Monday, May 3, 2021

Episode 16 Moriarty the Patriot


Hellfire is unfilled/And every one of the fiends is here," may not be the primary Shakespeare citation that the vast majority consider, yet the line from The Tempest positively can be said to apply to Moriarty the Patriot. Not only is having William speak it a good indication of his education (whether it came from his stolen identity as a Moriarty or from his street child days in the abandoned library), it also espouses his philosophy of English society at the end of the 19th century. Hell must be empty indeed if the aristocracy is to be likened to devils, for they run rampant in a world he's bound and determined to change.

There's surely a delightful incongruity to him talking the line while his red eyes glimmer out from underneath his dark hood, which should make him appear as though a genuinely fallen angel to the men he's standing up to, but on the other hand it's a pleasant gesture to a component of Ripperology, the famous "From Hell" letter. While there's some debate (as with all things Jack the Ripper) as to whether the letter is authentic or not, it has become inextricably associated with the murderer as part of the lore. And if, as Shakespeare said, Hell is, in fact, empty and the Earth overrun with its devils, then wouldn't that make the Earth Hell itself? So by that token, when the letter is sent “From Hell,” Moriarty the Patriot seems to imply that it is actually being sent from plain old London – new home of Hell's devils.

It's an extraordinary piece of detail based on the thing is in any case something of a meandering aimlessly scene. It's not surprising that liberties are taken with the so-called canonical murders – Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes were killed the same day, but not found next to each other – though I do think that the description of the second victim Annie Chapman being seen with a man in a deer-stalker hat prior to her death not being used in a story with Sherlock Holmes is a missed opportunity. But this isn't really about Jack the Ripper or his crimes. Instead, it's a way to move Moriarty's plans ahead while introducing two distinct and important pieces of the overarching story: 1) the unrest between the denizens of Whitechapel and the police and 2) the character of Charles Augustus Milverton.

On the off chance that you don't perceive that name, don't stress. He's another one of Holmes' villains, but he never really achieved the notoriety of Moriarty or Irene Adler. Like those two, Milverton only originally appeared in one story, 1904's “The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton,” and also like many of Arthur Conan Doyle's inspirations, was based on a real-life criminal, Charles Augustus Howell. Howell was a blackmailer and something of a smooth-talking conman; he's best known for having convinced Dante Gabriel Rosetti to exhume his wife to retrieve the poems he buried with her. Moriarty the Patriot's Milverton may well follow in that line, although Conan Doyle's is just a blackmailer who is eventually (read: at the end of the story) killed by one of his victims, with Holmes covering up the crime, which may be the piece's most notable feature. It's actually that which has the most interesting implications for his entry on the scene because it's a case of Holmes acting somewhat like William, determining that because Milverton caused more deaths in his line of work, it's not worth pursuing the woman who killed him, who perhaps did the world a favor. That means that this particular character may be the one who forces Holmes to understand the Lord of Crime.

The entirety of that is yet to be seen, nonetheless. This episode mostly just has William and Co. take out the men who are trying to use their fictional murderer, Jack the Ripper, as a means of accomplishing something marginally similar to what the Lord of Crime aims to do – but these men don't care about the collateral damage. Since William very much does, it's in his best interests to stop them, work towards ending the feud between the Yard and the people of Whitechapel, and leave Sherlock Holmes to pick up the pieces. It's a bit anticlimactic, honestly, although it does give us another good reason to remember that Louis may be the more dangerous brother (he is way more into killing than William), and the bonding between Bonde and Moran is kind of cute.

But good games require that we think several moves ahead. I think that in the long run, the things set up in this episode will prove to be important.

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