January 16, 2012

Sherlock – The Reichenbach Fall Theory

Massive Spoilers and Some Fake Blood.

Sherlock is brilliant. It's one of the most beautiful looking television dramas being made in Britain at the moment, and the entire cast is captivating. It's Downton Abbey with more running, and Doctor Who with less cringing. I love it.

But The Reichenbach Fall, the series' answer to Conan Doyle's novel The Final Problem, left me stunned for another reason too. No cliffhanger ending this time - just the frustration of knowing we'll have to wait at least a year, if not longer, before we find out for certain how the world's only consulting detective (and owner of possibly the best coat ever) managed to leap to his own death, only to get up again and walk away in total secrecy.

I have a theory, but I'm certain it's too obvious to be true. And there's no way of knowing for sure for ages. See what you think - safety in numbers?

It all starts with Molly, of course, who's been brilliantly underplayed throughout both series. Because of the way Sherlock treats her, she's not even on Moriarty's radar (even though he dated her) yet she still cares for Sherlock - so she's the perfect accomplice for him. We know he goes to her for help - she must have something Sherlock needs; she works in the morgue, so she has access to cadavers, so a bodyswap is a probable solution. We already met one character this series who convincingly faked her own death - Irene Adler was even able to fool Sherlock. We also know that the kidnapper in this episode must have resembled Sherlock very closely from the reaction the girl gave when she met him. If that kidnapper was killed (and it's unlikely that Moriarty would leave any loose ends), I imagine it's possible that Molly was able to liberate his corpse from the morgue. Alternatively, she might be able to make any other corpse resemble someone else. It's even possible Molly has experience in this - she was the only person at St Bart's when Adler's fake corpse arrived, and her dialogue with Mycroft and Sherlock makes just as much sense if she was implicit in Adler's trick.

If creating a reasonable facsimile of Sherlock's corpse is possible, then the only other thing to explain is how he survives leaping from a building and makes the switch. We see Sherlock jump, but a separate shot of a corpse hitting the ground, so it's fair to say that those could be two separate people. Sherlock makes John move to a specific position before he reveals he's on the roof, and makes him stay put during his speech. There's a small brick garage between the hospital building and John. He can see Sherlock fall, but he would not be able to see him hit the ground.

Above: John's first position, between the hospital and the small brick garage.
Below: John in the position Sherlock guides him to before he jumps, behind the garage.


When the body is first seen, immediately before John is hit by a cyclist, there is a parked lorry by the roadside with an open top trailer. It is possible (perhaps a little unlikely, but it is television) that Sherlock leaps into the trailer of the lorry, which may have contained some sort of padding to cushion his fall. Molly could have been waiting in the trailer, ready to push out the alternative corpse and 6 litres of blood, before hopping in the cab to drive away. Alternatively, the corpse could have been pushed from a second storey window by a second accomplice, beneath the level of the garage roof.

'Sherlock' lies prone next to an open top lorry full of laundry bags; a soft landing?

The cyclist that strikes John does so on purpose - you can see him pedalling towards him in the previous shot. He's likely one of the homeless network, I think. It gives Sherlock enough time to stop John from seeing the lorry, and also compounds John's shock with a mild concussion. As he arrives, the lorry is just driving away from the scene.

lorry2The lorry drives away...

Then of course, Sherlock would have Molly in the ideal position to falsify post mortem records to make it look above board.

That's my theory anyway. There are a few problems though. The first is that surviving a leap like that, even with a soft landing, is woefully unlikely. The second is that it all seems a bit out of character for Molly. And finally, it's a bit obvious - it's more likely that Moffat et al have conspired to provide a much cleverer and neater solution!

On a side note, did anyone else think the ending of Sherlock, and his fall from fame, mirrored the ending of the last series of Doctor Who?

- 2 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. jnkn

    he tells that girl “i will die today”

    24 Jan 2012, 00:05

  2. Yes, which is why I think Molly must have been doing something behind the scenes for Sherlock. I think it’s clear that Sherlock had worked out that Moriarty would demand his suicide because he wanted him discredited completely, which is why Sherlock makes the first move and invites him to the rooftop of St Bart’s. How much of his speech to her is genuine fear or emotional blackmail remains to be seen, but in any case there’s some lovely dramatic irony to their previous conversation, when he asks her ‘what could I need from you?’.

    24 Jan 2012, 11:31

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A Little More Sonic

A mostly Doctor Who based blog from Will Thomas , film maker, former library assistant and failed Jedi.


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