I see that Moriarty has raised his hoary head in yet another Sherlock Holmes adaptation, and that therefore the series is almost certain to go to go off the rails. A pity, because I was getting to like it.
It’s all very well to do Sherlock Holmes, even modern adaptations of Sherlock Holmes. (My favorite is “House.”) But sooner or later the writers feel obliged to introduce Professor Moriarty, and then everything collapses.
The problem is that Moriarty has to come up with a plot so complex, so outrageous, so baroque that only Sherlock Holmes could possibly solve it. And that’s where it always fails.
Conan Doyle had better sense. Moriarty appeared in only two stories, and his nefarious plots were never described. He was the Napoleon of Crime, though perhaps the Tony Soprano of London might be more to the mark. He behaved more or less as might a Mafia chieftain— a character who united the underworld under his leadership, and did not shy from violence. This wasn’t totally impossible, as the careers of Jonathan Wild and Adam Worth would show. (The underworld was smaller in those days.)
But that’s where modern screenwriters go on the rocks. Having Holmes battle a mere crime lord would be boring. It’s the sort of thing he does all the time. Moriarty has to be what Inspector Clouseau would call a “mindermast.” He has to be so brilliant, and his plot so dazzling and intricate, that it would shake the world.
The problem is that screenwriters aren’t criminal masterminds of the caliber of James Moriarty. If anything, they’re more like Inspector Clouseau. Their plots are so baroque and crazed that they would never work in real life, are completely implausible even in cinema, and they usually fail to make any sense at all. Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows had plot that was completely off the hinges.
The British series “Sherlock” gave us Whiny Transatlantic Moriarty, who did not improve on his predecessors. His plot not only made no sense— “I’m going to pretend to have a universal hacking program, which doesn’t actually exist even though I’m shown using it!” — it conspicuously failed to make sense even when Sherlock tried to evade its consequences by throwing himself off a building in another scene that baffled comprehension.
Moriarty just drives screenwriters mad. That’s the only explanation.
And now Moriarty Madness is set to infect “Elementary.” Alas. Because the series was growing on me even though Lucy Liu is so botoxed that it looks as if she’s wearing some kind of Chinese opera mask.
Note that I mentioned my favorite Holmes adaptation was “House.” Possibly that’s because that while the writers afflicted House with all manner of enemies, arch and otherwise, they never gave put him up against the Napoleon of Infection Disease.
Good for them.