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Recap: Sherlock S 01 E 03 The Great Game

"'Dear Jim, please will you fix it for me to get rid of my lover's nasty sister?', 'Dear Jim, please will you fix it for me to disappear to South America?' [...] Consulting criminal. Brilliant."
Sherlock Holmes

The third episode of the first series of Sherlock. The episode starts in Belarus, with Sherlock declining a case from a grammatically-challenged prisoner. Return to London, and Sherlock is bored. Very bored. So bored that he starts shooting walls which, naturally, John isn't very happy about. John decamps to Sarah's house just before a massive explosion blasts out the windows of 221b.

John returns to the flat to find Mycroft requesting that Sherlock find some missing missile defence plans. Despite having nothing on, Sherlock claims to be busy — a claim which comes true minutes later when he receives a phone call from Scotland Yard. Turns out that the explosion was a bomb which destroyed the whole house across the road — all save a strong box containing a rather familiar phone. The phone plays five pips (the sound of the Greenwich Time Signal) before displaying an image of the flat below Sherlock and John's.

In the flat is a pair of shoes, Sherlock's examination of which is interrupted by a phone call from a woman with explosives strapped to her — or, more accurately, someone using her as a voice to disguise their own. Sherlock has twelve hours to solve the mystery of the shoes before the woman blows up.

Sherlock goes to the lab at Bart's to analyse the mud on the shoes, where he is joined by John and, later, Molly. Molly has brought along her ostentatiously camp new boyfriend, Jim from IT. Sherlock breaks Molly's dreams of romance by informing her, in a typically Sherlocky manner, that her Jim is gay causing her to run from the room. Poor lamb. However, don't let that keep you down for long, as Sherlock solves the case and informs the bomber via blog post. The woman is saved and cut loose, and Sherlock receives another message.

Sherlock solves the problem and another two, along with recovering the missile plans on the side. John goes out to Sarah's place while Sherlock, being Sherlock, decides to arrange a meeting with the mysterious bomber. Of course, it's not all that straightforward — first it seems that the bomber is John, then that John's been stuck in a bomb. We finally meet the mysterious Moriarty, who turns out to be Jim from IT. Jim decides to leave the two of them, having better things to do. Sherlock removes John's bomb and it looks like everything's going to be alright, but then -

Jim: Sorry boys, I'm soooo changeable!

Jim's back! With more snipers! And danger! There doesn't seem to be any way for the duo to avoid death. Then Sherlock points a gun at the bomb.

Cut to the credits and an eighteen-month wait.


Tropes present in this work include:

  • Ambiguously Jewish: The assassin The Golem is named after a creature of Jewish folklore.
  • Artistic License – Astronomy: Sherlock comments on the beauty of the night sky. Being as they're in London, light pollution would have made the view of the stars we're shown completely impossible.
  • Bald of Evil: The Golem again.
  • Big Bad Friend: Subverted. Just for a minute, when Watson shows up at the swimming pool, it looks like he's Moriarty… until he opens his jacket and reveals that he's strapped to a bomb.
    • A bit of Fridge Brilliance in that John is shown wearing a large winter coat, which was highly unusual considering how Mrs Hudson had earlier commented on his tendency to underdress for the weather.
  • Black Screen of Death: The series 1 finale ending.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: Moriarty has about a dozen snipers trained on Sherlock and John, with John's suicide-bomb jacket on the floor a few feet away. Sherlock aims his gun at Moriarty... then at the bomber jacket. And then it ends.
  • Break the Haughty: Happens to Sherlock in the climax. He dismisses the lives put on the line by Moriarty, ecstatic about the puzzles set before him and the pleasure of unravelling the mystery of Moriarty's overall plan. But then Moriarty puts John's life on the line. And it turns out that the entire game was not what Sherlock had guessed, and was only used to get Sherlock out in the open so that Moriarty could get rid of him and John.
  • Brief Accent Imitation: Moriarty seems to be putting on a generic English accent in the scene where he meets Sherlock while pretending to be "Jim from I.T.", but then reverts back to the actor's natural Irish brogue when he reveals himself.note  It's hard to understand his motivations.
    • For those who don't know, it's a posh Dublin 4 accent.
  • Brilliant but Lazy: Sherlock makes John pass him his phone from his jacket pocket. The jacket he was wearing.
  • Bystander Syndrome: At least two of the hostages were visibly crying and frightened in public. If one person stopped to say "Are you okay?", Moriarty's plan wouldn't have worked. note 
  • Call Back: John's psychosomatic limp returns for a few seconds at the end, when the same leg buckles at the swimming pool.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: Everybody involved in the last scene. Most notably, of course, Sherlock and Moriarty, who have quite the civilised conversation and for a while almost forget about the bomb and the gun. Though, to be fair, John is the one who has enough gumption to crack an actual joke once he's free to use his own words. Even parroting Moriarty's, however, he does wind up with a peculiarly sarcastic tone of voice with "stop his heart".
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Jim from IT.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Almost reverse example: Sherlock's lack of knowledge about the solar system (because he doesn't consider it necessary) nearly causes him to lose the fourth 'round' with Moriarty. It's only a convenient slide-show at the planetarium that clues him in on the answer he needs.
  • Crocodile Tears: Sherlock is apparently able to cry on cue. He pretends to be a grieved friend when speaking to a victim's wife, purposely getting things wrong about her husband to get her to reveal information by contradicting him. Once he has his information, Sherlock instantly drops the act and wipes away his fake tears as he and John leave.
  • Curse Cut Short:
    • John gets in an epic one:
      John [opens fridge innocently, sees human head, slams fridge door shut]: Oh FFFFF-!
    • He never quite finishes his reaction of "Aw sh-" when he realises he hasn't got his gun on him, when he and Sherlock go after the Golem.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Moriarty claims he was laughed at by Carl Powers... which is why he was poisoned.
  • Evil Plan: Moriarty was responsible for all the riddles Sherlock had to solve, and did it just to draw Sherlock out in the open.
  • Face Palm:
    • John, after finding a head inside the fridge.
    • John again, during the intensely awkward meeting between Molly, Sherlock and Jim near the beginning. Molly is trying to provoke Sherlock to jealousy, Jim is unashamedly fawning over Sherlock while tripping over his own feet, Sherlock is being outrageously rude to both of them, and everyone is ignoring John. Good times.
  • Gas Leak Coverup: For the bombings.
  • Giant Mook: The Golem. Comes with the territory when your M.O. involves suffocating your victims with your bare hands.
  • Heroic BSOD: Sherlock when he thinks John is Moriarty.
  • Hostage Situation: A recurring plot.
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face/Reckless Gun Usage:
    • The way Sherlock was swinging John's gun around at the end of "The Great Game", the series could very well have ended with Sherlock accidentally shooting himself in the head before Moriarty got the chance to come back and finish the job. He rubbed his temple with the barrel of a loaded gun!
      • He also waves it at John as a careless gesture as he's trying to blurt out a thank you to him.
    • Another example can be found at the beginning of the same episode where Sherlock is so bored he's using a handgun to shoot holes into the wall forming a smiley face. This is incredibly reckless and dangerous because it would only take one resilient bullet to make it through that wall and hit someone on the other side — one of the reasons you are not allowed to practice shooting in a residential area outside of a shooting range. This was, of course, a callback to the original Sherlock Holmes stories, in which a bored Sherlock used his pistol to spell out "VR", meaning "Victoria Regina", on his wall.
      • Not only that, but in the commentary for this episode, the actor who plays Sherlock, Benedict Cumberbatch, mentioned that he had managed to shoot a hole in the dressing gown that was his costume for that scene.
  • It's Personal: For most of the episode, Sherlock treats the bomb threats as an interesting and hugely enjoyable diversion. That changes once John gets targeted and subsequently put in a bomb-rigged jacket.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Knowing what the Earth revolves around wouldn't have helped Sherlock solve the puzzle.
  • Karma Houdini: The Golem.
  • Laser Sight: The visible dots are used to intimidate the hostages and later John and then Sherlock himself. These were also foreshadowed in the dénouement of "The Blind Banker".
  • Lens Flare: During the planetarium scene.
  • Light-Flicker Teleportation: During the planetarium when the Golem sneaks up behind Sherlock.
  • Mexican Standoff: The ending, with Moriarty having snipers trained on Sherlock and John, and Sherlock about to trigger a massive explosion.
  • Never Suicide: The presumed train jumper was actually killed by accident by his future brother-in-law.
  • Oh, Crap: Sherlock, John and Lestrade when the child's voice is first heard over the phone at the art gallery, giving a ten-second countdown. Lestrade and John completely freak out, while trying not to distract Sherlock; Lestrade ends up screaming at him to just stop dicking around and solve the puzzle, and John is so relieved after that he's actually gasping for breath.
  • Or Are You Just Happy to See Me?: "Is that a British Army Browning L9A1 in your pocket, or are you just pleased to see me?"
  • Perpetual Tourist: One of the crimes that Moriarty arranges and subsequently gets Sherlock to expose is a Perpetual Tourist's travel plan.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: It may seem at first like a continuity error. The TV report on Connie Prince's death lists her age as 48, yet in the next scene, when Sherlock, John and Lestrade go to the morgue, Lestrade reads the patient record which says her age is 54. It's actually not unheard of that celebrities will lie about their age. The media reports give the age she was claiming to be, while her medical records show her real age.
  • Rule of Pool: Averted.
  • Strapped to a Bomb: The episode is based around having this trope as the conflict.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: The building across the street from 221B, and the blind woman.
  • Suddenly Shouting:
    Sherlock: People have died.
    Moriarty: That's what people DO!!!
  • Taking You with Me: John's plan for taking down Moriarty. It doesn't work.
  • Translation Correction: The grammatically-challenged British prisoner in Belarus (complaining that he's going to get "hung"; Sherlock corrects it to "hanged") uses correct grammar in this last instance in the German dub, but is then corrected by Sherlock that he's going to get shot instead, which is the actual Belarusian execution method.
  • You Make Me Sic: Sherlock is talking to a prisoner and keeps correcting his grammar. At the end the end the prisoner begs him to help, otherwise he'll get hung. Holmes responds: "No, not at all. Hanged? Yes".
Sherlock S 01 E 02 The Blind BankerRecap/SherlockSherlock S 02 E 01 A Scandal In Belgravia

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