Questions about Sherlock S3E1 (open spoilers) [US]

So the third season of Sherlock just started in the US. I have only seen the first two seasons and this first episode of season 3, so open spoilers for those episodes will be allowed, but please nothing from the second and third episodes of season 3.

I hope that first paragraph took up enough space, because from here on out, there are open spoilers.

So in this episode we see that Sherlock Holmes of course didn’t die in the last season. He explained what happened to Anderson. Some people seem to think it’s not the real explanation, but I think it pretty much is. Anderson starts picking it apart since he’s gone a little crazy and been thinking about theories about how Sherlock could have survived for the past two years. Sherlock left quickly since he got bored with Anderson.

So if I understand and remember correctly, here’s what happened:
[ul]
[li]Sherlock stalled for time talking to John a bit as his Homeless Network set things up[/li][li]The Homeless Network blew up the airbag and put it into place[/li][li]The Homeless Network (and with some help from Mycroft?) kept people away from that area, other than people who were in on the plan[/li][li]Sherlock jumped onto the airbag[/li][li]The airbag was taken away[/li][li]The dead Sherlock lookalike was thrown out the window to splat on the ground while Sherlock was around the corner getting blood or other stuff put on him[/li][li]The bicyclist ran into John, knocking him over to keep him from getting too close until everything was ready[/li][li]The dead Sherlock lookalike was taken away while John dazed and laying on the ground, Sherlock came and laid down, more blood was put on him[/li][li]Sherlock had a squash ball under his arm, so when John felt for a pulse he didn’t feel anything[/li][li]Sherlock is taken away by an ambulance[/li][li]All meanwhile, Mycroft has people kill the gunmen who were going to kill John, Mrs. Hudson and Lestrade.[/li][/ul]
If I’ve missed or misremembered some of the points, please let me know.

So I was wondering what was the purpose of the Sherlock lookalike corpse? It seems like it would have been much easier for Sherlock to jump on the airbag, then once the airbag is gone, lay on the ground while the “concerned crowd” adds the needed blood while John is distracted. I can see the usefulness of the corpse being sent to the morgue and being buried as Sherlock, but not for the staging of the suicide.

And at some point in the episode, John said that there must have been 100 people from his Homeless Network that helped out, and Sherlock said it would have been closer to 25. But it seems like it would have been quite a number of people, including those that would keep the streets clear.

Also were the buildings around all abandoned? I don’t remember definitely from The Reichenbach Fall and I don’t know London that well, so maybe the building that they were on and all the buildings around were empty. But I would think they wouldn’t be, if it was plausible that there were pedestrians around as well.

Lastly and most importantly, why was the whole charade necessary? If I understand correctly, then Mycroft had people kill the gunmen who were going to kill John, Mrs. Hudson and Lestrade, so it wasn’t necessary to save their lives. Sherlock did go on to take out much of Moriarty’s network, though I don’t know why it would be necessary for specifically Sherlock to do that; Moriarty was the evil super-genius, presumably others in the network are just evil above average or average intelligence, and other British foreign agents would be able to take them out.

And if the 25-100 people in the Homeless Network, along with Molly, Mycroft, and Sherlock’s parents could be trusted with the secret that Sherlock was dead, why couldn’t John? Is that merely because Sherlock is a sociopath and didn’t think it would matter? I haven’t read many of the stories, so maybe that is true to the original character, but it bothered me.

I’m not meaning to nitpick too much. I can go with my suspension of disbelief for some stuff, like that John would be in and stay in the exact right spot, that he wouldn’t hear the airbag blowing up, or that the bicyclist would hit him just right for him to be knocked down and dazed long enough, or that he wouldn’t notice that Sherlock was actually dead. But I watched the episode two days ago and these things are bugging me. Maybe some of these things are addressed in the UK Series 3 thread, but I didn’t want to read too far and be spoiled for the next two episodes.


MODERATOR COMMENT: Series 3 has already been shown in the UK, and there’s a full discussion thread about all three episodes here: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=685578 … with spoilers. So, this thread is based on US-showings. If any UKers have any comments they made in the earlier thread, and want to repeat them here (at the appropriate episode), feel free. Mods will NOT consider that “duplicate” postings. – CKDH

The scenario you described was only one of several that were discussed, and was the one Sherlock fed to the newspaper guy. It doesn’t mean it was the truth. What actually happened? All we know is Sherlock tells John late in the show: “You know my methods.”

What irks me about that explanation is that (as I recall) the whole point of the charade was not to fool Watson, but to fool three gunmen and convince them that Sherlock had indeed killed himself. It’s one thing to carry a big inflatable bag around in broad daylight but always keep it somewhere where one single person (Watson) can’t see it. It’s another thing entirely to do so in a fashion that three snipers positioned in three different buildings can’t see it. And yet that idea seemed to have been abandoned entirely.

(Or am I forgetting some detail about the whole setup from the end of season 2?)

One thing they have consistently set up in previous episodes is that John Watson is a hopelessly bad liar.

This. No matter what method was used to fool Watson(and I don’t think any of the explanations so far are true), the fact remains that he had to be fooled if Holmes were to succeed in infiltrating and tearing down Moriarty’s network.

They didn’t have to fool all 3 snipers, they just had to fool the one tailing John long enough for Mycroft’s man (or woman) to get into position. The other two snipers were in different parts of London.

I have to say, though, I did enjoy the alternate theory proposed by one of Anderson’s group. Was Gatiss winking at the fans, or straight up mocking them?

That’s true. But the first two scenarios were meant to be ridiculous and not the truth. The Mission Impossible style Sherlock mask being put on Moriarty, the bungee cord pulling Sherlock up to the right floor and him jumping through the window and shattering it, and then kissing Molly, before walking off with a flourish, were all supposed to make us go “Bollocks!” at the same time that Lestrade did. The second scenario was also purposefully silly (and funny, I did laugh at Moriarty and Sherlock giggling together on the roof).

The third scenario was almost TV plausible (though not real world plausible). And Sherlock had no reason to lie to Anderson that I can think of. Sherlock is proud of the fact that he is so much smarter than all the idiots around him. I could see him telling the truth to Anderson to show off that although Anderson had all these scenarios he thought of how Sherlock survived, he didn’t think of the actual solution.

Also Steven Moffat had seemed to say in previous interviews that there was a definite answer. From this interview:

If there’s a clue that everyone’s missed, that seems to say that there was a definite solution in mind, which makes me think that the third scenario is the definite solution.

Maybe I’m overthinking this, but it’s bugging me.

That’s true, that Watson is a bad liar. Mycroft seems somewhat sociopathic like Sherlock, so it would be believable that he wasn’t outwardly/publically mourning Sherlock. But Sherlock’s parents also knew the secret, and I would have thought it would be noticeable that they weren’t at the funeral and would have raised a red flag in Moriarty’s network. I would think that anyone seeing them would see that they weren’t in mourning, but maybe it would be assumed that they were just doing the British stiff upper lip thing.

Maybe I should read more of the short stories, is that from the original stories? Sherlock infiltrating and tearing down Moriarty’s network? It seems strange to me for Sherlock, this detective in London to do that, but maybe it is true to the original character or stories, or maybe I’m misremembering something from the show that makes that make more sense. Because it seems to me that the reason that Sherlock was gone for two years infiltrating Moriarty’s network was not because he was the one that needed to do that, but was because the writers needed a reason for Sherlock to fake his death and be in hiding then to come back and surprise Watson.

In the original story the reason Holmes decided to play dead was that Moriarty’s network was going to make England too hot for him. He spends time abroad doing a number of things, not just spy/detective work, and then returns when he spots his chance to do away with one of Moriarty’s important remaining former henchmen.

All of the theories that were shown were just that: either speculation by other people (Anderson, the Goth Girl) or were Sherlock BSing Anderson on purpose, because why would he tell the truth to Anderson of all people?

Regardless of which version is closest to truth, Mycroft’s organization could easily take out the sniper waiting for John, because Sherlock and Mycroft both would realize that was an obvious Moriarty response. That means the whole charade truly was for Watson’s “benefit” since he can’t lie for shit.

I do think that it makes the last episode of season 2 show Sherlock in a much worse light. It’s one thing to stage your gory suicide in front of your shellshocked war-wounded best friend in order to save their life. It’s quite another to do so just because you need to go into hiding to clear out a continent-spanning criminal organization and you can’t trust him to not spill the beans.

Now, I’m not saying that the second reason is BAD per se, and it is much more true to the actual (retconned) reason in the original serials, but it does really shockingly bring out the sociopath parts of Sherlock that he doesn’t even get why this is a horrible thing to do to someone.

And yes, I do think that Gatiss was nudge-nudge wink-wink at the audience, in a sort of puckish way, because all of those theories were all the hell over the internet and back. It’s quite snarky to acknowledge as many theories as possible, and refuse to confirm any of them officially. Personally, I think that’s a good choice, because now all of the nitpicking is at them for NOT choosing, where if they pick one, then the legions will descend and pick nits about that specific option, and since there are massive issues with each option, I just don’t see that ever going anywhere good for the writers/showrunners.

But TL: DR - Yes, Sherlock is a giant ass, but not usually on purpose.

Original story spoilers: Doyle killed off Sherlock because he was sick of him, and after MASSIVE PUBLIC OUTCRY he brought him reluctantly back to life, and at that point, introduced the idea that Sherlock was off serving the Crown in other places on the Continent and the Empire. Later still, he dropped hints that Sherlock’s outings also were to clear out the remains of Moriarty’s network. All of this was decided upon and written about after the death, which really was originally just to off Sherlock.

Yes, this one bugged me as well. The corpse switcheroo adds a whole layer of needless complexity.

My original theory was that Sherlock had jumped into the truck full of hospital laundry bags, then hopped out to the sidewalk. I still think it’s the better way. He does say to John that he considered the truck jump, but “the angle was too great”. Well, if the whole block was shut off, then drive the stupid truck onto the sidewalk for a moment, then drive it off before John came to.

I’m also not sure that Sherlock’s final explanation to Anderson is the truth. They fooled us twice before earlier in the episode, after all.

ETA: Regarding having to fool John, remember that John’s blog is very popular and very widely read. If John was in on the secret, it would likely have come out somehow in his very public writings. Mycroft and Sherlock knew this.

No, the point of the charade was for Sherlock to disappear so he could have free reign to dismantle Moriarty’s criminal empire, which is what he did in the two years he was gone. Stopping the gun men was as easy as having them killed, if you knew before hand they were going to be there.

Well, for the original stories, there’s the in-universe explanation for what Sherlock did, and the real-world explanation for what Conan-Doyle did.

The author Conan-Doyle killed off Sherlock because he was tired of writing all Sherlock all the time. Then, changed his mind a couple years later, and more or less ret-conned things to have Sherlock survive (it’s not fan-wanking if it’s the original author doing it, right? Except for George Lucas because he’s so bad at it, it lowers to the level of fan-wanking. Anyway).

In-universe, the story’s explanation is that Sherlock knew that even with Moriarity dead, the remaining parts of Moriarty’s gang would want revenge. So, while he hadn’t planned to fake his death, when he saw the opportunity to let Watson think he fell over a cliff to his death, he took it. Sherlock later tells Watson that he spent the two years travelling around Europe in disguise (including as a concert violinist). There’s no mention of being involved in the post-Moriarty clean-up (he’d done most of the work ahead of time, anyway. Moriarity is only tracking Holmes down personally because his gang was mostly destroyed).

And in the stories, I believe that Sherlock makes it clear that he didn’t tell Watson because he knew Watson wouldn’t be able to keep the secret. I think Watson sort of implicitly agrees by not pressing the point, but don’t remember clearly.

Which almost makes him more of an arse than the new Sherlock (if that’s even possible). At least modern Sherlock wasn’t exactly having the time of his life while he was gone, as is proven by the torture scene at the beginning of Season 3. In the original, he just spent the time gallivanting around, not really caring about Watson (or, in fact, about the danger Watson could have been in due to Moriarty’s gang).

You’re right about it casting the previous episode in a different light. I might go back and watch again with the new knowledge, but I’m afraid it might lead me to nitpick more. You’re also right that it’s smart in a way if there’s not one definite explanation, since people would nitpick it no matter what.

But it’s true that Sherlock doesn’t have much reason to go to Anderson and tell him the truth, but I also don’t see any reason for him not to tell the truth. It’s very possible I’m forgetting something, but I don’t remember Sherlock ever lying to someone to mess with them. The way that Sherlock messes with people is by telling the truth, often uncomfortable truths. Like telling Watson that his girlfriend hates Watson’s mustache. If Sherlock noticed something on a guy’s coat and told him that his wife was cheating on him, I wouldn’t assume he was making up a story, I would assume that he had made observations and was telling the truth. The same is true in this case, I don’t see why he would lie.

I can completely understand how people might think that the third scenario isn’t the real true explanation, and that there was never supposed to be a clear answer. But it seems to me as we were watching it that it was supposed to be the real answer, and I felt more strongly as I read how Moffat had said that there would be answer and that there were clues that the audience missed.

That’s interesting that Sherlock cleared out the remains of Moriarty’s network in the original stories. Since I haven’t read the originals, I knew there were probably a lot of allusions that I was missing.

Did they fool us twice earlier in the episode? The first scenario seemed to get more and more ridiculous. Before I watched the episode, I had read that a lot of people were disappointed in this episode, so I thought that maybe this is why they were disappointed, since the explanation was so crazy. But then Lestrade said “Bollocks!” and you see that it’s Anderson telling his crazy story, and wasn’t actually what happened. I don’t think the second scenario was supposed to fool us at all, it was just a silly little interlude, partly to wind up some of the Tumblr fangirls. Anderson and the Empty Hearse fangirls are unreliable narrators, Sherlock is usually reliable unless he’s trying to trick a suspect or something like that.

Also, I had forgotten about John’s blog, it’s true that he would need to be convinced for that to work. But then it makes me wonder about all the people who were in on it. Even if the story Sherlock told Anderson wasn’t the true one, there would still need to be a decent number of people in on the coverup. And reporters would have been all over story, considering that Sherlock was fairly well known, and in the papers recently since Moriarty framed him. The more I think about it, the more I can’t get past that the truth or at least part of the truth would have gotten out from all the people who must have been around, but John couldn’t be trusted with it.

If this was some sillier show like Hawaii 5-0 or Sleepy Hollow, I’d nitpick but I could just let it go easier, since they are supposed to be silly and unbelievable. But Sherlock has this reputation of being a “clever” show like Moffat said in his interview, and I can’t help but question things. Maybe I’m expecting too much.

I knew that Conan Doyle killed Sherlock off because he was tired of the character, and brought him back since people wouldn’t stop bugging him, but I wasn’t aware of the in story explanation. It’s interesting to hear.

It’s funny because people get obsessed with characters in fiction now, but apparently people were mourning Sherlock and wearing black armbands and such when Sherlock originally “died.” Some things never change.

Did everyone know there’s a real blog, keeping up in live time? It’s a hoot.

Here it is. It started back with the beginning of the series, and continues through the end of this season, so if you American fans don’t want to be spoilered, don’t read the most recent entries.

The comments by other the characters after each entry are fun. I think they’re trying to implant hints of mysteries to come in the comments of some mystery posters.

There is absolutely no reason for the third scenario to not be true. Sherlock had to land on something soft and then fool Watson, whatever solution you get is just going to be various instances of that. The only reason people question it is because he was telling it to Anderson, but the answer is always going to be “landed on something soft, tricked Watson”.

I’ve watched all the episodes, but that one turned the show into a pastiche of its own pastiche.

That blog is really well made. The comments for the Sign of Three post really should be read.

Here’s one for you: The name of the abandoned tube station, Sumatra Road, is an allusion to “The Giant Rat of Sumatra”, which is one of Holmes’s adventures that Watson mentions, but which is never detailed.

Also, yay for this thread! It’s been bothering me that I can’t look at the Season 3 thread because there’s no way to tell where I’d hit spoilers. :mad:

That is funny. “The Giant Rat of Sumatra” is a good adventure to allude to, since that does sound exciting.

For the UK episode 1 aired January 1, episode 2 aired January 5, and episode 12 aired January 12. For the season 3 thread, the first few pages are anticipation, then some discussion of the first episode, then I stopped reading when I saw that the posts were on January 5.