James “Jim” Moriarty – BBC’s Sherlock
“In a world of locked rooms, the man with the key is king. And, honey, you should see me in a crown.” – James “Jim” Moriarty, BBC’s Sherlock
Jim Moriarty, the Yin to Sherlock Holmes’s Yang, is as mysterious as he is villainous. We know little about his formative years, but we do know he was just as vengeful, murderous, and cunning as he is today. In 1989, he murders a young Carl Powers by causing his drowning. Carl’s heinous sin? Moriarty says Carl “laughed at him.” While bullying is a terrible act that damages lives, Moriarty repays Carl’s proverbial spitball with a nuke. Psychopathic tendencies, antisocial behavior, and unpredictable moods are nothing new to Moriarty.
Jim considers himself a consulting criminal. Think life coach and venture capitalist for criminals. The more high-stakes the crime, the better. He loves what he does and does what he loves.
He’s worked with a number of “clients.” In S1:E1 it was serial killer Jeff Hope. The taxi driver was dying of cancer. He providing for his family by offing people in a twisted version of the Princess Bride’s poison scene. One pill is poison, one isn’t. Moriarty pays a headhunter’s fee for each cold corpse Jeff makes.
Moriarty also backs the Black Lotus criminal organization, who smuggle artifacts into Britain. Unfortunately for the organization’s leader, General Shan, Moriarty decides they’re a liability and has a sniper assassinate Shan.
On his Frequently Called contact list is Irene Adler, aka the Woman. He’s her mentor, advising her on how best to leverage the compromising information she collects. His main interest in assisting her, though, is to toy with “The Holmes Boys.”
At some point, Mycroft Holmes detains and interrogates Moriarty. Mycroft isn’t squeamish; “enhanced interrogation techniques” were part of the deal. Moriarty never broke. Instead, he offered intelligence in exchange for information from Mycroft about Sherlock. This is reminiscent of Hannibal Lecter’s deal with Clarice Starling: information in return for personal details.
Sherlock fascinates Moriarty to the point of becoming an obsession. During the interrogation mentioned above, Jim scrawled “SHERLOCK” across his cell walls. He admires Sherlock’s intelligence, seeing the detective as someone like himself.
As a test of Sherlock’s skill and a way to break up the monotony (for them both), Moriarty creates a “game.” It has all the elements for fun: murders, clues, explosions, hostages, time limits. Moriarty uses his clients, contacts, and even his personal history (Carl Powers’s shoes) to lead Sherlock on a merry chase around London.
Moriarty is an excellent actor, using the skill to worm his way into positions that allow him to easily manipulate and harass Sherlock. In fact, when we first meet him, he’s posing as Molly Hooper’s boyfriend. Sherlock pegs as being gay. Jim worked hard to create this impression, his expert knowledge of underwear playing a major role.
Later, Moriarty poses as Richard Brook, an actor who claims Sherlock hired him to be James Moriarty. Reporter Kitty Reilly falls for it hook, line, and sinker. The “storyteller” Rich Brook tells his greatest stories about Sherlock.
Moriarty’s greatest accomplishment is the framing of Sherlock for the crimes the detective solved – in addition to the kidnapping of an ambassador’s kids. At the same time, Jim creates the illusion that he holds a “key” in the form of a computer code that allows him to rule the virtual world. He “proves” this by causing a security shut down in Pentoville Prison, opening the vault in the Bank of England, and the crowning achievement, wearing the Crown of England in the Tower of London’s after tampering with its security systems. After all this, he’s promptly pronounced not guilty by a jury who had excellent motivation to hand down that verdict. The motivation? Moriarty’s threats. Of course, there is no code, and Moriarty accomplished all of the above by the tried and true method of paying people off or threatening them.
Manipulating people through threat and rewards.
Working with a web of criminals and criminal organization.
Creating “cascades” of events, each flowing into the next, sweeping people right where Moriarty wants them. Think Tetris, but with about 10 matches that occur one after another after the insertion of only one block.
Changing his mind.
Acting absolutely ruthlessly.
Outwitting his opponents in often unnecessarily complex and impressive ways.
Appearing only when necessary.
Playing the long-game, with plans that may take years to come to fruition.
Intimidation, Manipulation, Crime, Murder, Theft, Coaching, Acting, Witticisms, Storytelling, Playing Chicken, Long-Range Planning, Fashion
Inability to empathize with anyone.
Pride. If there was a pride category, he’d be a 6.
Penchant for grandiosity.
♦ Notable achievements:
Murdering a boy in 1989 and not getting caught.
Working with Irene Alder.
Working with the Black Lotus.
Being the spider the center of a web of criminal organizations.
Almost blowing up John Watson with a vest bomb.
Shutting down prison security.
Opening the Bank of London vault.
Wearing the Crown Jewels on the throne in the Tower of London.
Being found not guilty of the previous 3.
Framing Sherlock Holmes.
“Killing” Sherlock Holmes.
♦ How Jim Moriarty can help us succeed in life:
Be patient. Play the long game. Don’t just leap for the immediate payoff.
Make educated guesses about people’s reactions to events, and plan accordingly.
Do what you love, love what you do.
It’s okay to be obsessed with something. But don’t start killing people because of it.
Realize that people die. It happens to us all. Coming to grips with this prepares you for the eventual passing of your loved ones.
Keep the mind active by playing mind games. Just don’t blow anybody up.
Dress the part. How you dress influences what people think of you – how they perceive. People judge by appearances. Have fun with that!
♦ James “Jim” Moriarty Quotes:
Every fairy tale needs a good old-fashioned villain. You need me or you’re nothing. Because we’re just alike, you and I, except you’re boring. You’re on the side of the angels.
If you don’t stop prying… I will burn you. I will burn… the heart out of you.
Is that a British Army Browning L9A1 in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me?
♦ Further reading/reports:
Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments. Perform your own assessment with the Villain Matrix. Use the Villain Matrix spreadsheet that come free when you join the Research Team, where you’ll also get our newsletter with it’s exclusive updates and content.