Sherlock has finally had the pleasure of speaking with Moriarty (or at least someone claiming to be Moriarty). He hires Sherlock to investigate the murder of Wallace Rourke. The payment? Answers about Irene Adler.
In typical Holmes fashion, Sherlock dives in, despite Joan’s concern. And despite Gregson’s concern for Joan, disguised as a job offer as a sober companion for a friend’s daughter, Joan does join Sherlock on the case. But not without getting some answers of her own about Irene. Sherlock tells Joan that Irene was an exquisite American painter who restored Renaissance paintings. And he said the famous line: she was the woman. But then Sherlock starts to talk about their sex life, so attention gets turned back to the case.
The evidence suggests that Rourke had been immobilized by a blow to the mastoid process before he was stabbed to death. Rourke’s belongings include a new cell phone, which was provided by Sutter Risk Management. Daren Sutter and his wife Kate insist that they were doing surveillance on Rourke due to a complaint made by a client, but the claim was unfounded and they stopped tracking him. But Sherlock is very quickly convinced that Sutter was the killer.
In Sutter’s book, he writes about the murder of his older sister, and includes a police sketch of the suspected murderer, who resembles Rourke. Sutter also happens to have studied a type of karate that utilizes strikes to the mastoid process. Sherlock meets Sutter again, and he denies the murder, and knowing Moriarty. Only the latter is true, and Sherlock advises Sutter to sweep his office for bugs. As soon as he does, Sutter confesses to Rourke’s murder.
But that’s not the end of it. When Moriarty calls back, he tells Sherlock that Rourke did not kill Sutter’s sister. He had been in Saudi Arabia at the time. Sutter killed the wrong man.
The combination of Moriarty’s more immediate presence and Gregson’s rebuffed concern for Joan (which Joan rebuffed), Joan confronts Sherlock about the danger that they could be in – that she could be in. Sherlock promises Joan that he would never let Moriarty harm her.
So they both continue to work on the case. But neither Sutter nor his wife provides any new information, and the case begins to wear on Sherlock. He’s so close to his answers. Luckily, Joan is brilliant, and her attention turns to Sutter’s wife Kate. Prints had been found at the scene of Sutter’s sister’s murder that, with Kate’s prints on Joan’s phone, they were able to identify as Kate’s. She had lied about meeting Daren after his sister’s death – in fact, Kate had been married and they had been having an affair. Kate had been the one to see the killer flee, and provided the description. But his sister’s unsolved murder took its toll on Daren, and he very nearly took his own life. So when Kate found a Rourke, who looked similar to the murderer, she told Daren that it had been him, leading Daren to kill Rourke.
With both Sutters now in custody, Moriarty sends Sherlock an address to where he can find his answers. Sherlock intends to go alone, but Joan catches up, determined to be with Sherlock every step of the way and to not be left out of the loop for her protection. They go into the big, bare house and find an upstairs room filled with paintings. In the last beautiful and devastating moments of the episode, Sherlock nearly collapses when they find that his answers are Irene Adler herself. She is alive.
An exciting two-hour season finale awaits us this week. Hold onto your deerstalkers, Sherlockians, it looks like it’s going to be a doozie!