the chief superintendent; cut to outside and guess who has a bloody nose?
- Gosh Dang It to Heck: Donovan and Lestrade are driving to the Tower of London where a break-in has occurred. They have also heard since leaving the station that the Bank of England has been broken into. When Lestrade finds out Pentonville Prison has also has a security breach, his response is "Oh no!" Season 2 may have more cursives than season 1 but the language is still very mild.
- Holding Hands: Sherlock and John, while handcuffed together. To the sound of exploding squees of slash fangirls everywhere.
John: Now people will definitely talk!
- Heroic Sacrifice
- Hero Syndrome: Moriarty frames Sherlock as being one of these.
- Hollywood Hacking: Moriarty creates a computerized key that he uses to break into the Tower of London, the Bank of England, and Pentonville prison all at once. Subverted when Moriarty reveals that the key was a fake and that he simply paid off the right people to help him.
- Homage Shot:
- Moriarty hacks into locked vaults and security systems to the tune of "The Thieving Magpie" by Rossini. Sound familiar?
- The sequence where Moriarty enters 221 B Baker street and starts to sneak up the stairs while Sherlock's violin plays in the background. He steps on a squeaky step, the violin stops for a second and then starts again. Moriarty walks up the stairs knowing perfectly well that Sherlock is aware that Moriarty is coming. Taken directly from the Basil Rathbone film The Woman in Green, the last film of that series to feature Moriarty.
- A clearly deranged man pops something in his mouth, plays classical music through his headphones and cracks his neck in preparation for committing a crime - Gary Oldman in Leon, anyone?
- Homoerotic Subtext: More than ever. It extends beyond the usual Sherlock/John to Sherlock/Moriarty as well.
- Hope Spot: Sherlock's last-minute realization that Moriarty has a way to call off the assassins targeting John, Mrs. Hudson and Lestrade. His attempt to Take a Third Option is brutally cut off by Moriarty's Thanatos Gambit.
- How We Got Here: Like the original story, this episode opens with John Watson telling us that Sherlock Holmes is dead, and then backtracks to show us how it all went down.
- Intrepid Reporter: Kitty Reilly is trying to be this, but Sherlock calls her out for being a Hot Scoop and Stalker with a Crush trying too hard to impress people. He gets burned for it, badly.
- Instant Sedation: Moriarty sprays something on the face of a guard in the Tower of London, and he goes down like a sack of potatoes in one second flat.
- Ironic Echo: "You repel me."
- It Always Rains At Funerals: Battering down, to be precise, in the opening scene after Sherlock's apparent suicide. It's still grey in the closing scene at the graveside.
- Kansas City Shuffle: Moriarty makes everyone think that his plan is to sell his computer program to the highest bidder. When everyone is trying to stop him it only furthers his real plan to discredit Sherlock
- Kick the Dog: Moriarty makes this episode an hour and a half of him doing nothing less than this. And then some more.
- Magnificent Bastard: Jim Moriarty. He well-and-truly earned his stripes.
- Meaningful Name: "Richard Brook". Rich Brook would be an English approximation for "Reichenbach", a play on words that gives the episode its title. Literally, it would translate to 'reicher Bach'
- Mood Dissonance: "Staying Alive" makes a return appearance during a tense moment.
- Mythology Gag:
- Moriarty refers to his conflict with Sherlock as "The Final Problem", referencing the name of the short story this episode is based on. Likewise, Reichenbach Falls made a prominent appearance in that story as the location where Holmes (apparently) tumbles over the ledge to his doom.
- Peter Ricoletti, the man at the top of Interpol's most-wanted list, is a reference to one of Holmes' untold early cases ("Ricoletti of the club foot") mentioned in "The Musgrave Ritual."
- Sherlock's deduction about Kitty Reilly's wrist is similar to one that Holmes makes in "A Case of Identity."
- Sherlock's courtroom description of Moriarty as a spider at the center of a criminal web is lifted almost word-for-word from "The Final Problem."
- Moriarty's threatening but very civil discussion with Sherlock in the sitting room at Baker Street recalls his visit to 221B in "The Final Problem."
- During their tea-party, Moriarty tells Sherlock, "You need me - or you're nothing." Holmes himself expresses a similar sentiment in "The Adventure of the Norwood Builder."
- The Diogenes Club is from the original stories, as is its blanket ban on talking.
- The abduction of the diplomat's children recalls "The Adventure of the Priory School," in which Holmes is called in to find the young son of a prominent nobleman, who has also been kidnapped from a high-class boarding school.
- As in the original "Final Problem," Sherlock is nearly run down by a cab. The twist is that it's not an assassination attempt by Moriarty, and one of Moriarty's assassins actually saves his life.
- Lestrade mentions Inspector Gregson as someone else who has consulted Sherlock. Gregson was another police inspector who often appeared in the stories.
- The phone call that John receives claiming that Mrs. Hudson has been shot is a clear reference to the (literal) Swiss messenger from "The Final Problem," who draws Watson away from Holmes with a note about a sick Englishwoman who needs a doctor.
- Moriarty's fondness for snipers (they are key components of his plans in this episode as well as "The Great Game") may be a reference to Sebastian Moran, Moriarty's right-hand-man in the stories.
- "This phone call, it's - it's my note." In the original story, Holmes left an actual note.
- At Sherlock's grave, John calls Sherlock "the best man, and the most human human being, that I've ever known." In the closing words of "The Final Problem," Watson writes that he will always regard Holmes as "the best and wisest man I've ever known."
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In "The Reichenbach Fall", it's revealed that Mycroft, while trying to get Moriarty's computer key (which turned out not to exist anyway) ended up telling Moriarty Sherlock's entire life story -- which he proceeds to use as ammunition against him. It's only in hindsight he realises what a terrible idea this was.
- Not So Different: Moriarty taunts Holmes with this repeatedly. It's not until the climax that he realises how right he was.
- Occam's Razor: There is no supercode for hacking into all of the world's systems; Moriarty simply used expertly-placed inside men.
- Please Wake Up: John to Sherlock's grave. After his goodbye monologue about his undying faith in Sherlock, he turns around and...
"Please, there's just one more thing, one more thing, one more miracle, Sherlock, for me. Don't...be...dead. Would you do- just for me, just stop it. Stop this."
- Reality Ensues: Sergeant Donovan makes Lestrade take her doubts to the Chief Superintendent. He's under the impression that Sherlock has only helped on a few minor cases. The reveal that Sherlock (a civilian) has been given unmitigated access to sensitive data and cases leads him to tear Lestrade a new one and order him to bring Sherlock in.
- Rooftop Confrontation:
- To Stansfield in Leon (see Homage Shot), and also to A Clockwork Orange, when Moriarty refers to Bach as "Johann Sebastian" (as Alex refers to "Ludwig Van").
- Moriarty's attempt to steal the crown jewels, as well as his being acquitted at trial even though everyone knows he's guilty, are both plot points from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce).
- Likewise, the climax, in which Moriarty tries to talk Sherlock into jumping off a roof, seems to be based on a similar scene from the Basil Rathbone film The Woman in Green. Moriarty climbing the stairs while Sherlock plays his violin is also directly from that film (see Homage Shot).
- Moriarty's plan bears a striking resemblance to The Seven Percent Solution, a non-canon story based around the idea that Holmes invented Moriarty.
- All the discussion of Sherlock being "on the side of the angels" is a Shout-Out to the BBC radio plays with John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson (and Orson Welles as Moriarty). In the dramatization of "The Empty House," Watson exclaims "You're the devil, Holmes!" Holmes replies "The only one, however, who has always been on the side of the angels."
- Moriarty invokes this in-universe with "Hansel and Gretel," to spectacularly disturbing effect.
- Spot of Tea: Sherlock and Moriarty might be mortal enemies, but they're still British.
- During the break-ins, every single one involves someone who is drinking tea.
- Strawman News Media: Kitty Reilly and, presumably, her editors (at The Sun?) buy into Richard Brook's story hook, line and sinker. Given the outbreak of the News International hacking scandal during production, it feels rather timely.
- Considering that Moriarty is just that good, his story probably just holds up well enough.
- Alternatively, it's The Sun. They're not known for being great at checking facts before publishing.
- Considering that Moriarty is just that good, his story probably just holds up well enough.
- Thanatos Gambit: The final move in Moriarty's Xanatos Speed Chess game.
- Tragic Bromance: John is devastated by Sherlock's apparent death.
- Unwitting Pawn: Sgt. Donovan.
- Mycroft Holmes.
- Villain with Good Publicity: Moriarty's gambit is to convince the world that Sherlock Holmes is one of these. And it works.
- Wham! Episode
- Wham! Line: John opens the episode with one.
John: My best friend, Sherlock Holmes, is dead.
- What Happened to the Mouse? Why the little girl was so terrified of Holmes was never addressed.
- The implication is that Moriarty somehow made himself look like Sherlock when he abducted the kids but exactly what he did isn't mentioned.
- What You Are in the Dark: Sherlock's decision to tarnish his own reputation to save the lives of his friends, who for their own safety cannot know that he saved them.
- Wicked Cultured: Moriarty.
- Wild Mass Guessing: The internet exploded with theories on how Sherlock survived
- Worst Aid: Sherlock is flipped over and moved onto a stretcher after he's just fallen from a building, with no precautions such as stabilizing his head/neck taken. It's made worse by the fact that it was hospital workers who were doing this.
- He fell down several stories to hard asphalt. It's highly unlikely that they felt the need to treat him as a patient at that point. More questionable is why they didn't leave the body for the police investigation. Most likely by the arrangement of Sherlock himself, of course.
- Xanatos Gambit: Moriarty's plan to "burn" Sherlock is beyond masterful. And Xanatosian, given that at every turn, everything Sherlock could have done sends him further and further down Moriarty's rabbit hole.
- Exactly like how the more sweets the child hostages in this episode ate, the faster they died.
- Xanatos Speed Chess: Sherlock and Moriarty are playing like nobody's business.
- You're Insane!