In one of the most ridiculous (and unplanned) twists in literary history, Sherlock Holmes fell to his death from the cliffs of the Reichenbach Falls, only to return two years later. Now, adaptations have to wrangle with the bizarre conundrum: How did he survive? Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was able to wave his hands and say that Holmes only appeared to fall- his fans accepted the explanation because they were the ones that wanted the character to have lived (Doyle would have preffered he remain dead).
Modern audiences are a little more jaded. We need details. We love plot twists, but only if they make sense. And with so many adaptations around, it only feels fair to compare them, right?
(Spoilers abound: Beware).
The Great Game is kne of the most amazing episodes ever written, you have to give it that. It's tense and thrilling from start to finish. Fans around the world were screaming through our tears when Sherlock threw his phone and jumped off the roof in 2010.
But when the show returned for season 3, were we satisfied? The series offered a few options to explain Sherlock's escape, from the Mission Impossible, to a secret relationship with Moriarty. There was, however, no forthright explantion. Especially after the showrunners promised one, the episode felt a little anticlimactic to me. And I wasn't pleased with the way I felt they dismissed slash fans. Was that just me?
CBS took a different approach with Sherlock's 'fall', making it metaphorcial instead of physical. Better yet, the idea was actually Joan's: she suggested that Sherlock fake a serious relapse and overdose to explot the feelings she was sure Moriary had for him, luring her into a trap. Not only did the ploy work on the villian, it worked on us. The show has been hinting at the possability of a relapse, making sure the audience knew that Sherlock's addiction was always looming over his head.
I absolutely ADORE the first season finale of Elementary. I felt like it captured the spirit of Doyle's original work, even though it's not a literal adaptation. But while a drug overdose is no joke, did it have the same narrative weight as the character's death in the original stories?
The Great Mouse Detective
I know it's a kids' movie, but this was a seriously scary adaptation. Sherlock is a tiny mouse being brutally attacked by a vicious rat. He's an intellectual hero, not a brawny one, and he seems powerless in the face of brute force. All hope seems lost. He defeats his foe, but they both end up falling (much like the original story). Just when we think our hero is gone for good, he rises.
Ok, so as brilliant as the animation and storytelling are in this version, I don't know if mice battling on Big Ben are the *best* adaptation. But doesn't it make you want to curl up in a ball and hide anyway?
Guy Ritchie- Game of Shadows
Aside from the Granada adaptation, this one comes the closest to the original stories. Holmes concludes that the only way to defeat Moriarty is mutually assured destruction. Because of this, he pulls the villain over the edge of the falls with him. (If you swipe left you can see the full scene).
I think this one is the strongest in terms of closeness to the original text and character motivation. It makes sense that Moriarty would win in a one-on-one fight, and it makes sense that Holmes takes the only other option. The fact that he lives is a little dubious, but we won't know how the films handle that (if they intend to at all) unless we get a third film. Which is why depsite how much I love it, I wouldn't call it the best...
By titling the episode 'Everybody Dies' and hinting that House is considering suicide- the series finale of House prepared us for the worst. For a second, it seemed like the last of House we would ever see was a glimpse of him standing in a burning building, just before it collapsed.
Now there's no Moriary in this version- it's very clear that the villain is House himself. He is both protagonist and antagonist, an antihero and his own worst enemy. But the show managed to surprise us. The Guy Ritchie adaptation was thrilling- but it offered nothing new to old fans of the Sherlock stories. House offered a satisfying twist on an old... well, twist!
Part of me wonders if every adaptation will be living in the shadow of the original. Sure, fans of the show are rabid, but are we walking around with black arm bands, mourning the death of our hero? Are we writing him letters, asking him to solve our personal mysteries?
Maybe I'm wrong, and the best Reichenbach is the first one. Or maybe there's another adaptation in the works that will be even better!