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Villain Overview

No such thing as secrecy. I OWN secrecy. Nuclear codes? I could blow up NATO in alphabetical order. In a world of locked rooms, the man with the key is king. And, honey, you should see me in a crown.
~ Jim Moriarty

James "Jim" Moriarty is the main antagonist of the BBC series Sherlock.

He is the main antagonist of Series 1 and 2, and then later the posthumous overarching antagonist of Series 3, the 2016 special "The Abominable Bride" and Series 4. He is a consulting criminal mastermind as well as the archenemy of Sherlock Holmes.

He is portrayed by Andrew Scott, who also played Max Denbigh in Spectre, and voices Obake in Big Hero 6: The Series.



Prior to the events of Sherlock Moriarty's earliest known crime was when he killed a schoolboy in his year known as Carl Powers, who Moriarty claimed "laughed at him" so stopped him laughing. Putting a poison in Carl's medication this caused the lad to drown in a swimming pool. This occurred in 1989, and this case got Sherlock Holmes interested in crime solving, a man Moriarty would become the arch nemesis of nearly 20 years later.

The Consulting Criminal

Moriarty was first mentioned in the first episode of series 1 A Study in Pink when the murderer - a taxi driver - revealed he had a sponsor to Sherlock Holmes and that the person in question was a huge fan. When the taxi driver was shot, Sherlock got him to give a name, which the driver screamed "MORIARTY" before dying. In the second episode The Blind Banker Moriarty saw the safe entrance into Britain for an ancient Chinese gang. In the end, Moriarty had the leader of the gang killed, not wanting to risk his identity getting out.

The Great Game

Moriarty made his first appearance in the third episode of series 1 as Jim from I.T. dating Molly Hooper at the hospital. On first glance, Sherlock didn't deduce Jim as being Moriarty, due to him posing as being a possible repressed homosexual. After a series of tasks, which consisted of Holmes being forced to solve crimes committed by Moriarty, Sherlock and Moriarty came face to face at the swimming pool where Moriarty killed Carl Powers. Moriarty had snipers point at both Sherlock and John Watson, telling them they wouldn't be allowed to continue. Sherlock then pointed his gun at an explosive device between him and Moriarty, which ended on a cliffhanger. In the first episode of Series 2, it was resolved when Moriarty got a better offer from Irene Adler and called off the snipers. At the end of the second episode The Hounds of Baskerville Moriarty was seen being released by Mycroft Holmes from custody, and in his cell, Sherlock's name could be seen scrawled all over the walls.

The Final Problem

In the third episode of series 2 "The Reichenbach Fall" Moriarty appeared to be seen trying to steal the crown jewels but gave himself up. After threatening the jury at his trial for a not guilty verdict, Moriarty began setting up Sherlock as a fraud and tore apart his life over a 24 hour period, and even posed as an actor named Richard Brook in order to fool everyone into thinking Sherlock created Moriarty. Both of the men had a standoff on a rooftop in which Moriarty wanted Sherlock to jump to his death or he will have his friend's killed. Moriarty shot himself in the head in order to make sure he wouldn't have to call off his snipers.


Regardless of this, Sherlock managed to fake his death and spent the next two years taking down Moriarty's operation.

In the final scene of Series 3 episode His Last Vow its implied Moriarty may have faked his death as well when pictures of his face began appearing over London with a high pitched voice saying "Did you miss me?". In an after credits seen Andrew Scott as Moriarty turns to look at the audience say "Miss me?"

However, in Series 4, it was confirmed that Moriarty was indeed deceased. However, it was also revealed that he was planning the posthumous plots after his suicide and they would be executed by Sherlock's sister, Eurus Holmes, who used his image to cause chaos.


How would you describe this man, his character?
First mistake, James Moriarty isn't a man at all. He's a spider. A spider at the center of a web. A criminal web with a thousand threads, and he knows precisely how each and every single one of them dances.
~ Sherlock describing Moriarty's personality in-court.

Moriarty was clearly a psychopathic and sadistic individual; his psychopathic behavior was easily seen by the following traits: intense egomania, grandiosity, extreme self-importance and incapacity for remorse of mercy. Moriarty possessed a cynical, sarcastic and childish sense of humor which was similar to Sherlock but much darker and at the expense of others' pain or misery. He spoke very softly but normally changed the pitch of his voice during sentences for effect.

Moriarty also seemed to enjoy the anonymity he surrounded himself with. He would never kill a target himself, instead, he hired a taxi driver to become a serial killer and murder three people to get Sherlock's attention. He also murdered a Chinese gang leader as to not risk his identity being compromised. He was also clever enough to not use his real voice while forcing Sherlock to complete his tasks. Instead, he strapped explosives to his hostages and made them read from a manuscript; he actually murdered one of them when she described his voice as "soft", indicating he was either emphatic about his anonymity, or paranoid. Moriarty was a master of blackmail and a skilled actor. He was aware of people's weak points and used this to his advantage, to the point where he strapped an explosive device to John Watson during his confrontation with Sherlock at the swimming pool. He was also able to pretend to be gay while acting as Jim from IT.

Moriarty was easily bored by life, and he entertained himself with distractions, which involved the callous, chaotic and sadistic disasters that he created globally, considering the destruction he caused and the effort to keep himself anonymous to be thrilling. He was instantly attracted to Sherlock, claiming that he was the best distraction; however, he could easily kill him if he was bored with him. He admitted to Sherlock that he revelled in the murderous game he'd been playing with the man. Moriarty saw him as an equal to match his own startling intellect, but often accused him of being slow and boring, mostly to torment the detective. He later began to see himself as "an old-fashioned villain" and that without either one of them they were nothing. In this sense, unlike most villains, Moriarty embraces his status as an antagonist to Sherlock's life. Additionally, he was one of the few individuals to talk with Eurus Holmes without being reprogrammed by her, indicating his psychopathic nature and acceptance of his status as an evil man.

Moriarty's lack of morality or ethics makes him vastly unpredictable, even for Sherlock and Mycroft (the most intelligent characters in the series). Moriarty was extremely intelligent and this made him practically impossible to pin down without anyone questioning whether or not he wanted to be pinned down so that he could inflict the next stage of his plan. Even after he was arrested and caught red-handed with all evidence screaming his name, Moriarty managed to create a web of corruption within the court so that the result made him a free man.

From the beginning, Moriarty showed himself to have zero consideration for the lives of others, with no exceptions whatsoever. When he was young, he murdered Carl Powers for 'laughing at him', and covered up the crime brilliantly but kept the boy's shoes as a trophy. When Sherlock confronted him about people dying in his crimes, Moriarty loudly retorted 'That's what people do!'. As stated beforehand, he was never above threatening or murdering children, no matter how cruelly or how slowly, or whether they were aware that they were in danger. He even traumatised one child enough to scream uncontrollably when she saw Sherlock in person. Moriarty's genuine apathy towards other people's lives divided him from Sherlock, who underneath his cold exterior was capable of caring about other people, which Moriarty only ever saw as a foolish weakness to exploit.

Moriarty's complete and utter disregard for human life, ultimately, in a way, even applied to himself. He harbored a death wish because of how boring he found the world, and this, coupled with his desire to cause chaos, lead to Jim not even hesitating to commit suicide. Even Eurus commented that Moriarty never had much interest in staying alive, especially when he knew he could cause more problems while dead.


A genius criminal mastermind, cunningly resourceful and remorseless, and one of the only ones in the world who could match Sherlock Holmes' intellect, Moriarty possessed an intelligence perhaps exceeding that of the greatest geniuses on earth. Although unseen, it's probable that he has amazing deduction skills and notes for observation, as he was able to expertly give himself minor traits that passed him off as a gay man to Sherlock without arousing suspicion.

He had an incredible ability to change several times the tone of voice and behavior into a single sentence for psychological warfare - ranging from serenity, humor, mockery, childish, relaxed, to violence.

At a young age, Moriarty proved that he was incredibly calculating. He was able to poison his schoolmate Carl Powers, but make it look like he was having a fit and use a nearly untraceable poison.


Jim Moriarty. Hi. Jim? Jim from the hospital? Did I really make such a fleeting impression? But then, I suppose that was rather the point.
~ Moriarty introducing himself to Sherlock.
Kill you? No, don't be obvious. I mean, I'm going to kill you anyway, some day. I don't want to rush it, though. I'm saving it for something special. No, no, no, no, no. If you don't stop prying, I'll burn you. I'll burn the heart out of you.
~ Moriarty threatening Sherlock.
Sorry, boys! I'm so changeable! It is a weakness with me, but to be fair to myself, it is my only weakness. You can't be allowed to continue, you just can't. I would try to convince you, but everything I have to say has probably already crossed your mind.
~ Moriarty preparing to kill John and Sherlock.
Be honest, you're just a tiny bit pleased. With me back on the streets. 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.
~ Moriarty conversing with Sherlock at his flat.
Well... here we are at last. You and me, Sherlock. And our problem... the final problem. Staying alive! It's so boring, isn't it? It's just staying. All my life I've been searching for distractions, and you were the best distraction, and now I don't even have you because I've beaten you. And you know what? In the end, it was easy. It was easy. Now I've got to go back to playing with the ordinary people, and it turns out you're ordinary, just like all of them.
~ Moriarty telling Sherlock his inner thoughts.
No, no, no, this is too easy, it's too easy. There is no key, DOOFUS! Those digits are meaningless. They're utterly meaningless. You don't think a couple of lines of computer code are going to crash the world around our ears? I'm disappointed in you, ordinary Sherlock.
~ Moriarty revealing the truth about his secret key.
How did I break into the bank, into the tower, into the prison? Daylight robbery! All it takes is some willing participants. I knew you'd fall for it. That's your weakness: you always want everything to be clever.
~ Moriarty telling Sherlock his weakness.
No, you're not. I see. You're not ordinary. No. You're me. You're me. Thank you. Bless you. As long as I'm alive, you can save your friends, you've got a way out. Well good luck with that.
~ Moriarty's last words before committing suicide after realizing Sherlock's true nature.
So what has she got to do with Sherlock Holmes? Whatever you're about to tell me, I already know it's going to be... awesome!
~ Moriarty discussing Eurus Holmes with Mycroft.
I'm your Christmas present. So, what's mine?
~ Moriarty conversing with Eurus Holmes.


  • James Moriarty is based upon Professor Moriarty who had first appeared in the short story The Final Problem which was to originally mark the end of Sherlock Holmes (the episode The Reichenbach Fall is based upon this story). He also appeared in the fourth novel The Valley of Fear which took place before The Final Problem.
  • Moriarty appeared in The Empty Hearse in flashback and imaginary sequences when some members of the Empty Hearse club came up with theories Moriarty was somewhat involved in Sherlock faking his death. Anderson's theory is that Moriarty was placed at the bottom of the building where Sherlock jumped from wearing a face mask with the likeness of Sherlock. In a fan girl's (obviously dismissed) theory, Moriarty and Sherlock threw a dummy off the roof and proceeded to kiss.
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