I shouldn’t say this but I will: Moriarty, Sherlock Holmes’ meanest baddest adversary, is one of my favorite characters on television and film. I root for Sherlock too because he’s one step away from being the meanest baddest too, perhaps a mirror of Moriarty’s evil nature. So you ask, WHY?
Sherlock Holmes has become part of our modern mythology, much like the Greek gods and goddesses of ancient times. Moriarty is the twentieth and twenty-first century Hades, the Greek God of the underworld. Does it get more evil than Hades? Yup, Moriarty.
So can Moriarty be redeemed? I keep hoping so though I’ve seen many incarnations where he never comes back from the evil edge.
I’ve seen many incarnations on television. There’s the Moriarty in Star Trek: Next Generation. This Moriarty was not redeemed. Don’t remember? Take a look:
Being a sentient holographic image FOREVER is worse than death!
I gladly revisited Moriarty this weekend because of PBS’s Sherlock. Briefly, I went back mentally to the Sherlock Holmes in black and white films of the 1930s and 1940s starring Basil Rathbone, the more recent incarnation starring Robert Downey, Jr and the television show House loosely based on Holmes. All of the versions, except House who was actually a Sherlockian Moriarty, had their own glorious Moriarty. No happy ending . . . No redemption . . . At least for Moriarty.
I have to say though that PBS’s version has been the most compelling because this Moriarty is damaged, co-dependent, attention-seeking, and oh so crazy. He is Jim Moriarty. He’s the CRAZY uncle, the engine that drives the dysfunctional family; strangely, even in his nuttiness he’s missed when he skips the family BBQ.
I was hoping by the end of the second season of PBS’s Sherlock, that THIS Moriarty would be redeemed. Partly, because Moriarty’s co-dependency was fueled by Sherlock’s desperate need to have a sibling in which they mirrored one another’s sadness, mental illness, and brilliance. Ying and Yang, with Sherlock’s crazy Ying, one block from Jim’s nutty self-absorbed Yang.
And partly because I so wanted Moriarty to live on, to be redeemed even when I know in EVERY version of Sherlock vs. Moriarty that Moriarty has to go, I mean die. Don’t we all deserve redemption? Would it be the worst thing in the world to re-write some of the greatest mysteries written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle where the bad guy, where Jim Moriarty finds some grace, justification, and sanctification? I’m all for it.
Watch both seasons of Sherlock even though you know the answer. Season 1 is available on DVD. Sherlock is compelling TV.