Inspired by some conversation with @mid0nz, I realized that I didn’t actually have a very good grasp of WHAT actually happened behind the scenes with Sherlock and Mycroft’s plan to defeat Moriarty (the so-called Reichenplot).
I know that we were given three solutions, and that there is some reason to believe none of them was “correct” or complete. But there is also reason to believe that the one Sherlock tells Anderson (The Videotaped Solution) is meant to be the correct one.
What I want to know is, does TVS make sense? Whether or not it is “correct” – does it even work? To figure this out, I decided (because I am insane) to write out everything we know about this plan so I could finally see and judge for myself how it fits together.
I worked through this chronologically, and labeled each section by episode, to make it easier to skip around if you want.
How does Reichenplot work? Assuming that the solution Sherlock tells Anderson is the “real” solution, what does it even look like? How exactly do all the parts fit together (and do they)?
I will raise questions in bold whenever something doesn’t make sense to me, or seems wildly implausible, or it feels like I am missing something.
The premise: Moriarty is a criminal mastermind. Sherlock and Mycroft want not only to stop him, but to dismantle his entire network so no one can step in and take his place. This is the crux of their plan.
In ASiP, Sherlock has no idea who Moriarty is, so the plan cannot be in place then. Once he has a name, however, and the knowledge that Moriarty is his “fan”, Sherlock knows it’s only a matter of time before Moriarty directly engages him. So he has probably already started thinking about how he’s going to handle that, but so far he has very little information.
*We* know that the events of TBB are masterminded by Moriarty, but I don’t think we get any hint that Sherlock has figured this out.
And what does Mycroft know? In TGG, Mycroft is fixated on recovering the Bruce-Partington plans, and either doesn’t know about or is apparently totally uninterested in the puzzles Moriarty is setting for Sherlock. Sherlock also makes his first mistake wrt Moriarty, assuming Moriarty is after the missile plans, when in fact Moriarty couldn’t care less about them. (What *does* Moriarty care about? That’s a story for another meta.) (And actually his first mistake is underestimating Jim from IT.) At this point, still not clear whether Mycroft has ever even heard the word Moriarty.
During the pool scene, Moriarty cops to how vast and complex his criminal network is (with the events of TGG as evidence), and that presumably gets Sherlock thinking seriously about how to stop him and dismantle the network.
In ASiB, we start to bring Mycroft in, and get the first true stirrings of the Reichenplot. Moriarty texts Mycroft when he figures out the Coventry plan, and while Mycroft is clearly upset, he doesn’t seem surprised or confused. We don’t see him saying, “who the fuck is JM?” and indeed, when Adler is trying to blackmail the Crown a couple of scenes later, she tells the brothers that Moriarty “sends his love”, and Mycroft replies, “Yes, he’s been in touch. Seems desperate for my attention.”
So at that point, Mycroft certainly knows who he is, and maybe even has had dealings with him. But that’s speculation. It’s possible that Mycroft only knows that some criminal named Moriarty has been trying to get his attention, and nothing more.
Then Sherlock deduces Adler’s criminally stupid password (really, Irene, are you twelve?), which gives the Holmes boys a lot more info about Moriarty, presumably.
This is when Reichenplot must begin in earnest.
Mycroft now arrests or abducts (the legality of this move is unclear) Moriarty and tortures him to find out the extent of his network.
(sidebar: on the Barts rooftop, Moriarty says “Sherlock, your big brother and all the King’s horses couldn’t make me do a thing I didn’t want to.” which suggests that Moriarty believes he withheld something Mycroft wanted from him, or that he only gave Mycroft exactly the info he wanted to. But Sherlock tells Anderson “we had to let him think he had won,” so maybe Moriarty revealed more than he intended or even realized.)
Moriarty won’t crack about his network without info about Sherlock, so Mycroft (as pre-arranged with Sherlock), feeds him some stuff about Sherlock’s past.
(shame we never find out what that was! it shows up in Kitty’s article, but we never get to see it.)
(also, this part makes no sense – why would Moriarty need Mycroft to give him info about Sherlock no one else has? it would have been so much easier to make it up. no torture necessary. supposedly, he needs real info to make his story of Sherlock being a fraud sound more realistic – but then, surely publicly available info would be the most useful. anything that is only known to Mycroft can’t really help verify the story to anyone but Mycroft. and anything that is known to people other than Mycroft can be gotten by other means. but whatever, maybe Moriarty just likes to be tortured.)
Mycroft gets the info he wants, Moriarty gets the info he wants, and Mycroft sets him free, “letting Moriarty think he has won.”
(it seems like “letting Moriarty go” might tip Moriarty off that Mycroft got exactly what he needed, but whatever.)
Sherlock then goes out of his way to pick really high profile cases, so as to… I guess convince Moriarty that he gives a shit about his reputation. Which he does not.
I’m not sure why Moriarty would fall for this, but Moriarty does say that the “whole point” of this exercise is for Sherlock to “die in disgrace”, so maybe that legit is Moriarty’s motivation.
And he really believes Sherlock cares.
so then Moriarty stages his whole escapade with the tower of london, etc…. what for? He is advertising for a key code that does not exist.
why? um… I guess to frame Sherlock for the crime.
he needs to orchestrate the whole trial NOT to advertise the key code (even though that’s what he tells Sherlock), but so he can claim later that Sherlock paid him to do all that.
he also wants hit men hanging around Sherlock, so people will think Sherlock is friends with hit men.
this is an exceedingly weak part of Moriarty’s plan. I mean, who cares? we see no evidence that the hit man thing did any actual harm to Sherlock’s reputation, because no one knew about it but Mycroft. it doesn’t seem to have been public info.
and anyway, Moriarty had already created enough dirt on Sherlock, this didn’t add much.
but maybe it was all just a big hint so that Sherlock would think the key code was real and was in his head? because he needed sherlock to believe that in order to get Sherlock to ask for a meeting with him. okay sure.
okay, so Moriarty pulls off the heist, tampers with the jury, gets off, gets kitty riley to write a fake expose on sherlock, plants the idea of a key code on sherlock so sherlock will contact him again later, gets a bunch of hit men to stalk sherlock for no very clear reason, then arranges a kidnapping so he can later get Donovan to convince Lestrade that Sherlock set up the whole thing (the kidnapping *and* the heist) to get attention.
Meanwhile, Mycroft abducts John and asks John to look after Sherlock, because Sherlock supposedly won’t come to him for help. This pretense is obviously garbage, since Mycroft knows John is basically a useless goldfish playing in the mad genius sandbox.
But what *is* Mycroft trying to accomplish here? best I can come up with is that Mycroft wants John to believe he and Sherlock are not speaking to each other, so John won’t suspect Deus Ex Mycroft when Sherlock jumps. Because it is VERY IMPORTANT that John not know the Reichenplot. (we’ll look at why this is so important in a bit)
Now Moriarty sets up the windows of an office building to read IOU in such a way that only Sherlock can read it, then jumps in a cab that has been preprogrammed with a video of him making fun of Sherlock.
(I guess Moriarty had some downtime in the midst of all this plotting, and thought this would be fun. idk. the man gets bored easily.)
Sherlock does appear to be genuinely surprised by this, but who knows, that could be an act for Moriarty’s benefit.
Oh also, before getting in the cab, Sherlock tells John he “needs to think”, which suggests that there are pieces of the Holmes plan not yet in place, and Sherlock needs to figure them out. Unless he is just messing with John for some reason. But there is pretty good reason to believe that at this point, the Reichenplot was still a work in progress.
Sherlock gets arrested and goes on the lam and continues to pretend to John that he is not in communication with Mycroft, presumably for the same reasons mentioned above – John needs to be kept in the dark about the plan.
John points out to Sherlock that Kitty Riley has written an expose about him, so they go to her house and question her about who fed her the info.
(Does Sherlock really not know at this point? I mean, OBVIOUSLY it is Moriarty, even without the “Rich Brook” clue. Sherlock already knows that the whole plan to disgrace him is Moriarty’s, so I don’t understand why he needs to track down Kitty Riley. Unless it’s just for John’s benefit, maybe. Sure, why not.)
Anyway, we learn that Moriarty has dummied up some documents that convince Kitty Riley (who is none too bright) that he has had a long acting career.
So Sherlock and Moriarty meet again.
Did Sherlock plan this meeting? Did Moriarty? Or did they legit just happen to be in the same place at the same time? Sherlock acts surprised here, which I think may be genuine… Though Sherlock knows and correctly guesses a lot, it looks like he did not know Moriarty was going to pretend Sherlock hired him.
So that’s a piece of the puzzle he didn’t have, and he clearly admires it.
hmm, I think actually what makes more sense is yes, of course Sherlock knows Rich Brook is Moriarty, but he goes to Kitty Riley because he wants to track Moriarty down. He figures she knows where he is. Why does he want to be in a room with Moriarty? I’m willing to call this human error – it’s not really productive, and it’s always an unnecessary risk, but over and over Sherlock can’t resist confronting him directly. He probably justifies it to himself as forcing the issue, forcing Moriarty’s hand, making Moriarty reveal more than he otherwise would have.
Okay, back on the lam. At this point, Sherlock appears to have another sincere revelation, where he realizes that Moriarty’s plan is to force him to commit suicide in disgrace (I’m pretty sure that’s what he realizes here, but open to alternative theories). I don’t believe Sherlock is faking this moment of revelation, because he doesn’t tell John what he’s realized (and John’s obviously too stupid to figure it out), so it can’t be for John’s benefit. and there’s no one else watching.
Sherlock suddenly realizes that he can take Molly Hooper up on her offer of help. Because she… ugh. this is where the Reichenplot gets ugly, because there’s a lot of implausibility here. But let’s say that Sherlock needs a fresh corpse to ensure that people *really* believe he is dead, and Molly can give him access to one who looks like him, which Moriarty has helpfully and pointlessly provided. This seems really unnecessary and unlikely – much easier for Molly to just fake some paperwork, but whatever. What’s probably more important is that she gives him a place to hide out once it’s over.
Note: if Sherlock is talking to Molly at this point, that means he pretty much knows now that he is going to have to fake his death, despite his claim that there were “13 possibilities”. That’s why he procures a squash ball. But in theory at least, I guess Sherlock must think there are other ways it *might* go, which is why he doesn’t tell Mycroft yet to set “lazarus” in action.
In the meanwhile, John harangues Mycroft about feeding Moriarty info about Sherlock, and Mycroft manages to look contrite while inwardly giggling at what an idiot John is. John mustn’t know about The Plan.
Sherlock makes John come to Barts, then tells him that the computer code is key. if they can figure out the code, they can overturn Moriarty’s story, and “turn Richard Brook back to Moriarty”. Sherlock appears to really believe this, because the moment he “figures out” the key, he doesn’t tell anyone (so it’s not a performance for John’s benefit), but he does immediately text Moriarty. He thinks he legit has some info that will help him enact the next part of the plan.
Then Sherlock gets rid of John so he can be alone with Moriarty and not have John screwing shit up, presumably. oh but first he gives John just enough info to make sure John will come back in a reasonable amount of time. (I guess Sherlock can reasonably predict that John will immediately turn around once he sees Mrs Hudson is fine.) Because John has to see Sherlock die. (ETA: it now seems clear that, analagous to the ACD story, it’s Moriarty who fakes an emergency to call John away, not Sherlock.)
Meanwhile, Moriarty has hired three gunmen to aim at Sherlock’s friends, to use as leverage to get Sherlock to kill himself.
(How will the gunmen know when to shoot sherlock’s friends? We know that they are supposed to walk away if Sherlock kills himself. But what if Sherlock doesn’t? Is Moriarty planning to give a signal to go ahead and shoot? But that won’t work if Sherlock kills him, obviously. So is it on a timer? If Sherlock appears to still be alive at 1800 hours, go ahead and shoot? this is unclear, but that’s a plausible explanation I guess.)
For some reason, Moriarty doesn’t bother with Molly, which seems like a MAJOR goof. If ANYONE should know that Molly and Sherlock are friends, it’s Moriarty. I mean duh, Molly introduced them! and Sherlock hangs out at her hospital constantly. but whatever. let’s call it human error.
Okay, it’s go time. Sherlock texts Moriarty to come meet him at Barts.
But why? What does this accomplish? Sherlock’s end game is to dismantle Moriarty’s network. How does this help? Is he hoping to kill Moriarty? Get a confession out of him and get him arrested? Does it have to do with the fake code? At this point, I do think Sherlock really believes the code is real, and that he has figured it out, and that this will allow him to prove to everyone that Moriarty is real. But why does he need to meet Moriarty face to face for that? it seems like a tremendous and pointless risk.
It is plausible that Sherlock’s curiosity gets the better of him and he just *really wants to know* what Moriarty has planned for him if he guesses the code. That’s pretty consistent with Sherlock’s personality, and Moriarty would know that about him. So Sherlock knows that it’s dangerous and kind of pointless, but he can’t resist showing off to Moriarty that he solved his puzzle.
Though I still don’t really get why Moriarty bothered with the fake code at all. What did it accomplish? It fooled Sherlock for a while, but it didn’t change the big picture, which Sherlock already knew. Unless the point was just to get them alone together.
Moriarty comes because I guess he needs to explain the sniper situation to Sherlock, and he needs to make sure Sherlock really jumps for his plan to work. And Sherlock shows up because… he needed Moriarty to believe him dead in order to dismantle his networks? So he goes up there fully planning to fake suicide, so that Moriarty will be caught off guard when Sherlock goes after his network?
But the thing is, there’s no way Lazarus can work if Moriarty is alive. If Moriarty is there watching Sherlock kill himself, he’s going to notice the MASSIVE BLUE CUSHION on the sidewalk. And it seems like we are supposed to believe Sherlock is genuinely shocked when Moriarty shoots himself (Sherlock says as much to Anderson), so… what was their plan, assuming a living Moriarty? Or was Sherlock planning to kill Moriarty? And if not, why not? I can’t see any compelling reason (from the point of view of the Reichenplot) to keep him alive. They want him stopped – killing him seems the natural, obvious way to do that.
Of course, once he thinks that his friends will die if Moriarty dies, *that’s* a good reason not to kill him. But he can’t have known that when he went up to the roof.
So… maybe they had planned all along to kill Moriarty and then fake Sherlock’s death with a giant cushion? That seems weird, though – who are they faking it for? Just John? I mean… maybe. Because John MUSTN’T know about the Reichenplot. For reasons we still haven’t gone into.
But okay. So Moriarty and Sherlock are on the roof. Moriarty explains the code is a fake, Sherlock is genuinely surprised (I think). So that foils Sherlock’s plan to expose Moriarty and rehabilitate his own image (but that can’t have really been Sherlock’s plan, because that wouldn’t have helped them dismantle the network… right?). Moriarty then suggests Sherlock kill himself, and Sherlock acts momentarily surprised… but that must just be for show, right? Then Sherlock threatens to throw Moriarty off the roof – was this his plan all along? Or is it just an emotional reaction? Or is he just biding his time, trying to get Moriarty to reveal a little more so he knows what plan to enact with Mycroft? Let’s go with that.
Moriarty reveals the sniper situation, and I think Sherlock did not anticipate this specifically, but he must have had an idea it was a possibility. He’d be stupid not to – ever since the pool scene, Moriarty has certainly known Sherlock has a weakness for John.
Okay, so Sherlock appears to go along with Moriarty’s plan for Sherlock to jump to his death, but asks for “a moment” – presumably this is when he texts Mycroft and sets Lazarus in motion. That’s my best guess, anyway. And also lets Mycroft know about the snipers? We don’t see him text that, but he must let Mycroft know somehow.
Then he turns around and suggests to Moriarty that he can torture the failsafe code out of him. Here again, my best guess is that Sherlock is playing for time while the homeless network is notified and everyone gets into position. But it’s possible Sherlock actually thinks he has found a way out – but into what? I’m not clear on what his plan is here, unless it’s to disappear with Moriarty, torture the fuck out of him, then kill him and dismantle the network.
Anyway, Moriarty surprises him by shooting himself, which leaves Sherlock no option but to jump… except that Mycroft already took care of John’s sniper, and could have easily taken care of the other two, so who is he jumping for? Just for John. Because John has to believe he is dead. EVEN THOUGH Moriarty is now dead (presumably). So in fact, Moriarty’s suicide doesn’t really matter, since Sherlock was going to fake his death anyway, for John’s benefit.
Cushion appears, Sherlock jumps, bicycle dude knocks John over, cushion is removed, Sherlock lies down on the pavement in a pool of blood. Squash ball, “he’s my friend”, yadda yadda tears.
(notice, no need here for a lookalike corpse! but… fuck it, maybe they needed the corpse so the pall bearers at the funeral wouldn’t notice the casket felt light.)
(also, I know they said they blocked off the street, but what about the people in St. Barts, looking out the windows, as Molly was? Wouldn’t they see the cushion? And who are all those doctors who come running? Homeless network in disguise, or actual doctors? Wouldn’t *they* notice the cushion? Wouldn’t some of them have told the press that Sherlock obviously faked his death? or if it’s all homeless network, how did they stop doctors from intervening, closed street or no? and if the street’s been closed off, how did John’s cab get there?)
But there is something else that bothers me here. What does everyone in the world believe happened up on that roof? Including John? Because once Sherlock is apparently dead, someone surely noticed that Moriarty’s corpse was still up there on the roof. Right? or did they just leave it up there until the vultures got it all?
But assuming everyone who reads the papers now believes that Sherlock is a fraud, Moriarty is a more or less innocent actor, Sherlock killed himself because people found out he was a fraud, and Moriarty… what? Killed himself? But why? *His* name had just been cleared. Was murdered by Sherlock? But why? To what end? What did people even think they were both doing up there?
It just seems like, knowing you have two dead bodies here (or seem to), SOMEONE would have started asking some questions. someone like Lestrade, or say JOHN. But apparently the only person who does is Anderson. Well, good for Anderson. Way to not be an idiot, for once.
(Here’s a thought – I’m assuming here that Moriarty’s corpse remained on the rooftop until the police came to remove it. But we don’t know that, do we? We have no idea what happened to Moriarty’s corpse. Or “corpse”. Interesting.)
Okay, so what happens next? The snipers who are assigned to Lestrade and Hudson must get some kind of message from someone that Sherlock jumped, so they don’t have to shoot. Your guess is as good as mine who gives them that message.
The sniper pointing at John would be able to see the giant blue cushion, so that won’t work for him. Luckily, Deus ex Mycroft has his goons interfere with the sniper.
END OF REICHENBACH thank christ.
Sherlock heads off to foreign climes (after a few nights spent in Molly’s bed). (do we think Anderson’s theories in MHR are correct? Was Sherlock really in India and Tibet and Germany? or just eastern europe, as he says?)
And here we are left with two big questions:
1) Why is it so important for John to believe Sherlock dead?
2) What exactly does it mean to “dismantle” a network?
For question one, my best guess is that Sherlock doesn’t want anyone in Moriarty’s network to see him coming. I can’t see that it matters at this point if the general public thinks Sherlock is alive – Mycroft can clear Sherlock’s name whenever he feels like it. So it has to be for the criminal network. Sherlock doesn’t want John to come with him because it’s dangerous, but even more crucially, he doesn’t trust John not to blab about it and ruin his cover. And Sherlock says in TEH, “I worried that, you know, you might say something indiscreet.”
Given that we know Sherlock did NOT fake his death to save John’s life, this is the only explanation that makes sense. Fine. It’s true, John’s a shitty liar.
But that does lead to question two… what the hell is Sherlock doing over there in Serbia? Is he literally killing every person Moriarty had business deals with? Given the extent of Moriarty’s network, that seems… extravagant. It’s a LOT of killing. I feel like, even with underworld baddies, people would notice. I mean, did he kill Miss Wensceslas? The dude from Janus Cars?
Or did he just go around having sternly worded conversations with people? Or was he making sure they all went to prison? I guess that’s possible. But it still doesn’t explain why he needed so much secrecy. Because once he started mucking around with the network, wouldn’t the people *in* the network have told each other? It seems like word would get out pretty fast that some freak with a vendetta was fucking up everyone connected to Moriarty.
So why the need to keep John in the dark? It doesn’t seem to hold up.
So Sherlock spends some time “dismantling” the network, whatever that means, ultimately breaks into some kind of vaguely military-looking base in Serbia, gets captured (possibly on purpose? hard to say) and tortured, until Mycroft shows up with a story about terrorism back in London, and tells Sherlock to wrap it up.
Based on their conversation in Mycroft’s office/bunker, it looks like their plan was (as far as they know) a success: Sherlock claims he got every piece of the puzzle, the Serbian one (Baron Maupertius) being the last. Their little spat about who got whom out of there suggests that the two of them worked together to finish up whatever Sherlock was working on before coming back to London.
And I am pretty sure that concludes the Reichenplot as far as we know it. They consider Moriarty and his whole criminal underworld totally disabled – at least until the final seconds of HLV.
(I made use of @callie-ariane ’s transcripts for much of this.)