Moriarty the Patriot
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Moriarty the Patriot ?
Sometimes it's the little details that really make a period piece. Although Moriarty the Patriot hasn't been terrific with women's costumes, every so often it slips in a perfectly researched bit of Victoriana that really makes up for a lot of ills. This week's episode has two: the uniform of the Great Northern Railway conductor and Sherlock Holmes' box of matches. Bryant and May's Flaming Fusees were a real brand of matches used in the late Victorian period, of a type made with yellow phosphorus that caused a condition called “fossy jaw” in the women who manufactured them. (I wouldn't suggest looking fossy jaw up unless you have a strong stomach or enjoy nightmares.) I'm not sure if his cigarettes would have produced quite so much smoke in real life as they do in this episode (or if they were just tobacco; this is Holmes after all), but the box of matches was such a wonderful detail that it sets the scene immediately.
That's hardly the point of the episode, of course, just a bonus for history nerds like me. (We could say the same about the train setting for the murder; canonical Holmes never solved a train murder, but the 1946 film Terror by Night with Basil Rathbone gives him one.) Instead, the episode seems interested in reminding us that Sherlock Holmes is, at the end of the day, human, and therefore as prone to failure as any other man. He comes remarkably close to figuring out what's going on before falling flat on his face, and while it's enough to make Louis worried, for “Liam” (as Holmes nicknames the middle Moriarty brother), it just marks the part where the game starts to get really fun.
Sherlock is, at the start of the episode, having a rather bad day. He's plagued with nightmares about what he more or less sees as his missed opportunity to find out who was behind Jefferson Hope's actions, while at the same time being kind of okay with the fact that he didn't commit murder over it. (Moriarty, we have to assume, didn't actually expect Holmes to do it. He wouldn't be a very useful good guy if he did.) While in the depths of his musings, Holmes suddenly realizes something: Drebber was not the first nobleman to be caught up in someone's machinations. What if the mastermind behind the Noahtic crime and this one was the same man?
Again, we have to assume that this is something that Moriarty was expecting to happen. He'd be a pretty awful orchestrator if he wasn't at least a few steps ahead of everyone else, so it seems very clear that he did not expect that Holmes would take Hope up on his offer. He also knew that Holmes suspected a mastermind in the Noahtic case, so we could say that Holmes is currently in the middle of dancing to Moriarty's tune. What neither man expects, however, is that they'll meet up on a train from Yorkshire to Paddington. (That's another fun piece of Sherlockian ephemera – canonical Holmes and Watson most frequently use Paddington Station in the stories.) Amusingly for everyone except Louis, Holmes is delighted to see Moriarty again and immediately wants to run his theories about a mastermind by him, even teasing him with the possibility that he thinks Moriarty is the mastermind himself. But is he teasing? Louis doesn't think so, but I'm inclined to believe that he is – the death he's returning from looking into has proved not to be a murder, so there's no reason to suspect that Moriarty is at all involved in it, meaning that it really is a coincidence that they're all on the same train. If the viscount had died of foul play, then Louis might be right to worry, but as it stands, Holmes' glee, his challenge to Moriarty about finding the killer now aboard the train, and his entire attitude simply suggests that he's glad to see a potential friend while he's fighting with Watson.
That this is largely a set up episode doesn't detract from its appeal, which is impressive. It's a glimpse into Holmes' mind, but it also serves as the real prelude to the game that Moriarty is beginning to play – when he says, “Catch me if you can, Mr. Holmes,” he's issuing a real challenge, only Holmes doesn't know it yet. Louis is unconvinced that William isn't playing with fire, but I think that's part of what he's enjoying about this game: it's dangerous, and that's just spice for the meal.
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