Studying Sherlock: “The Reichenbach Fall”

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While I wouldn’t say I’m hard to please, at times I can be ridiculously fussy. I like to believe that everything has strengths and everything has flaws, no matter how big or small they are. Sometimes I feel like I’m so obsessed with this belief that I become pessimistic. Sometimes I feel that I’m so desperate to try and find a flaw that it becomes nitpicking. It’s always good to have balance, particularly if you’re making a statement about the quality of something, but sometimes unnecessary criticism can ruin an argument. Sometimes you’re just clutching at straws.

I have spent ages trying to find a single flaw in The Reichenbach Fall and I honestly can’t find one. While calling it the best piece of television ever would probably be slightly hyperbolic, I would still call it perfect. To me, The Reichenbach Fall is practically flawless. It’s one of those pieces of media where everything just clicks. The writing, the acting, the direction, the pacing, the music. Not one shot is badly framed, not one line is poorly delivered, not one second is wasted. This is TV at it’s finest, why TV is my favourite medium of telling stories in a nutshell, and why Sherlock, despite me only getting into the show last week, is quickly becoming one of my favourite TV shows. This is art, and it’s wonderful.

So why? Why is this episode so wonderful? What does this episode do better than any of the five before it? What makes The Reichenbach Fall the show’s masterpiece when the show has already provided us with episodes such as The Great Game and A Study in Pink? Well, I’m probably not the best person to try and explain that, but I can try.

In my opinion, the element that has made Sherlock special compared to a lot of other crime dramas is it’s character work. This is a show which is about the relationships between each of the characters as well as it is about the mystery. It’s the relationships which really turn this series from a great one to a fantastic one, and I love how the character work has become more prominent in Series 2. The character of Sherlock is one which has been built specially, and his development this series, and how Cumberbatch portrays it, has been a joy to watch. The scene where admits he underestimated Molly and that she always counted is touching, and the phone call to John on the roof nearly had me in tears. It’s great to see a character who is obviously Aspergers portray so much emotion, as a common misconception of the spectrum disorder is that all Asperger’s people are uncaring and lack empathy. Sherlock has grown a lot this series, and here Cumberbatch gives his greatest performance, nailing all the aspects of the character which made him warm to me. At times he’s beautifully blunt and eccentric, and at others, he’s so wonderfully human. Watson’s scene at the gravestone, where he tells Sherlock he was the most “human human” he’d ever known is lovely. The Sherlock/Watson relationship has grown so much since A Study in Pink. Freeman and Cumberbatch have such fantastic chemistry, and the scenes which they’re together are always amazing.

The selling point of this episode, though, would have to be Andrew Scott’s Moriarty. He’s probably one of the most menacing villains I’ve personally seen on television. He’s unnerving at times, disturbingly funny at others, and sometimes he’s frightening. He’s the sort of person who would steal every scene he’s in, but he’s acting alongside Benedict Cumberbatch, so it’s the two of them together that get the praise. They have fantastic chemistry, they know how to play with each other to an excellent extent, and they’re a pleasure to watch together. To me, Moriarty feels like The Master Doctor Who never had. He’s got all the elements of the character they’ve tried to create with John Simm and Michelle Gomez but done to a more menacing and scarier effect. Maybe it’s because this isn’t a family programme like Doctor Who is, but Scott does unnerve me. He feels like a great threat, and you do feel for the characters around him. A stunning performance of a stunningly written character.

This one also has the most interesting plot of the series so far. This one does actually feel like a finale, it ties up the themes of the series really nicely but is a brilliant story in its own right. I also think it’s the darkest story of the show so far. Stories about how lies can hurt people are always quite frightening as they feel real, and Moriarty’s plan to construct Sherlock’s downfall is both extremely clever and tense. I don’t want to say it kept me on the edge of my seat throughout because that’s cliche and overused, but it did. It’s a thrilling story, one which does keep your interest and one which does make your stomach turn. What’s even more impressive is that Steve Thompson’s name is on the script. Okay, there’s traces of Moffat all over this, but still, the fact that master of mediocrity Steve Thompson managed to write one of the most thought out, thrilling, tense, exciting plots in TV means that he has no excuse for the half-arsed bore fests he has often put out. Seriously, fantastic work.

Production wise, again, marvellous. Toby Hayne’s direction is fabulous, the cinematography is lovely, the music is brilliant, and the pacing is fantastic.

Really looking forward to how the cliffhanger gets resolved. Being someone who got into the show late, I did see it coming. The existence of the Series 3 DVD on my shelf told me he didn’t really die, but I imagine it must have been a brilliant moment on live watch (it still was really exciting for me in fairness) and I’m looking forward to seeing how it’s explained.

This really is why the BBC are the best of at TV Drama. This really is why Sherlock is the 11th highest rated TV show on IMDB. This really is a testament to what clever writing, brilliant direction, and stellar performances can do. It’s one of the best pieces of visual media I have seen, and I adored every second.

Overall: Stunning. Absolutely stunning.

10/10

Episode Ranking
1. The Reichenbach Fall
2. A Study in Pink
3. The Great Game
4. A Scandal in Belgravia
5. The Hounds of Baskerville
6. The Blind Banker

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