The Crime Consultant will see you now.
What’s the Story?
It’s the late 19th century and the British Empire is at the height of its power, though that power is not spread equally among its people. The nobility of the Upper Class hold all the sway and often look down upon the poor Working Class that make up the rest of the population. They think they can get away with anything, but a man walks through the thick London fog to show them otherwise. If you’re frustrated, if you’re a victim of those who call themselves your betters, why not seek out the Crime Consultant? With a mind as sharp as Sherlock Holmes and a dozen fiendish schemes to put into motion, William James Moriarty is here to cleanse the British Empire and bring the Upper Class down to their knees.
Every villain is the hero of their story, but how do you make sure that your audience roots for even the most morally dubious protagonist? Well, in the case of Moriarty the Patriot, you give him an even bigger evil to fight and, in Victorian England, what greater evil is there than the Upper Class? I kid, of course, this series takes a very skewed view of the ‘social elite’ depicting the majority of them as murdering lunatics able to get away with whatever they want. This isn’t a new depiction of people in power, looking at anime alone I could list a hundred series off the top of my head that have similar portrayals of nobility. It makes for some fairly one-note villains and a very black and white depiction of the time period.
The evils of the Upper Class in this series is just an excuse, a mechanic to make us root for Moriarty and his band of murderous allies. We all love an underdog and, generally, hate people who abuse their power so why wouldn’t we side with the person fighting to avenge the little guy, even if he’s resorting to murder to do it. The crimes are so outrageous and over the top that there’s this sense of catharsis when Moriarty finally dishes out the just deserts, and he looks so damn cool doing it. Now, I’ll never condone murder as the solution to, well, anything, but Moriarty is just so charming and charismatic it’s hard not to get pulled into his orbit. Of course it helps that this series just oozes style and atmosphere, making every frame of it a joy to watch. From the heavy shadows and smog-filled streets of London to the bright and sunny English countryside, every location and venue in this story looks great, even if it’s completely idealised. Add on some fantastic music to accompany the series and we’ve got ticks in pretty much every box.
Of course this being a Sherlock Holmes spin off, I also have to judge this series as a mystery and I think there too it also gains itself another tick in the box. Most of the cases presented in this first season (or first half of the season depending on how you look at it) are fairly simple, the majority of them having only a single episode to state their cases in, but they all work. Each case, or murder, is engagingly told and its fun to catch glimpses of all the different pieces before Moriarty, or another character I’ll get to in a minute, sits back and puts them all together for us. You get a real sense of Moriarty’s intelligence and his observational skills, there wasn’t often that I thought he was pulling an answer out of thin air. It’s more like watching a master craftsman slowly work on a piece, before stepping back to reveal the finished article. It’s just a shame he doesn’t have a proper match for his intellect until we get to that other character.
Speaking of which, what good is Moriarty without the perpetual thorn in his side, Sherlock Holmes? Part of me thinks some people are going to be upset by the change that comes over this series about halfway through, but personally it just gave me more reasons to watch this show. If all you’re after from this series is to see Moriarty murdering people then it’s probably best to stop at episode 7, because that’s where we introduce the illustrious Mr. Holmes and after that this show is his (it’s also where the cases move to two-parters which I greatly enjoyed). Now it’s not as if Moriarty disappears from the series, but the dynamic shifts with the introduction of Holmes and to me that’s really interesting. This series’ interpretation of their dynamic is with Moriarty as the grand puppet master, using Holmes to help him expose the crimes of all the rotten nobles he’s targeting. Not that this version of Holmes would mind all that much if he knew, he might argue against the method but he really just wants a puzzle to solve.
I do really like this version of Holmes, Watson and Mrs. Hudson. Honestly I wouldn’t mind a series with just them solving cases. There’s a great deal of chemistry between them all and Holmes himself is even more fun than Moriarty, for me at least. I’m interested to see where this story is going to go next in it’s second season, especially considering that ending tease. Are we going to get adaptations of classic stories, is Holmes going to stay at the forefront or will Moriarty step back up to centre stage for more than an episode? Time will tell, but either way I’m really looking forward to it.
In the end, Moriarty the Patriot is a fantastic series that I wholeheartedly recommend. From the expertly crafted tone to the atmospheric visuals and great music there’s a lot to love with this series, not least of which being it’s two leads, Moriarty and Holmes. If you’re after seeing the Sherlock story from a slightly different perspective, or maybe you just want to see a good story with a villain as the protagonist, then check this out. It’s elementary! (Oh come on, I had to say it at some point!)
Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday or you can follow me on Twitter @ChrisGJoynson.