Monday, June 6, 2022

What's the deal with Moran?

Saturday's online Sherlollicon was full of thought-provoking discussion, and I discovered something about being only able to listen and not interact: The thoughts just start to cook when you don't let them out.

The hosts of "Dynamics of a Podcast," Madeline and Dixie were leading a discussion on the relationship between Moriarty and Moran, at one point and discussing a poll they did. The poll looked for votes as to whether the M&M pair were best friends, lovers, boss/minion with some hatred for the boss, or generally apathetic to each other. Putting limited choices on any poll is going to inspire some folks to think further outside the box, and as I considered that relationship with what we know of Moran from "The Adventure of the Empty House," a certain scenario began to play out in my head.

So let's start with three basic facts:

1. Moriarty was Moran's boss/employer.

2. Moriarty and Moran are both quite evil bastards.

3. Moran made no moves against Holmes at Reichenbach, if he was there, until after Moriarty was dead.

Put those together and what do you get?

"Okay, boss, you go talk to the guy, and I'll sit up here with my sniper rifle and kill him when you give the signal." (Signal is given, Moran sits on his hands.)

Moriarty built a great criminal organization. Moran was a self-centered creep who probably thought Moriarty wasn't all that much smarter than Moran. And, hey, anyone can run a criminal empire, right?

So, with Moriarty gone, Moran could return to London and take over. Except he didn't quite realize how much damage Sherlock Holmes had done. We can actually see evidence of Moran trying to hold things together in "The Final Problem."

"What?" you protest, "Moran wasn't in 'Final Problem.'"

Oh, yeah, right. Like Moriarty had a brother named "Colonel James Moriarty" who had exactly the same first name as him. C'mon, "Colonel James Moriarty" was just Moran defending the memory of his "brother," trying to hold together some of the cloak of "nothing to see here" respectability that Moriarty had covered the upper echelons of his organization with. If Moriarty was just a simple educator, Moran was just a former military man, right?

So what does Holmes tell us about Moran? "The trial of the Moriarty gang left two of its most dangerous members, my own most vindictive enemies, at liberty." Moran was dangerous and vindictive. (And as Yoda once famously said, "There is . . . another." Yet, Moran is the only one still in London.) "The second most dangerous man in London." Okay. ". . . sought out by Professor Moriarty, to whom for a time he was chief of staff. Moriarty supplied him liberally with money and used him only in one or two very high-class jobs which no ordinary criminal could have undertaken." That "for a time" makes me wonder if Moran was still chief of staff when "Final Problem" occurred. And "chief of staff" isn't necessarily "vice-mastermind."

The evidence within the Canon is that Moran was a hunter, a dangerous killer whom the law had nothing on. He was sure enough that Holmes knew his secrets to have a burning desire to kill Holmes. How was he so sure? The story "The Mazarin Stone" is plainly from details Watson told his literary agent that the literary agent tried to stretch into a play, then somehow got turned back into a short story from the play, that story written by someone other than Watson. But the probable truth of that over-done play-turned-story is that Holmes did have a chat with Moran at some point, calling out Moran's crimes. "Mrs. Stewart of Lauder, in 1887" became "Miss Minnie Warrender," as silly a made up play-name as you could want. ("War-ender" killed my a military man? C'mon!) The "robbery of the train de-luxe to the Riviera?' Probably that other high-class job Holmes mentioned in "Empty House."

But was there a jewel that Sherlock Holmes snatched out of Moran's hand after pretending to be his own wax figure? If you've ever considered some of the silly choices Hollywood has made turning a book into a movie, then look at the events of "Empty House" getting turned into a cheesey play . . . well, I mean, they gave the jewel the name "the Crown diamond." Sheesh.

No, Moran was no jewel thief with a thuggish sidekick. He was an assassin, and one who might not have tried as hard to kill Sherlock Holmes before May 1891 as he could have, with his own aspirations in mind. Did he respect Moriarty's abilities. Surely. Did he have some emotional bond with Moriarty that was more powerful than Moran's own ego and desires for more money? (One suddenly wonders who put that Greuze on the market after the professor's death.) I have to question that.

Sebastian Moran was not simply the friendly crab to Moriarty's Ariel the mermaid, despite the similarity of name. He was a deeply flawed and dangerous individual who deserves more study.

There are definitely stories left to be told of the man.

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