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Recap / Sherlock S2 E3 "The Reichenbach Fall"

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"I am you. Prepared to do anything. Prepared to burn. Prepared to do what ordinary people won't do. You want me to shake hands with you in hell? I shall not disappoint you."
Sherlock Holmes

John Watson has returned to his therapist's office for the first time in eighteen months. Why? Because his best friend, Sherlock Holmes, is dead.

Only three months earlier, Sherlock had been catapulted to even greater heights of fame thanks to his recovery of a famous painting of the Reichenbach Falls, amongst other big-note cases. How did the Reichenbach Hero fall so far? The answer is wrapped up in the simultaneous break-ins at the Tower of London, the Bank of England and Pentonville Prison, along with a budding journalist, a high-profile trial, international assassins, fairy tales, the mysterious Richard Brook, and the "final problem" of Jim Moriarty...


  • Armour Piercing Response: Sherlock's response to convince Moriarty that they're not so different and that Sherlock is a Worthy Opponent, willing to do whatever it takes to defeat him:
    Moriarty: Nah. You talk big. Nah. You're ordinary. You're ordinary, you're on the side of the angels.
    Sherlock: Oh, I may be on the side of the angels. But don't think for one second that I am one of them.
  • Artistic Licence – Chemistry: Sherlock, you are working with oil. Of course you are going to find glycerol.
  • As You Know: Lampshaded and justified during Sherlock's confrontation with Moriarty after the trial, when they both know what Moriarty's up to but somebody needs to explain it for the audience.
    Moriarty: You understand.
    Sherlock: Obviously.
    Moriarty: Off you go, then.
    Sherlock: You want me to tell you what you already know?
    Moriarty: No, I want you to prove that you know it.
  • Ate His Gun: Moriarty shoots himself in the head to make sure Sherlock can't outgambit him into saving Sherlock's friends.
  • Badass Boast: Sherlock tells Moriarty in no uncertain terms that if he harms his friends, Sherlock will burn him right back.
    Moriarty: Sherlock, your big brother and all the King's horses couldn't make me do a thing I didn't want to.
    Sherlock: Yes. But I'm not my brother, remember? I am you. Prepared to do anything. Prepared to burn. Prepared to do what ordinary people won't do. You want me to shake hands with you in hell, I shall not disappoint you.
    Moriarty: Nah. You talk big. Nah. You're ordinary. You're ordinary. You're on the side of the angels.
    Sherlock: Oh, I may be on the side of the angels. But don't think for one second that I am one of them.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Moriarty's plan to destroy Sherlock's reputation and then kill him succeeds ...except Jim killed himself to do it and Sherlock isn't actually dead.
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment: Sherlock makes one on Anderson's expense when they uncover the Invisible Writing at the boarding school.
    Anderson Not much use, it doesn't lead us to the kidnapper.
    Sherlock: Brilliant, Anderson.
    Anderson: Really?
    Sherlock: Yes, brilliant impression of an idiot.
  • Batman Gambit: Moriarty's whole plan depended on Sherlock's tendency to always look for the most complicated, interesting solution. Sherlock's plan depended on Moriarty's need to win no matter what.
  • Bilingual Bonus: One of the networks set up by the international assassins for spying on Sherlock is "red-de-cielo," or, literally, Skynet.
  • Break His Heart to Save Him:
    • Right before jumping off St. Bart's, Sherlock tells John that Moriarty's version of the story is true so that John, Lestrade and Mrs Hudson won't get offed by snipers.
    • Sherlock's earlier attempt to do this was, sadly, a lot more successful. John receives a phone call telling him that Mrs Hudson has been shot. Sherlock refuses to go with him to see her and acts as if he doesn't care about her when previous events have clearly shown otherwise. Throughout the episode, people have been slowly turning against Sherlock, all except John who has been fighting his corner all the way until this moment which causes him to snap and call Sherlock a 'machine' before abandoning him as well. It turns out Mrs Hudson was fine all along and the whole thing was a ruse set-up by Sherlock to get John to leave him so he could face Moriarty alone.
  • Brick Joke:
    • John is making a comment about Newspaper Nicknames where Sherlock points out that John already has one, "Confirmed Bachelor John Watson" which he is less than pleased with. Later on after Moriarty is arrested and newspapers are flying across the screen, if you pause it to read it you will see they once again address John as "Confirmed Bachelor".
    • Heck, Moriarty's entire fake personality Richard Brook is a Brick Joke. Rich Brook is the English translation of "Reichenbach", the case that launched Sherlock into fame. He comments on the fact he was surprised no one got the joke.
  • Brief Accent Imitation: In his final confrontation with Sherlock, Moriarty slips into an American accent for a little bit for no reason at all.
  • Brits Love Tea:
    • Sherlock and Moriarty might be mortal enemies, but they're still British (well, Sherlock is), so Sherlock makes them both a cup of it.
    • During the break-ins, every single one involves someone who is drinking tea.
  • Bullying a Dragon: All Sherlock's put-downs of Anderson and Donovan finally come back to bite him.
    John: They are all coming over here now. Queuing up to slap up on the handcuffs. Every officer you made to feel a tit, which is a lot of people.
  • Call-Back: Moriarty tells Sherlock he's already told him what "The Final Problem" is, if Sherlock was paying attention. It happened in "A Scandal in Belgravia" when Moriarty's phone rang: "Stayin' Alive".
  • Captured on Purpose: Moriarty's "Crime of the Century" — he breaks into the Tower of London, the Bank of England and Pentonville prison, three of the most secure locations in England, in one day, then is apprehended wearing the crown jewels. He's then acquitted, despite being caught red-handed, offering literally no evidence in his favour, not even bothering to have a lawyer and actually admitting he was guilty! This actually has very little to do with his endgame in the episode; it's almost entirely about showing off and making Sherlock look foolish.
  • Carnival of Killers: A group of international assassins appear around Sherlock, although initially they appear to be keeping him alive. Ultimately, it is revealed they have been hired by Moriarty to kill Sherlock's friends if Sherlock refuses to kill himself.
  • Chained Heat: A reluctant Lestrade is forced to arrest Sherlock, but Sherlock escapes with John handcuffed to him as his 'hostage'.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: A literal example — Mrs Hudson's repairman is an assassin (with his gun in his toolbox) sent by Moriarty to kill her if Sherlock does not commit suicide.
  • Clear My Name: Moriarty makes Sherlock look like a fraud. Sherlock goes into hiding and tries to debunk Moriarty and clear his name. But Moriarty has another ace up his sleeve.
  • Common Nonsense Jury: Moriarty was caught red-handed stealing the Crown Jewels. There are plenty of witnesses and good quality security camera footage. At trial, he offers no defence and the judge tells the jury that they have no choice but to convict. They return a verdict of "not guilty," because Moriarty has used the ultimate tactic to get away with his crime: jury intimidation.
  • Complexity Addiction: This is how Moriarty knew Sherlock would fall for the "super-code" lie. He's actually disappointed to be right.
    Moriarty: That's your weakness, you always want everything to be clever.
  • Continuity Nod: While handcuffed and forced to hold hands with Sherlock, John mutters "Now people will definitely talk", referencing his line in "The Great Game".
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: Neatly exploited by Moriarty. As Sherlock points out, nothing he could steal from any bank in the world is ever going to be worth more than a computer program that will let him break into any bank in the world.
  • Deconstruction: Holmes is an incredible, unbelievable detective. So Moriarty arranges matters so he's less credible, and to make people stop believing in him. In fact, people start to think he actually set up the crimes he solved.
  • Did You Actually Believe...?: There's no magic formula that can open any door. Moriarty just blackmailed and threatened a few people, and is actually disappointed that even Sherlock bought it.
    • Also, at the end when Sherlock is standing on the roof of Bart's and telling John "no one could be that clever" in regards to him faking his genius. Averted by the fact that Sherlock was lying about being a fake in order to save John, Lestrade and Mrs Hudson.
  • Diegetic Switch:
    • Jim Moriarty's iPod music became the BGM to his jewel heists in "The Reichenbach Fall". Appropriately enough, the song is Rossini's "Thieving Magpie".
    • Later, when Moriarty is waiting on the rooftop, "Stayin' Alive" plays as BGM, then becomes the diegetic music from his iPod as Sherlock arrives.
  • Disappointed in You: Moriarty reacts with a mixture of disappointment and anger when Sherlock reveals he bought into his BS about a computer program that could break into any computer in the world.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Sherlock humiliates Kitty Riley (in front of no one). In return, she runs a story in the paper about Sherlock being a fraud, which ruins his life. Though in fairness she really does believe he is, having been fooled by fake evidence.
  • Disturbed Doves: After the jump scene, when we're watching people gathering around the body. Two birds fly off from the hospital building.
  • Double-Meaning Title:
    • A Shout-Out to the Reichenbach Falls, the location where Holmes and Moriarty supposedly fall to their deaths in the original story.
    • In German, "der Fall" can mean "the case", "the downfall" of a person, or "falling down" from the rooftop of a hospital.
  • Dramatic Drop: Done as a Rule of Three. First, when Moriarty breaks into the cabinet holding the Crown Jewels, he takes out the CCTV cameras; the security guard monitoring them is holding a couple of coffee cups, which slop visibly as he quickly puts them down so as to call someone. Then Moriarty remotely opens the vault of the Bank of England; as the bank manager gapes at this impossibility, the cup he's holding tilts in his hand until it pours coffee into his lap. Finally, someone bursts in on the Governor of Pentonville Prison to tell him that all the cells are unlocking; cue the Governor knocking the coffee mug off his table as he leaps to his feet.
  • Driven to Suicide: Sherlock jumps off a roof from Moriarty's evil plan, but not really.
  • Easily Condemned: It doesn't take much to destroy Sherlock's reputation. A few rumours and suddenly everybody is against him.
  • Engineered Heroics: Kitty Riley makes everyone believe that Sherlock is the true mastermind behind all the crimes he "solves."
  • Evil Plan: Moriarty's plan to "burn" Sherlock.
  • Faking the Dead: Sherlock himself manages to do it by throwing himself off a building yet turning up alive at the end of the episode.
  • Fatal Flaw: Sherlock has the fatal flaw of Pride. He's savagely arrogant (being Sherlock Holmes, his ego is mostly justified), has lots of trouble seeing things from other people's point of view which makes him come off as a callous Jerkass, and expects the world to bend over backwards to entertain him.
  • Flat "What": John is a master of these. In particular, this is his reaction when Sherlock, to whom he is handcuffed, announces that they are about to jump in front of a bus.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Well, if you know the original stories, you knew that Holmes would die in the Reichenbach episode. You also knew that he was never really dead after all.
  • Foreshadowing: When Moriarty writes "Get Sherlock" as he tries to steal the Crown Jewels, he paints a smiley on the O. Foreshadows the fact that he has been at the flat and seen the smiley painted on the wall.
    • When Moriarty is on the roof, he talks about how boring "staying alive" sounds, cluing us in that he is - if not suicidal - then at least not dead set on living.
  • Gilligan Cut:
    • At a trial, the judge threatens to throw Sherlock into a cell for contempt of court, and asks "Do you think you could survive for just a few minutes without showing off?!?" Sherlock thinks for an instant and opens his mouth. Cut to Sherlock being thrown in a cell.
    • And again, when Sherlock is arrested, Watson is seen looking like he's going to punch the chief superintendent; cut to the outside and the chief superintendent is nursing a bloody nose.
  • Goodbye, Cruel World!: When Sherlock calls John one last time, he tells him the call is his suicide note.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Donovan and Lestrade are driving to the Tower of London where a break-in has occurred. They have also heard since leaving the station that the Bank of England has been broken into. When Lestrade finds out Pentonville Prison has also had a security breach, his response is "Oh no!" Series 2 may have more swearwords than series 1 but the language is still very mild.
  • Gray Rain of Depression: It's pouring down buckets outside the window while John is pouring out his grief to his therapist.
  • Heroic Suicide: Moriarty's endgame isn't killing Sherlock, but railroading him into killing himself so his friends won't be killed.
  • Hero with Bad Publicity: Moriarty uses Malicious Slander to make the public believe Sherlock is a fake. Sherlock himself goes along with it right at the very end, after having resisted throughout the episode.
  • Holding Hands: Sherlock and John, while handcuffed together, hold hands. That sound is the exploding squees of slash fangirls everywhere.
    John: Now people will definitely talk!
  • Hollywood Hacking: Subverted. Moriarty appears to have written a small string of computer code (ridiculously small, if he can give it to Sherlock by tapping his fingers) that can hack any system on the planet. He demonstrates this at the beginning of the episode by breaking into the three most secure spots in London simultaneously, using a few smartphone apps. However, it is revealed at the end that Moriarty was making it all up: There was no code, he simply blackmailed and threatened his way in. The mobile apps merely alerted his men on the inside. Which is good, because if this had been played straight, it would have been one of the most egregious examples out there. note  It's blatant enough that he's a bit disappointed Sherlock fell for it.
  • Homoerotic Subtext: More than ever; "confirmed bachelor", the handcuffs etc. It extends beyond the usual Sherlock/John to Sherlock/Moriarty as well.
  • Hope Spot: Sherlock's last-minute realisation that Moriarty has a way to call off the assassins targeting John, Mrs Hudson and Lestrade. His attempt to Take a Third Option is brutally cut off by Moriarty's Thanatos Gambit.
  • How We Got Here: Like the original story, this episode opens with John Watson telling us that Sherlock Holmes is dead and then backtracks to show us how it all went down.
  • Idiot Ball: Some extremely circumstantial evidence leads Donovan and Anderson to believe that Sherlock kidnapped and poisoned two children. Anderson even speculates that Sherlock may have committed twenty or thirty crimes that he had helped the police investigate in the past, despite the piles of hard evidence that discount such a theory.
    • Aided by the fact that Lestrade is the only inspector in London who even tolerates Sherlock, and only because his skills were useful. Once it becomes clear that he is the only officer on Sherlock's side and can do nothing to help, the force's otherwise-universal hatred of him reduces them to being Moriarty's puppets.
  • Immoral Journalist: Kitty Reilly is convinced Sherlock is a fraud, and is looking for any dirt she can get on him to make her career. While it doesn't really redeem her, we eventually learn she was being manipulated by Moriarty.
  • Inspector Javert: Sally Donovan is very quick to determine that Sherlock is a criminal.
  • Instant Sedation: Moriarty sprays something on the face of a guard in the Tower of London, and he goes down like a sack of potatoes in one second flat. Possibly justified in that at least some of the guards are in on the scheme, so he might have been faking, in which case a little more resistance would have been in order.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Kitty Riley is trying to be this, but Sherlock calls her out for being a Stalker with a Crush trying too hard to impress people. He gets burned for it, badly.
  • Invisible Writing: The kidnapped boy left clues on the wall and floor of his room which could only be seen under black light.
  • Irrevocable Order: Moriarty says that he's "not going" to call off his hitmen. Sherlock realises that implies he could if, say, someone as ruthless as Sherlock tortured it out of him. Moriarty agrees, and promptly blows his own brains out to ensure there really is no turning back.
  • Jerkass: The Chief Superintendent. While his anger at Lestrade is justified, there's no excuse for instantly getting confrontational with John for just looking at him in his own apartment.
  • Jury and Witness Tampering: Moriarty blackmails several jury members in a court case by hacking into their hotel television systems to threaten their families.
  • Kansas City Shuffle: Moriarty makes everyone think that his plan is to sell his computer program to the highest bidder. When everyone is trying to stop him, it only furthers his real plan to discredit Sherlock.
  • Kick the Dog: John is on the receiving end of one after Sherlock is taken for questioning. Sally Donovan gloats about taking in John's best friend, and the chief inspector insults Sherlock in front of John - in his own home. Needless to say, many fans wanted to punch both characters in the face - luckily John himself took care of one of them.
  • Knuckle Cracking: Moriarty cracks his neck right before starting his coup at the Tower of London.
  • Kudzu Plot: The endless complication is entirely deliberate on Moriarty's part to ensure that (a) only Sherlock will be smart enough to figure out what's really going on, and (b) he figures it out too late.
  • Locked Room Mystery: Moriarty was able to kidnap the two children of the US ambassador from the locked room at the boarding school. Turns out, Moriarty bribed his way into the room and out.
  • Lonely Funeral: We don't see anybody at Sherlock's funeral besides John and Mrs Hudson. Either everyone left already, or nobody cared to show up because of Sherlock's self-confirmed status as a fraud.
  • Malicious Slander: This episode revolves around Moriarty gradually destroying Sherlock's credibility, eventually leading the police to suspect that he made every case up just so he would look good when he "solved" them, and ending heartbreakingly with Sherlock's apparent suicide. Quite the depressing episode.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Moriarty's plan for Sherlock is to make everyone believe that Sherlock is a fraud and everything he's done up until this point was to make people believe he was a genius detective. He also intends to make Sherlock kill himself in order to protect the people he cares about from Moriarty's assassins.
  • Manly Tears: Sherlock is in tears almost the entire time as he makes one final call to John before he fakes his death. John is partially obscured but can be heard crying at Sherlock's grave.
  • Meaningful Name: "Richard Brook". Rich Brook would be an English approximation for "Reichenbach," a play on words that gives the episode its title. Literally, it would translate to "reicher Bach."
  • Mood Dissonance: "Staying Alive" makes a return appearance during a tense moment.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Sherlock makes the coolest pot of tea in television history.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Mycroft told Moriarty everything about Sherlock when interrogating him for information on some secret codes. In turn, Moriarty used this information to slander Sherlock's name and make people believe that he invented Moriarty and is responsible for all the cases he solved. Mycroft asks John to tell Sherlock that he's sorry.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Moriarty refers to his conflict with Sherlock as "The Final Problem," referencing the name of the short story on which this episode is based. Likewise, the Reichenbach Falls made a prominent appearance in that story as the location where Holmes (apparently) tumbles over the ledge to his doom.
    • Peter Ricoletti, the man at the top of Interpol's most-wanted list, is a reference to one of Holmes' untold early cases ("Ricoletti of the club foot") mentioned in "The Musgrave Ritual."
    • Sherlock's deduction about Kitty Riley's wrist is similar to one that Holmes makes in "A Case of Identity."
    • Sherlock's courtroom description of Moriarty as a spider at the centre of a criminal web is lifted almost word-for-word from "The Final Problem".
    • Moriarty's threatening but very civil discussion with Sherlock in the sitting room at Baker Street recalls his visit to 221b in "The Final Problem."
    • During their tea-party, Moriarty tells Sherlock, "You need me — or you're nothing." Holmes himself expresses a similar sentiment in "The Adventure of the Norwood Builder."
    • The Diogenes Club is from the original stories, as is its blanket ban on talking.
    • The abduction of the diplomat's children recalls "The Adventure of the Priory School," in which Holmes is called in to find the young son of a prominent nobleman, who has also been kidnapped from an upper-class boarding school.
    • As in the original "Final Problem," Sherlock is nearly run down by a cab. The twist is that it's not an assassination attempt by Moriarty, and one of Moriarty's assassins actually saves his life.
    • Lestrade mentions Inspector Gregson as someone else who has consulted Sherlock. Gregson was another police inspector who often appeared in the stories.
    • The phone call that John receives, claiming that Mrs. Hudson has been shot, is a clear reference to the (literal) Swiss messenger from "The Final Problem," who draws Watson away from Holmes with a note about a sick Englishwoman who needs a doctor.
    • Moriarty's fondness for snipers (they are key components of his plans in this episode as well as "The Great Game") may be a reference to Sebastian Moran, Moriarty's right-hand-man in the stories.
    • "This phone call, it's — it's my note." In the original story, Holmes left an actual note.
    • At Sherlock's grave, John calls Sherlock "the best man, and the most human human being, that [he's] ever known." In the closing words of "The Final Problem" Watson writes that he will always regard Holmes as "the best and wisest man [he's] ever known".
    • Moriarty's attempt to steal the Crown Jewels, as well as his being acquitted at trial even though everyone knows he's guilty, are both plot points from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce).
    • Likewise, the climax, in which Moriarty tries to talk Sherlock into jumping off a roof, seems to be based on a similar scene from the Basil Rathbone film The Woman in Green. Moriarty climbing the stairs while Sherlock plays his violin is also directly from that film, complete with the moment where he steps on a squeaky step, the violin stops for a second and then starts again.
    • Moriarty's plan bears a striking resemblance to The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, Nicholas Meyer's non-canon novel based around the idea that Holmes invented Moriarty.
    • All the discussion of Sherlock being "on the side of the angels" is a Shout-Out to the BBC radio plays with John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson (and Orson Welles as Moriarty). In the dramatisation of "The Empty House" Watson exclaims "You're the devil, Holmes!" Holmes replies "The only one, however, who has always been on the side of the angels."
    • The warehouse Sherlock uses the homeless network to find has Rhododendron ponticum, the same plant that Lord Blackwood used to fake his death by hanging in the first Robert Downey Jr. film.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: John throws one at Mycroft when it is revealed that the latter, while trying to get Moriarty's computer key (which turned out not to exist anyway), ended up telling Moriarty Sherlock's entire life story — which he proceeds to use as ammunition against him. Mycroft appears to be shaken up by the accusation.
  • Noble Demon: Sherlock invokes this, stating that he might be on the side of the angels, but he is not one of them.
  • No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine: Sherlock knows Moriarty is coming to find him, so he makes tea for two and settles in with his violin to wait. The confrontation ends peacefully, albeit creepily.
  • Noodle Incident: When explaining why there is absolutely no talking at the Diogenes Club (with "three quarters of the diplomatic services and half of the government front bench"), Mycroft leaves it at "They don't want a repeat of 1972."
  • The Nose Knows: Sherlock is the only one at the scene of a crime to scent spilt linseed oil.
  • Not Helping Your Case: Once Moriarty's smear campaign reaches a certain point, Sherlock evidently decides "to hell with it" and goes on the run — pointing a loaded gun at his best friend's head in the process.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Moriarty taunts Holmes with this repeatedly.
    "You need me or you're nothing. Because we're just alike, you and I, except you're boring."
  • Occam's Razor: There is no supercode for hacking into all of the world's systems; Moriarty simply used expertly-placed inside men.
  • Oh, Crap!: When John gets word that Mrs Hudson was shot, he rushes over to Baker Street to check on her. Upon seeing her fine, he realizes something is wrong and goes to find Sherlock.
  • Please Wake Up: John to Sherlock's grave. After his goodbye monologue about his undying faith in Sherlock, he turns around and ...
    John: Please, there's just one more thing, one more thing, one more miracle, Sherlock, for me. Don't ... be ... dead. Would you do — just for me, just stop it. Stop this.
  • Power Incontinence: Although not magical or a superpower, Sherlock's constant deductions about his surroundings cause trouble for him. After he is thrown out of a courtroom for contempt because he annoyed the judge by analyzing the jury and refused to stop commenting on the lawyers' questions before they asked them, John tells Sherlock that he told him "not to be clever." Sherlock irritably replies that he can't just turn it on and off.
  • Pretty Little Headshots: Moriarty ends up looking perfectly fine apart from blood leaking out onto the floor beneath him, there isn't even a visible exit wound on the back of his head, which should be partially missing.
  • Pun-Based Title: Based on "The Reichenbach Falls," the painting Sherlock helps recover at the beginning of the episode.
  • Punny Name: "Rich Brook," "Reichen Bach" in German.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Sherlock gives one to Moriarty when he mistakes him for not being like him.
    Oh, I might be on the side of the angels, but don't for one second' think I am one of them!
  • Reckless Gun Usage: Sherlock firing in the air in a highly-populated area would be bad enough, but he then puts the gun (still loaded) to John's head with the safety off. And then he drops it on a cobblestone street. It's a miracle they both made it out alive.
  • Remake Cameo: The incensed old man in the Diogenes Club was played by Douglas Wilmer, who played Sherlock Holmes on TV in the 1960s and in The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother.
  • The Reveal: Moriarty has been living a double life as a television actor named "Richard Brook". His ultimate plan is to discredit Sherlock by convincing the world that he staged the two's rivalry as part of a publicity stunt.
  • Rooftop Confrontation: Although no actual physical fighting occurs, Sherlock and Jim have a final confrontation on the roof of St. Bart's.
  • Say My Name: Before Sherlock jumps from the roof, John screams, "SHERLOCK!"
  • Shadow Archetype: Kitty to Molly. Molly is a Dogged Nice Girl, Kitty is a Stalker with a Crush. And both of them prove to be rather important, as Moriarty sold his "story" to Kitty after Sherlock tore her down, helping to spread the belief that Sherlock is a fraud. Molly, meanwhile, despite being treated badly by Sherlock, still seems to step up to help him behind the scenes. Also, they both display admirable loyalty to Sherlock and Moriarty, respectively.
  • Shout-Out:
    • A clearly deranged man pops something in his mouth, plays classical music through his headphones, and cracks his neck in preparation for committing a crime — Norman Stansfield from The Professional, anyone?
    • Moriarty hacks into locked vaults and security systems to the tune of "The Thieving Magpie" by Rossini — Alex in A Clockwork Orange. Also, Moriarty refers to Bach as "Johann Sebastian" (as Alex refers to "Ludwig Van").
    • Moriarty invokes this in-universe with "Hansel and Gretel", to spectacularly disturbing effect.
    • The song that plays when Moriarty breaks into the Crown Jewels' case, unlocks all the doors in the penitentiary and opens the bank vault is the overture from "The Thieving Magpie." The wax seals on envelopes he leaves have a magpie impression on them.
    • John Watson's line at the beginning about how Sherlock Holmes is dead brings to mind Rose Tyler's "This is the story of how I died" narration.
  • Sickening "Crunch!": It wasn't enough for us to see Sherlock hit the pavement at the end, we had to hear it.
  • Silent Scapegoat: Sherlock's decision to tarnish his own reputation to save the lives of his friends, who for their own safety cannot know that he saved them.
  • Sir Verb-a-Lot: "The Storyteller" (actually Moriarty) tells a story about a knight named Sir Boast-a-Lot on his children's storytelling show. Sir Boast-a-Lot brags about going on epic quests and slaying dragons, but the other knights come to wonder if these stories are just lies he tells to make himself look good. This is Foreshadowing for his plan: to utterly discredit Sherlock as an egomaniacal fraud.
  • Smith of the Yard: Continuing the trend of series 2, Sherlock is becoming an internationally-renowned detective. John warns him that if the press doesn't find something new to fixate on, they'll turn on him - and Moriarty takes it upon himself to make that happen.
  • Smug Snake: Kitty reeks of desperation and uses every tactic in the book to wring a story out of Sherlock. It doesn't work, as he finds her repellent.
  • Sniff Sniff Nom: Sherlock apparently knows what mercury tastes like.
  • Spinning Paper: The first sequence after the opening credits in which various newspaper headlines about Sherlock's successful detective work are shown.
  • Spiteful Suicide: After Moriarty explains how he's ruined Sherlock's life, there's a Hope Spot where it seems like Sherlock might have a chance of persuading or manipulating Moriarty into fixing things or at least giving Sherlock an opening — which Moriarty deliberately punctures by killing himself. Even worse, Moriarty had sent out three assassins to kill Dr. Watson, Inspector Lestrade, and Mrs. Hudson, who were told only to break off their attacks on Moriarty's orders, or if Sherlock dies. With Moriarty dead, Sherlock has only one option.
  • Strawman News Media: Kitty Riley and, presumably, her editors (at The Sun?) buy into Richard Brook's story hook, line and sinker. Given the outbreak of the News International hacking scandal during production, it feels rather timely.
    • Considering that Moriarty is just that good, his story probably just holds up well enough.
      • Alternatively, it's The Sun. They're not known for being great at checking facts before publishing.
  • Suddenly Shouting: Sherlock, while under quite a bit of stress:
    "Moriarty is playing with your mind, too. Can't you SEE WHAT'S GOING ON?"
    • Moriarty himself gets in on the action, while making a rather crazed face and getting way up in Sherlock's face.
      "No, no, no, no, no, this is too easy, this is too easy... There is no key, DOOFUS!"
  • Suicide Is Painless: Ax-Crazy Moriarty eats his gun with a laugh as part of his Thanatos Gambit to bring down Sherlock.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: The episode is practically a reality check for the series note .
    • Sherlock assumes Moriarty is going away for good after being arrested but overlooks how a criminal genius would have no trouble intimidating the jury to declare him not guilty.
    • When Moriarty makes it appear as if Sherlock has been setting up all these crimes so he can "solve" them and look like a genius, Sherlock's jerk behaviour for a while eventually ends up helping the scheme out. A reporter he ran down as a joke gets revenge by printing the story as fact, and Sherlock discovers that when you insult police on a constant basis as being complete idiots, you're not going to get much support from them. Indeed, many of the cops are more than ready to believe Sherlock did this, rather than actually being that smart.
    • Sergeant Donovan makes Lestrade take her doubts to the Chief Superintendent, who's under the impression that Sherlock has only helped on a few minor cases. The reveal that Sherlock (a civilian) has been given unmitigated access to sensitive data and cases leads him to tear Lestrade a new one and order him to bring Sherlock in.
    • Sherlock faces off against Moriarty on how the man came up with a super-hacking code and intends to use it in order to prove his innocence. Moriarty just laughs that there is no code, he just blackmailed and threatened people to open up bank vaults at the right moment and is disappointed Sherlock didn't see that.
    • When John punches the Chief Superintendent, he unsurprisingly finds himself being arrested for assaulting an officer.
  • Taking You with Me: Moriarty hires assassins to kill Sherlock's friends unless he commits suicide, which works well until Sherlock figures out that Moriarty can still call the assassins off and threatens Moriarty that he will make him talk, at which point Moriarty pulls out a gun and shoots himself, forcing Sherlock to (ostensibly) kill himself to save his friends.
  • Talking to the Dead: John does this over Sherlock's grave.
  • Technicolor Science: The test tubes at the hospital lab are all colourful.
  • Terrifying Rescuer: Moriarty is revealed to have terrified a pair of kidnapped children with a double of Sherlock, in order to cast suspicion on Sherlock when the children begin screaming in his presence.
  • Thanatos Gambit: The final move in Moriarty's Xanatos Speed Chess game is to shoot himself so the assassins can't be recalled.
  • That Came Out Wrong: When Molly offers her help to Sherlock, she says "You can have me" which she quickly realises could be misunderstood and rephrases it to "If there's anything you need, it's fine".
  • There Are Two Kinds of People in the World: Sherlock mentions there are two types of fans when being stalked by a fan in the courthouse toilet.
    Sherlock There are two types of fans. Catch me before I kill again, Type A.
    Fan girl: What's Type B?
    Sherlock: Your bedroom's just a taxi ride away.
  • This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself: Sherlock tricks John to leave for 221B Baker Street so he could meet with Moriarty alone on the rooftop.
  • Too Clever by Half: Lampshaded when Sherlock believes Moriarty has created a super-hacking bug that can open bank vaults, prison cells and the Tower of London. He confronts Moriarty on how he'll figure out how to use the bug himself. Moriarty then laughs that there is no bug, he just blackmailed and threatened people to open up doors at the right moment and is amazed Sherlock fell for his ruse.
    Moriarty: That's your problem, you always want everything to be so clever.
  • Tragic Bromance: John is devastated by Sherlock's apparent death.
  • Trespassing to Talk: After Moriarty discredits John and Sherlock, they break into a reporter's flat who was going to report the story. Once inside, they just sit on her couch until she comes home, at which point they confront her about her sources.
  • Tuckerization: On Richard Brook's CV, one of the photos were credited to Arwel Jones, the show's production designer.
  • The Unfettered: Taken to its most logical extreme by Moriarty. He won't let anything stop him from achieving his goal of destroying Sherlock Holmes. Not even himself.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Subverted. Early on, we get a shot at Sherlock's department with a figure hanging from the ceiling while neither Sherlock nor Watson take notice. A Reveal Shot later, we know why: it was a dummy hanged for an experiment.
  • Victory Is Boring: When it looks like he's defeated Sherlock, Moriarty starts whining about how he doesn't have any challenges anymore, and has to go back to "playing with the ordinary people." He solves the problem by shooting himself in the head.
    Moriarty: All my life I've been searching for distractions, and you were the best distraction, and now I don't even have you because I've beaten you.
  • Wham Episode: The episode ends with Sherlock being totally discredited, Moriarty killing himself, Sherlock faking his own suicide and John going back into therapy. In fact, "Reichenbach" is so much this that all resulting fanfic, and in fact the fandom itself, can be divided into "pre-Reichenbach" and "post-Reichenbach".
  • Wham Line: John opens the episode with one.
    • And then near the end:
    Moriarty: Well, good luck with that! [shoots himself]
  • Wham Shot: Of Sherlock at the end being a Mysterious Watcher to his own funeral.
  • Wicked Cultured: Moriarty plays La Gazza Ladra by Gioachino Rossini on his MP3 player when breaking into the Tower of London, and he can tell anecdotes about Bach.
  • Worst Aid: Sherlock is flipped over and moved onto a stretcher after he's just fallen from a building, with no precautions taken such as stabilising his head or neck. It's made worse by the fact that it was hospital workers who were doing this. It's possible they may have pronounced him dead on impact, deeming any further precautions unnecessary.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: After Sherlock's arrested, Donovan comes up to John and once again goes off about Sherlock in front of him, repeating how it'd just be a matter of time before he'd commit a crime himself and so on, with John telling her in Tranquil Fury to "Stop it". Cue the head of police coming in and commenting that Sherlock looks "like a weirdo", and John immediately punches him.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Kitty clearly thinks she's an Intrepid Reporter who has uncovered the truth that Sherlock is a fraud and responsible for the crimes he's solved, while Moriarty is merely an actor suffering a crisis of conscience. Alas, no.
  • Xanatos Gambit: At every turn, everything Sherlock could have done sends him further and further down Moriarty's rabbit hole.
  • You Cannot Kill An Idea:
    • Donovan and Anderson manage to sow the seeds of doubt regarding Sherlock's authenticity as a (relatively) aboveboard detective. When Lestrade comes to warn Sherlock of his impending arrest:
      Sherlock: After all, you can't kill an idea, can you? Not once it's made a home... (Taps Lestrade's forehead) There.
    • That's the whole point of the episode, with Moriarty managing to convince almost everybody that Sherlock is a fraud and that even "Moriarty" is a paid actor hired by Sherlock. He proves it by killing himself, forcing Sherlock to jump from a rooftop lest all his friends die.
  • You're Insane!:
  • Zero-Approval Gambit: Sherlock, despite being a self-confessed sociopath, fakes his own suicide and allows his entire reputation as a consulting detective to be completely destroyed, along with being framed for murder and kidnapping, in order to call off snipers trained on his only three friends in the world. He even goes so far as to call John and make a fake confession, attempting to convince him of his guilt before forcing him to watch the faked suicide, so that the grief would be genuine enough to call off the snipers.