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.


  1. He fell into the garbage truck and then it drives away with him alive.

  2. Thanks for your comment. My problem with that theory is that the truck is at the curb, much too far from the building for him to fall into, bodies do fall straight down. Of course, even where he ended up is too far away, but the curb is another 8-10 feet.