The problem with using real people as puppets is that sometimes they figure out what’s going on. That lesson is front and center in this episode of Moriarty the Patriot. The most obvious is of course when Sherlock Holmes flat-out states that Will has been treating him as a dancing doll, using him as the white knight to Will’s evil crime lord, something that Sherlock reveals that he was beginning to figure out all on his own. But Moriarty isn’t the only man using Holmes as his plaything – Charles Augustus Milverton has also been treating the great detective as his fool, attempting to manipulate both Sherlock and Will towards their mutual destruction in his Brighton villa, with Mary Morstan as the bait. Neither man would be able to resist a working-class woman being targeted for her purported misdeeds, after all, especially when her current status is “Watson’s fiancée” and her misdeeds involved protests against the upper class.
Interestingly enough, both Milverton’s downfall and Moriarty’s miscalculation have to do with Sherlock Holmes’ tenacity and personality. Neither of them fully understand that, at heart, he’s just as amoral and ruthless as they are – he’s just willing to bind himself to the confines of the law unless backed into a corner. This error costs Milverton his life and serves as a warning to Will that his death may now be a foregone conclusion, because, as he remarks to Louis, now that Holmes has taken that first life, the second will be that much easier…and he’s very much afraid that the second life Holmes takes will be his. Certainly, that’s borne out in the title of next week’s episode, part one of “The Final Problem,” better known as the 1893 story that culminates in Holmes and Moriarty tumbling down Reichenbach Falls.
That’s certainly foreshadowed here. In the original text of “The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton,” (1904), Milverton is shot to death, but not by Holmes and there are no cliffs involved. Similarly, his papers are burned, but only in the much more pedestrian fireplace rather than an entire house being torched. Both of these changes are obviously deliberate, but more importantly, in the service of the anime’s upcoming finale: Milverton’s plunge into the sea is meant to foreshadow the whole Reichenbach Falls incident while Holmes’ destruction of his house is to let us know that he’s done playing Mr. Nice Detective and pulling his punches. He’s willing to kill and destroy if that’s what it takes, a point Will hadn’t anticipated coming quite so soon – or so easily to the man he chose as his foil.
It’s a good move in terms of the characters as Moriarty the Patriot wants us to see them. We’re intended to view William Moriarty as a person willing to do whatever terrible things he must in order to bring about needed change, aligning him with the French anarchists Mary Morstan fell in with in college, but also with the ideals of the French Revolution of 1789, a full hundred years before this story takes place. (I feel like that may also be deliberate.) But he’s not inherently a bad person – he loves his brothers, he cares about inequality because he’s experienced it, and he does want to make the world better. He’s just been twisted by the world he’s been forced to live in. Meanwhile Sherlock gives all the outward trappings of being the so-called good guy – he works with the police rather than going off and skirting the edges of the law and he also cares deeply for the people he’s close to. But when push comes to shove, as it does with Milverton, he’s also ready and able to toss all of that aside to protect John and Mary, not unlike how William and Albert took charge of the destruction of the Moriarty parents and second son to protect Louis. (This motive is made a little clearer in some of the manga chapters the anime skipped.) They’re less two halves of a whole and more two sides of the same coin, something Will did not count on.
What will this mean as the series comes to its end? Who will emerge from the waters of the falls when all is said and done? And more importantly, who has planned for all contingencies better – William James Moriarty? Or Sherlock Holmes?
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