(For any who have not yet seen His Last Vow, there will be spoilers. I’m usually the last to see everything, so I don’t know if there is anyone yet who hasn’t seen it, but I figured I’d give you a heads up.)
Within the past two weeks, I started watching BBC’s Sherlock (with Clearplay). Sherlock is brilliant. His deductions leave me speechless. The Reichenbach Fall had me in tears. And the end of His Last Vow was startling. Could Moriarty really still be alive?
I have spent the last week trying to decide exactly that. And if he is alive, how?
Let’s go back to the rooftop scene.
When Moriarty went up on the roof, he believed that he had beaten Sherlock. And it had been easy. The best distraction keeping him moving through his life turned out to be boring and ordinary. All he had to do now was make Sherlock commit suicide, and the game would be over. But Sherlock pointed out, “I don’t have to die if I’ve got you.” Moriarty knew the word that would call off the assassins, and somehow, Sherlock would work out how to make him tell. So what could Moriarty do? He had to die.
Moriarty extends his right hand to shake Sherlock’s (leaving his left free for his gun, of course). “Thank you. Bless you,” he says. Why is he thanking him? Because he is tired of staying alive, trying to find distractions that never seem to be enough. Both times when Moriarty is facing death, he is smiling – at the pool scene, with Sherlock pointing his gun at the bomb, and on the roof, just before he shoots himself. He doesn’t want to die with “ordinary Sherlock” though. But staring into his eyes, he realizes that he isn’t ordinary after all. “You’re me!” He is free to end his boring life, and win the game, knowing that after he dies, Sherlock will be forced to jump. So he pulls out his gun with his left hand, and shoots himself in the mouth.
Now this is the important bit, where we have to determine whether or not he actually dies. Is it a fake gun? (Side note, we know Sherlock can tell fake guns from real ones, so if it is fake, does Sherlock notice? Is it too quick, too startling for him?) One thing that could indicate it is a fake gun is the sound. When he raises the gun, there is a very odd spraying sound just before the shot. Listen:
Did you hear it? It could possibly be a knock-out drug like he used on the guard during the stealing of the crown jewels. There is a very similar spraying sound there. An unconscious Moriarty is less likely to make any eye-blinking, finger-twitching mistakes that could give him away. However, he would still be breathing, and if Sherlock had bothered to check (he didn’t though, which says he must have been pretty convinced he was dead, or just really panicked), there would still be a pulse. If he did spray a drug into his mouth, it would have to do more than just knock him out. It would have to reduce his breathing and pulse to almost nothing.
Referenced in the episode is a plant called rhododendron ponticum.
It was on the shoes of the man who kidnapped the children. Rhododendron ponticum contains a toxin called grayanotoxin which causes extremely low blood pressure. I have seen a lot of theories (regarding Sherlock, actually, not Moriarty) which suggest that Sherlock used this to stop his pulse. As we know now, he used the rubber ball to stop his pulse. But could this be what Moriarty used?
No, I don’t believe so. After researching grayanotoxin, I found out that what most theorists failed to mention is that along with low blood pressure, this toxin induces excessive salivation, perspiration, vomiting, dizziness, weakness, and loss of coordination. The toxin can also take a few minutes to three hours to come into effect, whereas for either man to fake their death, it would have needed to work immediately. Rhododendron ponticum is not the answer.
I searched for hours to see if I could find a similar toxin, and the closest I found was Tetrodotoxin. Not only does this slow your heartbeat, but it also stops your breathing. But this isn’t it either. It takes 30 minutes to 4 hours to work fully, and until that point, the victim experiences increasing paralysis, difficulty in speaking and loss of coordination, nausea, and mental impairment. I went over several similar toxins online, and nothing reacts quickly or doesn’t have severe side effects.
As far as I can see, Moriarty did not drug himself. (The spray sound before the gun makes this confusing. Possibly, he is taking a deep breath, or his arm rubs against his suit? I suppose we will find out in ??? years.) Why would he want to anyway? As we already established above, he was ready to die. I believe that he really is dead.
“Alright then, Bailey,” you might say, “what about this?”
“He has to be alive!”
Not necessarily. I don’t really believe that Moriarty is the type of person to fake his own death, and then stay in hiding for over two years. He would get too bored. Even Sherlock couldn’t hold back completely, as we saw in Many Happy Returns. Also, we don’t actually have any live footage of him. The gif is a still snapshot with his chin digitally made to go up and down in a teasing way, and the voice is very altered. It could be anyone’s voice. The clip at the end of the credits of His Last Vow doesn’t count either, as Moffat told us in an interview that it was for the viewers only, and not part of the episode. (Not that we can trust him, necessarily. He has lied before, and I’m sure he will again.) So who is projecting Moriarty’s face to all of England?
It could be…
He has just been sent off to what will almost surely end in his death. Rigging this dramatic trick could prevent him from having to go, and keep him in London. I don’t think this one is it though. He seemed so emotional about having to leave during the previous scene, and if he knew that he was going to do this, that would make it all fake. I just really don’t want to believe that.
Mycroft might do it for a similar reason – so his brother won’t have to go. Though he sometimes seems a bit uncaring, he really does love his brother, and his loss would crush him. He does have a lot of power, and setting it up might not be too hard for him. But would he go that far? Once it is revealed to be a fake, what would happen to his name?
– A new villain
What a better way to scare the people of England than by bringing back the face of the man who caused so much terror just a few years back. Everyone knows that face, and he could easily hide behind it for a while, as everyone is already gripped by it. It is much easier to steal someone else’s name than to spend time trying to make one for yourself.
What do you all think? Is my theory nothing but baloney, or did it make at least some sense? What’s your theory on Moriarty?
And for the record, Moriarty, yes, I did miss you. I’m pretty sure you’re dead, but if you’re not, I can’t say I’ll be too disappointed.