Tag Archives: why moriarty shot himself

Sherlock Reichenbach Solution: Answer Lies in the Why, Not the How

3 Feb

After watching the final Sherlock episode, I began trying to work out the clues like many across the web. I’ll admit, I’ve got a nerdy obsession with this show, and I love a good puzzle. I’m not concentrating at all on how he survived the fall. Here is the theory I subscribe to:

http://finalproblem.tumblr.com/post/16308384121/hey-sherlockians-want-to-play-a-game-a-slightly. finalproblem has a very complete analysis and plausible theory.

As far as I am concerned though, there was no mystery at all regarding how he survives the suicide, since it’s easy to deduce that he definitely jumped, and he definitely did not die. The mechanics and who was involved are less important than figuring out WHY moriarty killed himself, and HOW Sherlock got to “die” on his own terms and HOW he intended to keep Moriarty from seeing the whole fake suicide operation if he hadn’t blown his brains out.
This is the central mystery, Sherlock’s survival was all a clever magic trick but we need to understand what he discovered that put him several moves ahead of Moriarty and allowed him to walk out of a seeming check-mate unscathed.

First, let’s start with the facts, only what is clearly shown or stated by the characters, and what these facts imply.

Just the Facts:

  1. Sherlock faked his suicide
  2. Sherlock correctly guessed that Moriarty intended to make him be the hero and jump to his death but die in disgrace…John and possibly others would be the leverage that force Sherlock to jump.
  3. Sherlock played stupid on the roof at first and acted like he didn’t know what Moriarty was intending. Sherlock was acting. He knew this was the part in Moriarty’s story where he is supposed to die.
  4. Therefore, Sherlock couldn’t give away that he knew the plan…perhaps then Moriarty would realize he’d found a way to thwart it. Possibly there was something that Sherlock needed Moriarty to reveal or confirm. (when he asks about the snipers: “but your not going to do it?”)
  5. Sherlock also MUST have deduced something, a flaw in Moriarty’s plan, something that he could use as leverage, something that could bend Moriarty to Sherlock’s will, something that made Moriarty choose to kill himself.
    This is the “Key”(not the non-existant code).
  6. Moriarty’s body was disposed of by someone who was in on Sherlock’s plan and was trustworthy: definitively, we know Molly. Possibly Mycroft. We also know there is a supposedly-Sherlock-occupied-but-really-empty grave that would make an easy hiding place for a body.
  7. Jim initiated a relationship with Molly, knowing of her unrequited love for Sherlock. He was either looking for information, or using molly for his plan. [see her ‘blog’ below**]
  8. Molly “has always counted” and Sherlock “Has always trusted Molly”
  9. Molly agrees to do “anything” for Sherlock, even “If I wasn’t everything that you think I am—everything that I think I am—would you still want to help me?”
  10. Mycroft had Moriarty in interrogation for some time, because there was some information he needed to extract from him. Mycroft was able to obtain this information in exchange for details about Sherlock’s life story.
  11. Mycroft is watching Sherlock because he reveals to John the identity of 3 (4?) snipers that have taken up residence around 221B.
  12. The allegory of the fairy-tale is central to Moriarty’s plan. “Gretel” reacted violently to seeing Sherlock in person. Therefore, she had seen Sherlock or someone who looked like sherlock before in some capacity. This could be nothing more than to help frame him. Or it could have further significance.
  13. Moriarty had found a way to “sow doubt for the past 24 hours”. That is a short amount of time to plant such a large and porous falsehood. Time is critical to Moriarty’s plan because he must end Sherlock before people have time to fact check him or doubt their own conclusions. Sherlock must die (via suicide, NOT murder) which solidifies and befits his apparent fraudulence.

14. The assassins around baker street were protecting Sherlock’s life.

15.  An assassin is killed when Sherlock tries to shake his hand. Moriarty shakes Sherlock’s hand immediately before killing himself.

16. This one is iffy…but at the end there is only 1 sniper, the one that can see Sherlock. The one that is fixed on John.  The other two could not know if Sherlock jumped or not, because Moriarty was dead and Sherlock was “dead” and it seems improbable that the snipers had coordination among each other since they’re competing for the (non-existant) code and picking each other off.


Theories that Suit Facts:

1. Moriarty is dead. Let’s get this out of the way first. 

Moriarty’s body was found and disposed of by someone who was in on Sherlock’s plan. So far, we know this to be Molly. Mycroft is questionable. Moriarty’s body is almost certainly in Sherlock’s grave. The only other option is that Moriarty is alive. The episode is titled The Reichenbach fall. The Richard Brook Fall. Moriarty is really dead.

So what did Sherlock have that turned the tables? My theory is improbable, but not impossible.
2. Sherlock had his own sniper.

Here’s how it could have worked.
It could have been nothing, but did anyone else notice the odd octagon/reflection fixed on Sherlock during that final conversation before Moriarty pulls the trigger? What was that, and why wasn’t it edited out? It reminded me of a rifle site…which made me wonder:
Did Sherlock have an assassin of his own locked in on him while he was on the roof? Did he show/convey  this to Moriarty (through vague suggestions in his “I’m more on level with the devil than you think” speech? ) and by pointedly looking at the place where the sniper (supplied by Mycroft or homeless network) was sitting?  Sherlock made Moriarty believe that he would end the game by having his Sniper kill him right there on the roof…a suicide that looks like murder. And Moriarty would lose.
What I’m insinuating is that Sherlock himself is the leverage. Sherlock is the key. [Remember-“in a room of locked doors, he who holds the key is king” and Sherlock is certainly trapped in a room full of locked doors at this point.]Until he figures out the riddle and realizes that he is the Key.
And up until he realizes this, Sherlock has been in Moriarty’s hands, reacting to the game,  manipulated by the king. There is nothing that Moriarty wants, except to beat Sherlock, and prove definitively that his is the superior intellect. Moriarty has gained every other asset…limitless wealth, power, a title as the worlds greatest criminal mastermind…but he doesn’t have the satisfaction of knowing he can best Sherlock Holmes’ brain. It’s his final problem, his unfinished melody. He has to know he can beat Holmes’ mind. This is more important than killing him (which would be easy).  Sherlock has the identical “Final Problem”- he must figure out Moriarty and best his next move. He must figure out the game, what Moriarty is really after. Or else it will be the one case that got away…the case at the heart of so many other cases.
And Sherlock finally realizes that it’s himself Moriarty is after, to conquer his intellect and then tear apart his reputation, and then end him in disgrace. So, Sherlock holds the key now, because he recognizes Moriarty’s motive, his aim, and can anticipate his next moves. Moriarty needs Sherlock utterly trapped and delivered to him alive. He needs Sherlock to have to make himself die because he had no move left, no loophole, no way to think his way out of the checkmate. ((See Chess analogy below))
Moriarty would realizes on the roof Sherlock has found a loophole– unless he called the killers off John/Hudson/Lestrade, Sherlock would have himself killed by his own sniper- positioned in possibly the same building as Moriarty’s. Then what? Sherlock would look like a murder case, and if he had John shot too it would look even more suspicious-(more on this in a bit). Or, say Moriarty has a purposeless-death wish, he could still order the sniper to kill John in front of Sherlock’s eyes. Now, he has a Sherlock-with-nothing-left-to-live-for on his hands. And then most assuredly, he would be murdered by Sherlock’s sniper. Or Sherlock. Either way, Sherlock would walk free. Sherlock’s sniper could kill Moriarty, we know Sherlock has the suicide-fake-out planned…so that’s again a lose-lose for Jim, and John is safe. So, we assume, as Sherlock did, that John’s safety has been accounted for in all scenarios. This is between Holmes and Moriarty–and Moriarty’s purpose is not to torture Sherlock’s heart, its to tear apart his brilliance and beat his mind by manipulating his heart.
Sherlock has fixed his own murder/suicide. Moriarty would lose. John, Lestrade, Hudson would be irrelevant. Sherlock is showing that he knows what Moriarty wants, and if Sherlock beats him to it and and commits his own suicide willingly, intentionally….his friend’s lives are no longer leverage. What difference would it make if his friends die too (does caring about them help save them?) Of course Sherlock does care about his friends, and he is willing to have himself murdered by a sniper for them, knowing that Moriarty will have no point in killing them with Sherlock dead. Sherlock would have beaten Jim…Moriarty is not interested in murder, he only cares about winning, and he can’t win if Sherlock ends the game first.
I am willing to bet Sherlock had false evidence planted to implicate Moriarty in ‘shooting’ Sherlock with a sniper, should he have to follow through with that plan. We know Mycroft had evidence that Moriarty hired assassins to move in next door to Holmes. I believe that Sherlock layed this trap in case it was needed. Sherlock may even have had the recorder seen earlier in the episode (and possibly seen hidden in his hand behind his back on the roof?) to record Jim’s confession of forcing him to “die in disgrace”.
Moriarty’s snipers are not coordinated. Once again, there is no code (numbers or letters) to call them off. Sherlock is the code, or specifically, Sherlock jumping is the ‘code’. But,there is also another– Sherlock finding a way to foil Moriarty’s plans, in which case Moriarty will simply call his sniper and say..’.don’t shoot. Change of plans.’
This explains how Sherlock is able to do what ordinary people wont do…because he is Jim. And he is insane. Jim was willing to kill himself to win, or at least tie, the game. Sherlock will do the same (and there’s that reference that suicide lands you a spot in hell, you have to be willing to burn **see Religious allegory below**) Sherlock has set up the ultimate endgame…layed a trap, a game within the game.
Here is his reasoning: 
Sherlock would have seen that there were 3 courses of events that could transpire from the roof:
  1.  Moriarty will be made aware that Sherlock had guessed the suicide plan, and figured out a counter move. He is completely willing to off himself with his own sniper and change the entire course of this “fairytale’s” narrative. Moriarty calls off his snipers–at this point  killing John(/Lestroud/Hudson?) could only result Sherlock’s sniper shooting  Moriarty…Jim could hurt Sherlock at the cost of his own life, but he cannot beat him, which is his sole aim. So both live, snipers are dismissed (and I am assuming Sherlock would not murder Jim at this point…seeing as his reputation is in the toilet as it is) and the game continues at the same impasse, the final problem that there seems to be no solution to. [unlikely]
  2. Moriarty allows Sherlock to have himself shot and deals with the aftermath. But this is so very un-sexy. Sherlock is betting his life on this NOT being the case.
  3. Moriarty, trapped, kills himself under the false belief that it will guarantee Sherlock’s death, executed according to plan. He can hope that when his (Moriarty’s)  body is found, Sherlock will look like he murdered/forced Moriarty’s hand in the suicide. Sherlock still dies in disgrace. Moriarty looks like a victim. Here is the closest he can come to winning, probably ever, he realizes.
Since these are the only 3 possibilities given Sherlock has his own sniper,  the problem of how to stage his death with Moriarty looking on is eliminated…there is no circumstance where Sherlock will jump with Moriarty still alive.
And Jim’s only ONLY option to ensure he wins, is to kill himself and thus force Sherlock to jump. Moriarty can’t stand an unfinished melody, and Sherlock choosing to have himself killed changes everything and means Moriarty would never win the game. In a sense, Sherlock still has to play the hero, his only option is ‘death’, but the difference is that this way, he gets to choose how he dies. He has to be willing to ‘take a fall’ and ultimately die,  but in this context, it is appears not to be to save his friends…he is showing Moriarty that he cares more about beating him at the game than he does about being a hero. He will not be manipulated by the heart like ordinary people. His friends’ lives, in this plan, appear arbitrary, or extraneous to the solution.
Here is an example of the reasoning that flashes through Moriarty’s mind before he sees his only option is to tie the game and kill himself first.
(Moriarty’s thoughts) “Sherlock is me in the end. Sherlock realizes that ordering his own death by his own sniper is suicide but it will look like murder instead**. I may be implicated. He will not die in disgrace. His history will be looked into. They will find the holes in the falsehood I planted. He will be a martyred hero. His friends could die by my snipers or they could not, it really doens’t matter once he’s dead. In fact, it would probably rouse even more suspicion and make him look like even more of the hero, falsely framed. I will lose my clout as a mastermind, this will be a huge blemish on my accomplishments, outsmarted and stripped of glory by  Sherlock Holmes. At best, I can force him to go through with my plan, I can force him to have no option but to jump, or live with the blood of his only friends on his hands. He still dies a fraud, possibly a murderous fraud. It’s a draw. We must tie. And Thank God, I will still win, and win all the more knowing how equally matched we were.
What Moriarty didn’t realize was that Sherlock had seen ahead to this outcome, and had measures in place to survive his “suicide jump”.

2. There is a strong biblical allegory:

The line of greatest significance is when Sherlock says: “I may play on the side of the angels, but don’t think for one second that I am one of them”. This is the turning point at which Moriarty realizes Sherlock is not all talk, and that whatever he has deduced and is using as leverage is solid, there is no way out for Moriarty. Think about it…what could Sherlock possibly find that could burn Moriarty…he has no friends, no love interest, nothing he can’t take by force or manipulation. Sherlock is prepared to burn, but Moriarty has nothing that’s even flammable. Except his ego. Except the fear he can’t beat Sherlock. When Sherlock says he is willing to burn, he means himself, because it means burning Moriarty too in the only way possible. Then he shakes his hand, and kills himself, thinking he’s getting the final upper hand.

There are too many references of a religious nature to ignore. Here, it seems Sherlock the “emitter of light” is compared to Lucifer, the light bearer, the fallen angel, as he essentially describes himself to Moriarty (with the sunlight conveniently radiating from behind him).

There’s  also the previous angel references during the tea meeting earlier (Moriarty:…”We’re the same, you and I. Except your boring. You play on the side of the angels”). Then there’s Sherlock saying “If you expect me to shake hands with you in Hell I will not disappoint you”—in Baskervilles Sherlock “sees” the devil in the hollow and it is Moriarty. The song that plays on the way to the trial is “Sinnerman” and describes “So I run to the Lord, please hide me Lord/But the Lord said, go to the devil/So I ran to the devil, he was waitin’/I ran to the devil, he was waitin’.

The biblical story of the 3rd temptation of Christ…where the devil takes him to the top of the temple and says “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” Satan could not himself throw Jesus off the pinnacle of the temple. He could do no more than suggest, so he must ask Jesus to throw Himself down.
Seeing a parallel here? Moriarty has built up this fairy tale, where he frames Sherlock the way he perceives him, as the arrogant Hero. The Hero who can be manipulated by his heart, and will sacrifice himself to save his friends. Weak. Predictable. Ordinary. But then, Sherlock says “I’m you remember? Prepared to do what ordinary people won’t do…prepared to burn (it’s far fetched, but what if this is in reference to burning in hell?). Ordinary people don’t commit suicide to win a game. Ordinary people do not risk burning themselves to “burn” their opponent or prove a superior intellect. Ordinary people do not ask their friends to be snipers and help them carry out this battle of brilliance and insanity.

**An interesting side note: Jim says “how are you going to make me call them off when your brother and all the kings horses couldn’t make me do anything I didn’t want”. Interesting, because “all the kings horses’ refers to humpty dumpy, which was originally a RIDDLE. [[yet another fairy tale parallel] Humpty Dumpty is reduplicative: a pair of two words that are identical and echo each other except for a single letter difference.**

1st temptation: the reporter woman who wants to be “on his side”.. (does he take the recorder from her? Did Jim give her instructions on it? Is that the “something of yours you might want back?”) (very loose parallel to the ‘stones into bread’ temptation…do you manipulate what is unyielding to save yourself?)

2nd Temptation: Tea with Moriarty at Baker Street- the ‘riddle’? In a room of locked doors he who holds the key is king…Find the key and be king, wear the crown.. (Moriarty has the key to all the ‘kingdoms’ through his vast criminal network, this is stated by Sherlock: “you don’t want money or power, so what are you after” Sherlock is the key. Only he doesnt realize it yet.)

3. Chess: 

Lets look at this in terms of chess. Moriarty is the white king (the initiator of play…and you should see him in a crown…) and safely removed from the action. He has Sherlock’s remaining pieces in immediate jeopardy, and sherlock himself in a check mate using his white pawns and pieces…almost… [ Remember, Sherlock jumps back down from the ledge and says–your not going to do it then?–referring to killing John.] The snipers shoot unless they see Sherlock jump ( hitting the ground is not so important…as long as the see him leap, and then see John panic).Or, Moriarty can just call them and tell them not to shoot…if Sherlock’s friends’ deaths are no longer an asset, no longer leverage.

Whatever move Sherlock (the black king) makes next is going to result in Moriarty’s being the death blow to the trapped King. He himself is stuck but Sherlock has another piece left on the board that has gone overlooked, (probably Molly) and by ignoring his perceived imminent doom, sees there is another option…

One of Sherlock’s overlooked, seemingly benign piece can in one move put Moriarty, the white king, in unquestionable check mate. Sherlock DOES NOT MAKE THIS MOVE, instead he allows Moriarty to know he’s spotted it, or better yet, planned for it….leverage. Sherlock’s brain is still superior, Moriarty can’t win this round. This is how he will make Moriarty call off the gunmen…which is probably what Sherlock expected to happen.

And then, Moriarty  kills himself to ensure Sherlock’s death. To ensure he jumps to save his friend/friends –if he is going to go down, he is sure as hell going to take Sherlock with him.

But Sherlock planned for this possibility too, and had his homeless network and Molly’s fake autopsy to fake the suicide (again, see http://finalproblem.tumblr.com/post/16308384121/hey-sherlockians-want-to-play-a-game-a-slightly for full explanation).

**I think Henry Fishguard, the sarcastic “low profile case” Sherlock took (it was an unsolved case from before 1840) to spite John is significant in a different light…Sherlock says “Henry Fishguard never committed suicide. Bow Street runners, missed everything. Another way to look at that statement is that Henry Fishguard was murdered. Here it would be the opposite, Sherlock would appear murdered when it was suicide. [this is in addition to the very obvious parallel where Henry Fishguard was alive and framed his suicide.]]
Remaining Loose Ends:Why did Jim have a gun if he anticipated Sherlock jumping? Does he always carry one?
Why did Jim leave Molly out of his calculations, the reasons for his relationship with her and its implications are still unclear–unless it was just to get more information on sherlock.
What was Mycroft’s role? Why did he give Moriarty information on sherlock. Did he supply Sherlock with a sniper?
Also to note…when John confronts Mycroft…Mycroft says “John…I’m sorry. Pause. Tell him for me will you?” I think Mycroft knows what is going to happen, Sherlocks whole plan, and is apologizing for the pain he knows the plan will necessarily put John through.
I don’t think the “gretel” girl played any more significant role than framing Sherlock for the crime. I think she is a red herring.
I still am not sure why the sniper that saved sherlock was gunned down when he tried to shake his hand. Unless the gunman was simply eliminating competition for the imaginary code they thought sherlock possessed…and they feared that sherlock would be indebted to the assassin who saved him and would win the code. But what was the significance of them dying when they tried to touch him?
Feel free to ask questions/comment with thoughts/additional facts/gaps in this theory etc!!