That was an interesting start to the New Year.
After the show dragged its feet through the
muck of trying to contrive a scenario where New York Police could have some
kind of beef with Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller), we’re treated in this
episode with the return of Sherlock’s No. 1 enemy, the nefarious Jamie Moriarty
(Natalie Dormer). Tonight, a little girl gets kidnapped from wealthy parents,
being held for an unconscionable ransom of $50 million. It sounds like your
rudimentary kidnapping…until Holmes hears the voice of the caller demanding the
ransom- it’s none other than Devon Gaspar (Andrew Howard) the very lieutenant who
posed as Moriarty on the phone in Episode 1.22, “Risk Management”. Moriarty is involved? What could she
possibly want out of this?
Predictably, at first everyone’s just a little
bit skeptical of Moriarty’s motives- after all, she’s a master criminal, adept
at the art of manipulation and cunning, a fact that hit too close to Holmes
after the Irene Adler mishap. The episode begins with this part of the
narrative intact, as we find out that Moriarty’s been moved to a shipyard under
the care of federal agents, where she’s free to continue writing letters and
engaging in her favourite pastime of painting (complete with a wonderful
picture of Joan Watson (Lucy Liu)). Moriarty, it seems, has been asking for a
lot of favours from the federal government, which the government seems too
happy to give her since they feel like she’s an important “asset”. Given that
Moriarty’s personality would make Narcissus blush, it’s no surprise that Moriarty
milks the government for all she can, and tonight it seems like Moriarty is
continuing this trend, hoping to rope Holmes in along the way.
Holmes isn’t fooled, though, and deduces that
a series of numbers found in the crime scene are some kind of a code that
Moriarty planted. At that point, Moriarty’s gravy train crumbles in the light
of Holmes’ exposition, as the federal agent that’s taking care of Moriarty
decided that she has to wear her locator bracelets even when she’s inside her
cell. Moriarty complains about this, telling the agent that the cuffs make it
hard for her to paint, but the agent rightly tells her that if she hadn’t
abused the government’s trust they wouldn’t need to place the cuffs on her in
the first place. It’s here where Moriarty reminds the agent about how much
smarter she is than he is by pointing out that she’s devised 17 plans to escape
the shipyard, six of which involve shimmying out of the bracelets by cutting
herself. Then it appears like Moriarty is putting the plan in motion by taking
a handkerchief and strangling the agent assigned to her care.
Holmes decides to crack this code, and see
what message Moriarty is really trying to send. He then realizes the code
firmly established that Moriarty is actually the missing girl’s mother, having
agreed to be a surrogate for the other mother due to her infertility. Holmes
realizes that Moriarty wasn’t actually behind the plot to kidnap the girl- no,
this was all a plot by her lieutenant to
get back at her. Moriarty, then, hatched her escape plan just so she could
save her daughter, which she does by the end of the episode, but not before
bringing Holmes and the rest of the NYPD to take her back to prison once her
deed was finished. It’s revealed at this stage that the agent Moriarty
strangled wasn’t actually killed- a choice made by Moriarty- and that Moriarty
invited Holmes to the scene just so she could share a moment with him.
Moriarty, it seems, wants to know how to care for and about people, a skill
Holmes seems to have picked up and one she’s hoping to learn. It’s a genuinely
touching moment, leading to what appears to be an “almost kiss” by Moriarty and
Holmes as a result.
In context, the whole episode got to be
appreciated in a different light- the little girl gave Moriarty a purpose in
life, and, having discovered it, Moriarty hoped she could learn how to give up
the life of crime and start doing good for a change. Of course, given Moriarty’s
history of manipulation, it’s hard not to think that even this show of kindness
and a pursuit of happiness is not just another Moriarty ploy- but the ending
felt so genuine and Moriarty showed uncharacteristic vulnerability that I tend
to lean on the “real” side. I guess we’ll see what happens at the end of the season.
-Natalie Dormer. She had a lot of fun playing
Moriarty and it showed, as she invigorating and charismatic playing up Moriarty’s
characteristic smug snake style. Dormer also showed great range in giving
Moriarty an emotional depth we hadn’t seen before, and her chemistry with
Miller was on full display. If Dormer became a series regular (on this show or
another), I’d support it- she’s earned it.
-Tonight, aside from seeing Marcus Bell (Jon
Michael Hill) struggle to steady his firearm, we didn’t see much of the
contrived storyline of “Sherlock vs. NYPD”, and thus the characters behaved
normally. I hope this means that the NYPD arc becomes just a blip, or, at
worst, its inherent faults get fixed so it becomes more palatable- because when
the characters act naturally, the story shines.
-The pacing for the first quarter of the show
was slow and awkward. I get that there needs to be exposition but sometimes I’d
wish the show would just “get to the point already” instead of dithering.
-The girl’s “adoptive” mother- and, for that
matter, the girl herself- wasn’t used enough. Shouldn’t we at least have been
afforded a scene or two where the mother is curious about her daughter’s fate,
and shouldn’t we have seen Moriarty at least emote over the daughter she helped
-In the autopsy scene, we hear Captain Thomas
Gregson (Aidan Quinn) try to piece together the crime and exclaim, “does this
make sense? Does any of this make sense?” I might have understood the lines
early in Season One when Gregson was just getting started in Holmes’ crazy
world, but he’s worked with Holmes for almost two years now- he should be expecting the cases to be strange. Since
he didn’t play much of a role solving the case, lines like this make Gregson
look stupid- and he’s a far better character than that.
-It would have been nice if the reveal of
Gaspar was left near the end of the episode, or at the very least until his
name was actually mentioned. Although Gaspar had made brief appearances before
this was the first time we learned his name, and being a voice on the phone
gave him an air of mystery- seeing him before knowing his name removed that
-While I like how Moriarty has been given
depth and seems to be a “grey” like Holmes is- Holmes has evil in him, while
Moriarty has goodness in her- I’m not sure if I like the idea of Moriarty
eventually becoming a “good” character, or even getting involved in Holmes in
some way. Rob Doherty, the creator of the show, has done nice work in
challenging what we’ve come to expect from the Holmes mythos, but I’m leery
about how a “good” Moriarty would play, given how synonymous Moriarty is with
evil. Still, the show has done wonders challenging ideas before, so if they do
decide to make Moriarty “good”, I’ll wait until it plays out to pass judgement
on the character.
A good start to the year. It’s not one of the
series’ best but it was still an entertaining hour and opened up some new plot
twists to explore; and it made far
more sense than the nonsensical NYPD vs. Holmes plotline we’ve had to endure
lately. Hopefully the show can build from here.
Labels: TV Ratings