The second season of Moriarty the Patriot is one of the most pleasant viewings surprises of my life. What started out as a bishonen cat and mouse game, based on the most famous fictional detective, turned out to be a wonderful meditation on the archetypal myth of The Scapegoat!! While the first season played with the idea that there is good and evil and they are strictly defined, the second season shows just how gray most of the characters, just like your average person, are.
Let’s start with the titular Moriarty, William. In the first season he was portrayed as a vengeful antagonist, looking to destroy society as it was then. But that is just a persona. William fully believes that the only thing that can unite his society is a common enemy and he is ready to become that enemy. He will enrage and scare the society. That will bond them together. Their unified forces will hunt him down, kill him, and out of the ashes of the chaos he has created a new, better society will raise. William had his absolutely loyal crew, and his plan seemed perfect. But what he didn’t factor in, was the humanity of his crew. All of them love him, care for him, and are in awe of him for the sacrifice he is about to make. But they are also scared to lose him, unwilling to part with a person who is such a fundamental force and presence in their lives. To save him, they betray him.
There are some parallels of William with the Nietzchian Ubermensh. He is a character that can and is ready to explode the status quo of his time, rise above the conventions and laws and create a New Order. But he is still human, all too human. William has done horrible and evil things, but is not evil. He is just a pragmatist. His solution to the Trolley Problem is to sacrifice the one for the many. Or in this case, himself and a bunch of corrupt to their bone marrow aristocrats, for a new and better world. All of this takes a huge tool on him. In a scene, that mirrors Jesus at the Garden of Getsemony, he in his way wonders if this is the right way. Later on in his confession he says that he struggles to live with all that he has done, and wishes for a quick death. William is more light than darkness, even with all the things he has done.
One thing that bothered me about his plan was the direction. William focuses exclusively on the people in his society and ignores the institutions and customs that made them who they are. He focuses and thinks that the titles they carry themselves are what turned them into selfish monsters, but the truth is much more complex. His approach is destined to leave a trail of bloodthirsty revenge by all those who are left behind. The show is aware of that and we get a few great scenes of children promising revenge upon William for the deaths of their parents.
But then again, if we look at the final few episodes, the revolution seems like a success. Every single member of society is working as one to repair the trail of ash that was left behind by Moriarty and the fire that struck London. Based on that I’m really fine with how the show ended, and really don’t see a reason for a third season.
Sherlock was supposed to be the other part of the spectrum, the light to William’s darkness. But he is also quite gray in this. Nothing encapsulates this more than his murder of Milverton, a deed that surprises everyone, even Milverton himself, the purest and most complete portrayal of evil in this show. Sherlock, even if he is mostly motivated by his sense of right and wrong, need for justice, still manages to worry about his own interests. He wants to save William, and for obvious reasons. Being a genius can be a lot of things, but it is definitely lonely. You go through life with so few moments where you are truly understood or challenged. In William, Sherlock has finally found a mirror image of himself and is eager to keep him around, to ward off the ghosts of loneliness past. The show also had quite the fun, alternative history revelation about Sherlock and his family. In the lore of the show, Robespierre was an English secret agent and the plot of the French Revolution was an English secret experiment to see how the shift from monarchy to democracy would go. Sherlock’s brother, and many other of his ancestors’ lead MI6, as a sort of way to atone for the sins of Robespierre, their distant ancestor.
There are two characters who come very close to being entirely good, completely the beings of light. One succeeds, the other falls short. The first one of these is John Watson, Sherlock’s friend and partner. Watson is a true friend and good person. He always puts the needs of others first, and shows empathy to others without looking at what he might gain from them. When Sherlock kills Milverton he is enraged and disappointed with the deed.
Adam Whitley is the other character that approaches pure good, but society and pressure get to him. Whitley is a politician who wants to take away power from the Lords and give more power to the commons. But once Milverton gets hired to kidnap Whitley’s brother, the “White Knight” as the people nicknamed him is given a test he couldn’t come out of with clean hands. Alan Moore in the Joker wonders if everyone just needs one horrible day to turn into a mindless villain. When pushed to his limits, Whitley has two extreme sides, which is brilliantly portrayed by shots of his face, half clean, half covered with blood.
The only thing that I just slightly didn’t like was the whole Bonde thing. I don’t mind that they have a extremely beautiful, confident, charismatic and competent woman playing Bond. My issue is that the timing doesn’t really fit. I’m a literature geek and there is like 50 years difference between Bond and Sherlock homes.
Apart from that, this is a masterpiece of a tv show, with surprising layers upon layers.