The Real Moriarty? Sherlock Theory Gives Villain A New Twist

6 min read
20 September 2022

A theory suggests that the Jim Moriarty introduced in Sherlock wasn't the real one, and a minor character was the real one. Let's take a look.

The big villain in the BBC’s Sherlock was Jim Moriarty, who viewers saw die at the end of season 2, but his death raised many questions and made way for a variety of theories, including one that suggests Jim wasn’t the real Moriarty, and the real one was actually a minor character in the series. Sherlock Holmes is one of the most popular and beloved characters in literature, so much so that his stories have been adapted to all types of media for over a century. Due to the state of the rights to the Great Detective, different artists have made changes to Sherlock Holmes in order to give him and his cases a twist, and among those is the BBC’s TV series Sherlock, which succeeded in giving Arthur Conan Doyle’s character and stories a modern twist.

Created by Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, Sherlock brought the detective and the most popular characters from the books to modern-day London, adapting some of his best-known cases to the modern city and its technological advances. The series, then, followed Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his best friend and partner John Watson (Martin Freeman) as they solved a variety of cases across London. Over the course of four seasons, Sherlock and John came across a variety of characters, some of them allies, like Greg Lestrade (Rupert Graves) and Molly Hooper (Louise Brealey), and a couple of dangerous enemies, most notably Jim Moriarty (Andrew Scott).

Jim Moriarty was a “consulting criminal”, thus serving as the opposite of Sherlock, and he turned out to be the mastermind behind the crimes in Sherlock’s season 1. Moriarty was Sherlock’s archenemy, and as mentioned above, he died in season 2’s finale “The Reichenbach Fall” in order to push Sherlock to kill himself. However, his presence continued to be felt throughout the rest of the series, making way for theories about either the existence of another Moriarty or Jim not being the real one – and one theory suggests the real Moriarty was journalist Kitty Riley.


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Why Sherlock's Moriarty Wasn't The Real One

The belief that Jim Moriarty wasn’t the real one goes all the way back to his first actual appearance in Sherlock. Moriarty was mentioned in the first episode, “A Study in Pink”, but he didn’t make a proper appearance until season 1’s finale, “The Great Game”. Moriarty’s first appearance in Sherlock was as Molly’s new boyfriend, Richard Brook, but later on in the episode, he was revealed to be the one behind all the cases Sherlock had solved in season 1. In that scene, Moriarty said he was “so changeable”, which along with the cabbie telling Sherlock in “A Study in Pink” that “they’re so much more”, has been interpreted as clues to Moriarty not acting alone.

Moriarty was obsessed with Sherlock, as he was also a genius, and they developed an interesting but dangerous rivalry, and even though Moriarty clearly wasn’t mentally stable, it seemed off that he would have killed himself in “The Reichenbach Fall”. Moriarty’s post-death appearances in Sherlock also raised questions about his true identity, even though he appeared in flashbacks and hallucinations, but in season 3’s finale, his face appeared on TVs across the country saying “Did you miss me?”, further fueling the belief that there was more to Jim Moriarty and he most likely didn’t act alone.

Sherlock Theory: The Real Moriarty Was Journalist Kitty Riley

One of the wildest theories about who the real Jim Moriarty was suggests it was journalist Kitty Riley (Katherine Parkinson), who appeared in the episode “The Reichenbach Fall”. At Moriarty’s trial, to which Sherlock was called to testify, the detective was approached by Kitty Riley, who was pretending to be a big fan of his in order to test his skills. Of course, Sherlock quickly deduced that she was actually a journalist. Kitty failed to get an interview with Sherlock but offered her services to help him with everything that was being said about him, and gave Sherlock her card. Later on, it’s revealed that Kitty was tricked by Moriarty into believing he was an actor (Richard Brook) hired by Sherlock to play the villain, and he even created fake proof of all that. Kitty used this to publish her first big scoop, which was later proven to be false.

Now, the theory uses a couple of details in her interaction with Sherlock and Moriarty’s “Richard Brook” identity to support the idea that Kitty Riley was the real Moriarty. First, in the court scene, Moriarty stares at John, but Kitty was sitting right in front of him, so he might have actually been looking at her, the real Moriarty. Then, viewers have pointed out similarities between the handwriting in a note Moriarty sent to Sherlock and Kitty’s handwritten notes, further hinting at her being the real "consulting criminal", and the headshots and profile of Richard Brook were real as she hired him to pose as Jim Moriarty so she wouldn’t get her hands dirty. While the theory is fun, it doesn’t hold up, as it’s unlikely a hired actor would have gone as far as to kill himself as Moriarty did, and Kitty Riley didn’t return after “The Reichenbach Fall”, so there was just one Jim Moriarty in Sherlock.

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