First off: I love this show. Even though I knew exactly what was going to happen, and more or less how it was going to happen, and what it was going to do to me, and how I should prepare myself - despite all that, it still has the power to break my fucking heart. Oh, John.
I love this show. Despite its dismal inability to spark initial tension (the start of the "Sherlock is a fake! Sherlock is a kidnapper!" thing was just weak. After all the batshit, impossible deductions Sherlock has made, the fact that he tracked down a kidnapper and his victims from the remains of a shoe print with methods I think I've seen on an episode of Bones is supposed to be the one step too far? I mean, I'll grant you that the speed with which he did it, and the methods which he used, were unconventional (as he said, the police generally don't operate on tips bribed from homeless people), were remarkable, but impossible? No.
And the sowing of doubt in Sherlock himself: one word from Sgt. Donovan and the entire department suddenly believes Sherlock's a maniac? Really? And we're supposed to believe that all this time, Lestrade's been using Sherlock's talents secretly, without permission? Really?
Aside: I hate that I hate Donovan. I do. But from the beginning she has been written as "that bitch who's mean to Sherlock," who has clearly been written, in this episode, as the consistent doubter who casts doubt. Boring. Boring. And with her constantly casting doubt, why in the world would this be the one time people listen? I just, I want her to be likeable. More specifically, I want her to have some likeable qualities. Or qualities at all, if she's going to be used as such an important prop. I want her to be written as a person beyond "that bitch who hates Sherlock," because that's boring, and it's bad writing, and that makes me angry when the rest of the damned episode was so great.
Second Aside: And then there was the other bitch who hated Sherlock: the lady reporter, whose only purpose in the episode was to creep on Sherlock, and then to say mean things about him in the newspaper, and then say mean things about him to his face. God, don't even get me started. But I could have let the reporter go if there had been even a line's worth of effort put into making Sally Donovan look like a human in all nine hours of this show so far.
Okay, I'm done. Onwards.
First thoughts: obviously, the most important thing in this episode, as evidenced by the first scene being about John being sad Sherlock is gone, is that John and Sherlock are MFEO and the writers want us to know this. Duh. I expect at least seventy fics to this effect by morning, Internets. I need something to do at work when I'm not doing actual work (which let's be honest, is most of the time).
Let us take a moment to flail and squee over the delightful, heretofore unbelievable levels of slashiness present in this episode, in no particular order:
-John and Sherlock running through London holding hands.
-John worries about Sherlock's image.
-John tells off Mycroft for not being as good a brother as John is a boyfriend.
-Even Mean Lady Reporter asks if John and Sherlock are only platonic friends.
-"You only look sad when you think he can't see you." (I ♥ you, Molly.)
-The fucking episode led off with John talking about how much he missed Sherlock.
-I have run out of bullets. But there is so much more.
Also, when Sherlock directed Moriarty to sit down in their flat, and he pointed towards John's chair, my first thought was: "John is going to be so pissed."
Clearly, Sherlock had this pretty carefully planned. From "Molly, I need a favour." So, that's one person who was in on it: Molly. I suspect she may also have been the one to make the phone call re: Mrs. Hudson, but that could have been anyone, really.
Third aside: what I love - the fact that while I now think Sherlock's entire side of the rooftop showdown was staged, he actually meant every word of it. He can play James Moriarty and still be having Serious Emotional Moments. Because he is Sherlock Fucking Holmes, obviously. He multitasks.
The roomie and I have been talking about this for half an hour, after going through the jump scene seven or fifteen times in slow-motion. I'm still not totally sure about the process from rooftop to ground, but I have a few theories. Our initial thoughts were:
(a) The simplest: Sherlock jumped and hit the ground - the building looks like only three or four floors; potentially survivable? But I have trouble believing Sherlock would risk his precious, precious brain on such an endeavour.
(b) Sherlock jumped, but didn't hit the ground. We see him jump, as does John. But it seems John's view is obscured by a building and a truck; Sherlock would have been lost to view before he actually hit.
(c) Tangent to (b): Sherlock jumped, somehow slowed his descent or landed somewhere else, safely, and then arranged himself to be found. (My money is on the truck, which looked like it was full of garbage bags. I have no trouble believing he could survive a fall into the truckbed.)
(d) Weird alternate to (b): Sherlock jumped off the roof, but what actually hit the ground was Moriarty. Otherwise, how so much blood? Moriarty was then whisked away and swapped for the real Sherlock, who was then whisked away by well-meaning St. Bart's staff.
(e) See (c), plus everyone on the street was in on it. This depends a lot on who else was involved in the conspiracy. I believe that his three Important People - John, Mrs. Hudson, and Lestrade (How much do I love that Lestrade was included?) - are clueless, we know Molly is involved. I don't know how much control Molly has over the random passers-by of London (this theory works better if Mycroft also knows, because I have no difficulty at all envisioning Mycroft being able to replace an entire street's worth of random civilians with his own agents), but Sherlock definitely arranged John's view of the incident; was very, very specific about where he wanted John standing, what John saw. Consider this:
Obviously Sherlock was on the ground when John got there. John would never have believed he was dead if he couldn't see his face, touch him - and note that the helpful passers-by so carefully pried away John's hands as he tried to take a pulse. Were these agents of Mycroft's? Cleaned-up members of Sherlock's homeless network? (I tried to get a closer look at the people loading Sherlock onto the gurney, but I couldn't spot any dead-giveaway inconsistencies in dress, etc.) Or indeed just civilians? I find that hard to believe.
The cyclist was there to slow John down - and incidentally, to fuck with the viewer's perception of time. How long did it actually take John to reach him? It's hard to say, with the slow-motion camera and the fact that John had just smacked his head on the ground and on top of that, was probably in shock.
And as I am writing this, in walks the roomie to repeat back to me something I walked into the living room to say ten minutes ago:
"Moriarty must have had a Sherlock mask."
So was it Sherlock at all? Ever? Molly works in the morgue. So it all comes doen to how far back it goes: how long ago did Sherlock start planning this? Realize it would come to this? Probably ages ago. At least as far back as the little girl screaming when she saw his face.
Plenty of time to get another Sherlock mask made and applied to a corpse from the morgue of his approximate height, weight and build.
Excuse me: I need to go re-watch the last scene and see if there was an open window out which Molly could have tipped the corpse.
ETA: Plenty of windows, at the right spot, even. Also: one more point in the column of Everyone On The Street Was In On It: would half a dozen real medical professionals leave a man who'd just collapsed in shock (John) alone on the street just because he held up his hands and went "no, I'm fine"? (This may just have been the camera angle, but.)