How Moriarty’s Death Ruined BBC’s Sherlock

This article mentions suicide.


  • Andrew Scott’s portrayal of Moriarty brought a captivating blend of unpredictable energy and chilling calmness to the character, making him even more memorable.
  • Moriarty’s early death in Sherlock compromised the show’s uniqueness and intensity, as it prematurely concluded the intriguing dance between Moriarty and Sherlock.
  • The attempts to replace Moriarty with new antagonists, such as Magnussen and Eurus, fell short of recapturing the captivating and unpredictable nature of Moriarty’s character.

Sherlock‘s Moriarty (Andrew Scott) is one of the best TV villains, but his early death totally ruined the BBC series. Professor James Moriarty has long been entrenched in the Sherlock Holmes canon as the detective’s greatest adversary. Introduced by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as the “Napoleon of Crime,” Moriarty challenges Holmes’ intellect and embodies the moral antithesis of everything the detective stands for. The intricate balance of evil genius and counterpart to Holmes has rendered Moriarty not just another villain, but a key figure in literature and TV. And Scott’s portrayal of Moriarty in Sherlock took the iconic character to new heights.

Infusing the character with an unpredictable blend of manic energy and chilling calm, Scott added layers to Moriarty that made him even more formidable and captivating. His portrayal was a combination of sinister intentions, a razor-sharp intellect, and a twisted sense of humor. Given his rich historical and dramatic backdrop, the demise of Scott’s Moriarty in Sherlock was a blow that resonated deeply with fans. The dramatic twist of his exit might have aimed for shock value. However, his death was one of many reasons Sherlock stopped being great after season 2, as it compromised what made the show stand out in the first place.

Moriarty Dies In The Sherlock Season 2 Finale

Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes and Andrew Scott as Jim Moriarty on a rooftop in Sherlock's

The Sherlock season 2 finale was nothing short of cinematic brilliance. The end of “The Reichenbach Fall” saw both Sherlock and Moriarty drawn to the St. Batholomew’s Hospital rooftop — and a confrontation that changed the course of the series followed. Moriarty meticulously executed a plan that painted Sherlock as a fraud, turning the public, press, and police against him. This masterstroke wasn’t just an assault on Sherlock’s reputation; it was a deeply personal attack aimed at breaking his spirit. As they met on the rooftop, the two adversaries engaged in a psychological battle of wits, laying bare their mutual obsession with one another.

And then, in a shocking twist, Moriarty took his own life. His rationale was both chilling and brilliant: by killing himself, he believed he had ensured Sherlock’s own death, either at the hands of his snipers targeting Sherlock’s close friends or by pushing Sherlock to jump off the building. The genius of this finale was not just in the suspense and the mind games, but also in the emotional depth. Sherlock’s desperation, Moriarty’s manic satisfaction, and the sheer hopelessness of the situation made it one of the most talked-about episodes on television. However, Moriarty’s death was bittersweet, as it inadvertently set the stage for the show’s decline.

Moriarty’s Death Happened Too Soon In Sherlock

Andrew Scott as Moriarty looking menacing in Sherlock

Moriarty’s death in Sherlock season 2 prematurely concluded the dance between two of television’s most engaging characters. The void left by Moriarty’s exit was not just a narrative challenge; it was also a question of how the show would retain its intensity without its most formidable antagonist. Moriarty was the perfect foil to Sherlock, challenging him both intellectually and emotionally. By the end of season 2, Moriarty had firmly established himself as the main villain of the series. As a result, the following seasons of Sherlock ultimately felt way less consequential.

The choice to kill Moriarty off so early in the series was perplexing, especially given the rich history and potential for future confrontations between the two adversaries. The deep and complex relationship between the two characters had just begun to be explored, and Moriarty’s abrupt end left much of that potential untapped. After all, Moriarty and Sherlock only really had two proper confrontations in the series, the first of which was extremely short in the Sherlock season 1 finale. While Moriarty’s character was brilliantly deranged and calculating, so much of his background, motivations, and vulnerabilities were never examined.

Sherlock’s Moriarty Replacements Failed

Lars Mikkelsen as Charles Magnussen in his mind palace in Sherlock

Moriarty’s death ruined two major Sherlock villains, as the show attempted to introduce new antagonists to fill the void he left behind. Magnussen, the news magnate with a mind palace memory, and Eurus, Sherlock’s genius but unstable sister, were among the characters introduced as potential replacements. While both had unique quirks and attributes, neither could truly replace Moriarty’s captivating and unpredictable nature. Magnussen, although portrayed as a formidable and sinister figure, lacked the chaotic energy and charm that Scott’s Moriarty brought to the screen. His confrontations with Sherlock didn’t showcase the psychological depth Moriarty’s battles with Sherlock had.

Eurus, on the other hand, introduced a family dynamic to Sherlock’s world, and her prodigious intellect made her a worthy adversary. However, her storyline often felt convoluted, and the emotional stakes, while high, felt forced. They couldn’t recapture the simple yet intense rivalry that existed between Sherlock and Moriarty. The introduction of Eurus also led to a lack of verisimilitude, as it didn’t make sense that Sherlock’s sister wasn’t mentioned or even subtly referenced in the previous three seasons. The personal vendettas, the history, and the sheer theatrics Moriarty brought to his confrontations with Sherlock were totally lacking with both Eurus and Magnussen.

Even Sherlock’s showrunners were aware that the shadow of Moriarty loomed large over subsequent seasons, as the beloved villain was even teased at the end of season 3. Moriarty appeared on screens across London, sending ripples of excitement through the fandom. However, while it suggested the tantalizing possibility that the mastermind might have faked his death, the return was more in spirit than in person. The posthumous games and videos left behind by Moriarty served more as a nod to fans than a continuation of his reign of terror. These glimpses, while evoking nostalgia, couldn’t fully recapture Moriarty’s presence in the first two Sherlock seasons.

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