Although ‘The Singular Case of the Third Series’ has been solved by Sherlock Moffat and Doctor Gatiss – we were certain there would be another (Cumber)batch of episodes; what we didn’t know was that they were actually commissioned at the same time as Series 2 – there is a tiny loose thread, a minor perplexity left to tease us until Sherlock returns to our screens: just how the hell did he get out of that?
Sherlock Holmes has jumped to his death, splattering all over the sidewalk outside Barts Hospital, only to reappear with coat, scarf and insouciant expression intact, hanging around a cemetery whilst John Watson mourns his best friend’s death.
Immortality, a superhuman body (many fans have already credited him with this already, although it’s possible they meant something else) or a Lazarus-like return from the grave can be ruled out as unfeasible – and when you’ve eliminated the impossible, the Great Detective tells us, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. What he perhaps didn’t foresee when making this remark was exactly how broad a canvas ‘improbable’ leaves us to paint on.
Amateur sleuths sent Twitter into customary meltdown within seconds of the credits rolling and although there were hundreds of ingenious, outlandish and hilarious suggestions (someone even suggested that Steven Moffat had no solution in mind and was simply going to pick the best online answer) the majority all basically converged around a single theme.
John sees Sherlock jump from the hospital roof, but his view is obscured and he can’t track his friend’s fall all the way down. He doesn’t see the body hit the floor and nor do we. We see a body strike the ground, but the shot changes from the tracking shot of the detective’s plummet to a ground-level image of the moment of impact.
Is it the man who made the deerstalker cool hitting the deck, or has he landed safely among the bags of garbage in the back of the dustbin lorry handily located at the kerbside? Are Sherlock’s brains leaking into the concrete, or has an anonymous corpse been procured, dressed up in identical clothes to his own and shoved out of the truck?
The Great Detective clearly had the whole thing planned out before he even set foot on the rooftop, and he also has a co-conspirator: Molly.
‘What do you need?’ she asked him after he revealed he thought he was going to die. His reply? ‘You’ – by which he means her access to the mortuary and ability to fake an autopsy (of which more anon). Hang on a minute, though. What about John? Well, this is where opinion diverges.
Everyone’s theories agree that the person on the bike with whom he collides is in Sherlock’s employ (a member of the Homeless Network?) and deliberately gets in John’s way. But is the rider simply buying his boss a bit of time to get clear or is he doing something even more sneaky?
Well, that depends on your theory regarding how John mistakes a stranger’s body for Sherlock’s. Some people have suggested that during the collision, the cyclist injected John with something similar to the chemical used by Dr Frankland in The Hounds of Baskerville to make him see what he expects to see: the corpse of Sherlock Holmes. He’s certainly as bewildered and disorientated as he was after inhaling the toxic fog, but is that down to being drugged or whacking his head on the tarmac?
Other have postulated that the body on the pavement has somehow been fitted with a mask of Sherlock’s face – the same mask that Moriarty wore when kidnapping the two children earlier in the episode, explaining why the little girl screamed the place down when Sherlock tried to speak to her.
Which is it? Either way, a group of paramedics wheel the body away back inside Barts (on the instructions of Molly) and John Watson is left with the unshakable belief that his best friend has perished. Molly carries out a fake autopsy (it’s easy enough, as we saw with Irene Adler in A Scandal in Belgravia) and perhaps Mycroft, whom we can’t quite believe isn’t in the loop, smoothes out any other legal wrinkles.
In the eyes of his friends, the press and the world, Sherlock Holmes is dead – but we know better, and we’re pretty sure now we know how the hell he managed to get out of it as well. The only thing left now is the agonising wait to see if we’re right.
What’s your theory? Let us know below…
Watch the Series 2 trailer…