As season three of BBC’s “Sherlock” came to a close, one shocking development completely turned the tables on the beloved sleuth. Jim Moriarty was alive and rearing to wreak havoc in season four. In honor of the return of the Napoleon of crime, it seems appropriate to dissect the man behind the madness.
Moriarty has been a presence on “Sherlock” since his first name-drop in the pilot episode. This wasn’t a surprise to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle fans, as Moriarty is essentially the proverbial Joker to Holmes’ Batman in the classic stories. It wasn’t until the series-one finale that fans finally put a face to the name. Once introduced, the modern incarnation of Moriarty proved to be Holmes’ and Watson’s most diabolically brilliant foe. His actions guided most of the show until the shocking series-two finale, in which he appeared to kill himself.
This new Moriarty, played with Irish flair by actor Andrew Scott, is the definition of the unexpected. He’s peppy, flamboyant and flirtatious, giving the villain a homoerotic overtone that plays nicely with his adversarial relationship with Holmes. His insidious mind is complemented by his overall unassuming outward appearance, with his short stature and squirrelly mannerisms.
As the saying goes, a hero is only as good as his villain, and show-runners Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss milk this proverb with patience and sensibility. Like many great heroes and villains, they are essentially the same person. Through Moriarty, we learn more about Holmes, and, while both are apathetic geniuses with arrogant pride in their abilities, Holmes is the only one with a shred of compassion.
Holmes’ and Moriarty’s relationship operates out of a competitive game of wits that both appear to enjoy greatly. The actual victims often play second fiddle to Holmes’ fascination with Moriarty’s strategy. This proves to be the greatest weakness of the two because neither Holmes nor Moriarty wish to see the other dead. To kill one would rid the other of his only intellectual match.
With consistently stellar performances across the board and thrilling story lines that hook even the most resilient of viewers, “Sherlock” has proven to be one of the most surprisingly enjoyable TV shows airing today. Moriarty’s return raises exciting questions that will keep viewers guessing until season four returns to television screens. Hopefully Moffat and Gatiss can get the ball rolling as soon as possible.