Sherlock: The Two Final Problems

The Final Problem© BBC

A TV series, unlike a film, is an ever-evolving narrative that transforms from episode to episode. It is not a stationary story-line. Elements are constantly changing, and what you experience (or think you experience) in a particular episode, might suddenly shift completely in another successive season.

Case in point with Sherlock. The last episode in Series 2 provides us with a titanic confrontation between Holmes and Moriarty. Up to that point it had long been hinted that the latter was preparing for the downfall of our protagonist, and in The Reichenbach Fall he finds himself about to bring his plans to fruition ever since their encounter in the first series.

Following the trial of the century, Moriarty visits Sherlock at 221B, in what turns out to be a chilling conversation with some dark and foreboding discourse.

“I want to solve the problem. Our problem. The Final Problem. It’s going to start very soon, Sherlock. The Fall.”

So says Jim Moriarty at one point.  

As viewers, we are not yet aware what the villain is referring to, but soon find out as the episode progresses further. Moriarty has carefully planned for the destruction of Sherlock Holmes’ reputation and eventual suicide. 

This indeed seems to be “The Final Problem” referred to above. But is it?

Fast-forward almost 5 years later and the final episode of series 4 literally changes this entire scene. With Moriarty’s plan now fully revealed, we will never experience that conversation in The Reichenbach Fall in the same way ever again. 

“The Final Problem” has been exposed as the long-gestating stratagem between Moriarty and Eurus Holmes. Destroying Sherlock’s reputation and killing himself in the process was but a fragment of Moriarty’s ultimate goal.

This, I think, is the beauty of a TV series like Sherlock. Episodic story-lines long seemingly set in stone can provide a whole new meaning and interpretation upon experiencing newer episodes that hark back to the past.

In hindsight, Moriarty’s quote above has even more gravitas and power to it than ever before due to the cataclysmic events in the latest series.

Moriarty’s Final Problem runs throughout the entire length and breadth of Sherlock ever since the events in A Study in Pink, persecuting our protagonists and reaching its climax towards the end of the last episode in series 4.

With The Final Problem now resolved, is it a case of introducing Series 5 or a run of single-case Specials? See my other post about this.


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