Oh, I'm so over the moon about "The Great Game" that I barely know where to start! That cliffhanger was superb! I wondered if Gatiss might treat us to a conclusion à la "The Final Problem"! I love the way Gatiss substituted a pool for Reichenbach! Instead of dangling over the edge of those Swiss falls, Sherlock and Jim are left facing off at the edge of the swimming pool! And Gatiss even managed to work in his own version of Moriarty's canon speech to Holmes in which Moriarty says, "You must stand clear, Mr. Holmes, or be trodden under foot." Well, Jim doesn't say that, of course. Being a thoroughly modern IT guy, he sums it up in two words: "Fuck off". Oh! But Gatiss did work in these famous lines from "The Final Problem":
Moriarty: All I have to say has already crossed your mind.
Holmes: Then possibly my answer has crossed yours.
Unlike the original "Final Problem," Gatiss adds a twist. While Watson is led on a bit of a wild goose chase as Holmes goes off to face Moriarty (In "The Final Problem," Watson receives a fake note telling him that an English woman staying at the Englischer Hof has fallen ill), he isn't there when Holmes and Moriarty have their life and death struggle at Reichenbach Falls. However, in "The Great Game," Watson is not only a witness to Sherlock and Jim's duel but a pivotal player as well. It was so moving when he tried to save Sherlock's life, proving once again his courage, loyalty and deep affection for his friend. It's even more satisfying to catch glimpses of emotion from Sherlock that even Jim the psychopath can spot. I love it when Jim threatens to burn out Sherlock's heart if he doesn't stop prying, informing Sherlock that they both know he has one despite what he may have heard to the contrary.
The actor who played Jim was marvelous and utterly delicious! Okay, he's no Eric Porter, but maybe that's a good thing. He brought something fresh to the role and made the character a lot of fun. Twisted and evil as hell, but still fun. And I love love love this new dimension of Moriarty - that he's a "consulting criminal"! Okay, it's rather in the vein of Michael Kurland's Moriarty pastiches, but I think Gatiss still put his own spin on it.
Before I forget, a BIG round of applause for puckrobin for figuring out that Jim the IT guy was Moriarty after seeing his name mentioned on The Personal Blog of Dr. John H. Watson! That was extremely well spotted!
I've gone on so much about Moriarty and "The Final Problem" that I'm almost afraid to mention other aspects of the episode. I'd certainly say it had a darker tone than "A Study in Pink" and "The Blind Banker". After that old woman was killed, I'm not surprised Lestrade wasn't happy to hear a kid's voice on that pink mobile! Still, the series of tests that Jim sets up for Sherlock reveal some interesting facets of Sherlock's character. Poor Watson is left to wonder if Sherlock really is so heartless as to not care about the people being used as hostages. You'd have to be blind not to notice the pleasure Sherlock derives from each puzzle. However, he makes a good argument for not caring when he points out that it will make no difference to the people being taken hostage whether he has a heart or not, that being emotional might actually hinder his ability to help them. Of course, it's a different story when Watson is the hostage. You can see Sherlock struggling to push past his emotions and keep up with Jim's feats of mental gymnastics.
I know I've gone on and on about this in every Sherlock post, but the geeky amateur Sherlockian is busting to get out as the canon references this time around totally blew my mind! Holy crap! I'm not even sure how many novels/stories Gatiss included! Of course, there was "The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans". With the possible exception of "The Final Problem," that was the most obvious one. I was impressed by the way Gatiss was able to weave that story throughout "The Great Game". In fact, I believe this is the one Conan Doyle story the Sherlock writers have been most faithful to. As in canon, Mycroft is the one to bring this case to his brother. While the Bruce-Partington Plans become the Bruce-Partington Project in "The Great Game," many details remain the same. Both murdered men are name "West," though "Cadogan West" becomes "Andrew West" in "The Great Game". In "The Bruce-Partington Plans," West's body is also placed on top of a train through the window of a building. It then falls off that same train when the train passes over the points. There was even the fiancée who swore West was innocent and the mention of a knighthood for Sherlock. At the end of "The Bruce-Partington Plans," Holmes receives an emerald tie pin from Queen Victoria.
As I'd like to go to bed some time tonight, I'll just include a quick list of some of the other canon references I noticed:
Bullets in the shape of a smiley face in the wall ("The Great Game") / Bullets in the shape of V.R. in the wall ("The Musgrave Ritual")
John mocking Sherlock for not knowing how the solar system works ("The Great Game") / Watson mocking Holmes for not knowing how the solar system works (A Study in Scarlet)
"I'd be lost without my blogger." ("The Great Game") / "I am lost without my Boswell." ("A Scandal in Bohemia")
Sherlock's Homeless Network ("The Great Game") / Holmes's Baker Street irregulars (The Sign of Four)
Sherlock telling John that he missed most of the important details about the trainers in the lab ("The Great Game") / Holmes telling Watson that most of his conclusions were erroneous when it came to Mortimer's walking stick (The Hound of the Baskervilles)
Sherlock receives a letter written by a woman on Bohemian paper ("The Great Game") / Holmes is hired to retrieve an indiscreet letter that the King of Bohemia sent to Irene Adler. For that matter, Holmes receives a letter from Irene Adler himself after she outsmarts him. ("A Scandal in Bohemia")
The old woman hostage is killed ("The Great Game") / Holmes's client (John Openshaw) is killed ("The Five Orange Pips")
I'm positive that there are more references that I'm missing, but those were the ones that immediately sprang to mind when I was watching the episode. Okay, I'll admit that I've had to do some fact-checking as I wasn't sure which Conan Doyle story described the "V.R." Holmes shot in the wall. I also wasn't sure if it was in The Hound of the Baskervilles or "The Blue Carbuncle" where Holmes told Watson that most of his deductions were wrong. In "The Blue Carbuncle," Watson finds Holmes studying a mysterious hat that has been brought to him by Commissioner Peterson. However, Watson doesn't even try to make any deductions about the hat, declaring that he can see nothing.
Well, it's going to be hard waiting to see how the Moffat/Gatiss team plans to resolve that spectacular cliffhanger, but the frustration hasn't hit me yet because I'm still so thrilled about that episode!