I admit I’m a bit late to the BBC Sherlock scene.
I’ve heard bits and pieces about it before, how it was an amazing show and that the actors were brilliant in every scene they were in. And being familiar with both Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman’s film work (both were brilliant in their most recent films, Star Trek: Into Darkness and The Hobbit), I decided to check the show out. I’ve loved other BBC shows like Dr. Who and Robin Hood and figured Sherlock would be just as great.
So I went to YouTube. I watched a few trailers and scenes released for show promotion. I also read viewer comments. And the one thing I heard over and over was how brilliant the series two finale “The Reichenbach Fall” was. It got me intrigued seeing such a positive audience reaction, so I ordered both DVDs and decided to check the series out.
I wasn’t disappointed. Series one and series two were both well done and I’d honestly put the show as one of the best I’ve seen in a long time. But then I saw the ending to the Reichenbach episode.
(Spoiler alert! If you haven’t seen the episode, note that some spoilers are below!)
I didn’t expect the show-down between Sherlock and Moriarty to be so intense. It was a battle of the brains in which both players lost (or so it had seemed). Moriarty died by his own hand to basically force Sherlock to jump off a building to save the people he cared about. And Sherlock jumped-of course after a good-bye phone conversation with Watson that was both beautiful and heartbreaking. The hero died in front of his best friend and the audience was left wondering-“Is this how it ends?”
But then there’s the funeral. There was Watson and Mrs. Hudson grieving at Sherlock’s grave site and Watson left asking for one last miracle, for his best friend to be alive.
And before the episode ended, I saw Sherlock-alive and well-standing in the distance watching everything play out.
By the time the credits started rolling, I had one question in my mind.
How did Sherlock survive that fall?!
I’ve been fortunate that the answer to that question will come soon with the arrival of Series 3. But for many fans who saw the episode as it premiered, they were left with a cliffhanger– an ending that leaves a part of the plot unresolved until the story continues-and they were going to have to wait for the answer longer than a few months. It would be practically a year.
For many fans and audience members, stories that end with cliffhangers can seem dreadful as we are left wondering what, how, when, or why about a specific plot point or character. Audiences analyze, debate, discuss and dissect every bit of information from the cliffhanger just to figure out what happens next in the story. For some, this is the fun part in the wait, but for most, having to wait is the worst idea of fun one could think of. Audiences often say they don’t like the cliffhanger simply because it drives them nuts having to wait (so long…) for the answer.
So why do storytellers use them?
I think the answer varies between storytellers. I’m sure some will say they use cliffhangers simply to play with the audience. Some may add them because it adds to the plot. Some may add them just because there’s nothing else in the story that will fit.
For me, however, a main reason for cliffhangers can be found with my (and other’s) reaction to the Reichenbach episode.
After the episode aired, I searched for fan comments and opinions, wanting to know their theories on how Sherlock survived. I researched the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle story that the episode was based on, just to find a clue. I also planned that I would watch the series 3 premiere of Sherlock no matter what so I could finally find out how that brilliant detective faked his death.
In other words, the cliffhanger had me invested in the show. It made me want to watch it even more, despite the fact that being left with such a cliffhanger drove me nuts wondering how it was done. This isn’t to say this is the reason the writers of Sherlock put the cliffhanger in there-who knows what the reason was. It was just how they wrote it. But for me, this was the effect of the cliffhanger on myself. It made me want to hear more of what happened next and it allowed me to connect with other fans to discuss the show. It promoted a greater love for the story and a tighter community with the audience.
So when series three does air, I (along with so many other Sherlock fans) will finally have our answer as to how Sherlock survived.
And then the question will be-who’s prediction on how Sherlock survived was right? 🙂