Or "How on earth did they do that?"
Because it’s driving me nuts. Crossposted here.
So here is the list of speculation on how Sherlock pulled off the fall but is alive and seemingly unhurt at the end. I’ve basically tried to list all the variables I could think of that might be involved. Any of these—or all of them—could be red herrings, and some certainly are. Please let me know if I’ve missed any. EDIT: There is now a bingo card that basically does the same thing as this post, trololol. Of these, the one that is clear is that John will punch Sherlock when he returns. :D
- Molly. Molly is the perfect accomplice. Molly handles autopsies. Molly is good with science. She offered to help, and Sherlock said he needed her. It’s doubtful if people would suspect her either of any wrongdoing (because, like many viewers, the characters underestimate her) or of her helping Sherlock (considering their row at the Christmas party), though it’s true that Molly has at least two personal reasons to help him: she dated Jim from IT and she likes Sherlock. Once bodies are in her morgue, she can fudge paperwork or perhaps even procure bodies for Sherlock to use in his ruse. “You look sad when you think he can’t see you.” Clearly Sherlock was planning this for a while. I had held out hope that Molly was Moran, and I do think that’s still possible, but more and more unlikely at this point.
EDIT: The more I watch this series, the more I love Molly. See this article for more on why she’s such a great character.
EDIT: Also see this fascinating post on tumblr about how odd it is that Jim didn’t threaten to kill Molly even though they went on dates and she had seen his face, etc. This suggests that either he has also massively underestimated her or he actually, at least a little bit, cares about her and has a heart. I fear this may always be in the realm of fan speculation upon Jim’s character.
- John. Either Jim or Sherlock (but probably Jim) somehow set up the Mrs-Hudson-is-shot-but-not-really phone call to get John out of the way. Sherlock waits until John returns to carry out the rest of his plan. Sherlock is adamant that John stand in a precise place and keep his eyes fixed on Sherlock. Meanwhile Sherlock further distracts and terrifies John with his suicide call.
- The truck/lorry. At the very least, it’s positioned in such a way as to possibly block the view of many onlookers, perhaps even John or the assassin. But then it drives away from the suicide scene when everyone else is coming towards it. The real Sherlock could have been waiting in the truck, or Mycroft could, or Molly could, or Moriarty, or even Moran (too many M’s). Or Sherlock could have had the truck waiting with inflatables in order to jump into the truck and then have it drive away, which I think is a likely solution. My only issue is that the camera angles are a bit wrong; Sherlock jumped at a rather steep angle. The truck would have to back up to catch him, and surely somebody would have seen that? But maybe the truck was blocking some other kind of cushioning device on the ground. (Like a laundry bin.)
EDIT: I’ve read theories where it seems to be that the truck is actually full of bags of laundry, suggesting that Sherlock may have just jumped into a big laundry hamper. kampongchicken also found a video of the filming that shows a crane and a big green airbag—something that could easily be folded up after Sherlock landed on it.
EDIT 2: Or, as Maari in the comments notes, the fall could have literally been a levitation magic trick, which works best when done in broad daylight.
- The rectangle. Notice those rectangular tiles on the ground near where Sherlock lands. Perhaps he was aiming for that rectangle? Maybe the cushioning device was there? But he misses (apparently), or at least his body wasn’t there--but that is where John goes to take his pulse. So maybe that rectangle is similar to a "Hounds" pressure pad and releases the see-what-you-think-you’ll-see gas.
- The biker. “Turn around and walk back the way you came. Just do as I ask. Please…No, stay exactly where you are. Don’t move. Keep your eyes fixed on me,” Sherlock says to John. “Please, will you do this for me?” Why? So Sherlock could get the biker—one of the homeless network, probably—to hit John, knocking him out or disorienting him so that he could look over and see, as in Hounds, exactly what he expected to see: Sherlock dead on the ground.
- Drugs. Also as in Hounds, it is possible that the aerosol hallucinogenic drug is back and the biker blasted John with the stuff or some other drug to slow him and make him woozy.
- The dummy. There was a hanging dummy in 221B. Other than its admittedly great comedic effect, why would the writers include that? In addition, it seems very much like we see Sherlock falling forward, but we never see him actually hit the ground. The camera switches to a different angle so we see something that is Sherlock-shaped hitting the ground, but it’s not clear what. It could very well be a dummy or a different dead body or something else entirely. (Granted, this might just be a function of not having Benedict Cumberbatch actually kill himself filming it or of the fear that having the fall in one shot would be too distressing for BBC viewers.)
- The mask. The little girl screams when she sees Sherlock (EDIT: OR WAS IT JOHN?!?! Or both John and Sherlock lookalikes?!) despite, we believe, never having met him before. Moriarty could have achieved this by having his kidnapper wear a kind of mask of Sherlock’s face. And if it were believable enough, perhaps it could even fool John. Or Sherlock himself (but that is speculation on whether or not Moriarty is dead). Or Sherlock could have used this principle to have a mask made himself. That said, perhaps there are no masks whatsoever and everything was just a symptom of mercury poisoning.
EDIT: See the comments for an interesting theory from Kaitlin where both Sherlock and Moriarty have hired or coerced lookalike actors to play them on the roof, leaving them both free to kill themselves while the real Sherlock and Moriarty remain unharmed. *shiver*
- Moriarty’s body. We hear in the news that the fraud Sherlock Holmes killed himself. We hear absolutely nothing about Moriarty, despite the fact that Moriarty is the dead one and Sherlock is alive. There are many possible explanations for this: Molly could have got rid of Moriarty’s body (and bloodstains), Sherlock could have dressed Moriarty as Sherlock (perhaps mask and all) and tossed him over the roof, which is poetic because it means that eventually Moriarty is buried in Sherlock’s grave (making the statement “I am you” even more ironic). Or Moriarty is not actually dead at all. (What, you don’t think he could do it? Did you see an exit wound?) Also, as lobelia321 points out, Moriarty’s eyes actually change color on the rooftop scene. He usually has dark brown eyes, but on the roof they are grey/green. It might just be the sun, though. Hmm.
- The homeless network. Who are the paramedics? Real or part of Sherlock’s homeless network. Whomever they are, they seem remarkably determined not to let John near the body, though he does manage to tell that there is no pulse. EDIT: See caffienekitty’s very plausible explanation (with pictures!) for some very logical analysis of everything, but especially the mystery paramedics and their unprofessional actions (rolling Sherlock onto the arm John takes the pulse of, then rushing away someone they should think is dead, etc.). EDIT: bnmc2005 notes that the guy who rolls Sherlock is looking straight at John, who is about to break through the crowd and touch Sherlock. Perhaps the "paramedic" was giving a signal to Sherlock to get ready to cut off his circulation.
EDIT: I just noticed that the medic who has his hand on Sherlock's neck shakes Sherlock at the moment when John is about to take his pulse. He's warning Sherlock that he needs to get ready with his ball trick to stop his pulse for John's inspection.
- The ball. Thanks again to lobelia321 for this interesting tidbit, corroborated by the internets: a fun trick—just a magic trick (heh)—to do is to put a tennis ball under your armpit. If you gently squeeze it, the pressure of the ball will cut off blood flow to your wrist, making your pulse temporarily go away. There had to be some reason we saw Sherlock playing with that little rubber ball before he sent John away. Perhaps this is it. EDIT: See this image for a possible closeup of Sherlock on the roof holding the ball or phone or Kitty Riley’s recorder or something peculiar (thanks, bnmc2005).
- Rhododendron ponticum. Apparently that plant Sherlock mentions as being in Addlestone and we see a picture of, rhododendron ponticum, can cause temporary paralysis—or at least it does in the Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes movie! So perhaps that’s what Sherlock uses to make himself seem dead. Or perhaps Molly gives him some other sort of muscle relaxant or other drug. EDIT: bnmc2005 notes that after Moriarty shoots himself, Sherlock puts his hand to his head and his mouth on his sleeve. I thought it was because he was just shocked and upset, but these actions could also be related to some kind of possible drug. Or Sherlock deliberately making himself hyperventilate in order to hold his breath.
- Blood on the street. Could be Sherlock’s, just taken from him previously. See “The Great Game” where they did that (thanks for the correction, thisprettywren). Could be anyone’s, really, if we consider that Molly helped.
- The red phone box. See this post for a good explanation, but the theory is that after John takes his pulse, Sherlock goes to the phone box and another person takes his place on the gurney.
- Sherlock’s OOC moment. Moffatt said that there was something Sherlock did that was out of character, a vital clue fans have missed. I have no idea what that might be, but the first thing that comes to mind (other than the crying) was Sherlock dumping his phone on the roof. His phone, his pride and joy, his lifeline, his connection to his work. I know “you can’t take it with you,” but if he were jumping into something soft, he actually could have. So could there be something on his phone? Could his phone actually be something else? Also note that he actually talks on the phone to John (as opposed to just texting), so that could be OOC. Maybe he was...verbally hypnotizing John from afar? (Of course, phones can be tracked, and he did NOT want to be tracked, giving an explanation for getting rid of it.) Another explanation is that his dumping the phone was the “get ready to catch me” to his accomplices on the ground or someone else (thanks for the idea, Anon in the comments!).
EDIT: Thanks to shades_shadow for this reminder that Sherlock actually sings to Moriarty "[I don’t have to die] if I’ve got you." That too seems rather out of character to me, or at least unusual since we haven’t seen him do it before, and there’s no obvious explanation as to why he sang that. Could it be a code of some kind? *scratches head* Anon in the comments suggests that Sherlock could be hinting, “I’ve got U” like “IOU.”
EDIT 2: See this interesting theory about Sherlock’s crying being the out-of-character action because symptoms of that rhododendron ponticum plant are watery eyes. O.o (I seriously hope this is wrong. I want those tears to be genuine.)
EDIT 3: It occurs to me that Sherlock actually bouncing a rubber ball in boredom could be considered a tad OOC, but again, it’s just because we haven’t seen him do it before. He’s certainly been bored and destructive before, but this harmless playing seems unusual. I might be reading too much into it, but if the ball is involved, perhaps the "OOC moment" is nothing more than this.
EDIT 4: Anon in the comments suggests that the OOC moment may have been Sherlock making tea for Moriarty. We’ve never seen Sherlock serve someone without an ulterior motive before. Also, note that Moriarty’s cup has a marking on the inside rim. A (really really) slow-acting poison of some kind, perhaps? (By the way, if you’re interested in tea-drinking in England in general or in Sherlock specifically, this article by enigmaticpenguinofdeath is a great one.)
EDIT 5: What about his OOC moment being...begging Moriarty for a moment of privacy? That allows Sherlock to look down over the edge of the building to make sure his homeless network is in place—or perhaps some kind of laundry bin for Sherlock to jump into. See this post with pictures for an excellent and completely plausible explanation.
EDIT 6: Or even...Sherlock deliberately hyperventilating as a means of preparing to hold his breath for a long time. This would mean that Sherlock’s emotion during the call to John was not completely genuine, though, which would be sad. Still, the more I think about it...Sherlock really isn’t prone to these kinds of bouts of emotion, is he? Sherlock himself said in Hounds that having an outward physical response to emotion was out of character for him. I was just watching Scandal again and thought of Sherlock coldly taking Irene’s pulse in what is an otherwise ridiculously sexy exchange. And he’s generally very calm during hostage situations (i.e. John in The Great Game, then Mrs. Hudson in Scandal). But then again, he did scream at Richard Brook (unless, you know, he was acting there, as well). If Moriarty can inspire great emotions in him, maybe the thought of having to deceive and leave John can, too.
- Mycroft. I am 99% certain he must be involved in some way. Because any list would be incomplete without that force of deus ex machina. I was wondering why Mycroft/Sherlock were apparently fighting when they seemed to get along so well in "Hounds." But now I think that
Sherlock deduced that Mycroft had given away his history to Moriarty and was angry with him because now Sherlock has to fake his own death, and Mycroft knew that Sherlock knew and was apologetic, even though this was the only eventuality. Maybe Sherlock being on the run will help mend the rift. Probably not.My views on this have changed because, really, Mycroft is not dumb enough to give away precious details about his brother's life to a criminal madman. That's a massive underestimation of Mycroft's character and all the evidence we have seen so far. I am fairly certain now that Sherlock and Mycroft deliberately planned this together.
EDIT: See linabean’s fascinating post on Mycroft and his role in the series, and how basically the entire Fall was a plot he and Sherlock orchestrated together. I’m really coming to believe this because of how odd it was that they seemed pretty friendly in previous episodes but then suddenly seemed to have an unexplained falling out.
EDIT: See also this interesting defense of Mycroft, which theorizes that Mycroft was holding Moriarty in the mysterious basement at Baskerville and also agrees that Mycroft and Sherlock planned all the events of Reichenbach together.
- I.O.U. Do we every really figure out what’s going on Moriarty’s I.O.U. carved into an apple? I know the cryptic hints keep following Sherlock around in the forms of spray-paint on the windows and graffiti on the walls and help him to figure out that the kids are eating chocolate, but was there something else? Anon in the comments suggests what I think is at least a cool fairytale parallel between Moriarty (the evil monarch; he even alludes to royalty with “you should see me in a crown”) giving Sherlock an apple—whee, Snow White references! So...perhaps it’s another clue that a poison is involved somehow. And we all know that Sherlock appears dead but really isn’t, just like Snow White. (Clearly head!canon insists that John is Prince Charming.) (EDIT: awesome fic has been written casting Sherlock as Snow White! Check out Snow White by Valeria2067!)
EDIT: Note that the graffiti I.O.U. is bordered by wings—and Moriarty keeps insisting that Sherlock is on the side of the angels. Interesting...(thanks, Anon in the comments).
EDIT: Here is a good “rule of three” explanation for the three I.O.Us Moriarty leaves for Sherlock.
EDIT: smills47 mentioned something I had never before noticed, and it makes me so happy but at the same time so very, very sad—that Moriarty may have started it, but John completes the I.O.U. sequence at the graveside with his painful “I was so alone, and I owe you so much.” *cries*
- Bach. Thematic musings...Bach was, like Moriarty and Sherlock, a genius with a love for music, and they bonded over being his fanboys. Neither Bach nor Moriarty nor Sherlock can stand for work to be left unfinished; to quote Sherlock, all of his cases are pressing until they’re solved. See this amazing explanation for more. Also, smills47 points out that “the name Brook also translates back to Bach.” Moriarty is so clever.
- Fairy tales. Just a list of the ones we’ve seen referenced...Hansel and Gretel, obviously; Moriarty references Humpty Dumpty on the roof; Kitty Riley’s apartment has the words “make believe” on the wall; I like the Snow White parallels with apples and such. Also, there are Arthurian legends with Lestrade and Sir Boast-a-lot and biblical references with the talk of angels (and the I.O.U. graffiti having wings). Also see this fantastic theory where Moriarty is Rumplestiltskin, i.e. Richard Brook is the real one; Moriarty is the fake. (Thanks, Anon in the comments!)
- Stayin’ Alive. This is more Moriarty-related than Sherlock-related, but Anon in the comments points out that we have heard that Bee Gees disco song twice in the series now; perhaps it has some significance other than its title. It does seem to be Moriarty’s theme song, after all. Some interesting lines in the lyrics:
—“Got the wings of heaven on my shoes, I’m a dancing man and I just can’t lose” (Moriarty’s supreme confidence?)I have a feeling I could do a post entirely on this song.
—“It’s all right, it’s okay, you may look the other way” (subliminal message to Sherlock to look elsewhere while Moriarty fools him?)
—“Feel the city breakin’ and everybody shakin’ and we’re stayin’ alive” (a reference to Moriarty and Sherlock’s “final problem”?)
—“Well, now, I get low and I get high—and if I can’t get either I really try” (maybe a dig about Sherlock’s past drug habit?)
—“We can try to understand the New York Times’ effect on man” (a reference to Moriarty using the media to ruin Sherlock—thanks for this great idea, Anon!).
EDIT: Anon also discovered that this song has a history of being associated with paramedics because of the title and also because the beat goes perfectly with the ideal rate of chest compression in CPR. *mind boggled* See this absolutely brilliant ad by the British Heart Foundation for more info.
- Sherlock’s head injuries. See this tumblr post for an interesting analysis of Sherlock’s injuries, blood splatters, and a mysterious man in a black coat...
- Irene. She has lots of experience faking her own death and could be a good resource (or even accomplice) for helping Sherlock by returning his favor of saving her life.
- Moran. Not 100% Fall related, but there has been quite a lot of speculation involved. I personally was holding out for Molly, but other theories include the sniper who was after John or even Moriarty’s barrister, who is played by Ian Hallard, who is Mark Gatiss’ real-life partner. (EDIT: This one has been disproved.)
- The traffic cone. This one is maybe utter crack, but at the same time it's adorable utter crack. As Sherlock is wheeled away on the gurney, there is a traffic cone that has the helpful words "SLOW DOWN" on it. If you pause the video at that point, you can see that it is actually not Sherlock on the gurney. (More details here. More hysterical fan art/manips here by barachiki.)
- Miscellaneous. I love this Final Problem tumblr: check out the theory index for great and probably correct discussions on what went down. The one about all the freakin’ assassins/gunmen/wireless networks and the one about Lestrade’s assassin being a trusted Scotland Yard policeman and also one of the kidnappers were particularly helpful/mind-blowing. (And check out this one that speculates that the way Jim scratched Sherlock’s name into his holding cell was with the little diamond and that Jim has been planning Sherlock’s fall since The Great Game.) I also found another great tumblr link that also incorporates most of the theories wandering around here. They speculate about some Grimm/Angels theories, too. And here’s another with pictures that points out that everybody Sherlock shook hands with gets killed (or "killed," depending on whether or not Moriarty is alive) and then suggests that Mycroft is actually the one on the gurney (based on what I admit is a very compelling picture). Now this I would love to see. Oh, and here’s an interesting guy with a theory on Youtube with a cute little drawing of the buildings. Here’s another cool and detailed theory where Sherlock had hired his own sniper as a threat to Moriarty that Sherlock could die and have it look like murder (which Moriarty didn’t want; he wanted Sherlock’s suicide). The author’s ideas on fairy tales are particularly compelling, especially the Humpty Dumpty references.
Okay, it's time. In short, here is my theory, with great thanks to the finalproblem tumblr's theory index. That site is run by a person who is much cleverer than I am, and she has a great explanation that I believe is probably the correct one, especially with regards to the confused tangle of gunmen (hint: there are two different sets!) and the kidnapped girl screaming when she saw Sherlock (hint: it's because John's sniper rather looks like Sherlock, and Lestrade's sniper rather looks like John). Also check out eva-christine's Reichenbach Explanation about Moriarty's motives. Simply fantastic. Read those first. And then here is my theory on the fall:
- Sherlock and Mycroft concocted this plan to take Moriarty down from around the time of Baskerville. Therefore, Sherlock knew this was coming well in advance, and Jim foolishly let Sherlock choose the time and place of the final encounter.
- Sherlock himself fell from the building, landed on something cushy (helped by his homeless network), got off the cushy thing and lay on the ground. It's also possible that in the brief time frame between Sherlock landing on the cushy thing and getting off of it to lie on the ground, he could have used the dummy as a placeholder.
- This cushy landing was blocked from the sniper's view by the truck.
- The homeless network poured blood all over him, provided by Molly. Or Sherlock had blood packets that he put into his hair or something.
- After he recovered from being hit by the biker (arranged by Sherlock to delay John), John saw him (or the dummy) as he turned the corner.
- John came to take his pulse, but Sherlock blocks his pulse with the rubber ball. Sherlock was warned John was coming by the "medic" with his hand on Sherlock's neck (blocking that pulse point so that John is forced to take his wrist) briefly shaking Sherlock--horrific medical procedure if the medic is not in on it.
- While John is distracted by the homeless network circling around him, Sherlock gets on the stretcher briefly, but gets off again and waits in the phone box, switching places with another person, who is wheeled into the hospital.
- Molly takes care of all the paperwork and Moriarty's body on the roof (possibly Moriarty's body is the one that goes into Sherlock's casket because wouldn't that be poetic?).
- Sherlock goes off and does...something. Takes down the sniper? Takes down Moriarty's spiderweb? Contacts Mycroft for funds/planning?
CRACK EDITS: OMG HAVE SOME AMAZINGLY FUNNY SHERLOCK ART. Or more gorgeous art here. *loves* And have some Jim from IT doing IT work while you’re at it. :DDD And also a vid of pure genius. AND ALSO Misleading Moriarty, the best tag ever. AAAAAND also these hilarious misunderstandings with Irene’s phone. Along with the greatest mind of our generation at work.
And OMG WHAT IS THIS FANTASTIC THING?! (Prestige crossover. Amazing.)
Non-crack edits: Anybody interested in some lovely, in-depth discussion about the acting and writing of Sherlock should definitely check out MK Hey's Sherlock tag, starting with Sherlock: A Study in Technique. Great writing and analysis, and it helped me clear up a few questions I had (like what does Mycroft mean when he asks John about Sherlock's heart?).
About timelines in the series:
This is more to do with Scandal/Baskerville, but this article posits a wonderful explanation for the timelines in Season 2, namely that Baskerville takes place during Scandal (before the Christmas party scene). Note Mrs. Hudson's dress and Sherlock pointing out the Christmas sweater at the inn. Brilliant!
And mad_maudlin has put together a fantastic timeline that has a great explanation for why the end of Scandal and the beginning of Reichenbach must happen at the same time. I love the genius detective work of this fandom!
Please comment with any I’ve missed so I can make a truly definitive list. :)
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