My Theory on “The Reichenbach Fall”

Okay, hopefully this will be the last Sherlock-related post you have to deal with from me for awhile.  Maybe…  We’ll see.  I’ve watched the whole show twice through now, and I’ve watched the final episode, “The Reichenbach Fall,” three times.  (I’ve also gotten both my mother and my friend, Nathan, to watch the first episode, and will soon be making sure they watch the rest of the series too.)

While watching “The Reichenbach Fall” I actually sat down and took THREE PAGES of notes (and my handwriting is small, so that’s a lot of notes).  And I THINK I may have found a small detail/clue that might be the one Steven Moffat was hinting at.  Now, I haven’t read every single comment, tweet, blog post, etc ever written on the subject of the last episode and theories about how Sherlock faked his death, and I doubt I’m the only who to ever notice this.  HOWEVER, based on the blog posts, comments, etc. that I HAVE read, it doesn’t look as if many people have noticed it yet, at least.  This little detail, that I’ll actually tell you about in a minute, doesn’t (I think) really change the basic theories that have been thrown around about how Sherlock faked his death, but I think it does help to confirm the theory (at least if I’m not seeing things).

So, before I get into explaining my theory, here are a few of the things that I took notice of while watching the episode that directly impact my theory.  All of these are things that others have mentioned/noticed before, though some people don’t notice them all at the same time.  I’m just laying them all out for you here. (Don’t worry, I’m not typing out all three pages of notes, just some of the major things).

– we know that Moriarty creates an alias, Richard Brook, who is an actor; we can assume he had access to other “actors”

– Molly notes, long before Sherlock admits that he knows that Moriarty is trying to ruin his reputation, that he looks sad when he thinks no one is looking (or more specifically when he thinks John isn’t looking), thus implying that Sherlock already suspected that the end game would be his death

– the girl who was kidnapped by Moriarty (or more likely, Moriarty’s men) sees Sherlock and screams, thus implying that Moriarty has some kind of Sherlock impersonator (an actor?) who looks enough like Sherlock to convince a girl she has seen Sherlock before

– we, of course, know that Sherlock goes to Molly for help – though he does not, of course, specify what he wants her to do, we know that Molly is the coroner, which gives us some ideas

– and of course it is obvious that Moriarty does not think about Molly and so can’t anticipate Sherlock’s plan, because he claims to be threatening the only three people in the entire world that Sherlock cares about: John, Mrs. Hudson, and Lestrade (one would assume he doesn’t bother with Mycroft because Sherlock ACTS as if he doesn’t care about him, AND Mycroft would be ridiculously difficult to get to, even for Moriarty)

– I have watched and watched and watched and I’m almost certain that Sherlock and Moriarty are alone on that roof top (of course, if they were playing tricks with the camera angles, we’d have no way of knowing, and that’d be cheating)

– I’m almost certain that Moriarty is really dead (though no one mentions finding his body at the end of the episode, so who knows?): Sherlock is standing RIGHT IN FRONT OF HIM when he shoots himself in the head, they show the body quite clearly at several angles, and there is no one else on the roof, so I’m pretty damn sure Moriarty is staying dead

– Sherlock is definitely the one who jumps off that roof, (in other words, there is no way he just threw an already-dead body off the ledge): they show him quite clearly standing on the roof with the phone, talking to John who’s standing below (and the camera angle again leaves little doubt that there is no one else on the roof, and Sherlock is not holding up a dead body in front of him or something like that); his arms and legs are actively flailing as he falls (so its definitely not a dead body) (Also, on a side note, Sherlock is crying in this scene. CRYING. It’s so hard to tell how much of that is real with him, though.)

– The camera actually blinks out for a second right before the body hits the ground and changes angles, so we DO NOT see one straight shot of Sherlock jumping, falling, and landing.  AND there is a truck full of bags – trash? old hospital gowns? – RIGHT beside where the body lands.

– John is standing below, near the building, but he’s at an angle to the point where the body lands, and he has to round a corner to actually see the body.  Plus, he is struck by the man on the bike (which I am, like everyone else, assuming was planned – perhaps one of Sherlock’s homeless network?), so that he is not the first to reach the body.  By the time John gets up and over to the body the truck has driven away and the body is surrounded by other people.

And now we come to the detail that none of the other theories/blogs I’ve read have mentioned: in all the scenes prior to Sherlock jumping off the roof (sitting in the lab with John, telling John to go check on Mrs. Hudson without him, and going up to the roof to meet Moriarty), he is wearing his purple shirt.  Now, I could be wrong, and I want some others to take a look and tell me what you think, but I’ve looked and looked and looked, and I’m pretty sure the shirt the body is wearing a dark navy or gray shirt.  What do you think?  Am I just seeing things?

This, to me, confirms that the body John sees on the sidewalk is NOT Sherlock.  Obviously, plenty of people had already assumed that (though I also read one or two theories that he said he took something to make his heart slow to near-death), but this would seem to be proof.

So, here’s my theory, which is not at all different than most of the others, though perhaps a bit more specific.

Having figured out what Moriarty intends, and having guessed that Moriarty must have had some kind of Sherlock-impersonator in order to frighten the kidnapped girl – Sherlock finds (or has someone) find the impersonator (who, I would assume, Moriarty had already had killed and hidden somewhere).  He enlists Molly’s help to prepare the corpse, and to later (after the jump) to make sure she is the one who does the autopsy/coroner’s report.  He enlists the help of his homeless network or others to have the body ready in the truck (and to keep John distracted for a moment).  When Moriarty kills himself, taking away Sherlock’s last ditch effort to avoid the faking-his-death scenario, Sherlock does in fact jump from the roof, landing in the truck, at which point the person helping him throws out the body of the impersonator (dressed, of course, in Sherlock’s clothes), which John does not see because it’s around the corner.  And then the truck drives away, with Sherlock probably injured but relatively whole.  John, being distraught and, of course, looking into a face that’s smashed and bloody, is fooled by the impersonator – though I would guess that a very thorough report on Molly’s part to keep him from suspecting after the fact.

So, there’s my theory.  At least for now.

I’d like to think I’ve got it figured out.  But I have no delusions of grandeur and I have no doubt that Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss are WAY smarter and way more devious than I am, so they’ve probably got something up there sleeve that I’ll never see coming.  But it was a ton of fun trying to figure it out.

For an even better run-down, check out this beauty from Flick Filosopher.

There are plenty of other little things of note through out the episode that are fun to point out, but don’t bare specifically on my theory.  For instance: the “I O U” message spray-painted on a wall across the street of 221B Baker Street when John is jumping into the cab to go after Sherlock.  Moriarty’s ring tone is “Staying Alive” which cracks me up and plays to the whole theme of the episode.  I’m wondering if the gunman who was trained on John might be Sebastien Moran (maybe?).  All the references to Bach seem important: Reichenbach, Rich Brook (Brook being “bach” in German); “Bach couldn’t stand an unfinished melody,” the fake key code is a melody by Bach (Partita #1, I think Moriarty says) – but I’m not entirely sure what all of that points to.

Of course, I still have questions.  For one, the sudden introduction of the Chief Superintendent, who orders Lestrade to arrest Sherlock, seems important to me.  When you’re dealing with the kind of economy of time/movement/character that you are in a movie or tv show, every new character needs to be there for a good reason.

Also, WHY IN HELL’S NAME, if Mycroft had Moriarty captures and in a secure facility, would he EVER let him go again? I keep wondering if Mycroft has more to do with this than we realize.  Perhaps he orchestrated the whole thing to get Sherlock out of the country for some covert job?  He would certainly be able to get a hold of a Sherlock look-alike for the body-swap.

And lastly: how in hell’s name is Sherlock going to clear his name?!

Okay, I’ll stop bothering you with posts about Sherlock for awhile now (maybe…).  Oh, except to give you the best Sherlock fan-girl Tumblr blog EVER: We’re Basically Filling In For Your Skull; which is the perfect thing to help keep you sane while we wait for the new episodes.  Just be aware that there is some spoilery stuff on there if you haven’t seen season 2 yet.

God, those EYES! I can’t even–! GAH!

Totally, Completely, and Ridiculously Obsessed With Sherlock, Pt 2

Totally, Completely, and RIDICULOUSLY OBSESSED with Sherlock, Pt 2: 

*drools*

Okay, where was I?  Oh yeah, raving about Sherlock like a lunatic.  That sounds about right.  Again, I want to remind you, if you have not watched Sherlock yet and intend to, DON’T read this.  There is absolutely no way to talk about this show without giving away too much, and these are MYSTERY stories after all.  It’s no nearly as much fun if you know what’s coming.  So, once again, if you haven’t seen this show yet, you can watch season 1 on Netflix streaming and season 2 on PBS.org (but PBS only has season 2 on their website for a limited amount of time, so you might want to get cracking).

As for me, I just caved and bought the DVDs on Amazon so I could watch the series again straight through, even if PBS gets rid of their videos.  Also, I want to show it to my mother and she doesn’t like watching things on the computer, so the DVDs will be useful.

And just to prove how obsessed I am, I also bought the Sherlock Holmes 2: Game of Shadows movie on Wednesday and watched it straight through twice.  And I’ve got a new hobby browsing through Sherlock fanart on DeviantArt.  Yeah, I’m pathetic, I know.  But that’s okay, I’m used to it by now.

So, let’s get down to business, shall we?

Next episode: “Hounds of Baskerville” –

Now, anyone who knows anything about Sherlock Holmes knows that The Hound of the Baskervilles is one of the most famous of the Sherlock Holmes stories.  It’s the third of the four novels Arthur Conan Doyle wrote along with the short stories about Sherlock Holmes.  Basic premise of the original novel: When Charles Baskerville, a baronet, is found dead on his estate of an apparent heart attack, his doctor James Mortimer fears that the only heir, Henry Baskerville might be the next to die.  It is revealed the Charles Baskerville believed in the legend of family curse that claimed a hellhound would kill all of the Baskerville family in retaliation for the death of a girl several generations ago.  Sherlock Holmes is called in to find out what really happened to Charles Baskerville, investigate the mysterious threatening letters Henry Baskerville has received, and decipher the truth behind the reports that a gigantic hound has been seen out on the moor.

In this modernized version of the story, Mark Gatiss has written something AWESOME. (Also, apparently Mark Gatiss the co-creator is the series is also the actor who plays Mycroft Holmes! Why didn’t I notice that before? WTF is wrong with me?)  In this incarnation, Henry Baskerville is a man who suffers from severe PTSD after seeing his father killed by a gigantic hound as a child twenty years ago.  He has been convinced by his therapist to return to the moor where his father was killed in order to jog his memories and prove to himself that he didn’t really see a monster.  However, when he goes he find enormous paw prints and is convinced that the monstrous hound is still there.  So he goes to Sherlock for help, who does not at first seem interested, until he learns that the moor is near Baskerville, a top-secret military facility where all kinds of scientific experiments are reported to take place.

Mark Gatiss takes a somewhat convoluted story about a pair of greedy people trying to literally scare a man to death in order to inherit his wealth, and turns it into a crazy awesome story about genetic experiments, the moralities of science, coming to terms with truth, AND greatest of all – Sherlock dealing with self-doubt and fear for practically the first time ever.

And Sherlock is definitely the highlight of this episodes (well, okay, all the episodes, but you know what I mean), because in one scene he is convinced that he has also seen the monstrous hound, even though he knows logically it cannot possibly exist.  He is actually afraid, and begins to doubt his senses, which practically never happens.  He takes it out on John more than a bit, which was part-sad, part-funny, but it was just so fascinating in terms of character development to witness Sherlock having to deal with doubt and fear even though he constantly claims to be in perfect control of his emotions.  The scene in the inn, when he’s sitting in front of the fireplace and freaking out (those of you who’ve seen it know the scene, I’m sure) was fantastic!

Of course, I felt REALLY bad for John in that scene too.  When John says that, as a friend, he’s worried about Sherlock, Sherlock shouts at him, tells him he has no friends, and to leave him alone.  It was SAD, damn it!  I just wanted to jump into the tv and hug Martin Freeman.  He’s just so damn adorable and likable!   Gah!

Ahem… anyway… yes, Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman were wonderful as always in this episode (I am more than little in love with both of them), and they had a chance to stretch their emotional ranges a lot, which was a joy to watch. This is especially true for Benedict Cumberbatch, obviously, since he had to show Sherlock afraid and shaken, but still arrogant and sharp-tongued as ever. But Martin Freeman has this fantastic scene inside the Baskerville labs, where he thinks the hound has gotten loose inside and he’s locked in with it.  I love the way he tries so hard to stay calm and in control, but eventually completely panics and calls Sherlock to help him.  His voice cracks because he’s freaking out so bad, and it’s so funny!  And then it turns out that Sherlock was doing it all as an experiment, while he watches it on a CC-TV, and that made it even more hilarious.

There’s also a little part when John gets to use his army training, and pulls rank on the military base as he and Sherlock are pretending to be inspectors.  We don’t get to see the soldier-y side of John very often, and it’s always a pleasure, because John is completely bad-ass in those moments.

And the plot of the episode was absolutely awesome.  I tip my hat to Mark Gatiss for making the story of The Hound of the Baskervilles into something new and exciting and clever.  It fit the times, it fit the characters, it kept enough elements of the original story to satisfy all of us old-school fans, and it was just plain COOL.

And now – drum roll please – we come to thing we’ve all been waiting for, the big season finale, the epic episode of epicness: “The Reichenbach Fall” – (THERE ARE SO MANY SPOILERS IN THIS YOU WILL PROBABLY WANT TO KILL YOURSELF IF YOU READ IT BEFORE YOU WATCH THE EPISODE)

“The Reichenbach Fall” is based off the Sherlock Holmes story “The Final Problem,” one of the most famous stories and the one of only two stories in which Moriarty makes an actual appearance.  As you may have noticed from some of the comments I made on Facebook and Twitter, this episode was MIND-BLOWING. Just… just… MIND-BLOWING.  I can’t even…! Gah!

Okay, okay… deep breaths.

It opens with Sherlock becoming a minor celebrity as he helps solves higher-profile crimes, with higher-profile clients, and with the media and paparazzi taking notice and following him around.  While the title of the episode comes from the Riechenbach Falls (the waterfalls from which Sherlock Holmes falls to his apparent death in the original stories), in the context of the episode it comes from the name of the famous Turner painting he helps to recover, after which the press call him “The Reichenbach Hero.”  His growing fame apparently irks Moriarty, however, who (in order to get his attention, among other things), breaks into The Bank of England, Pentonville Prison, and the case where the Crown Jewels are kept – ALL AT THE SAME TIME.  Like I said, MIND-BLOWING.  The scene, as he dancing around in front of the Crown Jewels and pressing buttons on his cell phone to open the prison, is hilarious and fantastic.  And then he climbs into the case with the jewels, sits on the throne, puts the crown on his head, and just SITS THERE waiting for the police to show up.

I mean, MY GOD, the man is INSANE.

All of this leads up to the main point, though, which is that Moriarty is slowly and subtly poisoning everyone against Sherlock, so that one a couple children are kidnapped, all the evidence could be construed to point to Sherlock.  And Sherlock and John go on the run.

In an interview, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss claimed that they thought they’d actually gone one better than Doyle himself had, in their version of The Final Problem. This is, of course, the height of hubris and probably said at least partially in jest, but honestly – THEY’RE NOT WRONG.

Sherlock’s brilliance turned against him?  Sherlock made a fugitive?  Moriarty’s perfect revenge being the destruction of Sherlock’s legacy?  Totally and completely BRILLIANT.

It was nice to see Lestrade trying to stay on Sherlock’s side even though the rest of the police force has turned against him.  And, of course, John is the only who completely believes in him, and stays with him, and even goes on the run with him.  Would we have it any other way? Of course not.  It was also fascinating when John realized that Mycroft is the one who gave accidentally gave Moriarty all the ammo he needed against Sherlock, as Moriarty uses bits of truth and his abilities to fake records and change identities, to make it look as if Sherlock has fabricated Moriarty as a fall guy to cover up the fact that Sherlock is the real perpetrator of all the crimes he attributes to Moriarty.  And then he tells Sherlock to kill himself.  Or Moriarty will kill John, Mrs. Hudson, and Lestrade.

BRILLIANT!  And, okay, I sound (and feel) a bit like Sherlock when he’s admiring a particularly clever crime rather than lamenting the evil of it, but SERIOUSLY.  BRILLIANT.

I mean, my God, Moriarty in the books is a genius, but all he’s really after his money.  In the movies, it’s the same thing.  He’s not crazy at all, just very greedy, very smart, and very willing to hurt people to get what he wants.  But in THIS series, Jim Moriarty is NUTS.  Seriously, seriously NUTS.  And it is AWESOME.  (I have thing for really crazy villains – The Joker and Knives from Trigun are the first two that come to mind – the whole chaotic evil alignment category.  I LOVE IT.)  Anyway, I was a bit unsure about Moriarty in “The Great Game,” but this episodes won me over completely.

And then there’s the ending. OMFG.  Now, I’ll admit, I have a hard time figuring out what to make of Sherlock’s little phone call “suicide note.”  Obviously, when he tells John that the accusations are true and he’s a fake, that’s the lie, but what about the fact that he’s getting choked up?  Is he really getting emotional, or is that part of the act for John’s sake?  And then again, even though he knows he has to “kill” himself to protect John and the others, why doesn’t he TELL John that’s the reason, rather than claiming that he really is a fraud?  I suppose it could be to spare John the thought that it’s John’s fault he’s dead, maybe?  And why demand that John watch him as he jumps?  (I am again assuming that everyone still reading this has seen the episode already, so don’t blame me if I’m ruining anything.)  My initial thought is that Sherlock wants John to be a witness, to be able to say definitively that yes, Sherlock did jump from that roof, yes, he saw it with his own eyes, yes he’s certain that Sherlock is dead – thus, insuring that Sherlock can fake his death in safety.  But it still seemed a little weird – and cruel, to make John watch it.

And John’s face!

(both gifs from this Tumblr page – thank God for gifs!)

His expressions in that moment were pretty brutal.  But it was just as bad later on at the cemetery, when he asked Sherlock for one last miracle, to not be dead.  OMG! I nearly cried (it takes quite a lot of work to actually get me to cry, but my eyes did sting a little).  Martin Freeman does such an amazing job conveying powerful emotion without going overboard.  No screaming, no bursting into tears. He speaks quietly, just starts to get choked up, and then he does that soldierly stoic thing, suddenly straightens up and turns on his heel away from the grave as if he was in uniform, and walks away.  And my God, it was hard to watch!

So, now I get to wait probably a year or more for the next season to come out – which is RIDICULOUS, by the way! They aren’t even starting production until NEXT January.  WTH?  And I have so many questions!  I’ve been trying to figure out exactly how Sherlock faked his death.  We know he enlisted Molly’s help, who probably found a body in the morgue that could be a replacement for Sherlock.  But when did the switch take place?  Because as far as I can tell, Sherlock really was the one who fell from the roof.  It doesn’t LOOK like he threw a dead body off.  Though maybe they did something in that shot to trick us.  It’s hard to tell.  But they don’t just show that scene from John’s point of view on the ground, they show it from Sherlock’s, up on the roof, as he leans forward and lets himself fall.  It really does look like its actually Sherlock falling.  So then, okay, there’s a moment when John is trying to reach the body and he is hit by a man on a bicycle (which yes, I’m definitely assuming was planned) so he’s not the first one to the body.  So maybe the switch happened then?  But then we’d have to assume that Sherlock actually landed, in which case even he managed to survive he would be a mass of broken bones and there’s no way he could moved that quickly.  So I go back to the switched-before-the-fall thesis, though I’m not convinced that’s possible.

Then there’s the fact that in an interview, Moffat claims that “there is a clue everybody’s missed … So many people theorising about Sherlock’s death online – and they missed it!” (from this article).  So, I’m flummoxed. (Also, I have never used that word before in my life! Cool!)

Then, of course, we have to wonder HOW THE HELL Sherlock is going to clear his name.  AND what happened with Moriarty?  Is he really dead?  I’m guessing he is, but its not outside the realm of possibility for him to have faked his own death as well.  I’m also DYING to know how long Sherlock will be gone.  In the books his faked death lasts for THREE YEARS.  Honestly, if the writers do that to John I may break the tv (or my laptop, whichever), because that would be CRUEL!  Really REALLY cruel.

And now we’ve come to the end. This post is ridiculously long, and I should probably cut it in half again, but I’m not going to bother.  If you’ve stuck around through the whole thing, I’m impressed and grateful.  And if you haven’t actually watched the series yet and you read this, well, I pity you, because you just took half the fun out of the experience of first-time viewing.  But you should go watch the series anyway.  SERIOUSLY.  Now I’m going to shut up.  See you folks later!

I leave you with one last image of John, sitting with his therapist a month after Sherlock’s “death,” looking quietly, stoically heart-broken.  It’s about the same way I feel having to wait for a year or more until the new episodes appear (except I’m not stoic at all…).

Sherlock Holmes is Still King

Free-For-All Friday: Sherlock Holmes is Still King

First off: I beg your forgiveness for neglecting to post not once, but twice this week.  I have very little excuse.  Mainly, my brain just sort of shut off over the weekend, and my mood took a dive off a cliff for a couple days.  All I did on Monday and Tuesday was stare mindlessly at the television.  I think my brain was protesting the impending Spring semester, which starts next week.  On Wednesday, I was actually out with my brother all day.  A sort of last hurrah before the semester.  We had a full day: breakfast at IHOP, shopping at Half-Price Books, a comic book store, a vinyl records store (where I spent $75… yeah…), lunch at a sushi place, wandering around an art supply store, and a matinee viewing of the Sherlock Holmes movie (yes, again)

By way of apology, I posted something yesterday, so if you missed that, check it out: “My Year For Reading Challenges.”   And now, here is that review of the new Sherlock Holmes movie I’ve been promising for more than a week (sorry it took so long).

Review of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

I think most people are aware that I love Sherlock Holmes.  I think I was maybe 8 or 9 yrs old when I first started watching the Granada tv show of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes with my mother.  A few years later I read the books for the first time.  In other words, you can probably guess how much I love the Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes that came out in 2009, starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law.

Some “purists” didn’t like the movie and accused Guy Ritchie of messing with the true spirit of Sherlock Holmes.  I’m never sure if they think Holmes is supposed to be more dignified or stiff or not as gritty or not as much of a fighter or what… But I completely disagree, and would argue that Ritchie’s version actually gets closer to the real vitality and grittiness of Sherlock Holmes than most of the older tv shows and movies ever did (he was, after all, a drug addict and alcoholic, a boxer, and PLENTY gritty).  The only real complaints one can make about the Ritchie versions are 1: like everyone else he cast someone who is actually too old to be Sherlock Holmes (Holmes was in his late 20’s/early 30’s in the books, but they ALWAYS cast someone in their 40’s or even 50’s) – that does not, however, take away from the brilliance of RDJ as Holmes. And 2: they made Holmes’ relationship with Irene Adler a bit MORE (more substantial, more romantic, more everything) than it ever was in the books (she only ever shows up in the books TWICE).  But either of these small complaints do nothing to mar the awesomeness of the first movie.

Now, we get to the second movie.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (I’ve heard some people complain about the title, claiming its too cheesy or melodramatic or something, and to them I have to ask: have you ever actually READ the books?! May I point out: A Study in Scarlet. The Valley of Fear.  “The Crooked Man.”  “The Final Problem”!!!)  Ahem… where was I…?

Oh yes, so, A Game of Shadows opens some time after the first movie (its not clear how many months).  There have been a series of bombings in France and Germany attributed to Nationalists and Anarchists, but Holmes suspects his now-arch-enemy (the shadowy figure behind the scenes of the first movie), Professor James Moriarty – a man who equals Holmes in his brilliance but the complete opposite in morality.  Holmes’ suspicions are confirmed when he catches Irene Adler, who works for Moriarty, delivering a bomb meant to kill a doctor.

Thus kicks off Sherlock Holmes biggest adventure yet.  Holmes must save Watson and Watson’s brand new wife, Mary, when they are attacked by Moriarty’s men while on a train headed for their honeymoon.  Moriarty has targeted Watson and his wife as a retaliation against Holmes’ continued interference.  Holmes secures Watson’s agreement to help stop Moriarty after throwing Mary from the train while on a bridge over water (this scene is hilarious, folks!).  Then the two must travel to Paris to find the gypsy woman Simza (played by Noomi Rapace of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo fame), whose brother may hold the key to Moriarty’s plans.  All while dodging Moriarty’s sharp-shooter assistant, and more bombs.  And that’s all just the start.

Let me tell you, folks, the pace of this movie is intense.  There is a short lull during Watson’s wedding and right before all hell brooks loose on the train, and then the movie barely pauses to catch its own breath, let alone let you catch yours.  The action sequences are fast and well-planned and choreographed.  They benefit from Guy Ritchie’s unique style of shooting at strange camera angles, panning in and out, and punctuating the fast rhythm with freeze-frames and slow motion that would be out of place anywhere else but which are essential here to keep track of all the things happening almost simultaneously.  Sometimes action/fight sequences lose their cohesion and become just an indecipherable blur of movements the eye simply cannot follow (one problem with The Batman Begins, actually), but here Ritchie’s unique style helps to keep the eye focuses and gives our brains the time to keep up.

Perhaps even better than the action (maybe), is the humor.  In the first movie, the back-and-forth bickering between Holmes and Watson is absolutely hilarious.  This time, that’s all still there, and there is also an added sense of visual (almost but not quite slapstick) comedy that pops up off an on throughout the film.  A few examples: Watson’s hung-over stumbling walk to his wedding, Holmes running around in a wig and makeup throughout the entire train sequence, and Holmes bouncing around on a tiny mountain pony all come to mind.  I laughed through a lot of this movie.

Now, there has been a lot of discussion about whether this one was better than the first.  I’ve been very on-the-fence about this, because I absolutely adore the first movie.  But here’s the thing: this movie is AT LEAST equally as good as the first one.  All the stuff that made the first one so wonderful is still here.  Robert Downey, Jr and Jude Law are still completely amazing as Holmes and Watson, with fantastic rhythm and chemistry.  The writing is still spot-on.  The score is still wonderful.  Equal, equal, equal.

And then you add in James Moriarty, played to absolute perfection by Jared Harris.  And when I say perfection, I MEAN perfection.  I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to see anyone else play Moriarty now.  Jared Harris was an absolutely INSPIRED casting choice.  And the character himself, the whole equal-but-opposite aspect of his relationship with Holmes, the strange mix of respect and hatred… THIS is what we’ve been waiting for.  And the addition of Moriarty, I think, pushes this movie over the top, making it just SLIGHTLY better than the first one.

But seriously, folks, don’t take my word for it.  Just go see it.  Even if you don’t agree that it’s better than the first, I guarantee you’ll enjoy it.