I need to put this online NOW otherwise there’s no point, haha, Series 3 is on tomorrow. Anyway, I came up with this theory a long time ago, wrote it up in smaller amount of detail on my forum at bbcsherlock.com but have expanded it here…


Since the airing of Series 2 in January 2012 there have been countless theories and supposed clues posted all over the internet proposing a solution to the big mystery of how Sherlock survived the plummet from the top of St Bartholomew’s Hospital rooftop at the end of The Reichenbach Fall. Now, after a two year wait, Series 3 is fast approaching with an airdate scheduled for January 1st 2014 and although speculation has died down in recent months to be replaced by a “how will the reunion happen” debate, Sherlockians all over the world are no doubt intrigued and waiting with anticipation for the big reveal, supposed “spoilers” from Setlock revealing…well…not very much at all, especially when you take into account the recent admission from the production team that trick shots were purposely filmed to throw off the fans.

The BFI screening has now taken place and for a group of lucky fans, this essay will be completely irrelevant because they’ve already seen the episode. In less than a month’s time it will be completely irrelevant to me too, but I wanted to write it down properly before I actually see it, just so I’ve got a record of my own thoughts on the matter.

My own theory is nothing special, nothing exciting, nothing extravagant. It doesn’t involve fake bodies, dead bodies, rubber balls, drugs or the TARDIS. It’s not illustrated with screen shots or intricate well drawn diagrams. It’s simple and fairly ordinary. You could say it’s elementary. (Ooooh). That’s what I like about it though. Sherlock Holmes was never about magic and fancy tricks. The answers were always right there in front of you but you didn’t see them because you were looking in the wrong place. Seeing but not observing.

I’m almost 100 per cent certain this theory will not be correct. Why? Because it’s almost too obvious and too easy. In one way, I’m hoping Moffat & Co will come up with something better. In another way, I’m hoping it isn’t TOO over the top. It would be nice to watch The Empty Hearse and sit there and say “my God, that was what I said all along”, but it would sort of be disappointing too, an anomaly that’s rather hard to explain succinctly.

Having said all that, I still think the solution WILL be something simple. It won’t involve having to pause the DVD, watch it in slow motion or pick up clues from previous episodes. They’ve already said that all the clues are right there in that episode, right there in front of you. There’s also the point that The Empty Hearse is not going to be solely about HOW Sherlock survived. That’s only going to be a minor point that’s wrapped up in a quick thirty second or less explanation. The rest of the episode will be about him coming home, the reasons behind it, the reuniting with old friends, the anger, the reconciliation, getting thrown headlong into a new case. THAT’S what the Empty Hearse will be. And that’s why the solution to Sherlock’s death CAN’T be too complicated. It needs to be able to be explained and understood in a few short sentences and flashback clips.

So, having given all that ridiculously long build up, here is my theory. I’ve posted this on a couple of websites since the original airing of The Reichenbach Fall and had countless conversations with Sherlockians discussing the matter, but I just wanted to make one final post before Series 3 returns, if only so I can return to this and laugh at myself at how wrong I was. I’m fairly certain that someone somewhere on the internet has got at least a little bit close to the actual solution and perhaps it will be a mixture of more than one theory that will prove the answer. In the end, WHO THE HELL KNOWS.

The Reichenbach Fall is my favourite episode of Sherlock. It always has been since the moment I saw it. I just remember sitting there and thinking what a wonderful, fantastically crafted piece of television it was. It truly blew my mind. Some Sherlockians find the episode difficult to watch. It’s true, I find the end part difficult to watch, especially the last five to ten minutes, but other than that the episode is a joy. It’s frustrating to see Donovan and Anderson give Moriarty exactly what he wants and Kitty Riley will always be incredibly annoying and make me want to shout at the TV screen. What you have to remember, however, is that Sherlock is playing Moriarty at his own game throughout all of this. Sure, Moriarty has a few surprises up his sleeve – the little girl screaming, the taxi ride, Richard Brook – but in the end, it’s Sherlock who is in control when they’re up on that rooftop.

There’s a moment right after they get out of Kitty Riley’s flat. A moment that always sends a chill right down my spine. It’s the moment Sherlock realises he has to kill himself. “There’s only one thing he needs to do to complete his story and that’s – “ He stops pacing, and in that instant, he knows. I think it’s a beautiful piece of acting and writing.

It’s after this that he goes to Molly to ask for her help. It’s fairly obvious that he’s asking for her help. I don’t think there can be any question on this matter and pretty much every Reichenbach theorist out there agrees that Ms Hooper had a part to play somewhere.

I don’t think it’s anything as outlandish as giving him drugs to stop his pulse or dragging a dead body up to the roof. It’s more along the lines of “I’m going to fake my own death and I need you to fake the autopsy reports/death certificate.” Because that would be something Molly would be extremely useful for. It’s unlikely he’d actually need an autopsy. That’s usually only for suspicious deaths or if the family requests it. If Mycroft is in on it (as I believe he is, but I’ll go into that later), then there probably wouldn’t be an autopsy. There’d need to be a death certificate though, and Molly could sort that out for him. She could probably also arrange a body to go in his coffin. I heard the theory once that Moriarty’s body could be in Sherlock’s empty coffin, seeing as there was never anything on the newspaper headline Mycroft was reading in the Diogones Club at the end of the episode that mentioned a double suicide or murder or the death of Moriarty, only that of Sherlock Holmes. So, presumably, SOMETHING, has happened to Moriarty’s body. Either his own criminal network arranged to have it removed, or Mycroft did. I hope that’s briefly touched upon in the explanation otherwise it would be something of a plot hole.

Anyway, back to Molly’s involvement. That’s what he asks her for in their little “you’ve always counted” moment which is followed by the high tension scenes of John and Sherlock just hanging around not really doing very much waiting for something to happen. That something comes in the form of a phone call which takes John away from the hospital and back to Baker Street where Mrs Hudson is supposedly dying having been shot. This comes straight out of the canon and anyone who’s read The Final Problem or seen any of the traditional adaptations will have known immediately that the phone call was a fake and that Sherlock knows it’s a fake. In the original, it obviously wasn’t a phone call but a messenger boy, telling Dr Watson that there was an English woman dying at the hotel and she had requested an English doctor to tend to her. Being a kind hearted soul, he couldn’t refuse and immediately ran off leaving Holmes at the Reichenbach Falls. In that instance, it was the dastardly Professor Moriarty who had arranged the deception but in the case of BBC Sherlock, who knows. I’m more inclined to believe it was Sherlock who arranged the call, to get John out of the way so he could do his whole fake suicide thing. He knew John would return as soon as he discovered Mrs H was absolutely fine and that he would come back just in time to be halted with his vision obscured by the small building in the centre of the road for the all important “note” phone call. It seems unlikely that Moriarty would want John out of the way seeing as the sniper whom he’d set up to kill him was seemingly in the building opposite. Or perhaps Moriarty DID arrange it, knowing John would return and that would set him up in a perfect sight line for his sniper to take a pop at him should Sherlock refuse to make the jump. Either way, we can be quite certain that Sherlock knew instantly what was going on, which was why he showed little concern for Mrs Hudson in the immediate aftermath of the call.

And so finally, we end up on the rooftop, and this is the part I dread whenever I watch it, because I know what’s coming and it just seems to get more difficult to watch every time. Despite this, I try to bear in mind that practically everything Sherlock says on that rooftop is ACTING. Benedict Cumberbatch is a great actor. Sherlock Holmes is a great actor too although frankly, not quite as good as Benedict, and Benedict is fantastic at acting Sherlock acting. It’s so amazingly easy to spot I’m sometimes surprised Sherlock manages to convince anyone at all, yet he does. Some of the lines are obvious “do it, do it, do what, oh yes…my suicide…” – pretending he’s only JUST worked it out. Oh yeah, Sherlock, not fooling us.

The three snipers, three bullets, three victims. Sherlock guessed them all correctly. I don’t think he knew before he got up on that rooftop what Moriarty’s entire plan was, but he knew Moriarty wanted him to kill himself. He therefore knew he’d have to have SOME kind of ammunition to force him into doing that, some kind of blackmailing technique. “You can’t just force someone to kill themselves at gunpoint”. We learnt that lesson back in Study In Pink, remember. There needs to be some kind of other angle. He knew there’d be another angle. He probably deduced it would have something to do with his friends, threatening the people he cared about. That was the most obvious thing for Moriarty to do and he knew he’d done it before when he blackmailed the jury into letting him off. It’s one of his favourite tactics. Therefore it wasn’t exactly difficult for Sherlock to successfully name the people involved when Moriarty offered to “give him a little extra incentive”.

And then there’s the whole thing with the computer code. “You don’t really think a few lines of computer code could crash the world to the ground…” Well no actually, he doesn’t. I don’t think Sherlock ACTUALLY believes in the code, anymore than Mycroft does when he’s discussing it with John. It’s just the way he delivers his lines in that moment, “Well then how did you – “ (before Moriarty interrupts him), and the expression on his face. He’s totally acting. After you’ve seen it a few times it just becomes really obvious. He’s in control, he’s playing Moriarty every step of the way and he’s winning, he’s winning right up until the moment when Moriarty pulls out a gun and blows his own brains out. That to me, THAT, is the moment when Sherlock stops acting, when he’s actually genuinely shocked and surprised and he realises that SHIT, he is actually going to have to go through with this now. Up until that moment, he most likely believed he could talk his way out of it by being clever like he usually can in most situations. Of course, he had the contingency in place and we all know it had been carefully planned and organised but STILL. He’s about to throw himself off a bloody building. No matter how much planning has gone into this, no matter how much thought and preparation, there is ALWAYS A RISK IT COULD GO WRONG. I think he wouldn’t be human if he wasn’t nervous at that point. And we know he is human. J

That’s when he realises there’s no backing out. He has to get up on that ledge and damn well chuck himself off. And that’s when John returns. The “note” phone call is quite an interesting aspect. For a start, it’s a clever little canon nod. When Watson returns to the Reichenbach Fall after realising there was no dying woman at the hotel, all he finds is Holmes’ walking staff, tobacco tin and a little note stuffed underneath it. Sort of a suicide note, if you will, explaining that all his affairs had been taken care of back in England by Mycroft – and I might as well say here that this is my main reason why I believe he is in on it in BBC Sherlock too – and that Moriarty was awaiting him, forever yours dear Watson etc etc.

Back to the note phone call then, it’s obviously a very emotional moment – not just for the fans – but for both John and Sherlock. John quickly realises what is about to happen but is powerless to stop it. You can almost sense that feeling of dread rapidly rising in his chest. Sherlock, on the other hand, has to try and remain calm in preparation for the fall yet at the same time attempting to say goodbye to his friend on some level. There’s even a couple of tears. Whether or not these are genuine is heavily debated. At the time, Sherlock was requesting that John tell everyone he was a fake. He was trying (and failing) to convince John that the papers were right and that he’d made Moriarty up for his own gains. The thought had crossed my mind that he’d gotten so into playing this part, so into his acting, that tears surfaced and pushed their way out of his eyes, like the true actor of the stage that Sherlock Holmes is! He had to be as convincing as possible in order to convince John.

But then, this begs the question, WHY did he need to convince John in the first place? Unless his phone calls were getting taped by the NSA and instantly beamed back into Moriarty’s criminal network via earpieces, they were having a private conversation that no one was listening in on and no one would find out about. Why couldn’t Sherlock just say “listen John, I’m going to jump off this building but don’t worry, I’ve got it all fixed up and organised and I’m going to fake my own death and disappear for a while. I’ll explain it all to you some other time but this is the only solution right now and you have to trust me.” John would be all, “but Sherlock, just wait a minute – “ and Sherlock would interrupt saying, “John. Do you trust me?” John would say yes. Sherlock would jump. Simple.

Well, first of all, that’s not very dramatic, because it would also reveal to the audience that Sherlock was faking it. Of course, I knew that already, having read The Final Problem and I’m sure quite a few other people did too. However, there was still a large proportion of the audience who probably hadn’t read the original story and so it would have been a total surprise when Sherlock randomly turns up in the graveyard right at the end.

In the books, Holmes argues that he has to convince even Watson that he’s dead because he doesn’t have much faith in Watson’s acting skills. He doesn’t believe that if Watson knew he was alive he would be able to successfully pull off that lie and convince everyone that he was dead. I definitely think the same could be said of John in BBC Sherlock.

There’s another couple of theories for Sherlock’s rooftop “confession”. One was that he believed he was being taped or recorded somehow, the conversation listened in on (see my topical NSA reference above). Another is that it’s Sherlock himself who was taping the conversation, recording the whole thing on his phone which he then discarded on the rooftop, leaving it as evidence to be collected later by Molly Hooper. The phone will have also recorded the entire conversation with Moriarty, and Sherlock will be able to use it upon his return to prove his innocence. Whilst a part of me really likes this theory, another part of me says it’s a little too complex and unnecessary. I do think there will have to be some kind of proving from Sherlock’s side though. After all the bad press, he’ll need to convince people that he really is genuine, that he wasn’t some kind of fraud.

Now we come to the actual fall itself, rather than the build up to the fall, and this is the part that is really very simple (at least in my theory it is).

We all know Sherlock has a decent Homeless Network. At one point, Moriarty stares down off the roof and says “oh look, you’ve got an audience now”. It’s my belief that this ‘audience’ are in fact members of Sherlock’s network, ready to do their part in helping him fake their death.

There’s a man there with a couple of plastic bags, one of which contains a large fireman style landing net. When Sherlock takes the plunge, they whip out the net, hold it between four of them and catch him in it safely.

He rolls off the net and onto the floor.

They scrunch up the net and toss it onto the dumpster truck, which then promptly drives away.

Meanwhile, John (whose view of all this has been conveniently obscured by the building – thanks to Sherlock insisting he “stay exactly where you are”), runs over to his friend’s aid and is immediately knocked over by a bike. This is definitely a planned plot point and carefully arranged by Sherlock to delay him further and buy them more time to do the faking. The man on bike is another one of Sherlock’s crew.

By the time John gets to Sherlock’s side he has splashed some fake blood on himself and is lying down “dead” on the paving stones, surrounded by fake paramedics and fake worried passers by – although perhaps some of the passers by are genuine.

John attempts to take Sherlock’s pulse in order to determine whether he’s alive. A woman conveniently pulls his hand away before he gets much chance. This is why I don’t think Sherlock needed a rubber ball or drugs to slow down his pulse. John had just seen his best mate leap from a building, then he’d been knocked over by a bike. He was confused, concussed, deeply upset and distressed, already expecting the worst, and on top of that, some woman grabbed his hand and pushed it away. There’s no way he’s going to be able to feel Sherlock’s pulse in that state and with those circumstances. He believes the evidence of his own eyes and Sherlock is led away on a stretcher into St Bart’s.

We have to wonder what happened in the immediate aftermath of this. Did John follow them inside, ask to see Sherlock’s body to say a final goodbye? That would make things kind of awkward. The ideal situation from Sherlock’s point of view would be get inside, jump off the stretcher and leave through the back exit straight into one of Mycroft’s blacked out vehicles that takes him to the airport where there’s a private plane waiting to jet him off out of the country for a while. He returns briefly for his own funeral and to make that mysterious appearance in the graveyard but other than that he’s over in Europe for most of his two year absence (three in the canon), breaking up the rest of Moriarty’s criminal network and ensuring that it’s safe for his friends if he were to return home.

If John did insist on seeing the body, then I’m not sure how they would have played it. Would Sherlock have had to lie there pretending to be dead? No, too risky, surely. It would have had to have been some kind of fake body, a lookalike. A lot of people like the lookalike theory anyway, some even going so far as to say that it wasn’t Sherlock who jumped off the roof, it was his lookalike. But why would a Sherlock lookalike leap off St Bart’s to save Sherlock’s friends? And it was definitely a live body that jumped – a dead one wouldn’t have fallen in that manner.

I think there are lots of questions left unanswered within any Reichenbach theory. Perhaps there’s some questions that will never be answered, perhaps we’re all looking a little too deeply into it and reading things that aren’t there. Well, we haven’t got too long to find out, thankfully, then I can look back at this and laugh and smile.