Moriarty the Patriot
by Rebecca Silverman,
How would you rate episode 11 of
Moriarty the Patriot ?
Another episode of Moriarty the Patriot, another historically accurate box of matches! I'm honestly not sure why matchboxes are the particular delight of this show's research team, but they certainly do seem to be a focus, and a case can be made for the two we've most recently seen. The matches Watson offers Holmes are safety matches – matches that not only have a special striking surface on the box, but also made with red phosphorus. This meant that match factory workers (who were overwhelmingly female) were no longer at (as much) risk of fossy jaw, a terrible illness caused by the white phosphorus previously used to make matches. Holmes' matches were not safety matches, which gives us a subtle look at how the two men differ – Watson, as a doctor, would use the more humanitarian option deliberately, while Holmes, whose brain isn't often on the little things, probably wouldn't think twice and just bought whatever was to hand. It's not that he doesn't care, but more that it isn't something he really devotes much thought to.
We see this near-carelessness in a lot of the show's depiction of Holmes. Louis this week thinks angrily that Holmes is being too casual with William, even going so far as to give him an informal nickname. That may not sound too off to us in 2020, but in the 1880s, it's a major breach of etiquette. Without quoting one of my Victorian etiquette manuals (yes, I have a collection), suffice it to say that he ought to be calling Moriarty with at the very least an honorific plus his first name – Albert, as the eldest, gets the formal title – or as “Mr. Moriarty” if he's unaware of William's social standing. To be casual he could go with just “Moriarty” unless given specific permission to address him by his full first name; they'd have to be pretty close for him to start making up and using nicknames to his face. Since Louis isn't likely to be feeling too snooty about the title, he's upset about the use of William's first name without permission, which is rude no matter who you are. Add to this Holmes' physical appearance – hair too long, collar unbuttoned, no tie or cravat, and I don't think he's wearing a waistcoat – and we get a good picture of someone who not only doesn't pay attention to social norms, he just honestly doesn't care about the details of them. Not that fashion is one of the show's strong points – poor Queen Victoria seems to have lost a lot of her late-Victorian stoutness and skirts are almost always wrong – but in this case, it feels very deliberate.
What Moriarty is more interested in, however, is how Holmes will go about solving the train murder. This marks the story's efforts at a fair play mystery (where you the reader/viewer have all of the clues), which adds to the vague sensation that this is a misplaced Hercule Poirot story, not just because Poirot has several train mysteries in his series but also because fair play mysteries aren't really a canonical Holmes thing. It does make for a fun episode for mystery buffs, though. We get all the same clues that Holmes and Moriarty have for the most part (the identical shoe prints is the one left out) and if you're paying enough attention, it isn't hard to realize that a man who would be able to offer a passenger a drugged drink in the first-class section may very well be someone who works on the train – and who may have had reason to step off the train at the last stop in order to help people board. The major question is how you the viewer would go about proving whodunit – the way Holmes does, with enough evidence for a jury trial, or Moriarty's method, with a bit of underhanded maneuvering that tricks the murderer into a confession.
Lestrade insists that this is a murder, not a game, and Watson's look of perpetual shocked horror backs that up. But to both detectives, it is a game; they're challenging themselves and each other and the prize at the end is not only the revelation of the criminal but also the knowledge that they bested the other man. Moriarty's affable insouciance stands out more, but then Holmes has more to lose, as we see when he tries to call Watson only to realize that his friend is in police custody. That doesn't stop him from competing, but the stakes are definitely higher, even if that can't quite do away with the excitement of going up against someone he clearly considers his new friend.
Where things will go from here before the series takes a cour off isn't clear. Given that Mycroft has just come in, I wouldn't be surprised if the anime goes back and adapts an earlier manga chapter about what, exactly, Albert is doing these days. Just as the younger brothers' roles are intertwined, I think we'll soon be able to say the same about the elders'.
Moriarty the Patriot is currently streaming on Funimation. Save on Anime Streaming Subscriptions with Funimation.
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