It’s nearly two years since Sherlock Holmes made his infamous “Reichenbach fall” from the roof of St Bart’s hospital. Backed into an impossible corner by arch nemesis Moriarty, the consulting detective was forced to commit suicide to call off the assassins hired to pick off all of his friends should he live. Except of course, Sherlock being Sherlock, it was all a big con, and he was revealed to be alive and creepily stalking his friends at his graveside.
The development melted the internet at the time, and now the countdown to series three has finally begun, it’s all kicking off again. We should remember that the trick for pulling these twists off is to show the audience just a little bit less than they think they’re seeing. But in the age of Tumblr, nothing was ever going to be allowed to be that simple…
THINGS WE CAN PROBABLY ASSUME TO BE TRUE.
Molly will be involved in some way.
During their final exchange in St Barts, Sherlock and Molly made some kind of peace, but you can bet his declaration that “I need you” was not a resolution of sexual tension. Her skills as a coroner would inevitably be invaluable in the faking of a death.
Sherlock told John to stand in that specific position for a reason.
As John ran over to the building, Sherlock reading his “suicide note” over the phone, he insisted that the doctor stand in a specific point, where he could see him. No accident.
The cyclist is going to be significant.
Immediately after the plunge, John was hit by a cyclist and knocked to the ground for a crucial few moments. No accident.
As is the dumpster truck.
Because seriously what kind of lunatic witnesses a thing like that and just drives off? You would at least ghoulishly look on from a distance, right?
PLAUSIBLE THEORIES ABOUT WHAT COULD BE GOING ON.
1. The flappy arms and bendy legs theory.
Tumblr user Say No To Status Quo points to the way Sherlock fell for the solution. Claiming science proves that landing on one’s legs, and/or bending ones legs reduces the impact at collision, making it by no means impossible to survive such a fall from four storeys. Therefore by positioning his centre of gravity so as to not land on his head, Sherlock was maximising his chance of survival. Compelling, but such a precisionist as Sherlock leaving something to chance seems unlikely.
2. The dumpster truck theory.
The truck that drove off, bin bags conveniently placed, could have easily broken Sherlock’s fall, allowing just enough to time for Molly and the homeless army to switch the body with a lookalike. There had to be a reason for it’s positioning with the chalk marks. But this looks to be disproved by this closer look which shows a body clearly identifiable as Cumberbatch lying on the pavement as the truck is already speeding away. Unless…
3. The rubber ball theory.
Maybe he was just distracted, but it can’t have been for no reason that Sherlock was bouncing that little rubber ball while waiting in St Barts. One popular theory, put as well as anyone by The Final Problem was that he was utilising what is known as the rubber ball trick.
A common con by conjurers is that if you squeeze a tennis ball or similar in your elbow then you can stop your pulse. Therefore if there was some camera sleight-of-hand and his fall was broken by the rubbish truck, he would have been able to fool John and whoever out of the bystanders wasn’t part of the homeless army that he really was dead.
This is significant, in order to safely call off the snipers everyone had to believe it. It was too dangerous for even John to know.
4. The hallucinogenic agent from The Hounds Of Baskerville theory.
The previous story saw Sherlock properly spooked by the apparent beast, only for it to turn out to be chemical hallucinogenic agent. But what if that was a nicely dangled plot thread, and the cyclist actually sprayed John in the face and caused him - and we the audience - to believe that the body really was Sherlock’s?
5. The slightly more plausible with regard to the cyclist theory.
Of course, John was not knocked over for just any old reason. But an impact like that, in his already stressed and distressed state, would fuzz his state of mind even further. He would therefore hardly be in a position to offer any sound medical diagnosis, and could quite plausibly mistake Sherlock for dead.
6. The faceswap from the sweet factory theory.
Remember how scared of Sherlock the ambassador’s daughter was after she was rescued from her kidnap? That’s never been explained either. Could it be that Moriarty found a lookalike - through coincidence or forced plastic surgery - which means there are two people with the same face going round? Could it actually be this body that fell from the roof?
7. The Mycroft theory.
Since Sherlock’s brother pretty much is the British government, he would clearly have had it within his power to stage any number of deaths. And having betrayed him to Moriarty, he would have motive to help. Would Sherlock really turn to his brother given their history? Probably not. But it’s worth remembering that in the source material, The Adventure Of The Empty House, Mycroft was definitely in on it.
8. The little bit of everything theory.
YouTube user SalingerThe puts together this really-quite-detailed video which folds everything together into something like a plausible hypothesis.
Because this was how the Doctor managed it in the other programme when he needed to convince everyone he was dead. And Steven Moffat’s critics have been known to accuse him of repeating ideas.
Are we all getting a little overexcited about all of this? As Gatiss said at Comic Con, “There’s only so many ways you can fall off a roof and survive. It’s not black magic.”
The real trick is how to get through the aftermath, and it’s going to be John who has the harder job to pull off in The Empty Hearse, in finding it in himself to forgive his former friend. In any case, with three new movies on the way we’ll soon have forgotten all about that business on the roof.
What else? “Molly and Sherlock are not going to happen in the way Tumblr thinks it will happen,” added Sue Vertue.