Moriarty's reach is expanding with each new case. We may have had reason to suspect it before it was made clear this week, but he now officially has a man inside Scotland Yard, the enigmatic Paterson, a man who went from working under Arterton to replacing him with a little help from the unlikely co-conspirators of Sherlock Holmes, Inspector Lestrade, and James Bonde. That all of this was masterminded, or at least facilitated, by Mycroft and Albert is less of a shock, since Albert's role in the Lord of Crime organization is to some extent to provide a veneer of legitimacy to the entire thing – and Mycroft's role is to permit that. In any event, the group of people involved is less important for who it's made up of than for what that says about them: that despite being on nominally opposing sides in the fight, they're both looking for the same thing – justice.
That's a realization that Sherlock really comes to after Arterton is deposed for his self-serving handling of the Jack the Ripper case. As he figures out that the Lord of Crime has had a hand in the entire thing, with the outcome that Paterson is installed in Arterton's place, he suddenly understands that his supposed nemesis is, as he puts it, a Robin Hood figure. That doesn't mean that he's not a criminal, because after all Robin Hood stole from the rich, not politely asked them to donate to his charity. But it does imply that Sherlock is beginning to see that the Lord of Crime does have an altruistic motive behind his actions, and that's almost more disturbing to the great detective than the fact that crimes are being committed in the first place.
It's a realization he's been working towards since last week, when he decided not to interfere in the Ripper investigation and its peripheral issues. In some ways we have to wonder if this is Sherlock deliberately stepping back because he sees that there's something off about the entire situation and he wants to see what will happen if he doesn't take an active role. Responding to Lestrade's request for help finding Arterton's possibly mythical ledger of his misdeeds (pro tip: don't keep a written ledger of your misdeeds, kids) isn't something he could feasibly, or believably, refuse, but more than that, should the book actually exist, it will confirm that the Lord of Crime's involvement isn't on the side of the killer. In fact, Bonde's actions this week (not that Sherlock knows it's Bonde, but whatever), which secure the book for Lestrade, prove that the master criminal is either not interested in competition from within the police force or working towards something else entirely – such as the exoneration of the man who was knowingly falsely accused of the crimes.
So this may not have been the most clear-cut of episodes, but it may prove to be a major turning point in the series as a whole. Sherlock still doesn't know about Mycroft's new agency, but he is starting to see the shades of grey in the entire “Lord of Crime” set up. With Paterson and Mycroft (to say nothing of Albert) in Moriarty's court, the game that's afoot may be a different one than Sherlock thought he was playing. Certainly he doesn't have the toys that Bonde now has access to, like the fantastic autocar (I love how early cars look like actual horseless carriages) and the silent pistol, but perhaps more importantly he hasn't yet figured out that he's Moriarty's chosen foil figure, the detective being set up to do the work in the light that none of the Moriartys or their associates can do. If he does figure it out, does that mean that he'll refuse to play his part?
I'm not sure that's a question we'll get an answer to next week, which looks as if it's going to delve into child trafficking and William and Louis' pre-Albert childhood. I am a little concerned by the title, “The Merchant of London,” but that's probably because I'm still reeling a little from the use of the word “shylock” in last week's episode to refer to a moneylender; the word has anti-Semitic overtones thanks to its origins in Shakespeare's play The Merchant of Venice, and at one point there was an attempt to blame the Jack the Ripper killings on Jews. (As a note, I don't think we've covered the fifth canonical murder in Moriarty the Patriot, so we may not be done with the storyline.) Hopefully this is just paranoia from my own encounters with anti-Semitism talking and instead it's going to be an adaptation of the Hound of the Baskervilles storyline from volume three of the manga.
Moriarty the Patriot is currently streaming on Funimation.