Thank you so much! <3
The Final Problem. Well, canonically, you know it’s the name of the story in which Holmes and Moriarty plummet to their deaths at Reichenbach Falls. Doyle gave the story this title because he intended it to literally be Holmes’s final problem – his last case.
Jim mentions the final problem in The Reichenbach Fall. On the roof, he reveals it to be “staying alive.” I know a lot of fans thought this was a cop-out, but personally, I loved it for two reasons. First: it’s the kind of classic hero-villain trope that never gets old. Think Harry Potter. Neither can live while the other survives. That was certainly the case on the roof. Jim’s suicide ensured Sherlock’s suicide.
Except…it didn’t. When TRF ended with the reveal that Sherlock somehow survived, it appeared as though he’d bested Jim at the final problem. He lived, Jim died. But now we know Jim didn’t actually die. Neither Sherlock nor Jim went to the roof with any intention of committing suicide. They both worked out potential outcomes, and they both planned on getting out of any situation alive. They both won, but they both lost, because the final problem still hasn’t been solved.
Which brings me to the second reason I love the “staying alive” explanation: it proves there’s a long game going on. The writers knew all along they were bringing Jim back.
Basically, the final problem is endgame – just as Doyle intended it to be.So what is it exactly? Jim talked about it in TGG.
Kill you? No, don’t be obvious. I mean, I’m gonna kill you anyway some day. I don’t wanna rush it, though. I’m saving it up for something special. No-no-no-no-no. If you don’t stop prying, I’ll burn you. I will burn the heart out of you.
After TRF, we assumed Jim’s threats in TGG were about the fall – and certainly the fall was part of Jim’s “burn the heart out of you” plan. But he’s got so much more in store for Sherlock. He wasn’t lying when he said he doesn’t want to rush it.
Despite his on-screen absence, season three (particularly HLV) showed us just how much Jim is a part of Sherlock’s psyche. He is in there and he is fighting to take over – Sherlock has to chain the fucker up in a padded room in his mind palace. I am you, you’re me. There’s a reason that dialogue is repeated so much; part of Sherlock wants it to be true. That’s why, when he’s as emotionally devastated as he’s ever been after John’s wedding, he tries so hard to go psychopath – cold-hearted, cruel, treating his own life with disregard (case or no case, Sherlock is a former addict and knows full-well the dangers of turning to drugs again).
Jim wants to burn Sherlock’s heart out because it’s what keeps Sherlock on the side of the angels, what stops the two of them from truly being the same. He’s succeeding, too – while we can only speculate on how much of season three’s events can be attributed to Jim, we for sure know he hasn’t been idle since Reichenbach. At the end of HLV, we’re left with a Sherlock who is as heartbroken as can be. And while that obviously proves he has a heart, don’t forget how much changed between the end of TSoT and HLV – in one month’s time, Sherlock went from wearing his heart on his sleeve to attempting to burn it out himself.
So where will he be emotionally at the start of season four? Will he continue to selflessly sacrifice his own happiness for what is best (in his opinion) for John, or will that heartbreak cause another left turn? We can bet that Jim’s going to try to manipulate him into the latter. Pain. Heartbreak. Loss. Death. It’s all good.
In nine episodes, we see Sherlock fluctuate back and forth repeatedly, from cold to compassionate, sociopath to sappy drunk, colleague to best man. Heart or no heart.
John or James.
Hey, whaddaya know – we’re back to that choice again. Sherlock has verbalized it. He’s created two different personas for himself based on these two men.
But neither of those personas can live while the other survives. For Sherlock, this is the final problem.