As people who have been reading my episode reviews for a while know, I generally don't like to make too many comparisons to the source material of a given show so anime-only viewers don't feel left out. With that said, this episode of Moriarty the Patriot isn't the best example of a manga chapter well-adapted to anime, so if you're interested in this particular storyline, definitely check out the manga, because this is much less powerful.
Both do, however, deal with that classic scourge of the Victorian age, opium. (“Arsenic” would have been a good answer to that, too; I'm sure the series will get there.) Even if we don't get into the history of the Opium Wars, which is horrific, opium is the drug most often associated with Victoria's reign (although if we're going to be honest, alcohol may have been the actual most-abused substance). Opium has a troubled history in the late nineteenth century, one that's well documented by primary sources as well as later studies, and this episode does a decent enough job with it. Mostly this is in the glimpse we get of an opium den – if you pop over to Opium in Victorian Britain at HistoryUK, there's a contemporary image that's impressively close to what was depicted in this episode. (You can also get a decent basic idea of, well, opium in Victorian Britain, and if you're really in the mood to be horrified, check out this page on “Soothing Syrups.”) It's the drug this week's villain, Dudley Bale, uses to facilitate the death of a young tavern waitress who was engaged to a noble student at the college where Moriarty teaches, and it's how he subdues the young man so that he doesn't realize what's going on, and, fittingly, part of the reason why Moriarty goes after Bale in the first place.
What's interesting about this case is that no one hires Moriarty to look into what happened to his student Lucian in the first place. He simply notices that Lucian has missed a lot of classes and, like a good mandated reporter, tries to figure out if the young man's in trouble. It certainly helps that Tate, Lucian's roommate, is acting suspiciously and has tried to find his friend himself, but when Moriarty is confronted by Bale, who toadyingly attempts to tell Moriarty to step off, his curiosity is very firmly piqued. When he discovers that prior to vanishing Lucian had both impregnated and proposed to Frida, a working-class girl, and that Frida then danced her way off a bridge like a manic Ophelia, he puts two and two together. The closest Moriarty comes to being paid for this is when the owner of the tavern returns his bribe and tells him to put flowers on Frida's grave if he cares so much. It's his own money, but Moriarty regards the coin as a promise.
Another key component of this case is that it isn't the actual nobility, or the most highly ranked, who is the villain. Lucian is the son of a viscount, but he was honestly in love with Frida and fully intended to marry her. Tate, his friend, was genuinely worried for his friend and didn't appear to give a damn about his relationship with Frida, something that visibly surprises Moriarty. Dudley Bale, a college administrator, is the real monster, and he's far beneath a viscount – he's just trying to curry favor with one by getting rid of Lucian's “embarrassing mistake.” It's an important reminder for Moriarty, that not everyone with a title is evil and that it really is the system that's the problem. He knows that on some level, but as his reaction to Tate's friendship and concern for Lucian shows, it never hurts to see that in person.
Speaking of in-person, this week also marks the entry of another Conan Doyle character, Colonel Sebastian Moran. Moran, the “second most dangerous man in London” (after his boss, Moriarty) should technically be off in the Afghan Wars rather than hanging around England given that we get a clear shot of Frida's gravestone in the end marking the year as 1879, but he should also be living in fancy, respectable rooms in Mayfair instead of a slum, so liberties have been taken. (Conan Doyle was a little more careful with Moran's details than Moriarty's.) But he's a harbinger of things to come, as next week looks like it's going to introduce Moriarty's great rival, the one and only Sherlock Holmes, so Moriarty the Patriot is clearly upping its Sherlockian repertoire. That does make this a bit more of a catalyst episode (bringing in Moran to pave the way for more familiar characters) than it needed to be, which is a shame. But things should be picking up for our crime consultant in the very near future. Do look forward to it, won't you?
Moriarty the Patriot is currently streaming on Funimation.