What’s it about? William James Moriarty is a brilliant deductive mind, capable of solving any crime with the assistance of his two brothers. But rather than involve the police, William solves cases so that victims can have their revenge. An ordinary day’s work for a crime consultant.
Content Warning: Blood; child death; implied child sexual abuse.
In 1911, a young boy in New York sits absorbed in a copy of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventure of the Final Problem. We zoom in on the famous illustration of James Moriarty, Sherlock Holmes’ most famous foe who only actually appears in that one story but gets retconned into importance by a few things Doyle wrote later. It is then that we flash back in time to the 1890s, where we are informed that Moriarty was in fact cool, and a good guy, and (most importantly) hot.
In another, better universe, slightly to the left of ours, this is a series tailored exactly to my particular trash sensibilities. But in our current Hell Dimension, a nagging sense of lack pervades Moriarty’s premiere.
It doesn’t have the melodramatic homoeroticism of Descendants of Darkness, the bombastic ineptitude of Vatican Miracle Examiners, or even the traumatized gothic-ness of the first two seasons of Black Butler. To its credit, it’s also not displayed the same degree of smug disdain for its inspiration as Steven Moffat’s Sherlock, but I don’t give showrunners cookies for the meager achievement of “not eating your own shit.”
Most of the episode is concerned with William tracking down a child killer and implicit pedophile. Or rather, most of the episode is centered on William monologuing to his brother Louis (who is also his hyper-competent butler; I don’t make references to my shameful teenage self’s interests for no reason, dear reader) about the details of the murders for the benefit of the audience. In between, William and his other brother, Albert, visit various locales and speak cryptically to the persons therein, until at last William reveals his role as a vigilante.
I refer to them by their first names, you see, because his other brothers are also “James Moriarty,” which I would bet money here and now will somehow be key to an eventual reveal involving Mr. Holmes.
There is a certain mechanistic satisfaction to the proceedings once William actually confronts the killer and sets him on the run, and the show relies on tried-and-true representational visual tricks during the monologues to keep the show from devolving into a shot-reverse-shot slog.
I would be lying to you if I said I did not feel a petty glee as the episode crescendoed with the murder of a pedophile. Of course I did. The only way the show could’ve scored an easier emotional win would be if it showed the killer kicking a puppy into the machinery of a nearby textile mill.
Yes, Moriarty the Patriot is terribly competent, and that is its greatest failing. It is lurid without commitment and restrained without emotional insight, going through the motions of its genre with no soul to call its own.
My early, hopeful giggles as the screen lingered on red-filtered imagery of ominous statues was quickly stifled by the show’s insistence on highlighting the victims’ surviving relatives—and yet, it dashed so quickly through the perfunctory motions denoting grief (the better to show a new way in which the brothers Moriarty might be Very Cool) that I was equally unable to sincerely engage with the story. By the time we reached the Really Makes You Think reveal about Moriarty’s illegal activities, I had nothing in me but a monotonous, “‘kay.”
I have no idea why I’m expected to watch another episode. Like The Millionaire Detective, it sinks a great deal into the assumption that “Boys Hot” will be enough to bring you back for more without imbuing the aesthetically pleasing meatsacks with any real personality.
While hardcore fans of limply goth Victorian aesthetic might find enough bang for their buck on the visuals alone (I’d be lying if I said morbid curiosity won’t wring at least one more out of me), this show has one hell of an uphill climb to keep from being utterly forgettable.
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