Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Journey to Reichenbach One: Overture

How did Sherlock get here?

The Reichenbach Fall.  "The fall of Rich Brook."  The creators of the SHERLOCK universe chose the name.  The clue is in the name.  Not "Falls," plural, but the fall with the more permanent destination of one man only.

How Sherlock survives his leap is far less interesting than all that led him to the ledge.  The series of events leading Sherlock Homes to the edge of death didn't begin in the opening scenes of  "The Reichenbach Fall." This journey began before the very first scene of  SHERLOCK's premiere episode.   It began when Moriarty hatched a plan to eliminate Sherlock Holmes, arranged for a cab driver under a death sentence to execute it,1  and Mycroft brought Dr. Watson into Sherlock's life.2  


Sir Arthur Conan Doyle introduced Sherlock Holmes  in his book A Study in Scarlet and in a deathly plunge into an abyss at the Reichenbach Falls, killed both Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty in his story  "The Final Problem." Doyle intended this to be the last he would ever write about Holmes.

Just as "A Study in Scarlet" and "The Final Problem" served as the beginning and intended end of Sherlock Holmes fictional life, a life Doyle never intended to resurrect, so the present BBC Holmsian reality, "A Study in Pink" and "The Reichenbach Fall" serve as narrative bookends between which  Sherlock's character is born, evolves and plunges into his own abyss.  The first two seasons, the set of six episodes can be seen as a subset, a coherent portion of what will be many SHERLOCK series and episodes as yet to be produced.

  Parallels: "A Study in Pink" and "The Reichenbach Fall"
  • You can talk a man into committing suicide, you don't need a gun.
  • Sherlock goes off on his own; John tries to find and save him
  • Sherlock is willing to torture someone to get information.
  • Both men should have died.  Only one did. 
  • Sherlock sacrifices his reputation to protect John.
  • The crimes were designed to garner attention in the media

Sherlock's Evolutionary Path Leads to the Ledge.  It's Moriarty through the voice of the cabbie who gives us Sherlock's pre-John Watson character:
"Are you clever enough to bet your life?  ...  I bet you get bored, don't you?  ... I know you do.  A man like you - so clever - what's the point of being clever if you can't prove it?  ... Still  the addict ... but this, this is what you're really addicted to, isn't it?  You'll do anything, anything at all, to stop being bored. You're not bored now, are you?"

Moriarty, whom the cabbie refers to as Sherlock's "fan," told the cabbie all about Sherlock, including how to entice him to destroy himself. That cabbie was Moriarty's disguise. As seen in The Tale of the Killer Cabbie, neither the cabbie nor Sherlock was intended to survive. Both pills were poisoned, both would die, mystery forever unsolved, Moriarty's identity safe.

And as Irene Adler later told us, a disguise is always a self-portrait.  Moriarty is a proper genius. Moriarty is a true psychopathic serial killer motivated by profit. Moriarty wants to eliminate Sherlock Holmes, but more, to beat him.  In the killer cabbie scenario, Sherlock Holmes will die defeated while Moriarty remains unknown.   

But John Watson saved Sherlock's life by killing the cabbie.   Watson confirms for us Moriarty's characterization of Sherlock as willing to die to fight intellectual stagnation,  "It's how you get your kicks, isn't it, you risk your life to prove you're clever."  Sherlock uses cleverness, the exercise of his intellect as a weapon, as his identity, his reason to live.   He identifies himself as a sociopath, other's feelings or welfare irrelevant, it's all about the "brainwork."   When other's hands shake in fear as they reach for the poisoned pills and face death, Sherlock's shake with the adrenaline of excitement.  

For reasons unavailable to us in Sherlock's backstory, Moriarty knows his psychology, his disregard for the value of his life, his need to assert his intellectual superiority, his reckless nature in the face of mortal danger.   Moriarty knows Sherlock as a man without boundaries.  Moriarty has none, either.  But Moriaty, the true psychopath, cannot conceive of self-imposed boundaries that are motivated not by fear or conformity or respect for social custom, but from love.  Love not as feelings, no sentiment at all, but love as the willing sacrifice of oneself for the benefit of another.

Sherlock changes.  In the very first episode, in his encounter with John Watson, his evolution commenced. A spare glance and Sherlock knew that John risked his freedom to protect him;  Sherlock immediately sacrificed another moment of intellectual triumph, that for which he lives, even insistently proclaiming his own ineptitude, to protect John Watson.  While Sherlock doesn't seem the worse for torturing information out of a dying man, he expresses concern over John's mental/emotional state because he had just killed a man.  And John, he of the trust issues, admits it. 

Sherlock was alone, his own brother considered his archenemy, someone who offended people so often and grievously they warned others away.   He was a  man in need of a flat-mate he believed he would not find due to his own nature.  In John Watson he finds a partial but accurate reflection of self. In being valued, he is able to value. 

This is something Moriarty does not witness and cannot comprehend. 

Journey to Reichenbach Two: The Curtain Rises

1 see The Tale of the Killer Cabbie
2 See Professor Moriarty: Out of the Shadows

The Tale of the Killer Cabbie

According to John Watson's blog, he and Sherlock looked at the flat at 221B Baker Street on the 30th of January.1

The first of the serial suicides occurred on October 12th.  This means that long before Dr. Watson meets Sherlock Holmes, Moriarty is planning to kill him.

How do we know that?
Starting with what Sherlock deduces and the cabbie reveals, we have this version of the hows and whys of cabbie as serial killer:
1 - Three years prior to confronting Sherlock across a table, the cabbie was diagnosed with an apparently inoperable brain aneurism which may rupture at any moment, killing him instantly.

2 - He is a cabbie estranged from his children, not by his own desire, and wishes to leave them something more than his old clothes. He doesn't earn much as a cabbie.

3 - "I have a sponsor," the cabbie tells Sherlock, "For every life I take, money goes to my kids. ... The more I kill, the better off they'll be."

But there has to be much more going on than a psychopath in the background ("You're not the only one to enjoy a good murder, there's others out there just like you... ") who simply enjoys murder for entertainment.  If the sponsor enjoys murder and the cabbie's children get money with every kill, then why would he have killed so few people and in such a bizarre way?  Motivated by profit, if he were doing this on his own, he would be killing more victims at closer intervals to maximize benefits to his children before the aneurism in his head explodes, which it can at any moment.  Instead, he only kills four people, so someone else is controlling his actions: Moriarty.

The Victims are Connected

We know Sherlock can make mistakes and in this case, when asked if there is a link between the first three victims, Lestrade responds "There's no link we've found, yet, but we're looking for it, there has to be one," he is correct. Sherlock sends the "wrong" text to the reporters, but he has missed the patently obvious.  If they are suicides, the method, poison and access to the information as well as the substance connect them.  If they are murders,  what the victims all have in common is: someone wanted each of them dead.

Mistress in the lens.
Sir Jeffrey Patterson was having an affair.  He also didn't take cabs, but this day the company car had gone to Waterloo, for some reason.  It hardly seems like a stretch to believe Moriarty could have arranged this and had the killer cabbie waiting.  At the first news conference in this episode, his wife is reading a prepared statement.  Panning left, we see a different woman,  the woman he was speaking to on the phone before he got into a cab: the blond who said she loved him.  And, we see her through a viewfinder, someone is taking her picture.  Perhaps his wife wants it to enjoy the mistress's moment of despair.   Perhaps Moriarty just likes souvenirs.

No obvious motive for murder attaches to victim 2,  the student James Phillimore, except that he was a student at Roland-Kerr Further Education College, the same place the cabbie took Sherlock.

The cabbie takes credit for finding the murder locations himself, but it makes much more sense for Moriarty to have provided all the elements of the crimes.  Possibly, James witnessed something, a previous crime Moriarty arranged at the school and needed to be gotten out of the way.

The third victim, Beth Davenport,  was a politician who was also a party girl.  Dancing in a club on her birthday, possibly doing drugs, certainly drinking, (which is why her keys were taken away) behaviors apparently typical of her by the comments of her staff members, she would be an embarrassment to her party.   Possibly, she was simply standing in the way of a lucrative contract and her unsavory habits made her an easy target.  As it is her birthday, she also may have come into an inheritance that day that someone didn't want to share.  A call to her mobile to come somewhere immediately and secretly, and she leaves the club without mentioning anything to her staff members, finds she has no keys and is grateful for the empty cab that happens to be cruising by.  Easy-peasy.

As for victim number four, Sherlock gives us at least two motives for Jennifer Wilson's death.  She was a "serial adulteress" and also was in the media.  We assume she is in London overnight for a brief lover's tryst.  Yet, she also might be in London to meet with a source, she may be doing an embarrassing expose or able to endanger powerful and important people with the information the source she is in London to meet with will provide her. 

Jennifer Wilson was clever and possibly ambitious, she was also interested in justice and quite courageous as she kept her wits about her in the face of death, trying to lead police to her killer.  It's possible she was on the trail of a master criminal someone would identify to her.

The victims were chosen by Moriarty, the arrangements made, accomplices placed and instructed, the cabbie assigned as murder weapon.  He was a perfect choice for a killer-for-hire.  It was always in his best interests to keep Moriarty's secrets.  He has nothing to lose and everything to gain.  He comes with built-in obsolescence.  He will die soon, the secrets dying with him. 
Modus Operandi: Luring Sherlock

The  manner of the deaths is nonsensical if Moriarty simply used the cabbie to carry out murders for hire.   In that case, they should be as simple as possible, look like muggings or accidental modes of death that do not link them together.  In this way, the police never look for a single killer and the cabbie, the tool Moriarty refined, remains useful and profitable as long as possible.

And how did he actually kill them? Not using the two bottles he showed Sherlock Holmes in a game where if you outplay the cabbie, he dies and you don't.

That can't be if we believe what's already been shown us in the other murders, as the bottles each victim picked up all contained three pills.  It wasn't as if the first victim had a fuller bottle and with each successive victim there were fewer pills until we reach Sherlock's which only had one.  They each had three pills.  The cabbie had a gun.  What did he tell them?

Perhaps that he said he was going to rob them or rape the women and the pills were a drug to make them unconscious or make them lose their memory. Or was it a version of the last game, where he said two of the pills were harmless and only one was deadly and they had a 66% chance against the gun?  It hardly matters. Moriarty didn't care how they died, only that they died in such a way that no one could trace the crimes back further than the cabbie and the crime scenes support the idea of "serial suicide" so as to attract the attention of Sherlock Holmes.

Moriarty created a unique game for Sherlock,  intending neither Sherlock nor the cabbie leave that building alive.  The cabbie would have to know it was his last day, Moriarty probably offered him a huge bonus for killing Sherlock and dying, himself.  And why not?  His time was ticking away; he had nothing to live for but to insure the welfare of his children.  He must have known because there was no "good" pill.  Both were deadly. They had to be, in case Sherlock erred.  Moriarty could have provided the cabbie with an antidote he could take, of course.  Leaving Sherlock's body to be just one more victim.

In any case, Sherlock must not be shot.  He must be one of the suicides. Moriarty wanted more than his death, only Sherlock's defeat would earn the final payment.  The words from the cabbie's mouth are Moriarty's, the method to entice him, appeal to both his ego and his inherent reckless disregard for his own safety.  He'll risk not breathing for the sake of "brain-work" because "breathing is boring." 

Moriarty's identity will be safe with the cabbie's death, Sherlock will be eliminated and Mycroft will not connect the serial-killings, the seemingly random work of  a madman with the criminal mastermind he as yet cannot identify.  Sherlock Holmes will be just one more hapless victim.

Then John Watson shot the cabbie.  And Sherlock got the name. 

Journey to Reichenbach One: The Fall of Rich Brook

 1 - See JOHN'S BLOG IS WRONG - or the Solar System is for information about why this date is impossible in this Universe.  Eliminating the impossible, we must accept the improbable as true: this Sherlock exists in an alternate reality or parallel universe.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Professor Moriarty: Out of the Shadows, part 1

In a previous post (*Jim* is not Moriarty) this blog made the point that the man who shot himself on the roof of Saint Bart's was not the Moriarty who set the killer cabbie on Sherlock in A Study in Pink This makes Andrew Scott's "Jim Moriarty,"  while a deliciously delightful villain, only a mask disguising the true Moriarty. 

As in the Conan Doyle stories, the man who died may well be the younger brother of Professor Moriarty, the true criminal mastermind and evil genius.  But James Moriarty is also insane,  rendering him ultimately unpredictable, prone to revealing too much, acting too impulsively.  Being not only a psychopath but also insane is a rather unusual situation as we see in this excerpt from Psychopaths, not Psychotics:
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the bible on these matters, does not include psychopathy as a disorder; and the vast majority of psychiatrists do not consider it a form of mental illness.

The pure and quite sane psychopath would be Professor Moriarty; and if there is a candidate for high-functioning sociopath on the angels' side, it is the Iceman:  Mycroft Holmes. Each man is the hidden mastermind of  his respective domain. Moriarty and Mycroft knew about one another long before Sherlock encountered Professor Moriarty through the killer cabbie in A Study in Pink.   But Mycroft didn't have a name, just the knowledge through his own prodigious reasoning ability, that there was a mastermind at work.

When Mycroft meets John Watson he says he worries about Sherlock "constantly."  Why?  Partly because he is afraid Sherlock will slip back into addiction, as discussed in Sherlock Backstory: Still the Addict.  But Mycroft knows that with Sherlock's vocation, he must cross paths with the master criminal he has perceived, become a target of  that criminal, sooner or later.  Mycroft also may know the archcriminal exists, but not yet know his identity, like the Sherlock of the Canon. He may be hoping to use Sherlock as his "sniffer dog," to identify "The power behind the malefactor," as Doyle's Sherlock puts it.

It was Mycroft who manipulated John Watson into Sherlock's path.  Of course, Sherlock would never allow Mycroft to find or even suggest a flatmate.  But Mycroft knew all about Watson, he knew when his appointments were, when he'd be making his way through the park from her office, when Mike Stamford should be sitting on a bench to intercept him.

Dr. Watson is a caretaker with a gun, an expert shot with nerves of steel who misses being in action.   Mycroft does the final vetting by trying to bribe John without revealing his own identity.  By being somewhat threatening and offering a bribe,  Mycroft tests Watson's courage and character.  He adds a bit of manipulation by making it seem as if Sherlock is under threat from him, the "archenemy" and in need of a protector. someone to be in his corner, for as Mycroft carefully drives home:  Sherlock is friendless. Watson, soldier, doctor, defender joins Sherlock, and just in time, as Moriarty already has him targeted.

Master Manipulators:  Moriarty and Mycroft

Moriarty didn't sic Irene Adler on Sherlock through little brother James only to obtain the translation of an email.  (A Scandal in Belgravia)  The target was Mycroft.  Moriarty knew how much animosity there was between the brothers and that Sherlock, in rebellion, would operate in isolation from Mycroft with Adler,  allowing him to design a script that would play out unhindered, something he learned during The Great Game, when Sherlock locates the missile plans while ignoring Mycroft as much as possible. 

Only Sherlock's willing emergence from self-imposed "sociopathy" allows him to utilize his ability to empathize without being subject to compassion.  And only that emergence allows him to regret, reconsider, and for the first time call Mycroft "brother."   Finally the Holmes boys are on the same side.   But this Moriarty doesn't know. 

What Moriarty has known is defeat at the hands of Sherlock Holmes three times, and then, the loss of a key operative in Irene Adler.  Moriarty now turns full attention to destroying Sherlock and arranging at the end for the name "Moriarty" to morph into something akin to "Bigfoot," an urban myth, the invention of  a disturbed, attention-seeking loner.  If any criminal in future offers up Moriarty in exchange for a deal, no one will believe him.   Moriarty will fade back into obscurity, the very existence of such a "master criminal" a  ludicrous suggestion.

The question is: If the criminal mastermind is not James Moriarty who died on the roof of Saint Bart's, who exactly is Moriarty?

Professor Moriarty: Out of the Shadows, part 2

Thursday, February 21, 2013

John Watson: Too Dumb to be a Doctor

It strains credibility beyond endurance for us to believe Dr. Watson is a medical doctor, much less a "very good" one, considering his appalling lack of medical knowledge or instinct.  There are numerous examples of him dropping the medical ball, this blog looks at two in some detail.

S1E3: The Great Game 

Watson was only an Army doctor in a combat zone, why would he know a thing about wounds?

Here's the victim, Connie Prince, on a metal autopsy table in the morgue.  She hasn't had a full autopsy, she shows no Y incision, but her body has been prepared: stripped and obviously washed down, by the state of her hair.

Sherlock gives us the police finding on her death:
"So, dead two days.  According to one of her staff, Raoul DeSantos, she cut her hand on a rusty nail in the garden. Nasty wound, (which John leans over to take a look at) tetanus bacteria enters the bloodstream - goodnight, Vienna."

Sherlock then looks at the right arm and face of the victim and starts to question Watson:

HOLMES: The cut on her hand, it's deep, it would have bled a lot, right?


HOLMES: But the wound's clean.  Very clean and fresh. ....  How long would the bacteria have been incubating inside her?

WATSON: Eight, ten days.

Sherlock smiles knowingly.   The dull fellow with the medical degree who can't manage to figure out that this woman couldn't possibly have died of tetantus without many days of increasingly serious and obvious symptoms, who was in combat but cannot recognize a fresh post-mortem wound, finally manages to work that out:
WATSON: The cut was made later.

LESTRAUDE: After she was dead?

HOLMES: Must have been.


Here is just some of the information (from that Dr. Watson, combat doctor, seems to have forgotten:

Signs and symptoms of tetanus may appear anytime from a few days to several weeks after tetanus bacteria enter your body through a wound. The average incubation period is seven to eight days.
Common signs and symptoms of tetanus, in order of appearance, are:

  • Spasms and stiffness in your jaw muscles
  • Stiffness of your neck muscles
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Stiffness of your abdominal muscles
  • Painful body spasms, lasting for several minutes, typically triggered by minor occurrences, such as a draft, loud noise, physical touch or light
Other signs and symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Sweating
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Rapid heart rate

Painting by Sir Charles Bell, 1809: tetanus spasm
Tetanus infection only kills about 11% of it's victims in industrialized countries. It takes a while.  Symptoms can start to appear within a few days, but usually it's about a week, up to three. Untreated, the spasms from this infection can bow the body and the muscle contractions are strong enough to break bones. (See Wikipedia entry for description and picture.)

No one could have found this woman simply lying dead one day with no warning signs. The cut on her hand would have been clean from the washing of the body and not re-bled, obviously, but Watson would have seen immediately that the cut was not a few days old.

We learn later that Sherlock, naturally, figured it all out from the injection sites on her forehead which instantly suggest botox to most casual viewers.  

S2E1: A Scandal in Belgravia

When the elderly woman is attacked, the doctor gives her a hug. 

Here he is: Army Captain, medical man, combat veteran.  When told the woman obviously her 70s has been attacked, he rushes to her side, put his arm around her shoulders asking if a she is "all right" and looks to Sherlock for instruction.

He does not: take a pulse, look for pupillary reflex, or even note if they are the same size or note injuries to her face, feel her zygomatic arch for fracture, and then ... he lets the old lady walk down stairs unaccompanied  while he hangs back to ask what's going on.

A woman of this age, or a man but especially a woman with a more delicate bone structure, can suffer brain damage, similar to an infant, from any strong blow to the head which creates a whiplash effect.   Our guy has her walk downstairs alone (remember, she has a bad hip) after some sort of attack still a mystery to him and apparent shock and serious emotional reaction.  (Perhaps Sherlock should have put a blanket on her as a sign to the doctor.)


Where's the doctor?  The one who, when there is a patient in front of them takes charge, because the welfare of the patient is paramount?  They couldn't spare a few seconds for him to do even a cursory check?   What "very good" medical man of military experience does not become Alpha Male Extraordinaire with a patient in front of him?  A patient he has a personal affection for?

Note to writers:  You have Martin Freeman.  It's bad enough an actor as talented as this is burdened by his character's medical duncery. Please stop inflicting it on your viewers.  If you don't want to pay for a full-time medical adviser, Google is your friend. There is room on this show for more than one clever hero.  You knew that in the first episode. Sherlock wanted John because he is "very good."

Sherlock was wrong.  He never needed an assistant.  He needed a partner.   Give us a Dr. Watson for the 21st century.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Reichenbach Evidence: Surviving the Fall

Cumberbatch ready for his close-up.
Whose Hand is This, Anyway?

This close-up is of the hand John Watson was holding as he felt for a pulse.  If the answer the writers have come up with is that it wasn't Sherlock's hand, it's going create a problem.

Below we see Cumberbatch's right hand from the same episode. Same spatulate fingernails, same slight asymmetry of the index nail bed as the right hand above.

In the top snip we are also able to observe the distinctly deep, continuous and somewhat inset "lifeline" moving from the wrist and curving off to the right in the picture, just grazing the middle finger and disappearing around the interior portion of the hand under the index finger.  In the right-hand snip below from S1E1, A Study in Pink, while not as close, we clearly see the same, deep and distinctive lifeline on the actor's right palm.

CONCLUSION: It's Sherlock's hand Dr. Watson holds to take his pulse.   Or, at the very least, Benedict Cumberbatch's. 

Why does Sherlock need Molly if she's not supplying dead bodies to convince Dr. Watson Sherlock Holmes is dead?

Molly observing Sherlock.
Why is Sherlock afraid he is going to die?  Starting at the end of "A Scandal in Belgravia," (The Reichenbach Fall 1) Mycroft and Sherlock have been planning Moriarty's downfall.
But James must feel he is controlling all the action.   And while Sherlock must  assume his death will be the ultimate goal of Moriarty's plan,  somehow Sherlock has to manipulate the result.  He already knows he'll have to appear to be dead and convince John of that, as well as Moriarty or his people.

This is why he needs Molly.  Molly is a doctor.  At some point, Sherlock knows he has to be very convincingly dead.  Perhaps even literally dead.  He will need someone whom he can trust implicitly to stop his heart and bring him back to life. Little rubber balls need not apply. Sherlock must fool a doctor who is a combat veteran, up close, touching, and in a few seconds. It has to be his own hand; vital signs and pupillary response must be absent. There will be only 8 minutes for them to "kill" Sherlock, get John to believe he is dead, get him inside to Molly, and revive him before brain damage sets in.

No wonder he thinks he's going to die.  No wonder he has been subdued and sad throughout the episode. Will he trust this to one of Mycroft's doctors?  Molly loves him.  Molly would take the fall for him.  Molly will bring him back.  Molly will keep his secret to keep him safe. 

Who are all those people?

In "A Scandal in Belgravia," the show keeps shoving a newspaper headline in our faces announcing a "Refit for Historical Hospital." Theories abound involving cranes and trash chutes and other construction equipment, but one thing urban dwellers are used to when major renovations go on is that streets will be closed, buses and pedestrian walkways rerouted.  No one is getting to that bit of street, unless Mycroft sends them through.1

They all belong to Mycroft: the biker, the "doctor," the passers-by, the taxi driver taking John away and bringing him back, the passenger John takes the taxi from in front of Baker Street, all Mycoft's people.

What else can you do when a hospital is undergoing a refit?  Close off a whole wing of the hospital complex. Or at the very least, an elevator and a couple floors.  Sherlock has been at Bart's while John was with Mycroft.  John can't find Sherlock until he is called, which may have been hours later, and then led in by Sherlock, seeing only what he is meant to see.

Once Sherlock is sure he has the answers to all the questions, John is gotten out of the way. Sherlock makes his way to the roof while Mycroft sends in the buses. The scene of the bus stop from the roof looks so normal: buses and early morning passengers.  Sherlock must get James away from the edge. (See The Most Dangerous Moment in Reichenbach Fall 5)   Moriarty walks away while necessary things occur, behind those buses, out of sight of his men.  A young man with a bike, other passers-by emerge.

Sherlock stands on the wall looking down, but now, we don't see what he sees, we only see him.  Sherlock doesn't seem to be doing that one thing he always does when he is thinking: his eyes don't move.  He seems to be watching something across from himself, and then something below, not trying to work anything out. Then, he starts to laugh and raises his head. And gets off the wall.  He was always going to get off the wall.

It didn't matter if James said anything about calling off the killers or not.  He's "changeable," and he knows it.  Moriarty controls everything and everyone as much as possible. He is never setting up assassins he cannot call off, change orders for, or tell "go ahead."  Sherlock already knows he has a recall code of some kind.

Who is John Looking At? Not Sherlock Holmes 

Does John talk to dead people?
This guy doesn't move.  His coat moves, it blows in the wind.  But this silhouetted figure, about 110 feet from John, doesn't move.  Sherlock called John, told him to look up from a certain vantage point, said, "I'm on the roof."

John looked up and saw this and Sherlock kept talking, saying things that were shocking, things that would occupy John's mind, he who sees but does not observe.

In the cemetery, John Watson wanted to see something more than he wanted any other thing at that moment: a living Sherlock Holmes.  Yet, he walked right by a barely concealed Sherlock because he simply never looked around.  He never does from the sidewalk at Bart's, either.

Sherlock is on a roof of the hospital complex with the dead body of James Moriarty, watching John, speaking to John, reaching out to John even when he knows John doesn't see him.  We know this because when John first looks up and sees Sherlock, the director gives us an unbroken  panning shot directly up to Sherlock speaking to John.  But that location is to the right from John's POV in the photo above and back from the edge of the roof where he cannot be seen.

We know this because of the cathedral roof in the B.G., we only see in that position when Sherlock is on the roof with James, circling him, just before Moriarty shoots himself.  When Sherlock is on the ledge the first time, looking down, we cannot see it behind him.  So Sherlock is talking to John from 15-20 feet back from the edge.
Cathedral dome peeks out at Sherlock's collar.

What is Sherlock looking down at when he is speaking to John?  Perhaps a laptop screen.  Just as he examined the crimescene in "A Scandal in Belgravia" from his flat,  he can be looking at an image transmitted from a second laptop facing the street, perhaps left in one of the windows,  that gives a clear picture of John to Sherlock as long as John stays exactly where he is told.  

In Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Empty House,"  the story in which Holmes returns after
Sherlock talks to John, cathedral dome in B.G., looking down at...?
supposedly dying at the Reichenbach Falls, Sherlock Holmes avoids being murdered by Moriarty's last assassin by having a wax model made of himself.  He places in silhouette in front of a shaded window in 221B.  The killer thinks it is Holmes and shoots it.  Here, there is another substitute Sherlock.

How Sherlock Survives the Fall

Through the magic of clever editing.   Whatever John is seeing on the roof, whatever he believes he is speaking with, is not Sherlock Holmes but something made to resemble his very distinctive outline.  The wind blows the coat and hair around, but the figure never moves. Candidates for the figure we see are a dead body or the manikin that was hung in the flat. 

How Sherlock survived the fall is: he didn't fall.  Exactly.  He had to get to ground as quickly
"Bystanders" look to right as Watson runs up. Tree in B.G.
as possible, in almost the same time as the substitute.  So, jumping, himself, makes sense.  It's the only way to get down really quickly.   But jumping onto what?

There were trees, for one thing.  Visitors to the site in the intervening years have shown through photographs that the trees vanished.   To shoot Series Three, the trees were put back.   Sherlock could have landed in a net stretched between the trees. 

Could he have leapt onto these trees and dropped through the limbs to the ground?  Or, more elaborately, could he have leapt from the roof to the interior courtyard where a safety device was waiting for him, and snuck out to the sidewalk when John was on the ground and they brought in whatever was dropped?   This would also account for Sherlock getting so insistent that John not move - so that he does not see into the courtyard.

John sees a body where he expects it to be for a second, gets slammed to the ground by the biker and the phone in the red booth rings.   We all know who can make a phone ring in a specific phone booth at an exact moment.  The phone rings as long as John is down, only a few seconds, but long enough to remove the body, for Sherlock to dive for the sidewalk and for the  boy-doctor to inject Sherlock through his coat.  Moffat loves injecting Sherlock with drugs through that coat.  The Killer Cabbie does it in the pilot and Adler does it in "Scandal." (Otherwise we must assume the doctor is a moron who thinks shaking a person who has fallen from a height and probably has spinal cord damage is a dandy idea.)

Sherlock forum theorists have suggested that the doctor has his finger on Sherlock's carotid to keep John from feeling it as only his right wrist would be without pulse in the rubber ball hypothesis.


He can be massaging the injection site and moving the body to get the drug into his system as quickly as possible.  Feeling the carotid for the moment Sherlock's heart stops.   The people keeping John from the body until that happens.  If they used curare, Sherlock can be conscious, though paralyzed.  The shaking a signal, "John is coming." 

No wonder Sherlock told Molly he thought he was going to die.    He did.  

1 In the DVD commentary for "A Scandal in Belgravia," Mark Gatiss remarks that they had showed the viewer the headline in anticipation of the fall as there was supposed to be some scaffolding in place. But the scaffolding went missing, somehow, and they didn't use it as part ofthe epxlanation of the fall. This instantly relegates the headline to the status of red-herring, except that having it appear so prominently, means it can also be used in alternative ways for an explanation.

Monday, February 18, 2013

"Do Your Research" (psychopath vs sociopath)

"I'm not a psychopath, Anderson, I'm a
high-functioning sociopath.  Do your research."

In this scene from S1E1, A Study in Pink, Sherlock claims to be a sociopath. The impossibility of Sherlock being either psychopath or sociopath is addressed in Psyching Sherlock: the Impossible Sociopath. But he does tell Anderson to "do research" and that research can hold, for the viewer, the key to the defeat of Moriarty on the roof of Saint Batholomew's Hospital in S2E3.

Moriarty as written and as portrayed by Andrew Scott is a psycopath, and he also seems to be a bit crazy.  These two things don't necessarily go together, and so it reasonable that it took Sherlock a while to figure this out.  ("You're just getting that?" Moriarty to Sherlock on the roof of St. Bart's when Sherlock declares: "You're insane.") As the quote below tells us, psychopathy and psychosis rarely overlap:
People often confuse the idea of psychosis with psychopathy or sociopathy, or think that all psychopaths are psychotic. These disorders are actually very different, and rarely overlap (link)
Moriarty is unique in Sherlockworld, described by Mycroft as "the most dangerous criminal mind the world has ever seen," in S2E3, The Reichenbach Fall. A high-functioning psychopath of extreme intelligence and also insane.  

Psychopath vs Sociopath

While many authorities recognize no difference between a psychopath or a sociopath, others make  distinctions based on the cause of the behavior:
Some separate psychopathy and sociopathy based on their proposed causes. For instance, some people say that a person is a psychopath if he or she developed psychopathic characteristics primarily because of a genetic predisposition, and a sociopath if he or she developed the characteristics primarily in response to environmental factors, like abuse. (link, scroll to Proposed Causes)
The difference here would be that a genetically-linked psychopath would have a physical difference in neurology and be impossible to treat successfully, whereas a sociopath, if the root of the disorder were determined, could respond to traditional therapies.  That is: one can change while the other cannot. From the British Journal of Psychology:


The amygdala is involved in aversive conditioning and instrumental learning (LeDoux, 1998). It is also involved in the response to fearful and sad facial expressions ( Blair et al, 1999). The amygdala is thus involved in all the processes that, when impaired, give rise to the functional impairments shown by individuals with psychopathy. It is therefore suggested that amygdala dysfunction is one of the core neural systems implicated in the pathology of psychopathy ( Patrick, 1994; Blair et al, 1999).
Interestingly, two recent neuroimaging studies have confirmed that amygdala dysfunction is associated with psychopathy ( Tiihonen et al, 2000; Kiehl et al, 2001). Thus, Tiihonen et al ( 2000) used volumetric magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to explore the relationship between amygdaloid volume and degree of psychopathy...

Sherlock, during the course of  the two Series, changes.  He gets better.  Possibly because he was never a sociopath at all, as argued in the "Psyching Sherlock" post, or because his condition is a function of environmental factors that are being overcome through his relationship with John Watson. 

Moriarty: "You're not ordinary.  You're me."
 But in order to defeat the Moriarty on the roof of St. Bart's in The Reichenbach Fall, Sherlock must to convince him that he, Sherlock, was the same sort of creature Moriarty was: a true psychopath willing to coldly inflict as much suffering as necessary to get information.  Moriarty, insane where Sherlock is not and recognizing this, solves both his problems: he will kill Sherlock (his only worthy distraction) which renders his life unbearably empty, and so, he can finally exit life, in triumph and relief.

Information is power.  Moriarty didn't know he and Sherlock were different.  He believes Sherlock is just as desirous of death, just as sick of life ("our problem, staying alive") and looking for an excuse to end it.  But Sherlock has always known he is different: "I'm not a psychopath..." while still understanding the mind of one who is.  He uses Moriarty's tactics against him: gives him an excuse to die and lets him think he won.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


"...initially he wanted to be a pirate..."
(Mycroft on Sherlock in the diner)


Privately owned vessel commissioned by a state at war to attack enemy ships, usually merchant vessels. ( Also, one who sails on such a vessel. ) All nations engaged in privateering from the earliest times until the 19th century. Crews were not paid by the government but were entitled to receive portions of the value of any cargo they seized. Limiting privateers to the activities laid down in their commissions was difficult, and the line between privateering and piracy was often blurred.

In the first SHERLOCK BACKSTORY post, this blog made the case that Sherlock Holmes is a recovering drug addict.  Theoretically, before Sherlock met John, he was looking for a flat because he was just coming out of rehab, possibly looking for a flatmate because it was a condition of living on his own again.  Or, because Sherlock hinself thought a flatmate would help keep him straight.  

Possibly Mycroft is the one who insisted, but Sherlock has such deep-seated and long-standing issues with Mycroft, that Sherlock would only move to a flat he'd found on his own.  In the same way, it would be loathsome to Sherlock to depend on Mycroft for money, thereby giving Mycroft control over his life.

Where does Sherlock, who seems to disdain money and thinks a job is "boring," get his income?

The day after Sherlock Holmes meets Doctor Watson, Mycroft brings Watson to a remote location, "avoiding the attention of Sherlock Holmes" and says "I worry about him ... constantly."  Then, he shows up at the scene after the cabbie is killed, expressing his concern and asking Sherlock,

"Did it never occur to you that you and I belong on the same side?"

This can be interpreted as Mycroft telling Sherlock he should come over to the side Mycroft is on, that they should be comrades.  But it can also be taken to mean that they already are, and that is why Sherlock's continued "aggression" towards him is inappropriate.  Then Mycroft says something rather startling and mysterious:

"This petty feud between us is simply childish; people will suffer."

People will suffer.  Who?  Why?

In S1E3, "The Great Game," John finds Mycroft and Sherlock together in the flat, Sherlock as resentful and uncooperative as usual, refuses to look at a file Mycroft has brought on a case of missing missile defense plans. Mycroft tells Sherlock:

"You've got to find those plans, Sherlock. .... Don't make me order you."

And while Sherlock sneers "I'd like to see you try," and seems to be ignoring Mycroft entirely, we learn in the end he does solve the case and recover the memory stick with the plans on it and return it to Mycroft.  The question is: why would Mycroft think he could "order" Sherlock? 

If the police don't consult with amateurs, certainly the British intelligence services don't, either.   Presuming Sherlock will recover the plans, governments don't put very Top Secret information into the hands of anyone who doesn't also have Top Secret clearance.

The only logical deduction to be made is that Sherlock Holmes, a man with serious authority issues, is a "privateer." Someone independent of the government, but under paid contract to the government. He is a "pirate," a privateer, a private person person "commissioned by a state at war to attack [an] enemy ..." And Mycroft seems to be his superior.

Impressing a girl.
Who will suffer if Sherlock doesn't grow up and start behaving as if he and Mycroft are on the same side?   In S2E1, "A Scandal in Belgravia," we learn, as does Sherlock, that a planeful of people in the future will, along with their bereaved families.  The  terrorists will change the code the British and Americans have already cracked and blow up a plane of living people.   Mycroft worked for years to keep the terrorists from knowing they understood that code, and Sherlock handed them the information (via Irene Adler to James Moriarty to the terrorists) in a few seconds of indiscretion and showing off.  (See:  Journey to Reichenbach Five: Reconciliation for more and  the end of the Holmes boys feud.)

Was his lapse really fueled by falling victim to womanly wiles?   Or was Sherlock just rebelling against Mycroft's order to stay away from Irene Adler? Sherlock operates independently, and in "The Great Game," he has his own "contact at the Home Office," who gives him phone contacts to help prove the Janus cars case.  Another indication he has some standing with the government on his own.  Sherlock captains his own ship, a consulting pirate.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

SHERLOCK BACKSTORY 1: still the addict

BACKSTORY. The part we cannot see is what makes a fictional character real to us.  The writer has to know, regardless of what is revealed to the reader, how this specific person got to be what we see.  The writer needs to know little about a doorman and everything about the main character.  Backstory sustains dense characters and realistic character actions and arcs in fiction.

Who and where was Sherlock before we met him in Saint Bart's morgue?

It's tempting to go  back to the Canon of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for answers,  as so much of the situation of Holmes' existence has been incorporated into the show.  But that can be misleading because this character is a modern and immediate group creation of writer, director and actor.  At least.  It would be useful because so many of the well-known Holmsian characteristics are referred to and incorporated.

But this a modern Sherlock cannot be a drug addict.  Yet, it's so much a part of the Canonical Holmes, it must be accounted for.  And so it merges in snippets of dialogue and subtext of actions:

Sherlock Holmes is a recovering drug addict.

Doyle made it clear that Holmes used drugs, cocaine and morphine, certainly. In the late 19th century, cocaine use was relatively common, an ingredient in Coca-Cola, sometimes recommended by doctors.  Considering his prodigious output, a staple in Sir Arthur's personal life most surely.

But our Sherlock is also a drug addict, though recovering, apparently.  We have one reference and explanation presented early in S1E1, when Watson walks in on Sherlock in what looks like mid-shoot-up, only to be shown nicotine patches he's just placed on his arm, for "brain work."   The viewer then easily dismisses any idea that the clear-eyed, clean-jawed Holmes is shooting, snorting or swallowing anything illegal or more addictive than nicotine into his body.

Later in this episode, Lestraude stages a fake "drugs-bust" of Sherlock's just moved-into flat and John, quickly loyal and protective despite his earlier protestations to Mycroft, jumps to his defense, exclaiming, "This guy?  A junkie?  Have you met him?"   But Sherlock advises John to "shut up" and gives him a rather significant quelling look.
We don't have time to make anything of it as the Sherlock solves the "Rachel" clue and the killer cabbie demands attention.   Sherlock is soon off to be talked into suicide, leaving John desperately searching for him.  On reflection, John had only known Sherlock for about a day, Lestrade had known him for 5 years.  John defending Sherlock to Lestrade as someone who would never use drugs, was what Sherlock wanted to stop.

Later, inside the empty school, the kamikaze cabbie says something in those last moments, pushing Sherlock to actually put the pill he is holding into his mouth:
 "What's the point of being clever if you can't prove it ... still the addict ... but this, this is what you're really addicted to ... you'll do anything, anything at all, to stop being bored..."

Still the addict? Still?  When was he before and how would the cabbie know?  Moriarty told him.  All the words to manipulate Sherlock come from Moriarty.  Just as he later tells Irene Adler how to "play the Holmes boys."  And, just like Mycroft, Moriarty also knows about people like Sherlock, those who can threaten him.

Why was Sherlock looking for a flat?  Where was he living before?  And why would he be looking for a flatmate?  While Sherlock was identifying Irene Adler's body in the morgue with Mycroft, what were John and Mrs. Hudson searching the flat for?  Why was it so significant that Sherlock took a cigarette from Mycroft?

Why did John have to cancel his date in the middle to stay home with Sherlock? Surely this level of concern wasn't a reaction to the fact that
he might fall off the smoking wagon.   And why, when Sherlock came home and saw that the flat had been searched, was he not surprised?   It had been  searched before, as he indicates with his comment: "I hope you didn't mess up my sock index, this time." 

Our 21st century Sherlock Holmes is a drug addict.  Which is why when he is idle, bored, he is sometimes frantic to find something to engage his mind, to keep himself clean.  As his 19th century alter-ego said:

"Give me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram, or the most intricate analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere, I can dispense then with artificial stimulants
(Holmes in "The Sign of Four")

See also: SHERLOCK BACKSTORY 2: the Privateer    

Friday, February 15, 2013

JOHN'S BLOG IS WRONG - or the Solar System is

snip from John Watson's Blog, link in left sidebar

This link:Time and Date dot com is to a page listing sunset on January 30th in London at about 4:40 pm.  This is the day John says on his blog he went to look at the flat with Sherlock, the night of the serial killer cabbie, the first episode. In the lab, Sherlock told John they would meet "tomorrow evening 7 o'clock."  If they had met at 7PM on that date, it would have been dark.

Here they are, Sherlock having just exited a cab, shaking hands outside the entrance to 221B Baker street.  It's still daylight.

After only a few minutes in the flat, possibly 10 or 15, they are both on thier way out to the crime scene of the 4th "suicide" victim, the pink lady, and the streetlights are coming on.

During the cab ride, while Sherlock gives John his read on him through observing him and his phone and then stating his usual brilliant deductions, night falls in earnest.

In fact, the earliest date they could have arrived in daylight at the flat at 7PM and it become dark about 30 minutes later is  March 27th.  The day before, March 26th, sunset is at about 6:20 because they are on Standard Time.  Daylight Savings Time begins in England on March 27th at 1am.  The day before it's far too early.  Only between March 27th to possibly April 5th, can they have arrived at the flat in daylight and be traveling in darkness about 30 minutes later.