Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows Ending, Explained

In Guy Ritchie‘s 2011 treatment of the master detective, ‘Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,’ a little bromance goes a long way. Although based on the classic snoop brought to life by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Guy Ritchie paints the tale with his own quirk. In the period piece detective thriller movie, Holmes faces his arch-nemesis, James Moriarty, a shady professor and author who seeks to orchestrate a war in Europe.

From London to Paris to Heilbronn and Reichenbach, the story constructs a cat-and-mouse chase while the enigma of the professor always remains in the shadows. Robert Downey Jr. essays the central role with an edge, while Jude Law, Stephen Fry, and Jared Harris accompany him on the journey. The final moments are confusing, to say the least, even for the fans of the books. If you seek to decode the finale, allow us to indulge. SPOILERS AHEAD.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows Plot Synopsis

The story takes us to the year 1891, as Dr. John Watson documents another extraordinary achievement of Holmes. There is widespread political turmoil, and Germany and France are at loggerheads. People blame anarchists or nationalists, while Holmes has an entirely different theory behind the orchestration of war. Amidst bombing in Strasbourg, Irene Adler picks up a parcel, taking it to Dr. Hoffmanstahl for delivery.

After taking care of the four feisty goons (one of them submissive), Holmes ends up at the auction house to intervene in Irene and the doctor’s meeting. The parcel contains a stick of dynamite, and meanwhile, there is a fire in the house. While people evacuate the premises, Holmes takes the dynamite into the Egyptian coffin box (that he buys for a million pounds) and contains the explosion. He comes out to see Dr. Hoffmanstahl dead, while Irene does not keep her promise to meet Holmes.

Watson visits the house of 22B Baker Street to find Holmes deep in his camouflage and revival potion research. Watson takes a moment to discover Holmes, who confides in the former about the involvement of Professor James Moriarty in disparate assassination and bombing events. After ruining Watson’s stag party and throwing Mary, Watson’s newlywed wife, into the river, Holmes and Watson head to Paris to learn more about Moriarty and his evil machinations.

Sherlock Holmes A Game of Shadows Ending: What Is in Moriarty’s Diary? Is Moriarty Dead or Alive?

The enigma of Professor Moriarty connects a scandal involving an Indian tobacco tycoon, the overdose of a Chinese opium trader, bombings in Strasbourg and Vienna, and the death of an American steel magnate. By profession, Moriarty is a mathematical genius, an author, and a lecturer. At the same time, he is a boxing champion, an ex-Cambridge alumnus, and friends with the prime minister.

On the night of Watson’s stag party, Mycroft tells them about the possibility of him visiting a peace summit at Reichenbach. In Paris, Holmes and Watson come across another spectacle, although there remains little evidence to tie it to Moriarty. Former British army Colonel Sebastian Moran, Moriarty’s trusted subordinate, shoots Alfred Meinhard, the owner of a gun manufacturing company. Meanwhile, the bombing covers up the assassination by making it look like Germany’s retaliation for the bombing in Strasbourg.

Following the incident, the unrest between the two countries reaches its zenith, while Holmes, Watson, and tarot reader Madam Simza head to Meinhard’s factory in Heilbronn. After the inconvenient detour (complete with an encounter with German soldiers), Holmes deduces that there is no better place to start a war than a peace summit. Reasoning thus, they reach Reichenbach, Switzerland. In Reichenbach, Holmes confronts Moriarty, who seems to be plotting a war. He has created a supply chain by usurping the production line of bandages and firearms.

Meanwhile, Moriarty hopes that a “World War” would create the demand for what he has to offer. Although, Holmes also infers that Moriarty has faked most of his genius persona, looking at some discrepancies. For example, Moriarty has ‘The Art of Domestic Horticulture’ in his possession. But oddly enough, he rarely tends after the flowers in his office. The book is also essential since it is a companion piece to Moriarty’s red diary, which holds information about his secret accounts in London.

After picking it up in the hotel’s lobby in Paris, Holmes sends the journal to his brother, Mycroft. With some help from Mary and Mycroft, Inspector Lestrade hunts down Moriarty’s secret stash. When Moriarty looks in his pockets, he finds an identical diary. Opening it leads him to the message, “Be careful what you fish for,” since Moriarty is fishing for war. Both Holmes and Moriarty speculate on ways to overpower the enemy. However, Holmes seems weaker following the incident in Heilbronn.

In the end, Sherlock and Moriarty fall into what is supposedly the Reichenbach Falls. It looks as if Moriarty dies in the encounter. In the books, too, ‘The Final Problem’ marks the end of Moriarty. Although Doyle brought Holmes back from the dead, he chose not to reverse Moriarty’s death. Therefore, when Moriarty appeared in the later novel ‘The Valley of Fear,’ Doyle had to place the story before ‘The Final Problem.’

What Is the Package That Watson Receives in The End?

Towards the end of the movie, Watson is finishing his story following the presumed death of Sherlock. Mary and Watson are finally going to Brighton, hoping this time they will reach the destination in one piece. While Watson is morose, Mary says that she misses Sherlock as well, in her way. Watson thinks that Sherlock would be happy for them to go on their honeymoon.

However, Mary concludes that Sherlock would want to go with them. We have seen the extent of the bond between the doctor and the detective. Mary’s assertion, therefore, may have some truth. Then comes a package, and looking at the content, Watson suspects that his friend is still alive.

The package contains Mycroft’s oxygen inhaler, whose effect Holmes found “most invigorating” at Watson’s stag party. Only Watson would know that Holmes tried to get his hands on Mycroft’s oxygen supply as an inside joke. Consequentially, the sight of the device makes Watson believe that Holmes is still alive. Then, to the audience’s dismay, Holmes comes out of his camouflage in the chair.

Is Holmes Dead or Alive? How Does Holmes Survive the Fall?

If you can believe your own eyes in the final sequence, you will know that Holmes is alive and kicking, even after the fall from the peace summit venue in Reichenbach. As Watson leaves the room, Holmes comes out of his disguise. After making a silent treaty with Watson’s dog Gladstone, Holmes eyes the freshly written ending of the story, putting a question mark after “The End.” However, the real question should be how Holmes survives the fall.

In the original 1893 story, ‘The Final Problem,’ Doyle intended to kill Sherlock. He thought that the popularity of the detective was keeping him from more serious literary endeavors. Upon facing backlash from the fans, Doyle had to revive the hero, who appeared again in ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles.’ However, the movie, like its precursor, does not follow the actual occurrences of the original material. As opposed to the story, Watson perceives the fall. The camera even takes us out of the window and down to the river to make sure that we acknowledge the death of Holmes. As the books later explain, while Moriarty died in the encounter, Holmes was saved by a ledge.

Holmes had another meeting with rogue marksman Col. Sebastian Moran during the escapade. He eventually evaded Moran, going on a sprawling tour across Europe and Asia. However, as the movie makes the fall a bit too definitive, we wonder about the means of his revival. But if the depiction of the fall manifests Watson’s imagination, a situation similar to the books may have been acted out. In another theory, Holmes reserved a dose of the revival elixir that he extracted from the adrenal glands of sheep, injecting it into his body just before the impact.

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