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Sherlock Holmes – The Final Problem

Lily Love @ Longwood Garden

Apparently, Sherlock Holmes did not die after his suicide jump off the roof of St. Bartholomew Hospital.

The last episode of Season 2 of BBC’s Sherlock Holmes recreates ‘Reichenbach Falls” in which Sherlock Holmes has a dramatic confrontation on the roof of St. Bartholomew Hospital with his arch enemy James Moriarty.  The result of this meeting has Moriarty taking his own life with a bullet to the brain and Sherlock Holmes committing suicide shortly after by jumping off the roof.

Sherlock’s apparent suicide is witnessed by a horrified John Watson and a lurking assassin with a high powered rife aimed at John.

In the final scene of this episode, John is visiting Sherlock Holmes grave and as the camera pulls away, you can see the profile of Sherlock  in the distance.  The great detective is indeed, alive.

The burning question of how Sherlock faked his death is a chief topic of discussion among fans of the show. Clearly, I am one of them.

SPOILER ALERT! If you are one of the few on this planet that has not viewed this episode, please be aware the discussion below the break contains numerous spoilers and assumes the reader knows the necessary background information.

At the time of Sherlock’s apparent suicide a few things were in play:

Sherlock chose to the place for himself and Moriarty to meet.  That gives Sherlock a huge advantage of solving the ‘final problem’ on his turf and his terms.

While on the roof, Moriarty revealed two nuggets of information:

  1. Assassins were targeting three people closest to Sherlock – Mrs. Hudson, DI Lestrade and John Watson. If Sherlock did not commit suicide, the assassins were ordered to kill them.
  2. There was no binary code that would unlock every computer around the world. Moriarty found a way to blackmail people in key positions to unlock gates.

Sherlock knew Moriarty would not be content with ‘burning’ Sherlock but planned to include those his small circle of friends.  It is interesting to note that  Molly Hooper and Mylock Holmes were not targeted for assassination by Moriarty.

The two people Sherlock  needed the most for this deception were the ones who believed they didn’t count in his world, enabling Sherlock to have two people working with him outside of Moriarty’s deadly scrutiny. My impression is he asked Molly to agree sign his death certificate and/or supply him with a drug that can mimic death.  Molly is pathologist, she does not declare death, her role is to determine the cause of death.  Mylock Holmes can provide a skilled ground crew, a convincing way to lure John Watson away from the hospital, and he is imminently capable of supplying a dead body or two.

The play begins when John Watson receives a phone call that Mrs. Hooper has been shot. He quickly leaves the room and heads not to a hospital but to the scene of the ‘crime’ – Baker Street. Hmmm…

After Watson leaves, Sherlock gets a text from Moriarty and the game is afoot.

Sherlock and Moriarty meet on the roof. Moriarty spills the beans about the key code. Sherlock steps up to the ledge, looks down and begs Moriarty for a moment of privacy. Sherlock begging? Now that is a change in his character, recall he famously told ‘The Woman’ he has never begged for mercy in his life.  While  Moriarty grants Sherlock’s request for a moment of privacy, Sherlock uses the time to signal the ground crew to get ready and perhaps inconspicuously dose himself with a drug provided by Molly.

Sherlock steps off the ledge to confront Moriarty giving the ground crew time to break out their equipment needed to break his fall. Moriarty shoots himself and Sherlock stepsonto the ledge just in time for John Watson to come racing back to the hospital. Sherlock calls Watson directing him to stand in the middle of the road and look at him on the rooftop. Sherlock gives his ‘goodbye note’ and dramatically jumps off the ledge, falling to the ground below. However, John can only see Sherlock jump and fall; he cannot see the body strike the sidewalk as a small building blocks his view. The assassin tasked with shooting John Watson also witnesses the jump and cancels the execution.

My working theory so far:

Sherlock himself jumps off the roof, his fall in interrupted by some mechanism and one of two things happen:

1. Sherlock is stage dressed for death by the landing crew with bloody scalp lacerations and a drug depressing his  heart beat leading to a nearly imperceptible pulse.  John, dazed from his collision with the cyclist is unable to detect a pulse leading him to believe Sherlock is dead. I’m leaning towards this version. 

2. Sherlock’s fall is interrupted and conceals himself in the garbage truck that was idling near to wear the body was laying on the sidewalk. A corpse is stage dressed to look like Sherlock Holmes and carefully placed on the sidewalk. When John got close enough to grasp the wrist, he felt no pulse, leading him to believe Sherlock is dead.

  • John Watson was deliberately knocked to the ground by a cyclist slowing his progress to Sherlock. He is also dazed from striking his head on the cobblestone street after the collision.
  • The ground crew were not part of Sherlock’s homeless network. Mylock supplied ground crew, including all those who ran to the body on the sidewalk. Also, I’m convinced Mylock organized the misleading phone call to John earlier.
  • Molly used her position to officially declare the cause of death as suicide and perhaps supplied the drug used by Sherlock to mimic death.
  • Moriarty had to die or the entire ruse would have unraveled and Sherlock would have to deal with three dead friends.
  • I’m puzzling over the idea that Sherlock called in favors from the Curator, Top CEO and the British Ambassador to help with his faked death and to conceal his identity afterwards.

Okay, I’m done rambling now.

What are your thoughts on how Sherlock fooled the world into thinking he committed suicide?

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8 responses to “Sherlock Holmes – The Final Problem

  1. MH

    Correct. Spot on analysis.

  2. says:

    I won’t speculate on the action but I am looking forward to this new season. Benedict Cumberbatch (what a name!) is a great Holmes, though a tad too manic and arrogant to those who are used to the cool slyness of Jeremy Brett who starred in the original series which you can usually find replayed on your PBS station.

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  5. says:

    O.K., a second bite at the apple and I’ll just ramble over it in no particular order.

    First, doubtful that Mycroft supplied a body or the ground crew. More likely that if a body were supplied, Molly Hooper could produce one but a WARM body? Ground grew was likely the Irregulars.

    Certainly Molly played a key role here hence Sherlock’s decision to stage the last act here. But wouldn’t Moriarty at least be a bit suspicious giving Sherlock that edge?

    I found Moriart’s suicide a bit puzzling, but the presentation regarding possible poisoned tea served by Sherlock would solve that.

    Series writer Moffat said that everyone missed a vital clue: “It’s something that Sherlock did that was very out of character. ” Is that the tea? Certainly that hint would negate the curious view through the sniper’s scope where some suggest a hint of a bungee cord or rope.

    And that’s another thing. The sniper with Dr. Watson in his sights is positioned in a stairwell above the scene but doesn’t have a view of the sidewalk where Sherlock was to fall? OK, maybe.

    I’m still going with an airbag on the truck that pulled away just as Watson gets to the scene.

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